Dairy News

Farm trespass inquiry starts in Gippsland

By Geoff Adams

By Jeanette Severs

Farmers can still make submissions to the Inquiry into Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture, which began hearing verbal evidence at the first panel sitting, held at Bairnsdale today last week..
That was the message from panel chairman, Nazih Elasmar MLC, and Patrick O’Brien, Secretary of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee. Mr O’Brien encouraged people to contact him by email at patrick.obrien@parliament.vic.gov.au to indicate they would like to be heard before the Inquiry panel.
Mr Elasmar said that although the formal date for submissions had passed (August 2), the panel would continue to accept written submissions and invited people to enquire about presenting their view verbally to the panel. There will be several public and some closed opportunities to provide verbal evidence, over the next couple of months.
The Inquiry is the result of a parliamentary representation from The Nationals Melina Bath. In a statement, the Victorian Farmers Federation has claimed animal rights activists and their supporters authored hundreds of submissions to the Inquiry. 
Among the invited spokespeople presenting evidence and talking about their personal experience at Bairnsdale  were farmers from across Gippsland and as far afield as Avoca. Themes already emerging were across biosecurity, personal fear of trespass and, strangely for an Inquiry focussed on activism, farmers are being expected to justify their animal welfare practices.
Panel member and Animal Justice Party elected representative, Andy Meddick, MLC, disputed that animal rights activism and farm invasions were widespread and suggested farmers ask people who trespass on their properties if they are activists.
The Inquirys will travel to hear evidence at Warrnambool, Horsham, Wangaratta, Wodonga and Melbourne.
The Inquiry panel was invited to Bairnsdale, in East Gippsland, by parliamentary member Tim Bull MP.