No 'gag' in Back's proposal

19 Aug, 2014 04:00 AM
WA Liberal Senator Chris Back.
The activists ... want to see the end of Australia’s livestock industries
WA Liberal Senator Chris Back.

WESTERN Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back said his proposed new laws to curtail escalating farm raids and trespass by animal rights activists are being well supported.

In mid-July, Senator Back unveiled his plans to pursue a Private Senators' Bill saying it had strong support from Attorney-General George Brandis and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

In his monthly newsletter last week, he said the draft legislation, aimed at protecting animals under the Criminal Code, had so far received strong support, both in the Coalition party room and in industry.

Senator Back raised his proposed laws immediately after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched its campaign targeting the Australian wool industry with an animal cruelty video obtained via covert filming operations.

That campaign echoed other farm trespass activities like those targeting pork producers in regional Australia.

Senator Back said he was falsely quoted in “every second newspaper around the countryside” as trying to introduce US-style “ag gag” laws.

But his proposal is the exact opposite of those laws, he said, because it seeks to strengthen genuine animal welfare protections and safeguards for farmers.

Senator Back's newsletter said the proposed laws aimed to ensure “malicious cruelty to an animal or animals is reported in a timely fashion by the person observing this action”.

“The first component of the proposed bill addresses visual images taken in the belief they record maliciously cruelty,” he said.

“The photographer (or) recorder would be under an obligation to report this act and supply the images to responsible authorities enabling investigation with a minimum of delay.”

Senator Back said in recent cases, activists had presented visual images taken up to 12 months previously, effectively preventing responsible authorities from accurately investigating allegations.

“The motives of many activists, by their own published statements, are clear,” he said.

“They want to see the end of Australia’s livestock industries, many opposing the consumption of meat, and wanting to drastically reduce the size of our herds and flocks.”

“Activists are attempting to trash Australia’s enviable reputation internationally”

In a broader context, activists are agitating against Australia’s sheep, pig, poultry and beef industries, according to Senator Back.

He said they’ve targeted farmers’ shearing practices, lamb losses, wild dog attacks on livestock and “even against the controls put in place in attempts to control wild dogs”.

“Activists are attempting to trash Australia’s enviable reputation internationally regarding the supply of livestock and safe, reliable meat products, advances in animal husbandry and welfare in Australia’s target markets,” he said.

“In so doing, they are directly attacking Australia’s export trade and the profitability of agricultural and rural communities generally.

Senator Back said the second component of his Bill was directed against anyone who intimidates, threatens or attacks a person associated with a legally operating animal enterprise or trespasses onto or vandalises the property of anyone conducting a legally operating animal enterprise.

“Such actions are criminal in nature, invade the privacy of affected persons and can place animals and property at risk from a welfare, health and husbandry basis,” he said.

“The draft legislation is designed to complement that of existing state and territory legislation.”

Similar laws have been introduced in the US to counter escalating animal rights campaigns that also target legal livestock production activities, to try and sway consumer opinions about food ethics.

The so called “ag-gag” laws have been passed in the US States of Iowa, Utah, Missouri and Idaho recently, while other jurisdictions have varied existing regulations to strengthen farmer protections.

Activists can now access elaborate technology then publish video footage on YouTube and spread it rapidly via social media, even if it fails to obtain coverage in conventional media.

The US regulations also extend to workplace rules invoking penalties for workers who fail to declare membership of animal rights groups or related organisations.

They also require video evidence of animal abuse to be handed over within 24 or 48 hours for legal investigation by proper authorities.

Legal counsel for animal protection group Voiceless Emmanuel Giuffre has said “ag-gag” laws are a potential obstacle that could threaten the momentum of the animal rights movement.

Mr Giuffre said Voiceless is concerned about “ag gag” laws as they could “stifle transparency, inhibiting law reform and suppressing the public’s right to question the status quo”.

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


19/08/2014 9:40:08 AM

Thank you Senator Chris Back for standing up for honesty, openness and justice. It is clear that the animal activist fringe groups have no interest in such moral standards, and will use any action or tactics and lies to end the legal and important livestock farming industries in Australia and around the globe. You have huge support from the fair minded Australian community. We want your bill made into law ASAP.
Lily T
19/08/2014 11:44:00 AM

It's clear that animal farmers think they have a great deal to hide from their customers. When telling the uninformed about these proposed new laws, the usual response I receive is one of suspicion and dismay. These ARE ag-gag laws, aimed at punishing those who put themselves at risk to reveal animal abuse and cruelty. If it wasn't for animal activists, none of us would know what happens to animals behind closed doors in the pursuit of profit.
patty mark
19/08/2014 2:56:33 PM

yes, there is NO gag in Back's proposal but also, NO guts. It doesn't work Mr Back, as for over 30 years I've done just that - lodged IMMEDIATE cruelty complaints after filming/observing horrendous suffering and cruelty in animal agriculture, yet nothing was ever done by the legal authorities. There are no real protections and definitely no respect for animals in agriculture. Animals are not our property, they are not our food, our shoes or our entertainment, they are individual sentient beings with their own lives to live. Agriculture YES, Animal Agriculture NO.
Farmer from the Fence Rd
19/08/2014 3:17:00 PM

Lily, my custmrs are welcome to come to my farm and see my grain and animal production but you will be expected to adhere to biosecurity protection measures, safe animal handling training and you will not have unauthorised access to my family who live on the premises. These are vital points that many of these trespassers do not take into account when breaking into properties. I also believe that transparency in the ag industry can/ should be achieved by I am wary of activists that instead of reporting alleged cruelty they post for public judgement first which does nothing for the animals.
from the longyard.
19/08/2014 7:03:07 PM

W.A. State Government has a contract with RSPCAWA whereby, in return for half a million dollars a year , the self proclaimed "animal welfare charity" has contracted NOT TO INVESTIGATE COMMERCIAL LIVESTOCK. Where does Senator Back suggest the cruelty complaints be lodged?
20/08/2014 1:25:07 PM

So are the animals going to file their own cruelty reports then? Some politicians take us for absolute fools.
Katrina Love
20/08/2014 1:32:01 PM

Legislate against the cruelty and the abuse, NOT the exposure of it. Whatever Back wants to call his proposed laws, his intention is to gag those who would seek to expose the truth about routine animal husbandry practices and routine abuse on Australian "farms" - not all of the routine abuse is malicious, but it does reflect the lack of respect and consideration that has come to be the norm in animal agriculture, and the consumers have a right to be fully informed.
20/08/2014 5:47:48 PM

I will take the evidence provided by the animal activists any day over a farmer or a politician. What do they have to hide?
Cattle Advocate
20/08/2014 8:24:27 PM

RSPCA's Steve Coleman needs a witness to give evidence in court why didnt PETA supply a witness? Why was Senator Back falsely quoted in ''every second newspaper around the countryside''? Why havent any of the 21 speakers at the 2011 BLE rally in VIC said how BLE will pay LE parity to our TE cattle owners? What about the LE Buff trade with Vietnam helping our TE Aboriginal communities? What are AL's views on fence cutters? Dosent Peter Singer's 'Animal Liberation' preach non violence?
20/08/2014 9:20:22 PM

Let the war against torture and murder begin.
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