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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

DELFORCE, Mr Christopher, Executive Director, Aussie Farms Inc.

SOXSMITH, Ms Robyn, Co-Founder, Animal Protectors Alliance

CHAIR: We'll resume the hearing. I welcome representatives of the Animal Protectors Alliance and Aussie Farms Inc. Thank you for taking the time to give evidence today. Information about parliamentary privilege has been provided to you and is available from the secretariat. The committee has received your submissions as submission Nos 15 and 34 respectively. Do you wish to make any corrections to your submissions?

Ms Soxsmith : No.

Mr Delforce : No.

CHAIR: Would you each like to make a brief opening statement before we go to questions?

Ms Soxsmith : Yes. The Animal Protectors Alliance is a grassroots organisation that's been formed to protect sentient beings from human cruelty. I'd like to open with the following comments. The government's purpose in bringing on the bill can only be to prevent the exposure of cruel farming practices to the Australian public. Our arguments against the bill are: (1) the bill would inflict absurdly severe punishments on good people whose sole motivation is ending cruelty to animals through either rescue or public exposure; (2) the only farmers the bill will protect, since they are the only farmers targeted by private citizens seeking to expose animal cruelty, are those farmers who routinely subject animals to cruel treatment; (3) most of the time this cruel treatment of animals is lawful, but only because it is exempted from the very animal protection legislation that the general public expects to prohibit such treatment in the first place. Sometimes the cruelty being inflicted by farmers is unlawful even according to Australia's abysmally weak animal welfare regulations and codes of practice. It occurs because those charged with enforcing the law are either unwilling, in the case of the police and government inspectorates, or disempowered, in the case of the RSPCA, to enforce the standards.

The bill is contrary to the principles of equality before the law. Our arguments are the bill would treat offences against farmers more harshly than exactly the same offences committed against everybody else in the Australian community. This implies that farmers have an innately higher status than everybody else in Australia. Furthermore, the bill aims to treat people who break laws in order to right terrible wrongs more harshly than people who commit the same offences for reasons of malice or personal gain.

The bill will do the farmers themselves no favours. Our argument is that if the government was genuinely concerned about the welfare of animal farmers, it would do everything possible to assist their transition to other land uses before all animal production is shut down by climate change or collapsing ecosystems. It would not try to protect the worst of them from facing the public consequences of their cruelty.

The bill is contrary to public opinion. Our argument is that the Australian public have, by and large, applauded and rewarded the work of good, brave people who have trespassed on private property and brought forth evidence of horrific cruelty. The public understands that every change in attitude to the treatment of farm animals—whether it be battery cages, sow stalls, cattle feedlots or live animal exports—that has occurred in Australia in the past 40 years would not have been possible without the evidence brought out about these practices by ordinary citizens who have put themselves in harm's way to do right thing. Thank you.

Mr Delforce : Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about this proposed bill. I have brought with me for each of you a copy of the documentary Dominion, a two-hour exploration of modern Australian animal agriculture and one of the key inspirations, I believe, for this bill. This film is the culmination of eight years of footage exposing to the public the reality for animals confined in our nation's factory farms and slaughtered in our nations abattoirs. For those eight years, this footage has been a constant source of embarrassment to the animal agriculture industry and to those in government who unwaveringly support them, serving to undermine their claims of ethical farming and humane slaughter. To truly understand why this bill has been introduced and why it must not be passed into law, it is vital to watch this documentary.

What this bill seeks to do is to criminalise the act of whistleblowing, of reporting on matters so clearly relevant to the public interest of this country of people who pride themselves on being animal lovers. It makes no attempt to address the underlying issues here, the reason that people like me risk their lives and their liberty to capture evidence crucial to the public's ability to make informed decisions as consumers. I'm talking about gas chambers in all major pig slaughterhouses, which the industry has been calling humane for over 25 years while our footage has shown that every pig who enters that chamber and is lowered into that gas, screams and thrashes in desperate agony. I'm talking about the blending up of live male chicks in the egg industry, because they'll never be able to produce eggs. I'm talking about the brutal slaughter at five days old of male calves in the dairy industry, because they'll never be able to produce milk. I'm talking about the routine mutilations of piglets, lambs, goats, calves, chickens and turkeys without pain relief, and their prolonged and extreme confinement. I'm talking about the common failure of stunning methods that has seen fully conscious pigs, chickens and ducks drowning to death in the scalding tank. I'm talking about the fear that comes to all animals in slaughterhouses at seeing those before them being killed; about sheep boiling to death on live export ships; about piglets, rabbits and possums being torn apart as live bait in the greyhound racing industry.

