Animal rights activists attacking NSW farmers
A FURIOUS Deputy Premier has flagged a crackdown on trespass laws to jail animal rights activists who are breaking into farmer's properties and publishing images of their livestock.
Rural property owners are living in fear of the intruders who supply photographs to the website of Aussie Farms, an animal activist group that has posted the addresses and listed the livestock and poultry holdings of thousands of farms online.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said he wants to beef-up trespass laws which are currently punishable by a maximum $5500 fine to combat what farmers describe as a "frightening and extreme pattern of activism."
It comes as federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has ramped up pressure on Aussie Farms to pull down its controversial map of farm locations which he said was being used to plan attacks on family farms where children live.
The activist group claims its aim is to end "commercialised animal abuse" and enjoys charitable status providing access to a range of tax concessions.
Mr Barilaro said he had met with farmers around Coffs Harbour who have been the subject of trespass by Aussie farms' activists.
"I would strongly support any move to increase penalties, including potential jail terms, for this type of vigilante activity," he said.
Mr Littleproud has written to Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission to request an immediate review into the charitable status for abusing its position.
"I and my colleagues have been overwhelmed by farmers concerned about the portrayal of their livelihood and angered that the organisation is permitted to undertake such an activity while receiving charitable status from the Commonwealth. Many are scared that the website will promote vigilantism, trespass or worse."
National Farmers Federation chief executive Tony Mahar urged both the state and federal governments to help control what had become a "frightening and extreme pattern of activism".
"A pattern that is obstructing our farm businesses from growing food and fibre and frankly, causing our farming families to feel unsafe in their own homes," he said.
The NFF has written to all state police commissioners asking to review the content on the Aussie Farms map for evidence of trespass and wants the penalties increased to serve as a proper deterrent from activists coming on to private property.
Mr Mahar also called on the federal government to review its privacy laws to ensure it was "fit for purpose".
"In terms of Aussie Farms it beggars belief that this organisation enjoys charity status," he said.
An Aussie Farms spokesman disputed claims that the map was being used to harass farmers but noted it was "very rare" for farmers or slaughterhouse operators to share footage from their businesses.
"We do not encourage or facilitate any illegal behaviour, however we do recognise that trespass by activists is the only way that consumers will be able to see what's happening to animals inside these places," he said.
"Surely, the animal cruelty itself is far worse than simply pointing out where it happens."
Greg Newell, 57, whose address was published on the website said it had endangering his family's livelihood.
"It is not only scary to think who might know where you live but people don't understand the risk having someone wander onto your property poses to biosecurity," he said.
Julie Moore runs a family dairy farm in NSW's north with husband Michael and said realising photos of their property were on the website left her feeling sick. "It was scary, we had these people come onto our property in August last year," the Dorrigo farmer said.
"Then a few months later we found pictures of our businesses on the Aussie Farms map."
In 2013, two activists broke into Ean Pollard's Young property to film his pigs during the middle of the night.
They rattled cages and shone torches into the pig's faces to wake them.
Later, his personal details were released online alongside the video and he was hounded with threats. "We had people calling my house, calling my business threatening (us),'' he said.