Animal activist control ‘a must’

Animal welfare activists outside Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra to protest against the trade of live sheep to the Middle East in 2003.

Animal welfare activists outside Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra to protest against the trade of live sheep to the Middle East in 2003.

LIVESTOCK producers in Victoria are demanding the state government implement its election promise to curb animal activists’ attacks on farms.

The Coalition in the 2010 election campaign said it promised “to ensure adequate legislation exists to protect food producers from unreasonable attacks by extremist animal rights lobbyists”.

But VFF livestock president Ian Feldtmann said the group has twice written to Attorney-General Robert Clark asking the government to deliver on its election promise.

“All we’ve had so far is reassurances that action is being taken,” Mr Feldtmann said.

“And I notice this week Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said it’s ‘a work in progress’.

“But here we are, with just 18 sitting days left until the 2014 state election and there’s no legislation on the table.

“We need to see the detail.”

Mr Feldtmann said farmers had taken action in the past against animal activists, but it had cost them years in courts and huge legal fees.

“No one should doubt farmers’ determination to make animal activists accountable for their actions,” he said.

“You only have to look at our efforts in pursuing the Hahnheuser case.”

Animal activist Ralph Hahnheuser in 2003 delayed the shipment of live sheep from Portland to the Middle East by contaminating their feed and water with shredded ham.

The VFF lodged an Australian Farmers’ Fighting Fund application to pursue Mr Hahnheuser through the courts.

It involved an unsuccessful trial in the Federal Court, a subsequent successful appeal to the full Federal Court, and a successful re-trial in which Hahnheuser was ordered to pay damages and costs.

Mr Feldtmann said ult- imately Mr Hahnheuser became bankrupt upon filing his own debtor’s petition on March 6 this year which was 11 years after contaminating the feedlot.

“It was a landmark case, but cost us dearly in time and money,” Mr Feldtmann said.

“It’s the reason we need stronger laws to protect against activists.”

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