Activists snookered in new cruelty bill

02 Dec, 2014 10:39 AM
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WA Liberal Senator Chris Back.
Will ensure malicious animal cruelty is reported without delay
WA Liberal Senator Chris Back.

NEW laws to strengthen animal welfare protections and curtail on-farm trespass by animal rights protesters are almost for federal parliament.

Western Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back says he’s expecting to introduce his draft legislation into the federal Senate early next year when parliament returns.

His Private Senator’s Bill will seek to protect animals under the Criminal Code and was endorsed by the federal Coalition’s joint party room meeting last week.

Senator Back’s Criminal Code Amendment Animal Protection Bill 2014 will impose a reporting requirement on animal cruelty which he says will ensure malicious animal cruelty is reported without delay.

He first unveiled plans to pursue his Bill in mid-July, saying it had strong support from his party room and Attorney-General George Brandis and federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

The move was proposed shortly after the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched a heated public campaign targeting the Australian wool industry after gathering animal cruelty video footage via covert filming operations over an extended period of time, which was subsequently broadcast in the US media.

That campaign echoed key elements of other on-farm trespass activities like those targeting pork producers in regional Australia over the past two years.

At the time, Senator Back said he was falsely quoted in “every second newspaper around the countryside” as trying to introduce US-style “ag gag” laws.

But he said his proposal represented the exact opposite of those laws because it aimed to strengthen genuine animal welfare protections and safeguards for farmers.

Averting further cruelty

In a statement today, the WA Senator said the first part of the proposed Bill would ensure that if a person takes visible images of action they believe to be malicious cruelty to animals, they must report it to the responsible authority with a minimum of delay.

“This enables the authorities to investigate and act swiftly to ensure further cruelty is averted,” he said.

“Recent examples of activist groups presenting visual images taken sometimes up to 12 months previous to disclosure, effectively prevents responsible authorities from accurately investigating these allegations.

“As a result any capacity to fully examine allegations or evidence, prosecute if proven, and prevent further incidences of cruelty are severely limited.”

Senator Back also highlighted the recent decision by RSPCA NSW to abort its prosecution of animal cruelty charges against a NSW piggery, due to unlawfully obtained video footage.

“In its decision to discontinue proceedings it was stated that ‘RSPCA NSW implores any person who witnesses or obtains evidence of animal cruelty to report it to the relevant authorities immediately’,” he said.

Senator Back said the Bill’s second component was directed against anyone who intimidates, threatens or attacks a person associated with a legally operating animal enterprise or trespasses onto or vandalises such a property.

“Such actions are criminal in nature, invade the privacy of affected persons and can place animals at risk from a welfare, health and husbandry point of view,” he said.

“Of equal importance is the threat to Australia’s biosecurity from animal activists who are trespassing on quarantine or intensive animal production facilities.

“The animal welfare and economic disaster which would unfold in the event of an exotic disease outbreak in Australia is beyond comprehension.”

Senator Back said his draft Bill was designed to complement existing laws in Australian States and Territories.

He said if a member of the public believes they have witnessed an act of malicious cruelty they should report it to the responsible authority immediately via phone or online in the State or Territory where it occurred.

Following reporting, Senator Back said, they should then provide any footage obtained within five days of the event.

Senator Back said the motives of many activists are clear by their own published statements.

“They want to see the end of Australia’s livestock industries with many opposing meat production and wanting to drastically reduce Australia’s meat consumption,” he said.

“Activists are agitating against many of Australia’s primary activities in the pig, beef, sheep and wool, and sheepmeat industries.

“This action is intended to harm Australia’s enviable reputation for the overseas supply of livestock and products and our advancement in animal husbandry and welfare standards.

“In so doing, they are directly attacking Australia’s export trade and the profitability of agricultural and rural communities generally.”

But Voiceless Legal Counsel Emmanuel Giuffre said calls for US-style ‘ag-gag’ or ‘agri-terror laws’ to be introduced in Australia, in response to recent incidents, were not motivated by a desire to protect property interests.

Instead, he said, the laws are being raised as a threat to silence all advocates and members of the public who are critical of these businesses.