This bill is being framed around protecting farmers from home invasions, but in 45 years of activists documenting and under coving abuse on farms and in slaughterhouses, there has not been a single incident of an activist going anywhere near the homes of farmers. Livestock animals have no protection under state animal welfare laws. What would earn jail time if done to dogs or cats is entirely legal and considered standard industry practice when done to pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, sheep, goats and fish. Meanwhile, animal agriculture contributes more to climate change and environmental degradation than fossil fuels, wasting vast amounts of crops and water to produce comparatively minuscule amounts of food while demanding financial assistance for a drought for which they themselves are largely responsible. These revelations about systemic cruelty and this footage have led to an increasing public awareness that is inherently catastrophic to industries that abuse animals and rely on secrecy and legal exemptions to do so. They must not be allowed to have their secrecy bolstered by new laws ultimately targeting the Australia's right to know.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Delforce.

Senator McMAHON: I would like you to withdraw your reference to the greyhound racing industry. As far as I'm aware in this country we don't farm or eat greyhounds, so I don't know what that's got to do with anything.

Senator McKIM: Point of order if I might, Chair. It's not appropriate for senators on this committee to ask witnesses to withdraw comments. I take issue with that.

CHAIR: I take the point. You can dispute it; you can't ask him to withdraw.

Senator McMAHON: I will dispute it. I don't see that it's relevant. Do you accept that the vast majority of Australians want to eat, consume and have available products from farmed animals and that they want the animals to be humanely farmed—and they are in the vast majority of cases? Can you accept that you are in the minority, not the majority?

Mr Delforce : I wholeheartedly reject that animals can ever be humanely slaughtered against their will. I believe the Australian public wants to know if there is cruelty occurring and if they are paying for that cruelty, which they are. I believe they have a right to know what occurs on farms and in slaughterhouses and be able to make informed decisions about what they're paying for.

Senator McMAHON: Do you understand that death itself is not inhumane?

Mr Delforce : We're not talking about death itself; we're talking about breeding animals for—

Senator McMAHON: That's what slaughter is.

Mr Delforce : We're talking about breeding animals for the purpose of killing them in order to make a profit. It's unnecessary. We can live happy and healthy lives without needing to kill animals, without needing them to suffer. It's impossible to intentionally kill an animal who doesn't want to die. We're not talking about euthanasia; we're not talking about putting down sick animals. We're talking about killing animals at a fraction of their natural lifespan, animals who want to live, who feel pain and who feel fear every time they are in a slaughterhouse. Every single one of these animals is experiencing pain and they're experiencing suffering no different to our dogs or cats would if they were in that position.

Ms Soxsmith : The Animal Protectors Alliance would like to add that we have no objection to people eating meat. What we see is the future of the industry is plant based meat and cell based meat. The report from the UN that has just handed down supports those views. Also there was a report on Foreign Correspondent last night about plant based and cell based meat.

Senator McMAHON: I like kale and mung beans as much as the next person, but do you accept that you're the minority, not the majority?

Mr Delforce : I do not accept that, because I believe my position is one that is held by most Australians—that—animal cruelty is wrong.

Senator McMAHON: Animal cruelty is wrong but animals can be farmed humanely.

Mr Delforce : I disagree. The evidence disagrees.

Senator McMAHON: I put to you that these invaders that you support are causing morbidity, mortality, animal welfare issues, criminal damage and biosecurity issues on the farms that they invading. Do you understand that?

