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With a push for tough ag-gag laws in Australia, Jordan Rivkin will bear the title of “terrorist” if it means merely documenting illegal activities concerning animal welfare.
This week, we’ve seen a move by Australian farmers to push back against animal activists by enlisting state and federal politicians to draft new laws akin to the infamous “ag-gag” laws in the US – the uber-draconian measures that seek to criminalise the exposure of industrialised animal cruelty by activists.
Or “eco-terrorists” as the US government now refers to them.
These Orwellian edicts are a sign of the US agriculture industry’s growing financial and political might. And worryingly, it now appears that many Australian politicians, including Federal Agriculture Minster Barnaby Joyce, are advocating the introduction of similar ag-gag measures here.
Already, NSW is amending its Biosecurity Act to restrict farm entry, and the SA government is set to pass the Surveillance Devices Bill, which seeks to prohibit the use of hidden cameras and microphones on private property.
In what should be a cautionary tale for Australians, in February this year, activists in the US released abhorrent footage of cows being physically and sexually abused by workers on a dairy farm in Idaho. In response, the state legislature didn’t toughen animal cruelty laws. Instead, it passed a law making it a crime for anyone to covertly film inside agricultural facilities.
And these ag-gag laws aren’t limited to covert surveillance operations conducted on site. The first ag-gag prosecution saw a 25-year-old Utah woman charged for filming a sick cow being pushed by a bulldozer outside a slaughterhouse…all while she was standing on public property!
The motivation behind the industry’s push for such laws is clear. Put simply, its profits depend upon consumers remaining in the dark because when consumers see what goes on inside factory farms, they respond by buying less meat and dairy.
Whether it be commercial agricultural operations, Wall St, NSW politics, or Manus Island, transparency is essential. It’s not just a deterrent to corruption and other legal infringements, it also holds national and industry leaders accountable and bolsters public confidence. If we seek to stifle such transparency, and gag or criminalise those who oppose us, we walk a very slippery slope, jeopardising the very democratic ideals we hold so dear.
And yet, NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson has alarmingly described undercover animal activists as being “akin to terrorists”.
I must confess that I’ve never heard of a terrorist who kills no one and seeks only to document illegal activities so as to hold an industry accountable and keep the public informed.
However, if that’s the case, I can only hope to be such a “terrorist” one day.