WIMMERA farmers have been caught in a controversial activist group project.
Aussie Farms this week published a map online, which it said was “a comprehensive, interactive map of factory farms, slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities across Australia”, designed to “force transparency on an industry dependent on secrecy”.
The map launched through the Aussie Farms Facebook page includes contact details for businesses and, in some cases, photos and videos taken on their premises.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud have called for the group to remove the online database, warning it could cause animals deaths and was a risk to biosecurity because it encouraged activists to illegally enter properties to document farming practices.
The National Farmers' Federation wants the group's charity status revoked and its Facebook page shut down.
Peter and Michelle McCartney are among the Wimmera people whose details are published on the map.
The couple has land at Vectis and formerly raised greyhounds, with Aussie Farms listing them as McCartney Kennels.
However Mrs McCartney said there was no such business.
“We used to raise greyhounds, but it was a hobby, not a business. The map is very outdated – we haven’t had greyhounds for probably three or four years,” she said.
“We have chooks and sheep at the property.
“The map has our phone number and a map of our farm, and it’s got my son’s email as well, which he is not very happy about.
“It’s a huge invasion of privacy.”
Mrs McCartney said seeing their details on the map was scary.
“You just don't know if people are going to show up and let out animals,” she said.
“We have sheep that we're farming for someone else.
“If they are let out that will cause trouble. What happens if they get on the highway and there’s an accident – who is responsible then?”
Related: Activists refuse to pull online map
The map also shows the location and contact details for some of Nhill-based business Luv-a-Duck’s grower farms across the Wimmera, as well as Luv-a-Duck’s hatchery and abattoir.
Luv-a-Duck chief executive Daryl Bussell said many businesses made their contact details publicly available, and did not need to be singled out in this way.
“There's telephone books and details published online – anyone with good intent will find the right way to contact people,” he said.
“It comes back to the intent of why they’ve published this. There are plenty of things online such as Google streetscapes where people can get this information, where the intent is to inform and help people.
“But if the intent is to marshal people to go to these places and cause problems, affecting the safety of families and biosecurity, and the disruption of business, that’s a very bad thing.
“It has upset a lot of people, and rightfully so. There are a lot of people who are looking into the actions that can be taken.”
In a statement on its Facebook page, Aussie Farms said the map “was about laying everything bare, so that consumers can make their own informed choices about what they wish to support with their purchases”.
“Naturally we’re receiving a lot of backlash from farmers already, because for so long they’ve been able to operate as they please, without scrutiny and without awareness… but that’s now changing,” it said.
“Most businesses do better as a result of exposure, animal agriculture is perhaps the only industry that does worse.”
Aussie Farms executive director Chris Delforce has invited Mr Littleproud to take part in a televised debated about the morality of Australian animal agriculture.
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