New laws seek to protect animal industries against whistleblowers who reveal cruel practices

June 16, 2015

Last Friday, the Senate Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport adopted the animal industry's position in favour of heavily penalising those who monitor and report animal cruelty based on undercover monitoring. The Committee recommended that the Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015 be passed by Parliament.

The Animal Law Institute (ALI), Australia's only national community legal centre dedicated to animal law, believes that the Bill is designed to ensure that systematic cases of animal cruelty, such as the recent greyhound live-baiting scandal, are hidden from public view.

Dr Malcolm Caulfield, Principal Lawyer of ALI, stated that "these 'Ag-Gag' laws have the sole purpose of deterring individuals and organisations from exposing to the public evidence of animal cruelty.

"This is an attempt to protect the interests of animal use industries, and there is not a shred of evidence that can be interpreted otherwise.

"What is apparent is that undercover reporting of animal abuse reflects a much greater problem, which is the failure of the current legal system to property monitor large-scale commercial animal use.

"If this proposed law had been in place, the recent exposé into live baiting within the greyhound industry would never have been possible, nor would we have uncovered the horrifying mistreatment of thousands of pigs, chickens and ducks in numerous animal facilities", Dr Caulfield said.

After the release of the Committee's findings, ALI now challenges the Australian Senate to vote in favour of animal welfare and vote against the Bill.

"ALI believes that rather than seeking to shoot the messengers, Parliament should be focusing on ways to ensure this animal cruelty is detected and punished. A major step in the right direction would be a national, independent, Animal Welfare Commissioner, tasked to bring animal welfare laws and enforcement into line across the country," Dr Caulfield said.

ALI will now continue lobbying Senators to ensure that the proposed Bill is not passed through Parliament.

"We are happy to work with any Senator who wants greater protections for animals and better provisions for animal welfare," Dr Caulfield said.