Victorian parliament inquiry into farm trespass laws

By Country News

Animal activists who trespass and steal livestock from Victorian farms, and ways to stop them, will be subject of a state parliamentary inquiry.

A committee will investigate the effectiveness of Victorian laws after a spate of trespassing on farms by animal activists, who stole livestock and threatened and harassed families and businesses.

The inquiry was sought by upper house Nationals MP Melina Bath to tackle ‘‘the diabolical rise of on-farm activism plaguing our hardworking farming families and agricultural businesses’’.

‘‘Animal activists are flagrantly disregarding our current laws, which are antiquated in the face of this new forceful form of trespass,’’ she told parliament.

‘‘Vigilante-style groups are having an incredible impact on the mental and financial stress and strain of our farmers.’’

The Andrews Government backed the inquiry with some amendments.

‘‘Illegal activities in the name of animal activism are unacceptable and put hardworking farming families, biosecurity and, frankly, the animals that they purport to want to protect at risk,’’ Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes told the upper house.

‘‘Our farmers feed us, they clothe us. Whether you are a vegan, a vegetarian, a pescetarian, you are on a keto diet or you want to have a carnivorous diet, it is our farmers and producers that allow you to have that choice,’’ she said.

Although the Victorian Greens say they support farmers and farming communities, their leader Samantha Ratnam said the motion was ‘‘unnecessary’’.

‘‘The reality is there is a growing number of people in the community who want to see animals treated more humanely,’’ she said.

‘‘The Greens have long advocated for the end of battery cages and sow stalls and we believe the farming community should be assisted in moving towards implementing more humane practices.

‘‘We believe the Nationals’ motion was unnecessary and divisive. Existing laws and penalties are adequate.

‘‘The Nationals continue to let down regional Australia by ignoring the most significant threat to the future of agriculture — climate change.’’

VFF president David Jochinke said the inquiry was ‘‘overdue’’.

‘‘After the unprecedented rise in farm invasions from extreme animal activists and the ridiculously inadequate trespass fines in Victoria, this inquiry is long overdue.’’