Farmers increase calls to beef up trespass laws

Zach RelphCountryman
Geoff Pearson says South West farmers fear repeat animal activism attacks.
Camera IconGeoff Pearson says South West farmers fear repeat animal activism attacks. Credit: WA News

Strengthening WA trespass laws is critical to protecting farmers from the increasing animal activism threat, according to primary producers fearing they are at risk of a targeted pro-vegan attack.

Calls for tougher penalties for would-be trespassers have amplified in the past two months after a string of activism incidents at South West farming properties.

Sheep producer Geoff Charteris, who farms at Wilga near Donnybrook, is mustering support through a petition urging the McGowan Government to review its rural crime and trespass laws.

The petition, which was tabled in Parliament by WA Nationals agriculture spokesman Colin de Grussa on February 21, already boasts about 500 signatures.

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“Farmers would like to see stiffer fines for trespassers,” Mr Charteris said.

“The more I speak to people the more I understand how big trespassing is in WA and, I suspect, Australia.

“My area suffers from a lot of illegal hunters coming on to properties, destroying fences and gates — I’ve spoken to farmers almost in tears over that issue.”

Currently, trespassers can be slapped with a one-year imprisonment and $12,000 fine for invading a farm.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan declared in January the trespass penalties were “already significant”, but Premier Mark McGowan confirmed earlier this month the laws were under review.

Last month, James Warden and an unnamed woman, both from pro-animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, allegedly broke into a West Pinjarra piggery and filmed pigs.

It followed Mr Warden provoking Harvey dairy farmer Jason Parravicini on February 13 and demonstrators blocking livestock trucks from entering Harvey Beef in December.

Myalup and Lake Preston cattle producer Geoff Pearson said the increased activist threat had spread fear throughout the South West farming district.

Mr Pearson, owner of internationally famed Holstein Friesian Knickers, said producers must unify to overcome the pro-vegan movement.

“We need to be united as one, we are under attack,” he said.

“These people are getting out of control and we need to make sure we are able to handle anything that poses as a threat.

“This is our livelihood and activists can potentially do some extreme stuff.”

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