Farm trespass laws long overdue

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In January this year, animal activist group Aussie Farms posted a map of Australian farms on its Facebook page.  The online map shares the location and contact details of thousands of Australian farmers. The group said it wanted the public to be able to see where their food comes from.

At the time, the industry said the map was nothing more than an “attack list” for activists – and they were right.

Since the map went live, there has been a dangerous rise in activist intrusions on agricultural properties.

In one high profile case, owners of the family-friendly Gippy Goat Farm and Cafe in Victoria, announced the closure of their cafe following a long streak of targeted “harassment”.

The closure followed an earlier incident in December where a group of individuals stole three goats and a lamb, with one person involved being fined $1 last month for each theft, and ordered to pay $250 compensation.

Farmers have had enough.

For many farmers, their property is their business, their workplace, and their family home. When animal rights activists illegally trespass on private agricultural properties, it’s not just farmers’ privacy that is at risk. These home invasions threaten the safety of farming families and workplaces, the biosecurity of farms and even entire industries, and the welfare of livestock. In some cases, these invasions could even have implications for food security.

Australian farmers adhere to world-leading animal welfare standards. In most cases, they are law-abiding responsible citizens. The animal activists are the ones breaking any number of laws. Yet the penalties imposed on them come nowhere near to reflecting the risk imposed on farming businesses and families.

Governments and law enforcement agencies must take a harder stand against the actions of animal activists and ensure that legal protections and punishments are reflective of the danger they pose. As the frequency of these incidents increases, farmers are unable to operate their businesses and go about their lives for fear of being the next animal activist target.

If this level of unacceptable law-breaking behaviour was occurring in the city, there is no doubt we would be seeing more urgency and response. Meaningful and effective action is needed to ensure farmers receive the fundamental protections anyone should have the right to expect in a civil society.

Farmers are rightly outraged when they see their homes can be invaded in the dead of night, with live streaming on the internet, animals disrupted and stolen,biosecurity protocols ignored, and people put out of work – only for offenders to walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

This issue is red-hot among farming communities that are sick of seeing privacy and property rights take a back seat to activist agendas. Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own homes and to go about their lawful business without harassment. That doesn’t change just because you live on a farm.

The farm trespass laws promised by the federal government are long overdue. While this outrageous behaviour is allowed to continue, our legal system is failing farmers and all those who live in rural communities. Society is the loser; the anonymous bullies, hypocrites, and law-breakers have won.

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