Stop Ag-Gag in Victoria - exposing animal abuse should never be a crime

Stop Ag-Gag in Victoria - exposing animal abuse should never be a crime

6,247 have signed. Let’s get to 7,500!
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The Victorian Labor Party will pass ag-gag laws through the lower house which are aimed at silencing activists and protecting animal abusers. We must TAKE ACTION NOW to ensure we stop this in its tracks by demanding it not pass the legislative council. 

Those who work to expose the brutal exploitation and abuse of millions of innocent animals across Australian farms and slaughterhouses will face extraordinary fines under the guise of unfounded biosecurity risks if we do not make our voices heard.

The proposed amendments to the Livestock Management Bill go against the true findings of the government’s own Inquiry and even beyond the recommendations of the Committee. Sign now! and then go the extra mile by emailing your state members. Tell them Labor must not ignore their own Inquiry and that other MP's should call them out by opposing these unjust, flawed and discriminatory amendments. Email contacts are at the end of this petition.

It was announced in December 2021 in response to recommendations from the ‘Inquiry into the impact of animal rights activism on Victorian agriculture’, that people caught trespassing on agricultural animal abuse properties would now receive not only huge on-the-spot fines of over $1000, but also face penalties of up to $10,904 each or $54,522 for organisations. When considering those numbers, keep in mind the Inquiry also found that the average fine for an animal cruelty prosecution (which is as rare as hens teeth, particularly in agriculture) is $1400.
These additional penalties came from pressure from the Nationals and were not backed up by the Inquiry submissions, nor its findings. Such actions make it clear that the Victorian Government does not care about the spread of disease, the suffering of animals nor the findings of their own Inquiry, but they do care about pressure from the animal abuse sector whose greatest ongoing threat is growing public awareness of standard industry practices and the growth of the animal liberation movement.     

A member from their own party in the Inquiry’s committee did not support the recommendations leading to even the initial absurd on-the-spot fines, highlighting in her minority report that sufficient penalties for trespass already exist. In response to Finding 5 ‘animal rights activists who trespass onto agricultural facilities pose a biosecurity risk’ Labor MP Sonja Terpstra stated: “Disagree. There is no evidence to support this conclusion.”

In response to Finding 6, that Acts of trespass on agricultural facilities by animal rights activists are a risk to the health and safety of farmers, agricultural employees, livestock, emergency services, the public and activists themselves, the Labor MP stated:

“Risk posed by animal activists trespassing:
• health and safety of farmers – no direct evidence of this;
• agricultural employees – no direct evidence of this;
• livestock, • emergency services – no direct evidence of this,
• the public – no direct evidence of this;
• activists themselves – no direct evidence of this.
Disagree with finding as no evidence was provided about this citing examples where health and safety breaches were recorded or logged with WorkSafe Victoria.”

Even Agriculture Victoria confirmed during the Inquiry that there had been no biosecurity incidents caused by animal rights activists and Superintendent Greaney from Victoria Police advised the Committee that in his view current legislation in this area is adequate.

As Vegan Rising found in our own review of all submission made to the Inquiry in 2019: 
"Upon examining the 489 submissions, we found that approximately 64% of them were in support of activist rights to expose animal abuse and against increased legislation while 31% were anti-animal activism and expressed their support for tougher legislation targeting individuals who enter farms and slaughterhouses with the intention to document or impede their operation. A further 2% were undecided on their position while 3% were confidential submissions. Interestingly, of the approximately 152 submissions which were in favour of tougher penalties for activists, 73% of these could be identified as having a strong association with the animal agriculture industry, leaving only around 27% of these type of submissions who don’t have an obvious financial motivation for being in favour of limited transparency and public accountability, a worrying statistic when you consider just how many lives are at stake. While there were a number of individuals who identified as animal farmers and were not in favour of tougher restriction of activists, it’s significant to note that of the animal agriculture businesses and industries represented in the submissions as being in favour of increased repression, many of them had facilities that had been investigated and exposed by Aussie Farms for their shocking treatment of animals. Three such facilities are Luv-a-Duk poultry,  Diamond Valley Pork and Rivalea." Our full review is linked below.

Also of note from the Inquiry was the following additional comments from Labor MP Sonja Terpstra in relation to statistical evidence provided by Agriculture Victoria on animal activists and any unauthorised activity.
“By any standard, the incidence of and likelihood of unauthorised farm entry due to activist activity is very low. Also, instances of protest and trespass related to activism over a 12 month period recorded 11 incidents with no reports of violence or damage to property. Additionally at page 7 of their report, Ag Vic state that there are 21,000 farms in Victoria. The statistical likelihood of unauthorised farm entry or targeting is statistically lower that the risk of a house in a suburban built up area being burgled.”

and later:

“Given the low incidence of offences recorded by authorities, there is no evidence that would justify an increase in fines, penalties or sentences in the areas of trespass, theft or biosecurity as they are adequate.”

Finally, section 6 of Ms Terpstra’s minority report ‘Things left unexplored’ stated: 
“In my view, there were issues or themes not dealt with at all or superficially which could have also informed the deliberations of the committee. Some of these limitations arise from the narrowness of
the terms of reference for the inquiry.
There was a lack of:
• Direct evidence provided by employees who work on farms about health and safety concerns that they may have experienced as a result of unauthorised entry on farms by activist;
• Ability to receive information and/or exploration of how farmers could potentially use science, technology and innovation to reduce unnecessary production of animals to produce food;
• Information as to whether employees who work in slaughter houses are trained and could benefit by receiving proper, adequate and appropriate training in correct methods for animal slaughter/butchery;
• Consideration around mental health support for farmers and abattoir workers. As an industry, abattoir workers have high rates of PTSD, PITS and other associated disorders and behaviours arising from having to kill animals;
• Evidence about whether any losses incurred by unauthorized entry onto farms by activists were or could be covered by insurance.
In my view this presented a lost opportunity for the committee to explore these themes further“

In short:
The Inquiry was almost entirely a waste of time and tax payer dollars. Aside from a commitment to review alternatives to blunt force trauma and live chick maceration, the government has essentially decided to do what they like anyway. These arbitrary fines have clearly been driven by politics over evidence, science and reason. SIGN NOW to stop the government from further protecting animal abusers by silencing those who expose them. Working to protect the most vulnerable from brutal abuse and suffering should never be a crime. Sign now!

Go the extra mile and send a personal email to your local state members and cc other members of the upper house, the Premier Dan Andrews and the Minister for Agriculture, Mary-Anne Thomas. You may also like to consider emailing Sonja Terpstra directly to thank her for her rational input and ask whether she will be supporting these unjust penalties that she clearly opposes and knows are not backed by evidence and reason.

Legislative Council

Eastern Metro

Eastern Victoria

Southern Metro

South Eastern Metro

Western Metro

Western Victoria

Northern Metro

Northern Victoria

Related documents:
Our submission to the Inquiry here.
Our summary on the overall submissions here.
Committee’s Report inc. findings and recommendations here.
Government response to the Report here.
Mary-Anne Thomas’ reading and Bill amendments here.

6,247 have signed. Let’s get to 7,500!
At 7,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get a reaction from the decision maker!