MEMBER for Lowan Emma Kealy says a report into the impact of animal rights activism on Victorian agriculture won't provide Wimmera farmers assurances that they'll be protected from trespassers.
The final report in the Inquiry into the impact of animal rights activism on Victorian agriculture was tabled at Parliament last week.
A total of 15 recommendations were made which included building on existing animal agriculture standards, modernising the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 and ensuring reports of animal cruelty were addressed appropriately.
The committee received more than 500 written submissions. It also conducted public hearings in Melbourne and regional Victoria, including Horsham, with 57 witnesses giving evidence.
Witnesses included farmers, abattoir owners, transport operators, animal rights activists, regulators and Victoria Police.
Ms Kealy said the report didn't go far enough to protect farmers from activist activity.
"Our region is built on the agriculture industry, and our farmers should be able to feel safe and supported as they work to provide food and fibre for our communities, but this report and its recommendations do not give them those assurances. That has to change," Ms Kealy said.
"Many of the submissions called for stronger farm trespass laws, but the committee has largely ignored this.
"Instead, the recommendations would see our farmers tied up in more red tape, while animal activists would be given a 'get out of jail free' card if they trespass on a farm to set up surveillance equipment and claim it is in the public interest."
Committee chair said Nazih Elasmar there was a "high level of misinformation spread by activists regarding animal agriculture practices" and suggested Agriculture Victoria was ideally placed to correct this misinformation.
"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. Public confidence is a key weapon against the misinformation spread by some activists," Mr Elasmar said.
"Those animal rights activists who are 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."
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke, of Murra Warra said the VFF had "mixed views" about the report's recommendations.
"The VFF welcomes the recognition that animal activist do have an impact on farmers, their businesses and homes. The VFF endorses the committee's recommendation that penalties need to put in place to provide adequate safeguards for farmers who run legitimate businesses," he said.
"The VFF has been consistent calling for the introduction of $1000 (or greater) on-the-spot-fine for any individual trespassing on a farm or agricultural enterprise. Further, individuals can be fined up to $220,000 and corporations up to $400,000."
He said the recommendation that encourages the government to consider "the need to codify public interest exemptions, was a "step too far".
"We already have appropriate avenues in place to allow whistle-blowers to report suspicion of animal cruelty, we don't need to create a regulatory environment that could give rise to vigilante behaviour," he said.
Mr Jochinke said the recommendations that encouraged improving public access to regulations, animal practices and guidelines were supported by the VFF.
The state government is required to respond within six months of the report being tabled.
Read the full report below
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.