Agriculture Protection Laws

There has been a significant amount of media debate concerning the possible introduction into Australia of Agriculture protection laws (APL’s), or as opponents refer to, ‘Ag –gag laws’. Those opposed, view these laws in particular as targeting and restrictive of people who choose to undertake actions that most notably involve illegal entry of property to expose alleged animal cruelty.

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Increasingly what is currently happening in Australia is that Animal Activists (AA’s) target a site they feel is not meeting animal welfare standards. They enter a property, sometimes under false pretences, usually as break and enter. Search, record and on occasion cause malicious damage to infrastructure including intentional spread of disease. Animals are then filmed in various situations involving housing, slaughter and treatment. Some filmed in poor visibility at night and by people with flash lights. Obtained film is then distributed as video, film, stills or information as they see fit, when they want and with information that they see as suited to the situation they wish to portray. Most notably footage release may be targeted at a high consumption point of the year but long after the film was made.

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What AA’s think the APL’s will do is completely stop the ability of them to release footage of what they regard as animal cruelty which is basically what the American rulings have done.  I think the US versions are too stringent but I do think adaption could be used in Australia.

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An Australian friend has looked at the US laws extensively and I think has come up with a more relevant version to Australia that doesn’t prevent the use of the footage but certainly makes the AA’s more accountable for their actions in regards to authenticity, accuracy and release of footage. I have added my own take on  disclosure to the owners property that was filmed including ability of owner to refute information.

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Social media has become the court house and  AA’s have proclaimed themselves as judge jury and executioner of the producer in the public arena. Using footage to  incite outrage and reaction from mostly the general public, who in turn are asked to pressure government and law makers to act against the animal property owner by implementation of supposed better animal welfare laws or abolition of the animal use all together. The footage’s usual intention is to incite hate and repulsion and thus detrimentally affect market sales of that properties or related industry animal product. Through repulsion, emotion and often outright mis-information by the AA’s, the industry targeted then suffers as a consequence either through direct loss of income or the problems directly caused by the AA’s.

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It is sometimes many months after the event of a media wave that the facts of the film in regards to what was happening, why, where and who were involved actually comes to light and sometimes, I’m not saying all but definitely sometimes is shown to be intentionally misleading and outright propaganda.

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From the producers point of view a major concern is bio security, but it is also control of information and image and a chance to have a fair say when directly attacked. The right to know when they are being slandered and the right of reply. In my view the APL’s could make it legally equitable in disputes of animal cruelty that the producer at least has a chance to explain their situation and reasoning of what the film depicts at the same time as it is released because it will be illegal to withhold it longer than 48 hours without notification to the owner and authorities.

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Currently it is quiet legal to openly place photographic images advertised as animal cruelty, poor animal welfare, poor animal standards or outright neglect and mis treatment. These images need no details of who, when or where they were taken and many times these aren’t provided even when investigated further by a viewer on social media. The intended purpose of the visual, is to lead the audience to always assume they are viewing Australian animals and think what they see is a fair representation of how Australian animals are treated overall.

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Many images provided by AA’s are undated, without source names, often not even proving that they have been filmed at a site. Usually the recorder is anonymous. Some blatantly promote their business as animal expose and earn money  through their escapades. So the attacks on the producer come from many and varied sources but the initial antagonist, the trespass person or persons generally remain completely anonymous.

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More often than not the animal producer faces intense hostile assault from other AA’s including large organisations most notably on social media as to their business attributes and again the images are used as if that is what the whole of that industry represents. Personal attacks are very common against the producer and their families including children through social media and many sites allow these comments to remain visible as it feeds the hate and outrage. This is how things get so out of hand and beyond control.

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The interesting thing about some of the claims attackers of the producer make is that ‘the consumer has a right to know or they as the consumer have the right to dictate animal husbandry practices’. Ironically most of these people conducting trespass invasions are vegetarian or vegan and don’t actually consume or use the products from the industry they attack, so they aren’t consumers.

