A PIGGERY owner strategically targeted by 110 animal rights protesters says the mass farrowing shed take-over and subsequent threats made on social media postings, “borders on terrorism”.
Gary McGuire’s property on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, Glasshouse Country Farms, where the siege took place also suffered a similar break-in incident before Christmas where two activists were charged by police with trespass and stealing.
Police at the scene of last week’s protest expressed disappointment that the pro-vegan protesters had acted unlawfully.
Security is now set to be enhanced to defend the farm business from escalating raids that Mr McGuire says are deliberately timed to coincide with publicity seeking linked to more screenings later this month in Queensland of an amateur vegan documentary.
Agricultural industry analysts have already rebuked the film for misleading audiences by broadcasting misinformation about standard and lawful livestock farming practices.
Mr McGuire fears a future protest is also set to strike a neighbouring poultry farm and processing facility, raising concerns about bird flu contamination, due to activists spreading diseases by entering livestock facilities, unchecked, without professional biosecurity clearances.
Travel from Glasshouse Country Farms to the Woodlands poultry property involves driving about 7kms via the Steve Irwin Way, or a walk of about 3.5kms.
Woodlands management was contacted for comment about its future security arrangements and biosecurity risks, in view of a potential protest, but did not respond before deadline.
Mr McGuire believes last week’s sit-in was also a form of “retribution” for the December raid on his farm, given some of the activists involved had re-offended.
About 68 activists wearing black entered the farrowing shed at about 7.30am, demanding an end to intensive farming practices and meat consumption, attracting a response involving 25 police officers.
Another 40 protesters gathered outside the piggery - shouting into megaphones, chanting slogans and waving placards – disrupting operations like preventing stranded animals from being professionally fed and watered.
One farm worker was also morally harassed by one of the activists after the group was discovered on site, and it’s understood other activists were also abused by their fellow protesters for leaving the protest early, to avoid possible arrest.
Mr McGuire said he was concerned about his own safety that of his staff, after reading threatening comments posted on the internet where video images of the break-in were also shared live on Facebook, along with still photographs, by animal liberation groups and their backers.
“They have extreme views and they could be capable of other extreme acts - it only takes one,” he said.
“It is something really that borders on terrorism and terror tactics.
“My workers are probably now fearful of what they are going to encounter when they go to work because the sheds are right next to where they live.
“It was pretty much like a home invasion because the manager lives about forty metres away from the piggery and there’s another staff member who lives right to there and they attend to the pigs at night time.”
Mr McGuire has called for on-the-spot $5000 fines or imprisonment to be imposed on animal rights activists caught trespassing on farm facilities, saying current rules are inadequate to provide a deterrent.
He said many of the 68 protesters left the shed voluntarily last Friday, to avoid facing any police charges, with about 25 arrests were made on the day.
But after monitoring pictures taken during the stand-off that were also posted on social media, he’s concerned some activists may have stolen several piglets which he’s since raised with local police officers who are investigating the incident.
“That’s our suspicion,” he said.
Mr McGuire said police officers who attended last week’s protest suggested he employ a security guard to try to ensure the activists don’t re-offend and erect a security fence around the property or install security cameras.
But he said that was “a pretty big expense” at a time when business conditions were tough.
“It’s something we probably need to consider because of what’s happening and to try to stop it happening again,” he said.
“We are actually losing money so it is not an expense that we want to occur at the moment.
“Our cost of production is not low enough, mainly due to the high feed price, but with low pig prices in Queensland we’re in a situation now that we are losing money every week.
“And we don’t know when it’s going to stop so we just have to sort of try and get through the best we can.
“We don’t really need these distractions getting in the road of what we are trying to do.
“We are probably losing $10,000 per week at the moment and if the market doesn’t turn around soon enough, we will be making changes anyway to survive.”
Mr McGuire said last Friday’s incident coincided with a vegan documentary screening in Brisbane the night before and another modest protest rally that was held outside the JBS Australia beef processing facility in Dinmore, on the same day, which caused no disruptions to operations.
