Trespass bill gathers support

20 Apr, 2015 02:00 AM
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7
 
Primary producers deserve protection from these types of threats

DESPITE mixed views from the legal community, farm groups have expressed strong support for Senator Chris Back’s proposed laws to curtail on-farm trespass by animal rights activists.

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) said it strongly supported the Bill’s intent to ensure animals are protected against further unnecessary cruelty caused by any delays in reporting evidence or recording of malicious cruelty to domestic animals.

But the NFF said it believed the best way to achieve improved animal welfare was to increase government resourcing of animal welfare enforcement agencies and measures that strengthen existing animal welfare legislation.

“The key to sustainability of livestock and other animal-use industries is building consumer confidence and gaining public trust through schemes which promote transparency of operations,” the NFF said.

“To this end, significantly greater resources should be made available to animal welfare regulators to permit more effective surveillance, as well as support for accredited quality assurance and independent auditing programs.

“These sorts of initiatives will help to ensure ongoing public confidence and support for animal use across all industry sectors.”

The Cattle Council of Australia said it supported “any effort towards preventing malicious damage, trespass and threats that are targeted at operators conducting legal and legitimate businesses involving animals”.

The Sheepmeat Council of Australia (SCA) said the industry had invested more than $50 million into sheep welfare research and development programs over the past five years, “all of which lead to improvements in animal welfare”.

“SCA believes that the amendments to the Bill will complement the significant work already being undertaken by the sheep meat industry,” its submission said.

In the past 12 months the sheep industry has come under scrutiny through footage captured by PETA for unacceptable behaviour in shearing sheds.

The SCA said it does not condone this type of practice and, had the footage been brought to the attention of authorities earlier, the ability of industry to act would have been greater.

Wool Producers Australia (WPA) president Richard Halliday said his group supported the Bill’s stated intention of ensuring animals are protected against potential ongoing cruelty caused by delays in reporting evidence or recording of malicious cruelty to domestic animals.

“Ensuring that any evidence of animal cruelty is reported to relevant authorities in a timely fashion will only enhance the intended aim of the Bill - animal protection,” he said.

“WPA also views the second primary intent of the Bill regarding the prevention of illegal interference in the lawful operation of animal enterprises as being of equal importance.

“Illegal entry to farm enterprises not only cause disruption to routine operations of these businesses but also compromises existing on-farm welfare and biosecurity measures.

“Primary producers deserve protection from these types of threats, as would any other type of lawful business operating in this country.”

Altering of evidence should be banned: APL

Australian Pork Limited (APL) said they also supported the Bill’s objectives to improve animal welfare outcomes by minimising unnecessary delays in reporting malicious cruelty but made several suggestions for improvement.

APL said it considered the time frames for reporting animal cruelty and the provision of any record of this cruelty “appropriate”.

But the Bill could be strengthened by specifically stating that the removal of metadata or the manipulation of the electronic files – like the incorporation of “screams” from animals for “shock” purposes - could be prohibited.

“APL is concerned that the altering of evidence in any form will potentially render evidence of animal cruelty inadmissible in a court of law,” the submission form APL policy general manager Deb Kerr said.

“APL considers that the Bill could be strengthened by including breaches of farm biosecurity protocols as the result of unauthorised property incursions.

“On-farm disease incursions could have devastating effects on animal welfare, human wellbeing, farmer livelihoods or environmental impacts.

“Therefore APL considers that there is a need to ensure that farm biosecurity protocols are maintained through the prevention of unauthorised access.”

Ms Kerr said animal activist organisations had been targeting the Australian pork industry by illegally entering farms at night, using sophisticated technology to produce misrepresentative videos that are hosted on websites registered overseas.

She said activist organisations then use this video footage of “exposed” farms to seek donations to continue these activities.

“Despite dozens of pig farms having been raided and 'exposed' over the last couple of years, only one pig farmer has been charged with animal cruelty offences (but) these charges were ultimately dropped,” she said.

“This demonstrates that the objectives of these farm raids is purely publicity based, intended to harass pig producers and is unrelated to the welfare of the pigs.

“Forensic examination of early videos and photos hosted on these websites clearly shows that this material has been obtained from different farms on the same or consecutive nights.

“Biosecurity best practice dictates at least three days and showers between such visits is required to maintain robust biosecurity protocols.

“More recently, the activist organisations have removed all metadata preventing identification of farms where biosecurity protocols have been breached,” she said.

“The sole purpose of this unauthorised access to biosecure premises by activists is to target the purchasing behaviour of consumers by attempting to defame and publicly humiliate the industry and individual producers.

“To this end, some of the harassment of pork producers has been so vitriolic that site administrators have been forced to remove comments.”

Minimising delays: ALFA

The Australian Lot Feeders’ Association (ALFA) said any delay in the reporting incidences of animal cruelty “can only prolong the suffering of the animals affected”.