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Some AA’s may own or produce livestock for their economic survival, usually not though as many are fundamentally against animal production for food. Many actively work in and solicit donations for animal shelters they are involved with. Most are definitely concerned members of the public but how informed, representative or even knowledgeable of animal welfare practices and their purposes would vary from very informed and experienced in animal care to absolutely not having any idea of animal behaviour or practices at all.

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I am very wary of the phrase ‘social licence’ when used as description of the supposed general public view of animal production. When given a choice based on economics many of the buying public won’t actually pay extra for the improved animal welfare standards that they perceive are required. Instead buying imported products that don’t come even close to Australian welfare standards. Therefore at what point as a producer do I take their social licence prejudices seriously when they don’t practice what they preach when it comes to the act of actually paying at the checkout!

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As a producer we can explain, if people don’t accept that some practices are absolutely necessary, then that’s just the way it is, don’t eat our product. But if people don’t accept our business operations it doesn’t give them the right to invade and destroy our business because they don’t agree with consumption of animals.

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I have no doubt it is only a matter of time before an activist or producer is killed due to a property invasion. At the least massive disease across some animal industries will occur. If some tighter regulations are not put in place soon the AA’s will simply become more brazen and the producers more angry. Something will give.

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The APL’s in the US currently do and could be moulded to suit Australia, not to stifle animal activities but to filter those who have genuine intent animal welfare improvement from those who are simply economic terrorists with criminal malicious intent. APL’s are a possible way to hold AA’s legally accountable by ensuring that if an event of animal cruelty is recorded it is a recognised obligation by the recorder, for that information to be passed to relevant authorities quickly and unedited in a set time frame of 48 hours. With the provision that footage be not allowed on any public media format until at the least handed to authorities and the animal producer targeted allowed first viewing and 24 hours to consider it and mount a defence.

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Once footage is handed to authorities it is then the responsibility of  them to  act in a responsible and legal way. Once viewed by the accused then the AA’s can do what ever they like with their film and if so choosing could splash animal images of alleged cruelty where ever they liked. The point being that the producer has a fair and equitable chance of also instigating their own media commentary on the footage and saying what they think is relevant.

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If  footage is not backed up by a declaration by a real person as the recorder, as named and verified then the footage would be illegal to use on any media at all.

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Let the general public decide who they wish to listen too, but at least allow the opportunity to the public decide to investigate the other side of a story to be able make an informed decision. If the producers view is available then they may just see two sides of the story and not only the one as they are most commonly presented with at the moment.

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Where the American’s differ in their aspect of APL’s is they are saying any footage is never allowed to be publicly aired. I’m, not saying that at all. I don’t think all animal producers are good but then I don’t think all AA’s work with best intentions of improving animal welfare either.

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Under APL’s if an act is deemed as maliciously cruel as opposed to husbandry practice, determined by experts in the field, then the person or people who presented the original unedited footage would not face prosecution under law rulings irrespective if the initial property invasion was normally deemed illegal.

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Importantly those who withhold footage, and promote without handing to authorities including those that support that promotion, should face the full force of the law for their trespass and intentional damages actions. For organisations this should be harsh monetary fines, for individuals with little or no assets this should be restraining orders and jail time.

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If AA’s get it wrong and they make wrongful accusations that have been publically displayed as animal cruelty then they must personally face and be prepared to accept serious remedy consequences payable to the producer they wrongly accused. They have responsibility of duty when entering animal properties and at the moment AA’s rarely acknowledge this, particularly in respect of bio security including ironically animal welfare itself through the stress their actions may cause

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The APL’s are intended to enforce the witnessing of malicious cruelty as an obligation to report the recorded activity, so that animal cruelty can be stopped for the purpose of improving animal welfare. Not for the footage to be used for the gain of an Animal activists ego and advertising of campaigns for financial donation collection.
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Another aspect of the legislation is that groups opposed to animal farming or other aspects of agriculture can’t impose legislation or regulations that are not scientifically based on fact and significant research. This is the right to conduct Agriculture it is about protecting agriculture as the right to conduct animal breeding, raising and use of animals as acknowledged in any legitimate business.

