The charitable status of the Aussie Farms animal activist group is under fire as producers ramp up their campaign to have the organisation’s controversial website banned.
Aussie Farms has created a website and Facebook page targeting producers across the country with a map of farm locations published on Facebook.
Farmers say the website, which collates information submitted by members, is riddled with inaccuracies and the inflammatory rhetoric used by Aussie Farms encourages trespassing onto rural family properties.
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said NFF had contacted the offices of Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and the Minister responsible for registered charities, the Assistance Finance Minister Zed Seselja.
“Look at some of the farms and the numbers of photos which have been attached to their location on the website – such as one piggery with more than 100 images, the only way those pictures were taken was through an illegal act,” Ms Simson said.
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The map is sourced from a database available at www.aussiefarms.org.au, which is based on information submitted by the general public.
The interactive map lists the location of hundreds of rural properties, including livestock farms, meatworks and dairies.
Aussie Farms’ registered users are encouraged to upload information about farming practices and images of livestock and production. Its volunteer registration form asks if members are willing to break the law in activist activities.
NFF said farmers should contact Ministers and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to demand Aussie Farms charitable status is revoked and to write to the Office of the Information Commissioner to complain about their property details being published on the website.
If farmers find images or or information linked to their property obtained by trespass they should contact police via Crime Stoppers.
Registered charities receive tax concessions.
A registered charity cannot have a purpose of engaging in or promoting unlawful activity, but one incident of unlawful activity may not be enough to prove the organisations overall purpose is unlawful.
A charity's purpose is what it was set up to achieve. An activity can be an isolated incident or action, and does not necessarily constitute its purpose.
To establish the purpose of a charity the ACNC looks at its governing rules, activities, published materials and any other relevant information
“Not all the information has just been collated from public sources,” Ms Simson said.
“It’s clear Aussie Farms don’t check the accuracy of their data. Even in my area there are places listed as intensive agriculture that aren’t there.”
Ms Simson said the Aussie Farms modus operandi was confronting to farmers.
“They say the information is being collated under the guise of transparency. But the website encourages activists to take the law into their own hands and brands farms as factory farms and slaughterhouses.
“It’s very confronting to be held up as targets for activist groups.”
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said it was “abhorrent” to publish a map encouraging activists to target farms.
“It is wrong. They should look at their moral compass and pull it (the website) down and do what they are meant to do and that is look after animals,” he said.
Aussie Farms volunteer sign up page asks if you're willing to "Enter private commercial properties for investigative purposes" and if you're willing to be arrested - right, so let us know if you are willing to do something illegal - we will have you! #agchatozpic.twitter.com/14TMzbwgAF— Danica Leys (@danicaleys) January 22, 2019
“By trespassing they put animals at risk through biosecurity. Animals could be destroyed could be destroyed through a biosecurity breach.”
Opposition Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the overwhelming majority of farmers meet community expectations on animal welfare.
”Mistreatment of animals is unacceptable and members of the community are right to report mistreatment if they see it,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“But we do not condone trespass, abuse of privacy or trespass. Nor do we support attempts to demonise our hard working farmers."
Queensland Farmers’ Federation called on the state government to increase the punishments for activists trespassing on farmers’ properties.
“It is time that governments took a harder stand against the actions of animal activists and ensure that the legal protections and the punishments reflect the crimes,” said QFF president Stuart Armitage.
NSW Farmers called on all levels of government to take action to ensure there adequate punishment for inciting trespass.
“There must be legal consequences for organisations, like Aussie Farms, that seek to incite others to undertake illegal activities. A simple first step would be to remove the charitable status of Aussie Farms,” said NSW Farmers vice president Chris Groves.
Aussie Farms founder and director is long-time animal activist Chris Delforce.
Mr Delforce launched the Dominion documentary last year, which he said highlighted poor animal welfare in livestock industries.
“There have been many hours of footage we’ve watched, where even if an animal is not abused, there’s always the fear, there’s always suffering,” Mr Delforce said.
Mr Seselja has been contacted for comment.