Mr Delforce : Every single animal who is in those farms is going to die a horrific, brutal death. Mortality rates—

Senator McMAHON: That is completely untrue.

Mr Delforce : It is not completely untrue. Please watch the film and understand what you're talking about here. You need to understand what these animals are going through there and what it is actually like for them in these facilities before you can make judgements.

Senator McMAHON: I very well understand.

Mr Delforce : Have you seen for yourself? Have you seen this routine slaughter? Have you seen inside the gas chambers where pigs are killed?

Senator McMAHON: I've absolutely seen inside slaughterhouses, I've seen farms—

Mr Delforce : Have you seen inside the gas chambers where pigs are killed? Can you say that what they are going through when they are screaming and thrashing—every single one of them—can ever be humane?

Senator McMAHON: I totally reject your accusation.

Mr Delforce : Please watch the footage before making a judgement.

Senator McMAHON: You flatly refuse to accept that any kind of animal farming whatsoever can ever be humane? Is that what you're saying?

Mr Delforce : Slaughtering someone who doesn't want to die can never be humane. That's correct.

Senator McMAHON: Death is not inhumane.

Mr Delforce : Death itself is not inhumane, but the way it's done for commercial purposes—they are very clearly, from this footage, experiencing pain and suffering. You can never call that humane.

Ms Soxsmith : We'd like to add that farm animals are wholly exempt from animal welfare legislation—practices like permanent confinement, castration and mulesing without anaesthetics and gassing to death. All are examples of conduct that would be criminal if it were done to a dog or a cat.

Senator McMAHON: I'm sorry, but that is completely untrue. There are very good and very stringent animal welfare laws and regulations, and they are enforced. So what you have just said is completely untrue.

Mr Delforce : They are enforced for dogs or cats. Livestock animals are exempt under state Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—

Senator McMAHON: No, they are not exempt.

Mr Delforce : They are actually exempt.

Senator McMAHON: They are not exempt. That is not true.

Mr Delforce : They are exempt.

Ms Soxsmith : They are exempt under codes of practice.

Mr Delforce : Please review the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in each state and you'll see that they are actually exempt.

Senator McMAHON: There are very good codes of practice and very good regulations, and they are not exempt.

Mr Delforce : How do you justify being able to cut the tail off a piglet without anaesthetic when doing that to a dog would land you in jail? How do you justify that?

CHAIR: It's not your job to ask questions of the senators. It's the job of senators to ask questions of you, Mr Delforce.

Senator CHANDLER: You've spoken about your obvious disagreement with the bill in front of us, particularly as it pertains to trespass. What kinds of activities would your members, your supporters, be happy to commit to in trying to bring this issue to light?

Mr Delforce : I think trespass is an unfortunate necessity when these industries are not going to ever show this footage themselves. They're not going to open up their doors to the public. The only way that this footage has come out and people have been able to see it for themselves is that people, including myself, have trespassed into these facilities to capture that evidence and expose it to the public.

Senator CHANDLER: Isn't trespass a crime under state laws?

Mr Delforce : Absolutely it is.

Senator CHANDLER: So, in effect, you are saying that it's okay to break the law if you are trying to uncover conduct—

Mr Delforce : If the law is wrong.

Senator CHANDLER: that you personally determine isn't acceptable?

Mr Delforce : If the law is wrong. If people are being deceived into buying products that they wouldn't buy if they were given the truth, I think that's necessary. Civil disobedience has led to great changes in legislation. We're seeing pressure from the community based on this footage that is leading to things like the pork industry planning to phase out sow stalls.

Senator CHANDLER: We heard a lot from farming industries this morning, though, that they have robust quality assurance compliance and transparent processes in place so that they can continually improve their own farming practices. Do you not agree that already creates some sort of element of transparency over their operations?

