Vegan Activists Could Face Up To Five Years Behind Bars If They Invade Farms Under New Laws
The Morrison government has outlined its plan to stop vegan activists from crashing farms across Australia for protests and demonstrations.
The legislation has increased the prison penalty for trespassing to up to five years as well as a jump in the maximum fine, which would be $12,600.
It's hoped upping these punishments will deter activists from continuing to invade properties to either chain themselves to equipment or steal animals.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said: "Trespass onto agricultural land has the potential to cause food contamination and breach biosecurity protocols. It can also lead to farmers and their families feeling unsafe on their own land."
"This offence and the substantial penalty proposed, reflects the gravity of these more serious forms of conduct and the substantial loss of income that could follow."
During the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to crack down hard on these demonstrators after a spate of heated incidents.
Dozens were arrested and charged after activists shut down Melbourne's CBD earlier this year and there were several protests at farms across the country.
Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie said about the new legislation: "These laws are necessary to protect farmers and their businesses - most of them small family businesses - from potential trespass, property damage, theft and biosecurity breaches, and the substantial loss of income that could follow."
When penalties were being considered, experts suggested solely increasing fines wouldn't work.
Queensland lawyer Dan Creevey told news.com.au: "Court proceedings need to follow, and courts should consider recording convictions against those breaking the law," he said.
"We live in a democratic society. If activists want to protest, they have a right to do so, but there are right ways and wrong ways to do things, and trespassing on land, and impacting businesses, is not the right way."
President of the National Farmers Federation Fiona Simson told radio station 2GB about the new law: "Anyone who suffers a home invasion knows how terrifying it is to have people breaking into your homes... and it's the same with our farms.
"It will really enforce that this is a criminal offence... this is jail time, this is significant fines. And, more importantly, a criminal record which we think people that break into other people's property, terrifying families, stealing animals, really deserve.
"People are so pleased and relieved. People have been terrified."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also encouraged farmers to sue the protestors who trespassed on their lands and even offered up Commonwealth funds for the legal challenge.
Featured Image Credit: Animal Activist Collective