Submission to Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry

The Animal Law Institute recently made a submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture.

On 1 May 2019, the Legislative Council agreed to the following motion:

“That this House requires the Economy and Infrastructure Committee to inquire into, consider and report, by Thursday, 28 November 2019, on the effectiveness of legislation and other measures to prevent and deter activities by unauthorised persons on agricultural and associated industries and in particular, the Committee should —

1. consider —

  • the type and prevalence of unauthorised activity on Victorian farms and related industries, and the application of existing legislation;

  • the workplace health and safety and biosecurity risks, and potential impacts of animal activist activity on Victorian farms, to Victoria’s economy and international reputation;

  • animal activists’ compliance with the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994, Livestock Management Act 2010, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986;

  • the civil or criminal liability of individuals and organisations who promote or organise participation in unauthorised animal activism activities;

  • analyse the incidences and responses of other jurisdictions in Australia and internationally; and

  • provide recommendations on how the Victorian Government and industry could improve protections for farmers’ privacy, businesses, and the integrity of our biosecurity system and animal welfare outcomes, whether through law reform or other measures.”

Our Response:

As outlined in our submission, ALI supports measures providing legal protection for individuals and businesses, including appropriate measures to respond to trespass on private property. ALI considers that the current regulatory criminal law framework adequately does this.

ALI also supports animal welfare issues being discussed openly in public forums. While individuals should not be encouraged or permitted to unlawfully enter onto private property, and we in no way condone illegal activity, we do not believe that new or increased penalties will provide a solution to this issue. Instead, we propose that law enforcement agencies are provided with sufficient resources to effectively police animal welfare laws, thereby removing the incentive for private citizens to do so. We also stress the importance of these enforcement agencies being independent, and being seen to be independent by the public (as opposed to having an obvious conflict of interest as Agriculture Victoria does today).

It is critical that adequate mechanisms are put in place to respond proactively where animal cruelty does arise. Our submission outlines our reasoning in more detail and makes a number of key recommendations for the Committee’s consideration.