Victoria’s animal activist inquiry yields mixed results

A Victorian inquiry launched at the peak of last year’s farm invasion surge has handed down its final report, but critics fear its findings will aid activists as much as farmers. 

The final report of the Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture was released in Melbourne yesterday. The report stated that animal rights activists have caused physical and mental distress to many people in the agriculture industry, however no clear recommendations were put forth to solve this problem.   

The recommendations included in the Agriculture Victoria’s Inquiry involved mandatory CCTV in abattoirs, increased animal welfare standards, public interest exemptions for hidden cameras and an on the spot fine for a new biosecurity offence.  

The Inquiry was originally motioned by the Victorian National Party last April who called for an examination into the effectiveness of Victoria’s laws following news that an activist was fined a mere $1 for breaking biosecurity laws.   

Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) President David Jochinke said the VFF had mixed views on the fifteen recommendations included in the report, with fears that the recommendations would not be enough to protect farmers from the dangers of activists.  

“The VFF endorses committee’s recommendation that penalties need to put in place to provide adequate safeguards for farmers who run legitimate businesses,” Mr Jochinke said.  

“The VFF has been consistently calling for the introduction of $1000 (or greater) on-the-spot-fine for any individual trespassing on a farm or agricultural enterprise. Further, individuals can be fined up to $220,000 and corporations up to $400,000.” 

While the VFF supports the recommendations that encourage improved public access to regulations, animal practices guidelines, it was concerned with the first recommendation in the report that encouraged government to consider ‘the need to codify public interest exemptions’. 

We already have appropriate avenues in place to allow whistle-blowers to report suspicion of animal cruelty, we don’t need to create a regulatory environment that could give rise to vigilante behaviour

Victorian Farmers Federation David Jochinke said. 

The VFF remains committed to working with Government to ensure appropriate penalties are put in place to protect Victorian farmers but the Victorian Liberal Nationals have rejected the report arguing that it gives activists a ‘get out of jail free’ card.  

“This inquiry was a genuine opportunity to deliver the change regional communities have been demanding,” Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said.  

“The Committee heard harrowing stories of the emotional and financial toll illegal farm invasions are taking on Victorian farming families. 

“Despite clear evidence the response from our courts to farm trespass and theft is not meeting community expectations, the report is silent on ways to improve protections for farmers against activists who break the law.” 

The Victorian Government now has six months to respond to the recommendations.  

Tegan Scott

Tegan Scott

Is the Community & Engagement Officer at the National Farmers' Federation.

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