Animal rights group Voiceless says a bill tabled in Parliament this week by WA Senator and veterinarian Dr Chris Back is about silencing critics of factory farming, not protecting animals.
Dr Back tabled an animal protection bill in Parliament on Wednesday which he says is aimed at reducing malicious cruelty to animals, and protecting lawfully operating animal enterprises, by forcing people with visual images of the mistreatment of animals to report the evidence to authorities without delay, to ensure further cruelty is averted.
The bill also seeks to address the issue of illegal interference in the conduct of lawful animal enterprises and to protect workers associated with such an enterprise from intimidation, threats or attacks as well as prohibiting trespassing onto, or vandalism of, such enterprises.
Voiceless media manager Elise Burgess told Beef Central that the sentiment of Dr Back’s Bill was “completely backwards”, because it targets undercover investigators and whistleblowers who risk their wellbeing and livelihoods to expose illegal acts of animal cruelty, rather than the perpetrators of that cruelty.
Bills similar to the one being proposed had already been defeated on a state level in South Australia, following staunch opposition from consumer protection groups, workers’ unions, civil libertarians and animal protection groups.
“Instead of new legislation targeting undercover investigators and whistleblowers who expose acts of animal cruelty, a far more appropriate response would be the introduction and mandatory requirement for CCTV cameras in all factory farms and slaughterhouses,” Ms Burgess said.
“Further, establishment of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare is also necessary to ensure that compliance with animal protection laws are monitored and enforced by an independent statutory body.
“The focus should be on improving animal welfare in this country, not persecuting those speak out against animal cruelty.”
Senator Back’s Bill has won the support of farmers in his home State of Western Australia.
WAFarmers President Dale Park said the Bill was a step forward for animal welfare because it ensured that perpetrators of animal cruelty will be reported promptly, empowering investigators to act more quickly.
“The amendment lessens the possibility of stock owners being ambushed by animal activists,” Mr Park said.