Right now governments around Australia are trying to bring in harsher penalties to stop people exposing the horrors of the animal agriculture system. At least two inquiries are going on, one in the Victorian parliament and one in the Senate. Vegan Australia has made submissions to both of these, recommending that the government recognise that punishing whistleblowers in the animal agriculture industry is against the interests of both the Australian people and farmed animals. The government should instead open up the animal agriculture industry to full transparency and then take measures to phase out the industry entirely within ten years.
There were many excellent submissions to the Senate inquiry and we would like to quote from some of them below. Overall they give a clear picture of the danger these proposed laws pose to both human and animal lives. As background, the national proposed laws seek to further criminalise using the Internet to distribute information about a protest or action that might incite other people to trespass or damage property on farm land.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties
- "The objective of these laws is to stifle political communication about the organisation of environmental and animal rights protest."
- "The proposed legislation is draconian and disproportionate and might be said to infringe at least two of the four core principles of criminalisation, 'that the criminal law should only be used to censure persons for substantial wrongdoing' and 'that laws be enforced with respect for proportionality'."
- "The NSWCCL is concerned by what would appear to be a 'crackdown' against free speech and basic principles of democratic governance by the newly elected Morrison Government. In order for Australia to regain its place as an international leader in protecting freedom of speech and expression, the Government should not proceed with these reactionary laws."
Animal Liberation ACT
- "The proposed amendment is a serious threat to free speech in Australia because it attempts to intimidate, suppress, and silence activists who merely expose the cruelty of normal practices of the current Agribusiness industry."
Animal Liberation Queensland
- "Excessive laws aimed at hiding animal cruelty from public scrutiny: ALQ has been raising public awareness and investing animal protection issues for the last 40 years. There have been countless occasions where material that shows horrific scenes of animal cruelty has come into our possession, either anonymously received from workers or concerned members of the public, or through our own investigations. Almost always, if the animal cruelty has occurred in the animal agriculture sector, authorities do not prosecute the issue, and journalists are reluctant to publish the story. Independent charities therefore provide vital role for increasing transparency and encouraging public discourse around the treatment of animals."
Animal Defenders Office
- "The proposed offences are ambiguous, far-reaching and will arbitrarily criminalise lawful exercises of the rights to freedom of expression, political communication and access to information."
- "The Bill fails to address the main threats to public health, food safety, biosecurity and animal welfare, which typically come from within primary production businesses rather than from persons entering without consent"
Animal Liberation NSW
- "Legislation that seeks to stifle the flow of information fails to acknowledge the significant public interest considerations associated with the collection of evidence of systemic animal cruelty."
- "Biosecurity: There has not been a single incident of a biosecurity hazard caused by activists, despite hundreds of investigations into farms and slaughterhouses by activists over the last 40+ years."
- "With farms containing hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of animals, living in their own excrement, conditions are rife for the rapid spread of disease; it is impossible with only a handful of workers to provide individual vet care or to identify and then isolate/quarantine those affected. This is a problem inherent to intensive farming."
- "Farmer privacy & safety: Businesses in Australia do not have a legal right to privacy. The conducting of a business is not considered a "private activity". No activist has any interest in the private/personal homes, families or lives of the farmers, and accordingly there has not been a single incident of activists going anywhere near farmers' homes."
- "True intentions of the bill: As there have been no instances of activists threatening biosecurity or the safety of farmers or their families, and as the act of trespassing and inciting others to commit crimes is already illegal, it can be surmised that the true intentions of this bill relate to the steady stream of footage and photographs which have been, for many years, a source of great embarrassment and reputation damage for industries that engage in commercialised animal cruelty, and the governments that support them."
- "Honesty: Relevant government departments and agencies should conspicuously inform the community that cruelty is permitted when it involves animals bred for food and other purposes. At present, the opposite occurs."
- "Activists have helped to overcome the lack of honesty by providing information about cruel practices that occur every day, of which the community may otherwise have been unaware."
- "Challenging laws to achieve social justice: History is full of activists who challenged the law of the day in pursuit of a just cause, and who suffered through intimidation, arrest and incarceration."
Institute for Critical Animal Studies
- "The Bill will further protect the Animal Industry (Agribusiness) which is inherently cruel towards non-human sentient beings, we call animals."
- "The Bill will further allow the unsustainable and unethical practices of the Agribusiness that destroy our ecology, environment, and threatened species in Australia."
- "In the current legal system, the imbalance of power exists. This means that the current system favours the industry lobbyists who have the monetary and political power to influence the government. The public, unfortunately, appears not to have much say in this."
- "It is inarguable that the Australian public (more than 10% of whom don't eat animals) persistently and increasingly calls for transparency in production processes related to their food, clothing, and personal care choices. Indeed, the recent report commissioned by the Department of Agriculture itself confirmed that more than 90% of Australians "[view] farm animal welfare with concern, and...want reform to address this", and predicted "outrage...if the community sees the government as not responding to concerns and expectations". Instead of so responding, the government has put forward a Bill that will serve only to foster suspicion, distrust, and dissatisfaction and communicate unambiguously to the public that accountability and transparency have been roundly rejected by the federal government. PETA will continue to make a wide range of resources aimed at making the transition to a vegan lifestyle easy and enjoyable available to consumers who reach such conclusions."
The recent surge of these laws around Australia and the world shows how much of a threat the animal rights movement is to the animal using industries. And the many voices united against these laws show how much the animal rights movement has grown.