Scare campaign angers farmers

By Dairy News

An animal activist website map that highlights “animal exploitation” farms has left dairy farmers angered and scared.

The Aussie Farms Map of “factory farms, slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities” was launched in January, prompting widespread condemnation across livestock industries, including dairy farmers who say it is an invasion of privacy that could prompt radicals to trespass on farms.

Macarthur dairy farmer in south-west Victoria, Fiona Musson, said she was stunned that activists could publicise where farmers live.

“It frightens me, it’s almost putting people at risk,” she said.

“I fear it is encouraging illegal activity or possible aggressive behaviour with strangers coming to your area.”

Mrs Musson said she and her husband Peter would welcome mature conversations with people concerned about any aspect of animal welfare.

“We’ve hosted many discussion and school groups and if anyone had concerns, we’d be more than happy to invite them here and if there’s anything we can do better we would, but to have this scare-mongering campaign almost encouraging some crazy to try to do something really bothers me.”

The Musson farm is included on the map. “It bothers me on so many different levels,” Mrs Musson said.

“I felt my personal safety was violated by identifying our farm and that made me very angry, especially as a mum.”

Mrs Musson said the farm and industry had stringent animal welfare guidelines.

“To be the most profitable farm we can be, we need to treat our animals exceptionally well or production would be affected,” she said.

“If you don’t farm sustainably and treat your animals well, you’re not going to have a profitable farm for the future.

“We are always looking at ways to improve all areas of our business, and animal welfare is crucial to this. I feel very saddened by this false negative misinformation.”

Mrs Musson said dairy farmers were already animal activists in their own right.

“It is pretty insulting. Farmers are animal activists — we work with animals every day and want them to be happy, healthy and productive.

“The best thing we can do is post as many positive images as possible to be proactive.”

Member for South West Coast in Victoria, dairy farmer Roma Britnell, said the campaign was baseless and unfounded and she described the website as despicable and irresponsible.

Mrs Britnell called for the Victorian Government to launch an awareness campaign to counteract the claims so the community could be confident farmers are responsible and care for their animals.

“As an industry we would never condone bad animal practices. As a farmer, I also take it as a personal insult,” Mrs Britnell said.

Mrs Britnell said farmers could now live in fear that their homes may be invaded by animal activists, and she was concerned that the mental health of farmers could be impacted by the campaign.

National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson said the implications could be dire and she demanded Facebook close the page promoting the map and for the group to be stripped of its charity status.

“Farmers’ privacy, their right to farm and most disturbingly, their safety and that of their families and animals, are at risk,” Ms Simson said.

“Australian farmers have had enough and we will not stand by and watch attempts to destroy farms, families and rural communities."

Ms Simson said the NFF had fielded calls from farmers distressed that their name had incorrectly been linked to ‘animal cruelty’.

“They are extremely anxious and very angry that their workplace, and their home, has become the target of extreme and dangerous activities,” Ms Simson said.

MLA said farmers could request removal from the site or file a complaint with the Office of the Information Commissioner and farmers who find images or other media linked to their property that may be the result of trespassing by activists, should promptly refer the page to the police, via Crime Stoppers.

Animal Activists Inc says it aims to abolish animal exploitation.

“We mainly focus on the most exploited groups of animals and in order to achieve a better world for all animals, we encourage individuals and society to significantly minimise the harm they cause predominantly through veganism and animal rights activism,” according to the group’s website.

“We encourage activism by those who are able. We focus on spreading awareness and education regarding the animal exploitation industries in Australia with a means of strategic and problem-solving tactics through taking action.”

“We aim to do this through industry investigations; civil disobedience, disruptive and non-disruptive public demonstrations; online, political and economic campaigning and by uniting the cause.”

This map is linked with the Aussie Farms Repository which highlights 746 dairy operations in Australia along with 16 videos and 472 photos. The site highlights the forcible impregnation of cows, removal of calves from cows, the killing of bobby calves, dehorning, tail-docking, illnesses such as mastitis and the slaughter of cows when they are no longer profitable.

They also encourage people to submit facilities to the website.