News & Opinion
In an effort to pass harsher laws to keep cameras out of factory farms, agribusinesses in Eastern Australia are claiming that activists pose a threat to “biosecurity” because they can spread disease to their animals. The factory farmers are not only attempting to hide animal abuse from the public, but they are also shifting the blame for disease outbreaks away from overcrowding and intensive confinement on their farms. If the “biosecurity” measure is passed, activists who enter farms illegally could face up to three years in jail or a $1.1 million fine.
This is not the first attempt by Australian agribusiness to pass American-style “ag gag” laws. In 2012, after several undercover investigations cast a negative spotlight on Australia’s wool and pork industries, a Senator in South Australia introduced the Surveillance Devices bill, which would have criminalized the taking of photos and video of “a legally operating animal enterprise.” It would have also required activists to turn over their videos to authorities within 48 hours. The bill’s sponsor claimed the law would “strengthen genuine animal welfare protections,” as if cameras harm animals. The bill was voted down, re-introduced with changes in July 2014 and voted down again.
In 2013, Australian farmers killed almost 500,000 egg laying hens during an outbreak of avian flu. At the time, no one blamed the outbreak on a cell phone camera.
Intensive confinement and overcrowding on factory farms spread diseases. Hidden cameras spread the truth. Criminalizing them will make horrific conditions for animals on factory farms even worse, as agribusiness will have no incentive to minimize abuse.
Factory farmers in Australia and around the world confine, mutilate, abuse and slaughter billions of farm animals each year, but they and the government officials in their pockets would like the public to think that activists with cameras are the criminals. History will be the judge.