Policy Position – Animal Protection
The following material concerns a private member’s bill (Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015) introduced by Coalition Senator Chris Back.
Like most proposed legislation, there are varying opinions in the Australian community about this Bill. Such opinions are weighted either in favour or against the welfare of animals or farmers’ property rights, coupled with existing civil law, such as trespass, and criminal law, such as destruction of property.
Senator Day wholly supports the welfare of animals. He also acknowledges that most animal welfare groups genuinely have the welfare of animals in mind. Such legitimacy is evidenced by the changes in recent times to livestock industry practices, including regulatory change, consumer campaigns and partnerships with retailers. These changes are, in part, the result of successful lobbying by animal welfare groups.
On the other hand, Senator Day is also of the view that the vast majority of livestock farmers are well aware of, and are concerned for their animals’ welfare, for the obvious reasons of good husbandry, decency, compassion and economics.
Juxtaposed with the above views, Senator Day does not condone the breach or breaking of the law by one person or group, such as trespass on another’s land, or the interference with property, stock or business operations, for the purpose of exposing the breaking of a different law by another person or business.
Livestock farmers have a right to quiet enjoyment of their property, and the right to be free from those who would seek to trespass on their land and/or interfere with their farming activities. However, like everyone else, farmers do have to obey the law. Animal welfare groups have a legitimate voice in the community, but certain illegal activities of radical animal activists cannot be condoned.
Senator Day is of the opinion that Senator Back’s Bill strikes a good balance between the promotion and protection of animal welfare, farmers’ property rights, and the enforcement of civil and criminal law. If an animal activist breaks one law in seeking to expose that a livestock farmer is breaking another law, then a very good compromise is to provide the relevant evidence to the responsible authorities. Such evidence should not be used for strategic purposes or to do damage the broader livestock industry. Contrary to what some say, the bill does not ‘gag’ animal welfare concerns, rather it mandates the handover of evidence to law enforcement officials at the earliest practicable opportunity.