Animal activists report slammed

Animal activists report slammed

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VEGANS WIN: Eastern Victoria region Nationals MP Melina Bath and the former owner of Gippy Goat cafe John Gommans.

VEGANS WIN: Eastern Victoria region Nationals MP Melina Bath and the former owner of Gippy Goat cafe John Gommans.

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Parliamentary report a win for vegans, says Victorian farm invasion victim.

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The Victorian goat farmer targeted by animal rights activists says the Parliamentary inquiry report into activist actions is "a win for vegans".

John Gommans closed down his Yarragon Gippy Goat farm last year after being repeatedly hit by activists, who broke in, stole his livestock and harassed his staff.

A Legislative Council committee brought down its report into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian agriculture last week.

It contained 15 recommendations, which chair Nazih Elasmar said he believed were highly supportive of the farm sector.

"Our recommendations address the problems raised with us by people across the state and will help to build public confidence in an industry that is vital to Victoria and that has high standards of animal welfare," Mr Elasmar said.

"Public confidence is a key weapon against the misinformation spread by some activists."

Read more: Victorian Parliament releases Animal Rights Activism report

He said animal rights activists engaging in illegal behaviour must stop.

"They can make their point, but they must do so without harassing and frightening farmers and their families and staff," he said.

Mr Gommans said while the committee's findings were comprehensive and correct, the recommendations to the government didn't seem to follow them.

"The activists' stated objective of having security cameras on every farm, is now more likely, because the recommendations from the inquiry did not address covert surveillance," he said.

He was also concerned about the recommendation to examine alternative farming practices for shredding male chicks and "blunt force trauma" on goats, pigs and cows.

"Some people will define blunt force trauma as a bolt gun," he said.

"If farmers and the meat industry are not able to use a bolt gun, then there is in effect no humane slaughter at all.

"My hope is the government bins it, or consults with industry bodies, to have something proper and workable.

"This certainly isn't."

He said the inquiry had been "heavily politicised", due to the inclusion of Animal Justice Party Western Victoria MP Andy Meddick.

"I suspect the government is fully aware of the balance of power in the Upper House and the report does smack of wanting to stay in power, at the expense of rural communities," he said.

Recommendations that have raised the industry's ire include the first one, which encouraged the government to consider "the need to codify public interest exemptions".

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the organisation believed this was a step too far.

"We already have appropriate avenues in place to allow whistle-blowers to report suspicion of animal cruelty," Mr Jochinke said.

"We don't need to create a regulatory environment that could give rise to vigilante behaviour."

Mr Gommans said the report left the question of privacy versus public interest, which had led to farm and abattoir invasions, largely unanswered.

"That's only part of the picture, when you look at the NSW legislation, it provides for heavy penalties for breaches, and not only of biosecurity," he said.

Read more: Gippy Goat Cafe closes down following activist attacks

Mr Jochinke said the VFF was supportive of recommendations that encouraged improved public access to regulations, animal practices and guidelines.

He also welcomed the recognition that animal activists did have an impact on farmers, their businesses and homes.

"The VFF has been consistent calling for the introduction of $1000 or greater on-the-spot fines for any individual trespassing on a farm or agricultural enterprise," he said.

"Further, individuals can be fined up to $220,000 and corporations up to $400,000."

Abattoir owners and the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU), who were supportive of the recommendation to roll out closed circuit television in meatworks, also raised concerns.

Victoria Valley Meat Exports part-owner Peter Polovinka, Trafalgar, said his works was processing between 200-250 cattle a day.

"We have got cameras everywhere on our sites, that's for everybody, to make sure we are covered for security reasons," Mr Polovinka said.

"Animal welfare is very important, as far as I am concerned, we look after our animals, and don't have any problems."

AMIEU Victorian secretary Paul Conway said some abattoirs already used CCTV cameras in their operations.

"The only fear I would have with any of that is that even in the best of circumstances, you are killing animals for human consumption, there is no way of making that pretty," Mr Conway said.

Should footage be leaked to the public, it would be damaging to the meat industry.

But Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) was scathing in its criticism of the recommendation to install CCTV cameras, to remove the need for activists to trespass on processing facilities.

ADF president Terry Richardson said animal activists trespassing onto farms, or committing other crimes, should be held to account by the criminal justice system.

"No one is above the law and farmers have a right to farm without the threat of invasion, sabotage or biosecurity outbreak posed by animal activists," he said.

Shadow Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said instead of backing farmers, the government had sided with those who wanted to push extreme anti-agriculture agendas on Victorians and end livestock farming.

The Coalition rejected the committee's recommendation to legislate stronger protections for animal activists caught trespassing on Victorian farms.

Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said she would give due consideration to both the majority, and minority, reports, released by the committee.

"I like the way they've gone down the biosecurity angle," Ms Symes said.

"That's a really big concern for our farmers and is a big concern for me as Agriculture Minister."

The government has six months to respond.

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