THE PRESIDENT of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has launched a scathing attack on the light punishment handed out to animal activists who broke into a Gippsland farm and stole livestock.
David Jochinke described the decision to hand Cara Garrett a $1 fine for breaking biosecurity laws and another $1 fine for housing livestock without an identification code as a dangerous precedent.
"It is deplorable, there is no other way to describe it," he said of the fines, which he said, rather than send a message that trespassing was an offence with serious consequences, would furthe embolden already militant animal activist groups.
"This kind of slap of the wrist simply endorses what these fanatics are doing, it is unacceptable.
"What we have are law abiding families that are being terrorised by a group of people with a particular set of beliefs that can only be described as fanatics, if this was occuring in any other walk of life there would be absolute uproar.
He said the spate of trespassing by animal activists, combined with initiatives such as the infamous Aussie Farms map, highlighting the location of farm businesses was all contributing to a normalisation of the demonisation of the farming community.
"It just beggars belief that this sort of stuff is virtually being sanctioned by our authorities.
"This is just going to create more of this type of activity, the perpetrators are already fuelled by their own rhetoric that they are on some sort of a crusade and are morally above the law as a result and with sentences like this handed down it wll further embolden them."
Mr Jochinke's comments were backed up by claims made by an unrepentant Ms Garrett in the media following the trial saying she would not stop her militant activism until everyone became vegan.
He said farmers were being victimised and unfairly targeted for simply going about their business.
"Can you imagine any other community group being faced with something like the Aussie Farms map, which encourages people to go out and hassle law abiding citizens, it would be an outrage.
"This is well past enough is enough, it is not an exaggeration to say a failure to stop these extreme activists is eating away at the national fabric and our ideas about where food comes from."
Mr Jochinke stressed his comments applied to those activists who were actively breaking the law.
"We welcome people wth different dietary habits or with particular views on animal welfare, but have a debate with us, engage in discussion, don't just take the law into your own hands."
Ms Garrett's case centred on the theft of three goats and a lamb from the Gippy Goat farm near Yarragon in Victoria's Gippsland region.
As well as the token fines she was placed on a six-month good behaviour bond, without conviction, on a theft charge, and ordered to pay $250 compensation.
Two accomplices to the crime, Malakeh Awad, 37, and Yasna Kelly, 25, were also found guilty of theft and were placed on six-month good behaviour bonds.
Gippy Goat owner John Gommans took to Facebook echoing Mr Jochinke's sentiments.
"No statement. No redress. No compensation. No protection," Mr Gommans said.
"No doubt the activist groups are feeling empowered by this outcome.
"They will feel secure in their ability to trespass, steal, harass, vandalise and more because the court's judgments will allow it."
Mr Gommans said he felt he wasn't allowed to refute the allegations, made by the activists.
"In effect, I felt that we, as victims, were put on trial instead," he said.
He said he believed the legislation and courts were not adequate to protect farmers and their livelihoods.
"I implore the agricultural and supporting community to please tell your politicians that you, as farmers, are entitled to the protection normally afforded to every citizen and that you are entitled to have your property and legitimate businesses protected, by the law," he said.
Federal agriculture minister David Littleproud said the creation of new privacy laws to help protect farmers was a priority.
"I'm now working with the Attorney General as he investigates beefing up privacy laws to help farmers," he said.
"Farmers around Australia are concerned for themselves and their children. No-one would like the address of their family home put up online for all to see - especially when the information describing the farm is wrong in many cases.
"The safety of farming families and their children is at risk here.
Shadow ag minister Joel Fitzgibbon pledged to discuss the matter with state governments to work to come up with protection for those in the agriculture industry.
"If elected I'll list these matters at the first meeting of a rejuvenated COAG body, a process left to languish under the watch of the current Government."