Mr Delforce : I think that they're meaningless buzz words, essentially. If the Australian public still doesn't know what a farrowing crate is—that pigs are subjected to confinement for that period and are subjected to mutilations without pain relief—if they don't know all the different aspects, if they don't know about the gas chambers that these animals are sent into at the slaughter houses, I don't think that could be considered transparency. They say that the pigs just gently fall asleep. We know that's the furthest thing from the truth. We've seen it in the footage from place after place. They say that this is humane but do not actually show the evidence themselves. They can say that they're transparent, they can say that they're humane, but they need to put that footage out there. They need to talk about all the practices they're doing so that people can make informed decisions.

Senator CHANDLER: So you are saying that it is all right to break the law if you are revealing this sort of information to the public?

Mr Delforce : If the law is unjust, if it's—

Senator CHANDLER: If you determine that the action that you might be uncovering is unjust?

Mr Delforce : If I have broken the law, I'll quite happily face the courts over it. That is my personal decision to make. It's the personal decision of everyone. No-one wants to go onto these farms. I do not want to go onto these farms or slaughterhouses. They are horrific places. I don't want to see that. I have been personally traumatised by it for years. It has destroyed my soul seeing these things. I don't do it because I enjoy it. I do it because what's happening there is wrong and it needs to be seen and it needs to be stopped. If that means going to jail, so be it.

Senator CHANDLER: You speak about your personal point of view and you're obviously very passionate about this issue, but do you agree that there are passionate farmers out there who want to provide a required service to the Australian people? As we have said, there are many people who like to consume meat, and they should be allowed to do that. Do you not accept that your right to be able to uncover this sort of action, whether it's lawful or unlawful, needs to be balanced out with the right of business owners to conduct their business safely?

Mr Delforce : Activists pose no safety risk to farmers. We are nonviolent. We will never—

Senator CHANDLER: The submissions that we heard this morning would contradict that statement.

Mr Delforce : I will have to look at those. But, in my knowledge, there has not been a single incident of an activist attacking a farmer while on their property or going anywhere near their homes or families in 45 years.

Senator CHANDLER: What about biosecurity risks and damage to property that results in that farm being unable to undertake its business?

Mr Delforce : Regarding biosecurity risk, these factory farms are not biosecure environments. They have rats, mice, cats, mosquitos and cockroaches coming and going freely. These animals are living in their own excrement for months. These are disease-rife facilities. If someone was looking after five or 10 animals, you would be able to identify disease, quarantine them and provide them with individual vet care. When you have a million animals living on one farm and 10 workers looking after them, how are they supposed to identify these diseases and quarantine these animals? Biosecurity is an inherent problem of factory farming itself. It cannot be used as an excuse to stop the public from seeing what's happening.

Senator CHANDLER: What about violent acts on farms? Do you not think that farmers should be able to conduct their business free of this?

Mr Delforce : The only violent acts that I am aware of on farms, including to friends of mine, are from farmers to activists. I have had friends who have had their legs broken by farmers, who have been choked by farmers, who have been shot at by farmers and who have been run over by farmers. I'm not aware of any instances of the same occurring to farmers.

Senator CHANDLER: What about the mental impact that it has had on the farmers, who are not able to conduct their business? We have heard stories this morning of farmers being harassed by phone calls and through social media.

Mr Delforce : If these farms were transparent and honest about what they were doing, no activist would have any reason to go on and capture evidence of it.

Senator CHANDLER: When you say if these farmers were transparent and honest, what sort of activity would you like to see farmers undertake to ensure 100 per cent accountability of their operations?

Mr Delforce : Publicly available CCTV, an open-door policy for people who want to come and see what's happening, complying with all biosecurity protocols and not turning people away on the basis of biosecurity when there are measures that visitors can take to make sure that they are not bringing any diseases in. It is used as an excuse so that people can't see what's happening.

Ms Soxsmith : We would also like to say that we would like to see an independent commission of animal protection established to assist with these issues.

Senator CHANDLER: It sounds costly to farms—indeed, to any place of business—to have to implement the sort of security surveillance that you are talking about. Speaking of the right to privacy, I would say that that would significantly impact on that.

Mr Delforce : Businesses don't have a right to privacy in Australia. These are not private entities; they are businesses. We're not talking about putting cameras in or near anyone's homes. This is just showing what the animals are going through.

