WESTERN Australian farmers will meet with police on Thursday to consider strategies to combat activists after two people were charged with trespass following a piggery break-in this week and other incidents earlier this month.
The latest piggery incident has prompted Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud to call for bi-partisan support and for animal activist group Aussie Farms to pull down its map of Australian farms after a business on the map was broken into.
“I said the Aussie Farms map was an attack map for activists and I was right.
“A piggery on the map has now been broken into by animal activists who have broadcast their illegal activities on Facebook,” Minister Littleproud said.
“The safety of farming families and their children is at risk here.
“If this activist attack map remains online, I fear someone will be seriously hurt or worse,” he said.
“I think the truth is the Aussie Farms organisation know full well their map is being used to plan attacks on farming family businesses and they’re fine with that.
“Aussie Farms should stop being so wreckless and pull the farm map down before someone is killed.”
Mr Littleproud said Opposition leader Bill Shorten must condemn the group and its map.
“Bill Shorten must call this out before the worst happens. Labor voting against drought support is one thing but saying nothing about a map which displays the addresses of Australian farming families – often with incorrect information about the farm – is something else.”
Mr Littleproud has also referred Aussie Farms to the Charities Commission and raised the issue of beefing up state trespass laws at the recent AGMIN agriculture ministers’ conference dinner in Adelaide.
Victorian sheep producer warns on animal welfare
Mr Littleproud’s call has been followed by a Victorian sheep producer listed on the Aussie Farms map warning farmers to be diligent with animal welfare practices and mindful of stock grazing next to public roads.
Matthew and Tanya Tonissen unexpectedly found their Chrome Sheep Stud at Hamilton had been listed with geographic co-ordinates on the Aussie Farms map.
Speaking at the Pasture Agronomy Service conference in Wodonga, Mr Tonissen said he was mystified why his stud was listed along with feedlots, piggeries, fish hatcheries and race clubs.
The Tonissens sell about 1000 rams a year and are passionate about their sheep enterprise.
“It came as a shock in the light of not having any prior issues beforehand that may have sparked interest in what were up to.
“Aussie Farms have a core belief animals shouldn’t be farmed for any purposes – the most they go is cats and dogs, and anything above that is a real no, no,” he said.
“The scary thing is they are a charity organization which has tax incentives for those wanting to be part of it.”’
Mr Tonissen has written to Aussie Farms requesting removal of Chrome stud from the map but heard no reply.
He also sent a letter of complaint to the Office of Australian Information Commission and reported the offensive social media posts on Aussie Farms to Facebook.
“I see it as an invasion of privacy – we may be on there because of our social media presence and the fact we are on Google maps,’’ Mr Tonissen said.
He supports the use of the National Farmers Federation’s Farmers Fighting Fund to deal with the organization, revoking the charity status of activist groups and increasing the penalties for trespass.
“In sheep and cattle production, we may never see them – the ones I feel for are the more intensive operations like the piggeries and egg producers,’’ he said.
“As farmers we need to be diligent of what we do and be mindful if we are farming next to roads and public areas think about what we put next to the road – if there is a dead animal there, remove it.
“As an industry, we should be looking after our image as let’s face it, 95 per cent of us there for the health of our animals and we do have a duty of care for them.’’
Mr Tonissen has since increased on-farm security.
Southern New South Wales agronomist and beef producer Mark Lucas said the map was a real challenge to livestock production.
“These people arrive outside a property always looking for the bad story rather the good one,’’ he said.
WAFarmers welcomes WA police action
Following the animal activist trespass charges, WAFarmers president Tony York said it is good to know that trespass laws in the state were applicable and he hoped this would deter further brazen attacks on farming businesses.
“We are supportive of the law taking control over these situations and are encouraging our members and the wider agriculture community to remain calm and call the police if they become aware of any alarming behaviour on their properties by activists.
“This action by authorities should give farmers confidence to go about their daily business without interference, knowing the law can be applied and used to protect businesses, homes and families against extreme activist behaviour,” Mr York said.
WAFarmers will be holding a ‘calm the farm’ meeting in Harvey in the state’s south-west tomorrow night, to discuss ways to deal with activists and to make farmers aware of their rights. The meeting is open to all farmers, but will be closed to media. Speakers from Dairy Australia, the National Farmers Federation, WAFarmers, Bailiwick Legal and WA Police will speak on minimising risk, and how to respond to activists and the Aussie Farms map. NFF chief executive officer Tony Mahar will outline the federation’s response to Aussie Farms via a live video link to the meeting.
WAFarmers is also holding a high level strategic meeting with key industry personnel and WA Police leaders on 1 March to discuss messaging and signage strategies.
Click on this link to see the video activists filmed inside a piggery: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012943206273
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