NSW Government Challenged In Court By Farm Transparency Project Over Ag-Gag Laws Limiting Public Exposure To Cruelty In Slaughterhouses
Animal protection organization Farm Transparency Project has served the Attorney-General of New South Wales with documents filed in the High Court of Australia, challenging the state government’s use of surveillance privacy laws to limit public awareness of animal cruelty in farms and slaughterhouses.
The first-of-its-kind case in Australia, questions the constitutional validity of the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 (NSW), which has been used to charge activists who have published evidence of lawful cruelty captured in NSW farms, abattoirs, and slaughterhouses.
Section 11 of the Surveillance Devices Act, which prohibits the publication or communication of footage or photographs of ‘private activities,’ with penalties of up to five years in prison, is of particular concern.
While not originally intended to cover intensive farming and slaughtering operations, NSW Police have increasingly sought to apply it in such a way. The stretching of the rule began in 2015, when charges were filed against the Executive Director of Farm Transparency Project, Chris Delforce, following the publication of footage depicting lawful cruelty in numerous pig farms, as well as the country’s largest pig slaughterhouse.
The High Court challenge is based on the implied freedom of political communication in the Australian Constitution, which Farm Transparency Project argues is at odds with “ag-gag laws” which seek to hinder the exposure of systemic, commercialized animal cruelty. This in turn, limits the ability of the Australian public to know what they are paying for when they purchase meat, dairy, and eggs, or attend horse or greyhound racing.
“We keep running up against this law,” Delforce, said in a statement. “Media outlets won’t touch animal cruelty footage from NSW, for fear of being charged under this Act. Our damning exposés of the NSW horse racing industry last year revealed the ongoing slaughter of ex-racehorses in breach of the industry’s own rules, with even billionaire Gerry Harvey implicated, but ag-gag severely hampered the media’s willingness to report on it.
“Similar laws in other states have clear exemptions when the published material is in the public interest, but the NSW Government refuses to make such a simple but meaningful change. We have had enough, these industries need more transparency, not less.”
As per Delforce, the animals suffering in Australia’s farms and slaughterhouses deserve to have their stories told, and the Australian public has the right to have the opportunity to hear them.
“If successful, the NSW Government will be forced to scrap or amend section 11, and passing such laws in the future anywhere in Australia will be just about impossible,” concluded Delforce. “While not the focus of this case, this will be the first time that the inherent and undeniable cruelty of Australia’s intensive farming and slaughtering systems will be seen by the country’s most powerful court.”
Please consider contributing to Farm Transparency Project’s crowdfunding campaign to take this case, as well as ag-gag, to Australia’s highest court. Donations to the campaign, which aims to ensure that exposing animal cruelty does not come with a jail sentence, can be made HERE!
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