“Consequently, ALFA is supportive of the Bill and its objectives to improve animal welfare outcomes by minimising unnecessary delays in reporting malicious cruelty,” its submission said.

AFLA also said unauthorised access to properties without any consideration of biosecurity had the potential to result in unmanaged disease incursions that could have devastating effects on animal welfare, human wellbeing, the environment and farmer livelihoods.

ABARES has estimated a foot and mouth disease incursion could result in losses to Australia of up to $52 billion.

“Accordingly, ALFA considers that there is a need to ensure that farm biosecurity protocols are maintained through the prevention of unauthorised access,” it said.

Bill will deflect attention: Sentient

But a submission by Sentient - the Veterinary Institute for Animal Ethics - expressed “complete rejection” of the Bill, accusing it of being “regressive, misleading, and detrimental to animal welfare and the public interest”.

“This Bill will result in the prosecution of individuals or organisations who, in the public interest, obtain undercover footage of malicious cruelty to animals that would otherwise never be exposed,” the submission said.

“The Bill will not lead to greater efficiency in prosecuting the perpetrators of such cruelty, and is likely to hinder prosecutions by placing unrealistically short time frames on the mandatory submission of evidence.

“In effect, the prosecution of 'whistleblowers' themselves will deter the collection of further evidence, deflecting attention away from animal cruelty complaints whilst protecting the economic and other interests of the perpetrators.

“The bias against animal activists and investigative journalists who record evidence of animal cruelty is very clear.

“For this reason, many in the animal welfare and wider communities have judged this as a Bill that primarily aims to protect animal industries that harbour systemic animal abuse.”

FarmOnline
Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

Paul Cox
20/04/2015 5:17:09 AM

Reading the submissions it is clear that those who know the reality support the bill. The vast majority of submissions though are short and from people who clearly have not read the bill or if they have they do not understand it. If the deluded want to think that submissions which don't address the substance of the bill will impact on the Committees recommendations they are in for a rude awakening I would suggest. It is becoming clear that ARA groups & supporters have jumped the shark. Pressure can do that to the ill prepared & ill informed. Read some comments on articles on this bill for proof
rgovett
20/04/2015 8:35:27 AM

Paul Cox, I have never laughed so much in my life lol. Ill prepared and ill informed? You need to be held to task for your constant display of contempt for the community and their intelligence. Over 90% of the submissions oppose the bill, many by Vets, Lawyers, Farmers and others directly on the ground. Vilifying and attempting to demean submission by well meaning, intelligent professionals and members of the community is a pretty poor tactic and a useless one as well. Even some industry groups have expressed a lack of support for some components, so are they ill informed too?
Paul Cox
20/04/2015 9:05:20 AM

Oh Dear, the usual rabid types come out with the casuistry which demonstrates my points rather well. Submissions which fail to address the proposed legislation mean nothing. That is where the vast majority of submissions have failed. 50 or so words repeating the false assertions of the animal rights industry will have zero impact. It is not quantity but quality which will be taken seriously. The community supports our animal industries. This will increase with innovations soon to come in the ag representation sector. ARA's will find themselves even further marginalised & irrelevant.
James
20/04/2015 10:07:44 AM

Have to agree with Paul here, ARA's have tried to astroturf submissions on this bill. Unfortunately for them they don't seem to realise that "campaign submissions" are treated as a single submission, and are given no real value.
Rural Realist
20/04/2015 1:43:31 PM

I'm all for naming and shaming of the 1% who do the wrong thing, if only these activists had tried to consult with the industry instead of rallying against it, then they'd receive all round praise. Hopefully better transparency and education about real world ag practices in metro education will minimise future mesiah syndrom ag-bashers, and in turn make these regulations redundant.
Bridget Reye
20/04/2015 4:22:24 PM

Oh Please, Paul Cox - the vast majority of submissions FROM ORDINARY AUSTRALIANS recognise the Bill for what it is, a means of silencing those in the community who witness animal cruelty and neglect. If the animal use industry is confident it is complying with all animal welfare regulation and the spirit of the animal welfare Acts, then you would welcome transparency (with biosecurity precautions) and congratulate whistle-blowers who help you to remove non-compliers from your industry - but instead you want to'shoot the messenger' and sadly this shows your true colours. :-( Shame on you!
Cattle Advocate
20/04/2015 7:48:51 PM

In March 2015 trespassers on a NSW egg farm tampered with hen cages, after the breakin the farmer found 44 hens packed into a cage that the farmer had stocked at just over 20 hens. NSW Farmers Bede Burke '' A controlled open door policy is something that I totally endose, it's only by us engaging with our communities and our consumers at large that they give us the social licence to operate in the framwork we need. Ring us up, get in touch, come and have a look at what we do. Let's not put the bird's animal welfare at risk by doing what they did in the middle of the night ''

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