SYDNEY, July 25 Australia is considering tougher
laws to stop animal rights activists secretly filming on farms
and abattoirs and airing the vision in an effort to protect a
multi-million dollar livestock trade, a move rights groups say
will hide abuse.
South Australia state is furthest along with a draft law
before parliament that would impose heavy fines and a three-year
jail term for secretly recording animal cruelty images.
Seven U.S. states have introduced "Ag Gag" laws to make it
illegal to take photos or videos at farms or slaughterhouses
without the operators' permission. U.S. rights groups say the
"Ag Gag" laws violate the constitutional rights to free speech.
Livestock producers in Australia say current trespass laws
are not effective in preventing or prosecuting animal rights
groups who covertly film or photograph on farms and threaten the
livelihood of farmers.
In 2011, armed with little more than mobile phone, animal
rights campaigners bought Australia's livestock industry to its
knees. Vision of animal abuse in an Indonesian abattoir ignited
a public outcry and swiftly saw the Australian government ban
live cattle exports to Indonesia.
Despite the ban lasting only five weeks, Australian cattle
exports fell more 20 percent that year and was seen as a
catalyst behind Indonesia's policy of self sufficiency that now
limits imports from Australia.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) this
month released footage showing shearers punching, kicking and
throwing sheep, drawing criticism from Australia's government.
"You can not have some sort of quasi vigilante group
deciding that their moral ethics and their moral paradigm gives
them the right to circumvent all the rules of the nation for the
purpose of closing down an industry," Australian Agriculture
Minister Barnaby Joyce told Reuters on Friday.
Australia's national government has said it would like to
see all states and territories adopt "Ag Gag" laws.
"If this evidence gathering becomes hindered by so called
"Ag Gag" legislation, the concern is that the general public
will continue to be left in the dark about the many atrocities
committed against animals," Claire Fryer, PETA Australia's
campaign coordinator told Reuters.
"Existing regulation of the treatment of animals used in
agriculture has proved inadequate, making it necessary for
individuals and animal-protection groups to gather evidence and
report violations," said Fryer.
(Editing by Michael Perry)