Educate, rather than legislate, says Minister

Cultural change better way to stop radical activism, Minister

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FARM EDUCATION: Victoria's Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said harsher penalties, for animal activists, may not necessarily deter them. Photo by Andrew MIller.

FARM EDUCATION: Victoria's Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said harsher penalties, for animal activists, may not necessarily deter them. Photo by Andrew MIller.

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Harsher penalties may not deter animal activists, says Victoria's Agriculture Minister.

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Victoria's Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said education, rather than legislation, may be the best way to deal with radical vegan activists.

Ms Symes, addressing the Rural Press Club of Victoria, said she'd be encouraging emerging young activists, to get the right picture about animal welfare.

"While I am certainly open to changes to the law, as someone who has worked in the legal space for a really long time, harsher penalties - in and of themselves - don't necessarily lead to a change in behaviour," Ms Symes said.

Activists were crossing the line between free speech and harassment.

"Illegal behaviour by rogue activities, who do the wrong thing, be it either through trespass or stealing, is completely unacceptable.

"We are giving the police the powers they need to enforce the law and keep farming communities and every Victorian, safe."

But Ms Symes said it was critical young people received the right messages, so they could make good choices around the causes they supported.

"I want impressionable young people, who want to stand up for animal welfare rights, to be persuaded against that sort of behaviour," she said.

Her comments came as the Federal Government promised tougher sanctions on animal activists.

Read more: Jail time for animal activists under government's new plan

The minister was questioned by Yumbah Aquaculture director Anthony Hall, who said he had grave concerns about the biosecurity threat, posed by activists.

Yumba recently expanded its operations with a new abalone farm at Narrawong, to complement its Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island and Bicheno, Tas, operations.

Read more:Yumbah Aquaculture plans to increase juvenile abalone numbers by 16 million in two years

Mr Hall said his biggest fear was a biosecurity breach, by animal activists.

"What really concerns me is a single incident could cause a biosecurity event, which could wipe out the farm," Mr Hall said

"You are not going to have your business survive.

"If you are going to have to go to court, wage a three or four-year-long fight, you won't have a business left.

He asked what the government was doing to protect the industry from such attacks.

Wrong view

The minister said it right that people embraced animal welfare issues.

"But the hardcore extreme view, which basically means shutting down our agricultural industries, is not the right one," Ms Symes said.

"In my view, their motives are misguided, and they are undermining their stated objective of animal welfare standards.

"I will always back farmers and their right to simply get on with their job.

"They shouldn't have to do that, facing fear and intimidation."

Read more: Agriculture Minister, police to discuss vegan activists

Famers were the greatest guardians of animal welfare, and Ms Symes said she had seen the emotional upset caused, when animals had to be destroyed, because of such things as fire.

"The farmer's tears are not for their economic loss," she said.

"I would like to invite those, who are organising protests, to join me on farming properties, to see how successful, sustainable farming practices operate."

I would like to invite those, who are organising protests, to join me on farming properties, to see how successful, sustainable farming practices operate. - Victorian Agriculture Minister, Jaclyn Symes

The Minister said she would like to focus her attention on promoting good practices and good farmers, while making sure everyone understood where food came from, and why it was necessary to the Victorian economy.

"We need to showcase the best of the best and remind people how important agriculture is to our society." she said.

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