In recent years, Queensland’s farmers have experienced ongoing coordinated activist attacks, despite adhering to world leading animal welfare standards. These activists’ radical and unjustified actions invade farmers’ privacy, threaten the welfare of their animals and crops, pose unacceptable risks to their businesses and have implications for food security. The constant threat of being the next target also hinders farmers’ ability to operate their businesses to produce the highest quality food, fibre and foliage.
In response to the extreme and disruptive actions of activists, the federal and Queensland governments legislated more appropriate punishments for these actions. At the federal government level, the action of publishing material, via a carriage service, with the intention to incite trespass, property damage and theft on to agricultural land has been criminalised. While protesters who unlawfully enter onto farmland now face up to one year in jail or a fine of more than $60,000 in Queensland.
Despite these additional penalties, an activist group invaded a piggery near Pittsworth earlier this week, and with a global pandemic, the risks are now even more serious for farmers, their families and their workers. At a time when Queensland farmers are struggling to remain productive and profitable, any further repercussions associated with a biosecurity outbreak, be it plant, animal or now human with COVID-19, would be debilitating.
QFF recognises and respects the right of individuals and groups to meet and engage in peaceful protest to pursue common goals. Animal welfare and liberation movements have been around in Australia for a long time and in many cases have created positive change; however, in recent times there has been a disturbing change in the behaviour of animal rights groups in pursuing their cause. The distress these actions have caused to law-abiding farmers and their families; and the risks to biosecurity, food safety, animal welfare, workplace health and safety, and business disruption are unacceptable. If the newly introduced penalties do not adequately deter and penalise trespass, governments must find a way to prevent the trespass offences, as well as a punishment that fits the seriousness of the crime.