Trespass laws under state govt microscope

Trespass laws under state govt microscope

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EFFORTS to keep extreme animal activists off SA farms received a welcome boost this week, with news the state government is considering dedicated laws to protect agricultural businesses.

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EFFORTS to keep extreme animal activists off SA farms received a welcome boost this week, with news the state government is considering dedicated laws to protect agricultural businesses.

The incident at Strath Meats last year was a wake-up call for all of us. Protesters sat on the roof of the facility, refusing to move for hours, and it seemed the police were almost powerless to get them down. It was only following a negotiation process - in which protesters were given a lamb - that the situation was resolved.

Personally, I saw nothing that would have deterred these protesters from staging a similar protest elsewhere in the future, and I was left wondering if our trespass laws were effective.

Any potential new laws or penalties are still a long way off and by no means guaranteed, but if Attorney-General Vickie Chapman's comments on the issue are anything to go by, we're headed in the right direction.

For example, why should entering someone's farm without permission - and with the intention of disrupting their business - only become an offence if you refuse to leave when asked? Surely this is akin to bank robbery only becoming an offence once the bank manager asks you to leave and you refuse.

I'm also supportive of any effort to establish rules about the reporting of suspected animal cruelty. In the event someone in our industry is found to be breaching animal welfare standards, this must be acted upon immediately.

Farmers work hard to look after their animals, and we can't afford to let a few bad eggs ruin agriculture's image.

Farmers work hard to look after their animals, and we can't afford to let a few bad eggs ruin agriculture's image.

Activists should not be allowed to sit on evidence of potential animal cruelty for months on end.

All this does is extend the suffering of animals - exactly what they claim to want to stop.

We will only really know how successful any new measures are when people consider testing them. Will they act as enough of a deterrent?

It's impossible to know at this point, given the most extreme activists seem to care little about breaking the law, believing the end justifies the means.

Even if new, more robust measures don't deter everyone, and some are still willing to break the law, let's hope farmers can at least feel satisfied that those who choose to do the wrong thing won't escape with a slap on the wrist or a laughably small fine any more.

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