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Paul Cox
2/12/2014 11:33:35 AM

I suggest Emmanuel Giuffre actually read what Senator Back has said. There is NO attempt to silence anyone. If she or anyone else has footage which purports to show malicious cruelty to animals they must provide that footage to the relevant authority in a timely fashion. If their purpose was truly altruistic they would have no issues with that requirement. Sadly the actuality is that so very many of the so called exposes of animal cruelty are exposed as false. A further truth is the often unsubstantiated footage is held onto for an extended time until it is used for fund raising.
Invey
2/12/2014 1:36:10 PM

Well done Senator a sensible piece of draft legislation for the protection of animals.
Qlander
3/12/2014 5:06:58 AM

Yep, takes animal cruelty out of the political arena, puts it firmly in the criminal one - where it belongs. The activists will hate it because it cuts off their main fund raising strategy. Think of it like mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse by doctors. The doctor reports to the police IMMEDIATELY, he/she doesn't document all the suspect cases, and release them online at the end of the year.
Greens supporter
3/12/2014 6:10:54 AM

I hope that the Greens support this bill. Animal welfare has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with macchiato-sipping city folk dreaming of sheep frolicking in flowery meadows. The Greens have the opportunity to make a huge statement that they support the environment; they want to work with farmers (who are the custodians of a huge part of the environment); and that they rebuke tresspass and anarchy.
Invey
3/12/2014 6:53:50 AM

Qlander don't forget they also ask for donations to stop the supposed cruelty, that they have failed to report to anyone, but are happy to use for there own financial gain. They are much worse than those they profess to stop. We all know now their main aim is to stop the use of animals for food and to line their own pockets with donated money while doing it.
Robert
3/12/2014 7:08:43 AM

There is no attempt to silence anyone, but nor is there any discussion of the repercussions of failing to engage in "mandatory reporting". And that, gentlemen, is the entire point. There hasn't been mandatory reporting. Sickening animal cruelty has been exposed (yes, by activists) because otherwise the cruelty would go unchecked and unreported. The referenced recent case where the RSPCA dropped charges was NOT due to unlawful imagery taken by activists, as they stated in the very same press release that their case was based on their own footage and had nothing to do with any other group.
Katrina Love
3/12/2014 12:11:22 PM

Since when does the Federal government have the power to make legislation regarding animal welfare? That is a matter for individual states and territories, and it has already been rejected by ACT and SA. Then again... maybe it will be considered, because it is not after all, anything to do with animal welfare - not aimed at protecting animals, but rather at protecting those who abuse them - a convenient cloak of untouchability. We already have legislation in place with which to deal with trespass and vandalism. Stop the abuse, not the exposure of it.
Cattle Advocate
3/12/2014 7:25:49 PM

With the 2013 AR attacks on Edwina Beveridge's piggery,how many non farm businesses need a court AVO to run? In 2014 the violent vandalism around the Canberra roo cull and arson-sabotage attacks on WA, LE feedlots. AL in 2005 on AR Direct Action attacks that included attacks on RSPCA. AL''It is made up of lots of individual cells who operate independently so it is difficult to trace them back to one particular organisation'' AA in 2005 ''I think there is a frustration that there is not sufficent surveillance of animals in commercial settings'' DA also uses AR activists posing as farm workers.
What Not
12/02/2015 5:05:47 PM

Speeding up reporting doesn't harm free speech or protect offenders. What a joke. It quickens due legal process, repeat due legal process. The legislation favours Animal Welfare over Animal Rights Groups. Genuine Animal Welfare supporters will like the bill. But Veganarchists, Animal Rights & Animal Liberation Extremists groups will oppose this. It puts evidence quickly with investigators, not on websites begging for donations. You bet extremists don't want mandatory reporting. It harms their income stream & holds them accountable like normal Australians. A bill to improve animal welfare.
Dave
16/02/2015 8:32:53 PM

This is not about prompt reporting of cruelty. It is about ensuring that proof can be ridiculed and explained away as a "one off" or a rogue operator. Well, whichever spin doctors you paid to come up with that one are overcharging you. Nobody is fooled by what you are and what you want. Tonight's Four Corners on the greyhound "industry" has killed this plan. Time for pious words from agricultural industries to be backed by action and enforcement with teeth.

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