Activists continue anti-farm campaign

20 Jun, 2014 02:00 AM
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There is a significant lack of protection for Australia’s farmers from activities like farm raids

AN ESCALATING anti-pig farming campaign shows no signs of slowing, vindicating Australian Pork Limited's (APL) move to seek backing from the Australian Farmers Fighting Fund.

APL want to progress a legal test case to strengthen farmer protections against illegal trespass by activists, and chief executive Andrew Spencer said the generic application would look at a case “where we can really ask some major questions of the law”.

“We want laws changed or precedents set in the courts around more appropriate protection for farmers,” he said.

“There is a significant lack of protection for Australia’s farmers from activities like farm raids. Trespass does not cut it – it does not provide a deterrent."

Animal rights activist Chris Delforce has been a driving force behind ventilation of illegally obtained video footage and other images gathered by trespass underpinning that campaign via the Aussie Farms website. Mr Delforce has also used social media to demand that Blantyre Farms piggery near Young in south-east NSW be shut down.

Last year, Blantyre’s owners found hidden cameras linked to elaborate video equipment in the false ceiling of a furrowing house. They believed the surveillance gear was planted by animal rights activists who had trespassed repeatedly over several months to install the complex operation. The equipment’s detection sparked a late night altercation when activists returned to the property in May 2013.

That resulted in a late night pursuit by volunteer farmhands and extensive damage to a vehicle parked next to the farmhouse about 1 kilometre from the piggery sheds.

At the time, Animal Liberation ACT spokesperson Lynda Stoner confirmed two of the group's members were involved in an incident at Blantyre Farms. She said the two activists had been investigating the plight of pigs at the time but Animal Liberation wasn’t aware of any cameras being placed in the piggery.

A subsequent police investigation revealed there was a high level of suspicion around the trespassing incidents but insufficient evidence to sustain any charges in court.

Last month, Mr Delforce was involved in a fiery exchange with APL over the authenticity of video footage underpinning the latest of 18 piggeries “exposed” via his website - which is also subject to a police investigation.

The website also lists the names of different piggery directors and their contact details, including phone numbers, addresses and Google Maps locations.

APL has attempted to shut down the website and claims the video footage it displays of the latest Riverina piggery dates back to 2013, and was illegally obtained in a break-in that also threatened to undermine biosecurity measures.

The peak industry body also alleged the video footage was "staged", with dead piglets scattered across the property in an effort to “manufacture sensationalism”. Mr Delforce rejected those assertions.

He said consumers had “every right” to know how their food was produced - but APL says it’s not in farmers’ interests to mistreat their animals.

Mr Delforce has also used social media to drive crowd funding for similar projects, including a “documentary” on pig farming and a new venture called “The Aussie Farms Repository”. The Repository is being described as a public gallery or knowledge base for videos, photos, documents and campaign materials “and creative tools, relating to the animal rights movement in Australia”.

“We believe that between all of us, we have tonnes of visual evidence of animal cruelty and exploitation, a lot of which might just be gathering dust because it doesn't fit any particular campaigns, or otherwise isn't getting out there to the public who need to see it,” the website says.

The crowd funding campaign started early in June with a goal to raise $20,000 in three months - as of Thursday June 19, $1045 sat in the kitty.

The debate lifted another notch this week when Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce promised to “do everything in my power” to advance moves by State Agriculture Ministers to co-ordinate new laws strengthening farmers' privacy.

Mr Joyce said the animal activists were “basically invading peoples’ properties” to install cameras in piggeries and dairies and “stirring up the animals”.

He said the video footage was obtained via illegal trespass and then published on the Internet by “vigilantes”.

“If people believe a crime has been committed, then that is a role for the police not a role for vigilante groups,” he said.

In an interview on Canberra radio this week, Aussie Farms representative Jess Ferry said she was unsurprised by the Minister’s response as her group believed the potential introduction of the US-style “ag-gag” laws in Australia had been in train for some time.

In rejecting accusations the illegal farm trespass created biosecurity risks and caused animal welfare issues, Ms Ferry said the animal activists are “everyday citizens”.

“Why is this industry focusing on people who bring this information to the public rather than what this industry does to the animals?” she said.

“Because these industries are so hidden in shadows, people take it upon themselves to go and get this information and show the public, because the public deserves to see it.”

Asked if she’d ever been involved in any of the illegal activity, Ms Ferry said she was “part of organisations that take in the footage and then redistribute it, so we get it out there”.

She said most animals are kept in “horrible” and “disgusting” conditions, such as sows being “reimpregnated” to produce a litter of baby pigs to be raised for food.

Ms Ferry said the activists weren’t installing hidden video cameras in farmers’ private homes and the animals’ needs “outweigh the privacy of the sheds”.

“They’re not going into peoples’ bedrooms, they’re not trying to find out what the farmers are up to in their private houses.

"They’re showing the public - who have a right to know, if they’re going to consume animals - how these animals are raised,” she said.

“I genuinely think these industries should be showing the truth of what happens.”

