Australia’s New Farm Trespass Law A ‘Smokescreen’ To Criminalize Animal Activists 

Fears are rising that animal abuse will go undocumented and unpunished


3 Minutes Read

A pig on their way to slaughter nuzzles the hand of an activist through the side of a transport truck A pig on their way to slaughter nuzzles the hand of an activist through the side of a transport truck - Media Credit: Dario Endara / We Animals Media

New trespass legislation in Australia imposes stricter punishments on anyone who enters a commercial animal farm or slaughter facility illegally. Activist groups are concerned by the new law, worrying for their members as well as farmed animals’ welfare.

Now, those found guilty of “aggravated trespass” can face up to two years in prison (formerly one year). And, a fine of AUS $24,000. If a judge negates a custodial sentence, they are legally required to impose a fine and a community service term.

The law has reportedly been implemented to protect the agricultural sector. It is now in full operation, alongside a revised Animal Welfare Act. The latter gives recognized officials more power to enter and monitor animal food source production facilities.

Australian officials are adamant that stricter trespass laws, coupled with welfare transparency, will quash activists’ needs to uncover animal cruelty.

“By enhancing the existing animal welfare inspection regime, animal advocates will no longer be able to use lack of transparency in abattoirs and other intensive production facilities as a reason for their illegal actions,” Attorney General John Quigley said in a statement. “And they will face far greater consequences should they break the law.”

Animal advocates call out farm trespass law

However, anti-animal cruelty organizations are concerned that the new legal protections will allow animal abuse to fly under the radar.

Rebecca Linigen is the national director of activist organization Four Paws Australia. Speaking to Plant Based News, Linigen said: “Legislation like this, commonly referred to as ‘ag-gag legislation’, claims to benefit animal welfare but this is a smokescreen commonly used.

“The reality is it is intended to stifle transparency and the public’s access to accurate information about just how animals get from farms to our supermarket shelves.”

Linigen added that animal welfare is considered a top priority by Australian citizens. Unfortunately, research indicates that they do not have confidence in existing standards. Linigen explained that penalizing those who uncover animal abuse within the food system will do little to inspire public trust. 

Four Paws suggests that in place of anti-activist legislation, contemporary accountability measures should be put in place. It calls for mandatory CCTV in all commercial animal enterprises (such as farms and slaughterhouses). And, enhanced funding for animal protection enforcement. 

A ‘smokescreen’

Similarly, Australia’s Animal Justice Party also regards the new legislation as a smokescreen. The party notes that the introduction of unauthorized people into a food production setting is commonly used as a biosecurity-related argument against activism. This, despite the inherently unhealthy conditions facing animals in factory farming locations.

A pig lies on the ground at a meat farm in poor conditions
Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media Australian activists face larger risks when attempting to document abuse or rescue animals

“Factory farms are, in and of themselves, biosecurity risks. Their very existence – animals crammed together, the overuse of antibiotics, the filth and disease, trucks entering and leaving farms regularly – should be the concern, especially in light of zoonotic pandemics,” Michael Anagno of the Animal Justice Party told PBN. “Yet the legislation appears to be more worried about the supposed biosecurity risk that a very small number of animal activists may cause by setting foot on an animal agriculture property.”

Anagno concluded that his party is very interested to know how the government will address the biosecurity threat of intensive animal farming as a whole.

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