He said Australian Pork Limited had circulated advice warning the documentary was being released which could ignite various protest activities nationwide, to try to “gain some publicity”.
It could also be “a bit of retribution” he said, because charges were laid against activists following the December break in.
It’s understood a crowd funding campaign has since raised about $9,000 to help cover their legal costs.
“We were broken into in December and during the night videos were posted on Facebook and photos, and piglets were stolen and taken back to Victoria,” Mr McGuire said.
“Those same people who stole the piglet where back in the piggery the other day.
“We did press charges on that particular day and two of the ones from Queensland were charged with breaking and entering and stealing.
“I don’t think that has gone to court as yet but it could be a bit of retribution, because we did lay charges against the original break in.”
Flash-mob anti-farm protests coincide with vegan documentary
Last week’s protest event at Mr McGuire’s piggery involved outspoken animal rights campaigner James Aspey who has been billed as a ‘guest speaker’ at promotional screenings for the vegan documentary, throughout the nation, where strategic fundraising for animal rights campaigns and merchandise sales also feature prominently.
“Following last night's Brisbane screening of ‘Dominion’ our Assistant Producer Matthew Lynch joined this morning's incredible action at the Glasshouse Piggery in Beerburrum QLD, taking this photo of 68 activists locking down an industry-standard farrowing shed,” a Facebook post on the film’s website said.
Another screening in Perth this week for the amateur movie - that’s boasted the involvement of vegan Hollywood film-star Joaquin Phoenix in its earlier promotional material - also saw another protest occur, linked to Mr Aspey.
About 100 protesters held a ‘vigil’ and filmed trucks arriving with livestock, outside Linley Valley Pork, while posting the images to social media.
Another protest was held by animal rights groups in Adelaide yesterday timed to coincide with the film’s screening in SA while its first public viewing in Melbourne in late March saw activists raid a local abattoir.
“Early last week, at 4am, myself and nine other activists entered an abattoir in Benella after being inspired by the Dominion,” a Facebook post said.
“We separated into two teams, I lead one team upstairs to the bobby calves and the other team chained themselves and positioned themselves to stop the pig production line.
“It was incredibly empowering when a group of approx. 40 activists turned up outside the abattoir to support us.”
The film’s credit list includes Animal Liberation and Aussie Farms for providing ‘principal photography’.
Animals Australia provided video footage to Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud last week, concerning live sheep shipments to the Middle East which also appeared on 60 Minutes at the weekend and incited significant political backlash and regulatory action, over animal welfare, also features in the documentary’s list of credits, for contributing footage.
At last week’s protest outside Mr McGuire’s piggery, Mr Apsey said, in a social media live-stream-video, that the anti-farm protesters were trying to “inspire” people to “boycott animal products” that had resulted from “normalised violence”.
“What do the farmers have to hide?” he said.
“Animals are constantly screaming - this happens all over world - eight billion sentient beings are murdered by human beings, every single day.”
But Mr McGuire said he was now concerned 68 activists that entered his farrowing shed, without going through its strict biosecurity protocols beforehand, may have attended the other protest at the JBS site and transferred contaminated material on their shoes or through other means, and may return via the neighbouring poultry business.
He said that inter-farm activity may risk the transfer of potentially crippling diseases like Avian Influenza (bird flu).
“I don’t think they comprehend what they can cause by transmitting a disease,” he said of the activists’ trespassing.
“We don’t allow any other live animals onto the farm and we don’t allow people who have been in contact with other animals.
“That is part of our Quality Assurance program and biosecurity standards, to keep disease out of the piggery.
“We’ve had disease before and it cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars and a lot of suffering for the pigs and the people looking after them, until we eradicated those diseases at great expense and we just don’t want it back.
“This is a very big risk because the (activists) can introduce disease if they have been in contact with other animals – we just don’t know where they’ve been.”
The Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Department’s website says a highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in Australia would have “devastating effects on Australia’s poultry meat and egg industries, which contribute enormously to the Australian economy”.
It cited the example from 2003 in the Netherlands where over 30 million birds were culled to eradicate the disease, costing $252 million.
A promotional clip that’s available online for the ‘Dominion’ documentary that screened in Brisbane last Thursday, the night before the raid on Mr McGuire’s property, says it’s targeting an empire “built on secrecy” that will be “exposed”.
The movie writer and director Chris Delforce appeared in the Cootamundra Court last August charged with alleged offences under the NSW Surveillance Devices Act, along with another animal rights activist Dorottya Kiss.
A police investigation of the matter included raiding homes and seizing related recording devices and equipment - but those charges were dismissed on a technicality because the consent form issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW, wasn’t dated.
The charges came after a lengthy investigation from Strike Force Shubach which was established by the Cootamundra Local Area Command due to multiple piggeries throughout southern NSW being targeted with illegal installation of recording devices and publication of related material aimed at portraying largely routine and legal farming practices, as animal cruelty.
Mr Delforce’s promotional website for his documentary provides an explanation of matters relating to the court case.
“I was charged under a 2007 ‘Surveillance Devices Act’ for obtaining and publishing footage depicting industry-standard, legal practices in several pig farms and Australia's largest pig slaughterhouse,” it says.
But the vegan film producer said the prosecution’s case was “heavily flawed” and there was “clear political motivation behind it”.
“However, we didn't even get to that argument, as the police were unable to prove that they had obtained the correct authorization from the state government to lay the charges in the first place,” it says.
“The magistrate had no choice but to dismiss all charges, just over one hour into what was to be a three-day trial.”
But the prosecution also didn’t get to put their case and evidence to the judge before the Cootamundra Court, another source said.
Another explainer on the film’s promotional website tells what Mr Delforce’s Aussie Farms does.
“At its core, Aussie Farms is about freedom of information - we believe that truth and openness are our greatest asset in the fight against commercialised animal abuse – so we research, investigate, document, and publish evidence for the world to see,” it says.
“In our recently launched ‘Repository' website, we've built the world's largest database of photos, footage, documents, campaign materials, and facilities (e.g. farms and slaughterhouses) relating to animal exploitation/abuse, open for contribution by any Australian activist.
“Our aim is to force total transparency on industries that heavily depend on secrecy and deception, and to support and empower individual activists and organisations in their efforts to make our world a better place.”
But Mr McGuire said the activists that raided his property and took video footage last week had also spread misinformation about his facility which had phased-out the use of sow stalls voluntarily before regulations changed.
He said pigs only spent a “fraction” of their lives inside the farrowing house that was like a “maternity ward”, but activists didn’t hold an accurate or fair view of pork production processes; despite demanding greater transparency of farmers.
“We believe we do a good job,” he said.
“We produce good quality feed; we all work hard; and we work weekends and on holidays to look after pigs so we can care for and feed them.
“The only time the sows go into the stalls is to have babies so the babies can be attended to for four weeks, until they are weened.
“That’s one of the main things they (protesters) are on about and they think it’s cruel but they really need to turn around and have another look and think well, it is more like a maternity ward, and we’re not stuffing them into cages.
“They are going in there to protect the babies and kept them warm.
“The babies are looked after and sows can be feed properly and produce heathy piglets.”
A statement from Meat the Victims about last week’s protest at the Sunshine Coast piggery said the aim of it was to “expose the reality of what is happening to the victims of the ‘meat’ industry and to challenge the current speciesism mindset within our society”.
“The truth is being censored from the public while the animal harming industry perpetuates the ‘humane myth’,” it said.
“Labels such as ‘cage free’, ‘free range’, ‘grass fed’, ‘organic’ and ‘local’ are used to deceive and mislead the public into believing animals are ‘humanely raised’.
“Our message is simple; animals are here with us, not for us.”
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