Ag-gag bill introduced by WA Liberal Senator Chris Back

On 11 February 2015 Senator Dr Chris Back, a former veterinarian turned oil-magnate, introduced the Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015.

The purpose of the Bill, according to the Explanatory Memorandum that accompanied it, is to “minimise unnecessary delays in the reporting of malicious cruelty to animals.”  Curiously, however, the criminal offences which the Bill seeks to add to the Criminal Code are all directed at individuals who either become aware of “malicious animal cruelty” and do not immediately report it to the police, or who interfere in the operations of an “animal enterprise”, rather than any person involved in carrying out malicious animal cruelty.

Although disguised as a Bill to promote stronger policing and prevention of animal cruelty, the provisions of the Bill are aimed at stopping animal rights groups from obtaining photos or video footage of animal cruelty or mistreatment, and subsequently using that material in public campaigns against the businesses concerned.  Similar laws have been pased in the United States, known as ‘ag-gag’ laws (read more here).  Under this Bill, individuals could face penalties from a fine of $5,100 for failing to report acts that they believe are “malicious animal cruelty” to the Police within one business day, to life imprisonment for damaging property belonging to a person connected to an animal enterprise with the intention of interferring with that animal enterprise.

Much discussion of ag-gag laws has followed the Animals Australia and Four Corners expose on the use of live baiting practices in the Victorian, New South Wales and Queensland greyhound racing industries. (Read more on this here.)

Senator Back has said his Bill would have seen such live baiting practices investigated by the authorities sooner, becuase the journalists investigating the live baiting offences would have been compelled to provide their material to the authorities.  The counter argument is that ag-gag laws would have a significant chilling effect on the ability of independent organisations to investigate animal cruelty practices.  Such public scrutiny is arguably needed most in industries where the statutory bodies designed to regulate the industry repeatedly turn a blind eye to breaches of the law (the greyhound racing and live export industries are good examples).

The Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015 is currently before the Senate.

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Pigs

Of the many animals exposed to the horrors of factory farming, pigs have perhaps suffered the most.

Despite having personalities and intellects similar to dogs, sows are kept almost continually pregnant, and confined to stalls where they are unable to turn around or express their natural behaviours.

The chronic stress means they spend much of their time engaged in purposeless behaviour, such as head waving or bar biting.

Prior to giving birth, sows are moved to farrowing crates; barren, concrete enclosures where mother pigs spend weeks at a time on their bellies as they wean their young. They have no chance to form any lasting bond with their offspring.


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