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APL’s as could be adapted to Australian laws are not intended to stop genuine animal cruelty exposes or provide coverage to poorly operated animal producers they are meant to make the AA’s more accountable. If AA’s wants to make serious accusations of malicious cruelty to animals then they better be sure they are accurate and genuine in their revelations of it and not as what is happening at the moment where many are just economic terrorists on ego trips.

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Agricultural protection laws are about recognition of responsibility of animal activists and fairness for production owners including the health safety of their animals they are not about hiding practices and diminishing animal welfare.

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Categories: Advocacy, Agriculture laws, Animal Welfare, Animals Australia, Beef Industry, Cattle work, Indonesian abattoirs, Legislation, Live Exports, Politicians, Property operations, Sheep industry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Agriculture Protection Laws

  1. Hi Jo, a well written article. If industry wants to go down this path, I would suggest that authorities and producers have at least a minimum of 10 working days to consider footage before release, 24 hours is definitely not sufficient for genuine appraisal of any footage taken, after all it it suits them AA groups wait months to release footage when it will do the most damage. Harsher penalties for invading producer’s livestock premises need to be in place. On the other hand I would prefer the US laws, because quite frankly our primary industry does not have the workplace time or the production income to deal with yet another impost on business.

    Add up the additional bio-security, workplace health and safety, and mining issues we now have to deal with, using the same or less staff and income – putting AA issues on our table to deal with is just another nail in the coffin. Just do what the US has done – can AA and let people who want to work and produce get on with their business. The government already has a myriad of animal protection laws in place – why must we kow-tow to a group of people who evidently have nothing overly productive to do with their life and money. Let’s help them to spend it on something useful in the world, by deleting them from our industry.

  2. Thanks for reading Jacqualine, I’ve been writing this article for a number of weeks and even after posting still came up with things that are relevant. Like footage has to go to authorities first and foremost not through a animal rights group. I just put in the 48 hours really as a point of discussion, in reality I think you are right more time would be needed. I would like the ARA’s to recognise Ag is legitimate business, accuse us of wrongs and get it wrong themselves must attract very serious consequences or repayment to those they accuse. Jo

  3. Alex

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear. And some accuracy wiukld have been hekpful, in fact and in law.might have been helpful

  4. Hello. Alex. This comment came up in a conversation I had on facebook this was my reply
    “footage obtained under false pretences – giles abattoir or Trafalgar abattoir – Sarah Lynch, gave the footage to AA though surely would have known that if a crime then why not police or direct to Primesafe. Footage used for personal gain and advertised with her own name on photos, openly publicising photos she has taken in abattoirs at night as cruel and inhumane – Tamara Kenneally Victoria. A number of invasions and court dealings with piggeries. Portland feedlot about that was actually a court case, pig swill was fed to sheep that were meant to go export but couldn’t due to then eating pig. Animals Australia holding of footage from Indonesia for over 4 months to allow websites and alliances with RSPCA and 4c to be established. Aussie pigs website that puts up photos and footage that is over 3 months old, various chook shed invasions people don’t follow basic hygiene and handle the animals, friends who have feedlots down south and have to have trespass signs only 10m apart because then it is deemed someone can’t possibly miss them, recent pig break and enters as above. The export yard feedlot in NT where a person snuk in and used a flash light on a camera and rushed several thousand head which caused massive damage to yards, protocol of quarantine affected and killed one animal at the time and injured many. Number of photos and images used on various sites some whos only link is youtube and nothing dated, sourced or given any credibility as to when it was taken, this method is mainly used for overseas efforts of animal cases.

    Law – Under law there is a duty of care of people entering a property to understand bio security and trespass, most people realise these laws exist, activists violate them anyway. They know bio security exists between sheds of particularly intensive animals such as pigs and poultry, again they violate them anyway.

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