Voiceless vocal about farm raid legal defeat

06 Oct, 2014 02:00 AM
A win for consumer advocacy, workers' rights, freedom of the press and, of course, animal protection

VOICELESS has praised the defeat of proposed farm raid legislation in South Australia as a win for animal protection and media reporting.

But federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says the use of video images that only tell one-sided stories about livestock production can still cause “immense damage” to the industry and demand greater scrutiny.

In an opinion article for Fairfax Media, Voiceless communications head Elise Burgess said the Surveillance Devices Bill sought to criminalise the public release of information collected through the use of surveillance devices.

The SA legislation carried a maximum penalty of $75,000 for a corporation and $15,000 or imprisonment for three years for individuals.

“This bill would have had a significant impact on how the media reports on matters of public interest, including the treatment of animals in factory farms,” she wrote.

“Thankfully, on this occasion, cooler heads have prevailed with The Greens, Dignity for Disability, the Xenophon Group and the Liberal Party all voting the bill down.

“This is a win for consumer advocacy, workers' rights, freedom of the press and, of course, animal protection.”

Ms Burgess said while it was heartening to see SA legislators respond to “an immense public outcry” by voting against the so called ag-gag laws, “the debate is far from over”.

“NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson and Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh have called for legislation to target animal activists in their respective states, a move supported by Federal Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce,” she said.

“Western Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back, a former vet and long-time advocate for tough laws targeting animal activists, has also announced plans to put forward ag-gag laws at a federal level.

“Given the secrecy within which animal industries operate, these moves represent a co-ordinated attack on the public's right to question the status quo and to ask questions about how millions of sentient creatures are treated in Australia every day.

“Greater transparency in animal production is needed, as increased public awareness has the potential to bring about real change and industry improvement.

“Shutting down the free flow of information, stifling debate and protecting industry from public scrutiny is not the way forward,” she said.

“Instead, open dialogue and transparency is needed - that is the future of this debate, not closed doors.”

Barnaby Joyce responds

Asked about the SA parliament’s response to the proposed laws, Mr Joyce said the police force and RSPCA were already empowered with the authority to investigate wrongdoing.

He said it wasn’t right for individuals to deem they have the right to come into a farm-shed or property and surreptitiously hide a camera to film activities.

“What right do people have to say: ‘I’m just going to come into your life and start filming you’?” he said.

“There is a process of law; we either believe in the law or we don’t, and if we believe in the law, let the people who have that authority, the RSPCA and the police, follow it.”

Mr Joyce said he’d prefer not to impose any federal laws to curtail animal activists trespassing on-farm to conduct covert filming and would prefer to work with States.

“I think everybody can understand that when somebody shows you a form of footage that they’ve selected on their own discussion, from gosh knows how much footage they have, that they’re just showing you their side of the story,” he said.

“As journalists know better than everybody else - go out and get the other half before you blindly report on it.

“(But) what they (animal activists) want to do is put it on YouTube and say because it’s on YouTube it’s the truth.”

However, Mr Joyce said publishing such video footage on YouTube can also cause immense damage to the livestock industry and people who are part of it.

He said it also sends a misleading message back to city-based consumers that livestock producers, or family farmers, “are somehow barbarians”.

“But they’re not; they’re people actually at work,” he said.

Call for 'ag-gag' laws

The call to introduce farm raid laws in Australia, similar to US styled 'ag-gag' laws, has been ignited by escalating on-farm trespass by animal rights activists in recent times, intent on ending meat consumption rather than purely improving animal welfare standards.

Mr Joyce said many farmers are saying they feel “under siege” with people breaking into their business in the middle of the night and disturbing it.

But he said some of those businesses, such as big egg producers, are quarantine areas where diseases are unwanted.

“Someone just making up their own arrangements and wandering around (in a quarantine area) is just not fair and it’s just not right, and it’s the same with pig producers, they have a worse effect, just unnaturally stirring animals up,” he said.

