Test case tackles activists

06 May, 2014 02:00 AM
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Australian Pork Limited chief executive Andrew Spencer.
We want laws changed or precedents set in the courts around more appropriate protection for farmers
Australian Pork Limited chief executive Andrew Spencer.

THE Australian Farmers Fighting Fund (AFFF) is backing moves for a legal test case that will establish legal precedents giving farmers stronger protections against illegal trespass by extreme animal rights activists.

The AFFF was formed in 1985 and provides financial, legal and professional assistance to tackle major issues that can set legal precedents.

Fairfax Agricultural Media can reveal Australian Pork Limited (APL) recently applied to the AFFF to progress a test case that will explore issues like illegal trespass and the use of video footage obtained in covert operations.

Questions are also set to be asked about the charitable status of groups alleged to be conducting these activities and their use of video footage and potentially strengthening penalties or introducing new ones for biosecurity breaches.

AFFF Trustee and National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Matt Linnegar said APL’s application offered a number of potential pathways to set legal precedents beyond the pork industry, but he was reluctant to expand on specific details.

Mr Linnegar said APL’s application had merit and deserved further consideration.

“We’ve asked APL to provide more detail and further explore their options,” he said.

APL chief executive Andrew Spencer said the generic application would look at a legal test 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.

“As it presently stands through precedent, we believe 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.

“Various other parts of the law, while adding small amounts, are really not able to address what is a 21st century problem driven by the sort of technology we have today.

“That means cameras can be stored in ceilings and sit up there for months recording video data or drones can fly over open farms spying on farmers.

“So today’s pig farmer isn’t adequately protected by the law and there needs to be some changes and that’s what we’re looking for through the application.”

Mr Spencer also declined to reveal specific details of the application saying it would “basically sit there waiting for a case I’d imagine”.

But he said the test case could consider how any video footage was used on public websites or in the media, if obtained illegally.

He said the courts currently recognised trespass is illegal, but that doesn’t mean the perpetrators can’t use the resulting “illegally obtained footage”.

“We see that as a particular contradiction of the law,” he said.

Mr Spencer said APL’s application to the AFFF was prompted by a spate of farm raids targeting pig producers.

In June last year, Fairfax Agricultural Media reported on

APL has also expressed concern about activists raising funds from the public and gaining tax concessions via charitable status, to gather and broadcast video footage from illegal trespass.

Mr Spencer said he believed a lot of the animal welfare debate was emotive and “100 per cent phony”.

“If you just look at the pure facts, the Australian pork industry is a global, progressive reformer of animal welfare,” he said.

“We are the first pork industry in the world to voluntarily phase out sow stalls.

“If someone is really interested in animal welfare, they should be, and in many cases they are, standing side by side with our industry, telling consumers to make sure when they go and buy bacon and ham, that it’s Australian because Australian pig farmers are doing things differently to the rest of the world.

“Today, 45 per cent of our pork that we consume in Australia is coming from countries that still use sow stalls.

“We have chosen not to that in this country and we’re two-thirds down the track to phase them out.”

Mr Spencer said he believed the farm raids were being conducted by “anti-animal farming groups with an agenda that’s not at all transparent”.

He said they were “raiding our farms, misrepresenting the practices on them and trying to stop animal agriculture”.

“That’s the bare bones of what’s going on here,” he said.

“It’s completely not fair and the real agenda is being misrepresented.”

FarmOnline
Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

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

READER COMMENTS

Peter Comensoli
6/05/2014 5:30:36 AM

About time! The AFFF seems dangerously slow to appear these days, nevertheless, this is an excellent move.
Paul Cox
6/05/2014 7:06:13 AM

Along with the tax status of various so called Animal Rights orgs and the use of drones this is right at the top of the list of easily fixed problems for livestock producers. Extremists will go to any lengths to further their agenda. Accountability should go both ways. If a producer breaks the law they pay one way or another, so should the extremists. There must be consequences for reprehensible actions which have and continue to have adverse impacts on people going about their lawful business let alone the bio security and animal welfare aspects of these illegal activities.
J.W.Newell
6/05/2014 3:14:55 PM

Very well put together Colin, Thanks to you and Stock and Land for keeping us up to date with these matters, Clearly laws need to be strengthened to protect producers. Lets hope the test case is not far off and successful.
Glenn Kerswell
7/05/2014 3:59:34 AM

We've seen from the fishing industry that activists can shut down an industry by the death of a thousand cuts , They are relentless and care nothing for the people who's livleyhoods they seek to destroy ,Some policing of their activities is required .
Cattle Advocate
8/05/2014 6:50:03 PM

In 2009 in the UK, 7 AR activists were jailed for a total of 50yrs for conspiracy to blackmail that included the theft of ashes of a target's dead mum that weren't recovered. Sentencing Judge, ''You are not going to prison for expressing your beliefs, you are going to prison because you have committed a serious criminal offence''. A supplier who had no direct contact with the main target had his and his partner who worked at the village school, cars damaged and letters were sent to villagers falsely accusing him of being a convicted paedophile. Locals offered to pass the unopened letters onto police.
12 Guage
12/05/2014 7:41:37 PM

Cant wait to see a drone over my place As Basil brush says Boom Boom!!!!
Alex Hodges
14/05/2014 4:49:15 PM

It really interests me that these meat farmers' advocacy groups are all about "protection for farmers",so I ask, protection from what? What about protections from endemic cruelty,for the hapless animals?If you have nothing to hide,why should you be worried?And no,I'm not a vegan!
Jo Bloomfield
21/05/2014 4:59:10 PM

I don't think protection is about what is to hide it is about misrepresentation. I could the same photo to two very different viewed people and they could have extremely opposing views of the treatment of the animal but neither may know absolutely anything surrounding the circumstances of a treatment. Producers have the right to defend their businesses from those whose sole intent is to destroy it. they also have the right to conduct legitimate business free from bio security threat
Inverell
27/05/2014 7:56:15 AM

Well said Jo! There main agenda is to stop the use of animals for food. They don't have any regard for the welfare of animals, nor do they have any understanding about how to care for animals.
Got something to hide?
29/05/2014 10:20:34 AM

Remember the agenda is animal welfare- that is preventing cruelty. If any one of you are satisfied that your facility supports the welfare of the animals, then invite people in. The only reason people feel the need to check on the activities of 'closed' businesses is because usually there is something to hide. You can hijack intent to mean however you want to further your agenda which is to do what the hell you please with animals, but the public are not fooled.

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