Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh has said that he will be introducing legislation before the Victorian state election that will provide more protection for farmers against extreme animal rights activists.
The coalition first committed to strengthen protection for farmers from trespassing animal activist groups in 2010. Walsh says that the election promise has not been forgotten and that the government will “have some more things to say around the right to farm”.
“A commitment is over four years and we will be sure to do something,” Walsh told The Weekly Times.
Peter Tuohey, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation backed Walsh’s comments, stating that activists “don’t have the right” to trespass on private property and take photos in a "misleading manner".
Colin Giles, co-owner of a Gippsland abattoir has claimed that his family suffered immense financial and emotional hardship from a state government investigation into animal cruelty charges in 2011 which were subsequently dropped last year.
Giles and his former quality assurance manager, James Rodwell, were set to face a number of charges under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act after footage was released which allegedly depicted cruelty towards pigs during slaughter. Giles said that the accusations bought severe stress to his family as well as lost revenue, production and the closure of his abattoir.
Tuohey says that Giles’ case was a “prime example of someone coming in under deceptive circumstances to cause some mischief,” and that stronger laws could have prevented the closure of the business.
In contrast, animal welfare company Animals Australia said that the introduction of strict legislation such as the ag-gag laws in the US will only heighten the awareness of cruel practices.
“If anything can be learned from the US situation, it is that while animal cruelty continues, so will investigations to expose that cruelty,” Animal Australia’s legal counsel Shatha Hamade told The Weekly Times.
“The controversy relating to ag-gag laws in the US has only served to increase consumer awareness of cruel practices, exactly the opposite of what US industries were seeking through having these laws put in place.”