28 March 2019

Farmers are angry about the recent spate of farm invasions by animal activists. A dairy farm, intensive piggery and a feedlot have been targeted as well as a cattle sale in progress at Muchea Livestock Centre.

RSPCA condemns trespassing on private property and other illegal acts. But will stronger trespass laws and prosecuting activists stop this from happening?

There’s more to the story than a few activists trespassing on farms in WA. A new report commissioned by the Federal Government could shed some light on what’s becoming a global phenomenon and the reasons why it’s occurring.

There’s growing interest within the Australian community about animal welfare in livestock production. With this in mind, the Federal Government commissioned Melbourne-based consultancy group Futureye to assess the understanding of mainstream Australians about farm animal welfare, opinions about the topic and and their views about how farm animal welfare is regulated.

The resulting report, titled Australia’s Shifting Mindset on Farm Animal Welfare, was released in February. Livestock producers who take the time to read the report will find it both enlightening and alarming, especially in the context of the activism on WA farms.

Futureye undertook surveys of 1,521 Australians and held focus groups in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Key findings in the report include –

  • There is a high level of concern about how farm animals are treated - 95% of Australians say they are concerned about farm animal welfare.
  • Younger age groups are more concerned for farm animal welfare and their concern is growing.
  • Australians distrust the livestock industry as well as the government agencies charged with regulating farm animal welfare. One of the key drivers of the growing public outrage is that the public feels the sector is not open and transparent about its practices.
  • A growing section of the Australian public aligns with the views of animal activists and is demanding stricter regulation of farm animal welfare.
  • Only 2% of people surveyed were vegans with the remaining 98% eating meat, eggs, dairy products or fish.
  • The top area of concern is the poor welfare of animals in live export ships at 57% followed by poor welfare of Australian animals overseas at 49%. People are also concerned about low levels of pay for farm workers and foreign ownership of farms.
  • 90% say regulation of farm animal welfare should be changed with 40% demanding “significant reform.”
  • The more informed people are about farm animal welfare and the more serious they think a particular farm animal welfare issue is, the more likely they are to say responsibility for farm animal welfare lies mostly with organisations like RSPCA and with consumers of animal products.

Overall, the findings show a lack of trust between the average Australian, the livestock sector and the federal government agency seen to be responsible for regulating it. Australians feel whistleblowing by activist groups is the only way they can get information about farm animal welfare.

You can read more in Farm Weekly