Ms Ferry said her website had been involved in investigating 18 piggeries “so far”. She said the activists were volunteers, “hence why we have a charity status for most of our organisations, if we can get it”.

“We want what’s best for the animals, for the planet (and) for other humans,” she said.

NSW Nationals Senator Fiona Nash – who farms near Young where several piggeries have been targeted by activists – backed Mr Joyce’s moves to strengthen exisitng laws to better protect producers.

Senator Nash said she’d spoken to and visited several piggery owners, and believed they were doing a “terrific job” improving their animal welfare practices.

But she said it was “totally unacceptable and appalling that people think, for whatever reason, they have a right to trespass on somebody’s property and invade their privacy”.

“Industry recognises things can be done better and they’re working to do that,” she said.

“But this zealot type of approach from those people who disagree with it and operate by way of trespassing is completely unacceptable.

“We need to look and make sure we’ve got the appropriate laws that apply for when these people are behaving in that way.”

The Aussie Farms website also targets poultry farms, offers vegan tips and recipes and urges donations to fund “investigations”.

“Note that unless stated otherwise, all footage is provided to us anonymously,” it says.

FarmOnline
Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

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

READER COMMENTS

Farmer Brown
20/06/2014 6:24:34 AM

Did these activist ever consider that their irresponsible behaviour may have caused the death on many piglets in farrowing sheds just by theiir very presence and disturbing sows when giving birth. These are intelligent animals who know their carers and strange people would agitate and frighten them when they are at there most vunerable. Any sudden movement by a sow places her young at risk. Because of the size of litters many piglets are born dead or die soon after as they ae too small to survive. I have tried to save many of these piglets to no avail.
Vegan Brown
20/06/2014 7:28:59 AM

Farmer Brown has just confirmed his initial argument is baseless with the comment.... ” Because of the size of litters many piglets are born dead or die soon after as they ae too small to survive. I have tried to save many of these piglets to no avail. Pig Farming is a cruel industry and the more the public find out about it the less they like it. The industry know this, which is why they are trying the stop the truth from getting out.
travelling wilberry
20/06/2014 7:47:25 AM

In the course of my work I have visited many piggeries and poultry farms and the level of quarantine procedures I have to go through before entering to prevent possibility of disease being introduced tells me that there is a lot of care and attention given to the animals. The “activist” terrorist clearly are not concerned about animal disease in my opinion.
Grow up
20/06/2014 7:55:42 AM

Vegan Brown, do you eat pork then? These "activists" are merely industry destroying, economy damaging greenies who think no further than their noses. Instead of protesting that farms be "closed down" why not suggest and lobby for ways in which conditions could be improved? The simple fact is this: you will never wipe out the industry: humans need to eat. Therefore be positive and suggest solutions for improvement rather trying to tear down Australian industry.
Over the Hill
20/06/2014 8:26:30 AM

Vegan Brown, any idea what survival rate is for pigs in the wild? darn site less than at a piggery.
Farmer Brown
20/06/2014 10:14:29 AM

I limited my comment to the necessary. My comment about their intrusion causing piglet death should have been followed by disturbed sows can roll onto their young smothering entire litters or causing injuries. These deaths are above the normai losses sustained. The activists actions affect people's incomes. How would they lke someone to take away up to a months wages by irresponsible behavior. My comment about deaths was in regard to the dead piglets spread about the property comment in the article and the fact that deaths are expected. Activists actions may have contributed to the deaths.
Tony B
20/06/2014 11:00:40 AM

There's no "anti-farming" campaign, but yes, there is an animal rights campaign to end the cruel confinement of factory-farmed pigs and hens! We need farms, and we need food and fibre from our farmers, but it's less and less likely to be family farmers now, but run by big corporations for fast-tracked profits. The Codes of Practice pretend to be for the benefit of the animals, to protect them from cruelty, but they really protect the producers from any cruelty to animals legislation. Consumers need to pay the real price for eggs, and pig products.
Be honest pig industry
20/06/2014 11:26:44 AM

I am sure there is absolutely no anti farming campaign. That would be a dreadful waste of money given the majority of people eat meat. But that majority also demand to know how the animals they eat are treated, reared and killed. Totally reasonable and expected. It is therefore incumbent upon the pig industry to be up front, honest, transparent and accountable for how they manage animals in their facility. And if they are absolutely confident about their treatment then invite advocates into see their operations. Seems clear that those with something to hide cling to the 'biosecurity' furphy.
Cam
20/06/2014 1:29:25 PM

@be honest pig industry...name one farm that refuses to allow advocates onto their property. No one in the industry is trying to circumvent their obligations. What they have an issue with is people breaking into their operations and planting camera equipment, which is "Totally reasonable and expected"
Mabel Peyton-Smyth
20/06/2014 1:54:28 PM

To Cam, may I come into your home to check on your personal life. Also may i place some cameras in your home and have a drone watching your backyard. You would be aware Cam that what is good for the goose.........
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