Laws aimed at deterring activists from trespassing at Western Australian farms are being introduced into state parliament in response to a string of incidents at food production properties last year.
The state government has been under pressure to bring in the laws after vegan activist group Direct Action Everywhere broke into a piggery and broadcast a video live from inside in a bid to highlight what they said were cruel conditions.
That came shortly after the group angered Harvey farmer Jason Parravicini by filming calves at his property from the public road. They claimed he fired a shotgun to intimidate them, but he said he was scaring vermin away from livestock feed.
Tensions mounted further after farmers became aware of the Aussie Farms website, which details the location of thousands of facilities, including abattoirs, where activists say animals are being exploited and abused.
The Animal Welfare and Trespass Legislation Amendment Bill being introduced on Wednesday creates a new offence, aggravated trespass, with a proposed maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment and a $24,000 fine.
That’s double the maximum penalty for ordinary trespass.
The state government says the bill also aims to protect the welfare of animals in abattoirs, knackeries, intensive egg and poultry farms and piggeries through increased inspection powers.
The Animal Welfare Act currently only allows inspectors to enter a food production facility either by consent or where the inspector reasonably suspects that an offence has been, is being, or is likely to be committed.
“Modernising our animal welfare inspection regime means people can no longer use lack of transparency in abattoirs and other intensive production facilities as an excuse for their illegal actions,” Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said.