“If people believe there is a crime being committed or something is going wrong you have a proper process, it’s called the RSPCA (and) it’s called the police force.

“They have the authority to do it and if we start giving countenance to someone who takes it on their own behalf to be a vigilante crusader, what are we going to do when the next lot of vigilante crusaders stand up and say ‘well I’ve got a problem with certain doctors so I’m going to go and secretly film them and I’ve got a problem with certain things that might happen in other office spaces so I’m going to secretly film there?’

“They all believe that they are endowed by a higher authority to go out and do it, but it’s the rule of the land that says look: ‘it doesn’t matter who you think you’re endowed by, you follow the law’.”

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Katrina Love
6/10/2014 12:57:48 PM

Prosecute the cruelty, not the exposure of it. The animals used and exploited for the consumption by humans must have the absolute most stringent protections in place to safeguard against any abuse or extra cruelty in both their incarceration and slaughter. What is done in the dark WILL be brought to the light.
Katrina Love
6/10/2014 1:00:54 PM

Barbaric surgical procedures and mutilations performed under the guise of standard animal husbandry must be minimised, and when carried out, performed ONLY with the application of anaesthetic and pain relief: ear notching, teeth cutting, tail docking, de-beaking, de-clawing, de-budding, de-horning, hot iron branding, mulesing, castration and flank spaying, if done to companion animals without anaesthetic, would result in animal cruelty charges being laid, yet there is no difference in these animals' ability to experience pain and fear.
6/10/2014 1:27:20 PM

If the law will not protect farmers from vigilante- activists, then farmers must do it themselves. Do we REALLY want to go down that track???
6/10/2014 5:47:12 PM

Katrina Love you are sadly ill-informed about most of the modern day practices you mention above. Tail docking and castration have been carried out for decades using 'elastrator' rings which is long proven to be painless. Just ask the little boy who castrated himself using a ring which was only discovered by his mother the next morning She was absolutely distraught naturally enough but the litlle boy didn't experience any discomfort let alone complain of any pain. Hot iron branding has been replaced with electronic ear tags in similar fashion to people having there ears pierced for ear rings
Cattle Advocate
6/10/2014 8:12:22 PM

Before this year's Eid festival 3 PETA protestors in India were waving a sign 'make Eid happy for all try vegan' In front of a 175K capacity mosque there.Some worshipers were provoked,1 policeman was injured but PETA got its name in the paper.India has about 180M muslims and its growing middle class are eating more western type meats. PETA ' Animals are not ours to eat' With PETA's attack on our Aus wool industry is its operative in witness protection, or is the game to publicly attack people like RSPCA's Steve Coleman who dont see it PETA's way all while PETA gets it name in the paper again?
Mabel Peyton-Smyth
6/10/2014 8:19:22 PM

Animal spaying? And people having tattoos one would think or maybe even having their hair cut.Yes the Brazilian certainly needs general wiff
7/10/2014 5:16:35 AM

Does the farmer not have the right to object to illegal trespass??
7/10/2014 12:24:00 PM

Why is it that farmers always, always want to shoot the messenger? If there's no cruelty to animals happening, there's nothing to "expose", and I'd wager that farmers would have no idea that anyone had even been on their property. It's time the cruelty issues were addressed and solved, not that those exposing them are prevented from doing so.
7/10/2014 12:41:49 PM

Jack you are twisting the issue and you know it. Let us know where you live and I can install some cameras at your place, just in case you are harming animals or children. I don't have any evidence you are but you won't mind though will you? I will leave them there for years and if I see any animal or children abuse or something I can edit to look that way, I will post just that short vision on the internet to defame you. You won't mind me invading your privacy and watching every thing you do without your permission will you Jack?
7/10/2014 2:36:40 PM

According to the logic and reasoning (lack thereof?) of Animal Activists, I would be well within my legal rights to break into their houses, install cameras in their bedrooms, bathrooms and toilets, and put the footage on YouTube.
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