Senator CHANDLER: You just suggested that that is what needs to happen for farmers to undertake their business to your standard of transparency.

Mr Delforce : Not in homes, though. It would be in farms, where farmers are telling people that their animals are being raised humanely and where the footage is showing something else. If they put up the CCTV themselves and allow people to make up their own minds, what possible reason would activists have to go into these places and capture it themselves? They wouldn't have a reason.

Senator CHANDLER: I'll probably end that line of questioning there.

CHAIR: Senator McKim, do you have questions?

Senator McKIM: Just a couple. Good afternoon. Thanks for coming in and thanks for your advocacy and activism for animals. In the spectrum of very secretive at one end and totally transparent at the other, how would you describe industrial farming operations in Australia currently?

Mr Delforce : Very secretive.

Senator McKIM: If this bill were to pass, do you think that you would shift that assessment on the spectrum one way or the other?

Mr Delforce : I'm struggling to think it could be shifted any further towards secrecy, but, yes, it would be.

Senator McKIM: Why is that?

Mr Delforce : It's because it would prohibit journalists and whistleblowers from coming out. It is very vague, in this bill, as to exactly what protections are afforded to them. While there may be some protections in place, it is likely going to be enough for those journalists to say it's not worth the risk. It is going to be much harder to get this footage out there to the people who actually need to see it.

Senator McKIM: Thank you. No further questions.

Senator VAN: Mr Delforce, has your film ever been shown in commercial theatres?

Mr Delforce : Only as private screenings, as initial premieres.

Senator VAN: People have paid for it?

Mr Delforce : That's correct.

Senator VAN: Therefore, you run it as a business?

Mr Delforce : It's run as a charity. I don't make money from any copies of it sold. We have it available freely online for anyone to watch.

Senator VAN: Would you support us having CCTV in your place where you make this and watch how you cut it up and how it's edited?

Mr Delforce : I made this in my personal home, so no.

Senator VAN: Then you've got a double standard with those sorts of things.

Mr Delforce : No, because farmers don't live in their sheds.

Senator VAN: That's a statement, not a question, Mr Delforce.

Mr Delforce : I disagree with the statement.

Senator KIM CARR: If this bill is passed, will you be taking down the Aussie Farms website?

Mr Delforce : No, certainly not.

Senator KIM CARR: You won't?

Mr Delforce : No.

Senator KIM CARR: Are you anxious about prosecution if that website stays up?

Mr Delforce : I always accept that trying to expose these places will likely lead to prosecution. I think that the value of exposing them and providing that resource to consumers is far more important than anything that can happen to me personally.

Senator KIM CARR: What do you think would be the effect on your operations if the bill is passed?

Mr Delforce : I think it will be very likely that prosecutions will happen, but ultimately I don't think it's going to change what we do. It's going to make it harder for us to show people what's happening. It's going to make it harder for us to work with journalists, to work with anyone, because no-one will want to touch any of this footage.

Senator KIM CARR: You have exposed illegal abattoirs, have you?

Mr Delforce : That's right.

Senator KIM CARR: How many times have you done that?

Mr Delforce : One facility that was completely illegal. Illegal practices in abattoirs—I can't say exactly how many times. I would say several times. The vast majority of what we show in footage is not illegal; it's standard, legal industry practice.

Senator KIM CARR: There's obviously going to be an argument with people on this committee about the ethical nature of preparing animals for food. Put that aside. I take it you work with regulatory authorities like PrimeSafe in Victoria.

Mr Delforce : Yes. We have in the past. There have been two circumstances that come to mind. In one, we uncovered footage in a duck slaughterhouse in Victoria where the ducks were routinely not being properly stunned. They were having their throats cut while conscious and ended up drowning in the scalding tank. There was another instance at a slaughterhouse where an illegal home-made electric prodder—mains powered, high voltage, high amperage, extremely painful—was being used on pigs. It still is being used to this day, several years later. Our complaints to PrimeSafe have gone completely ignored.

Senator KIM CARR: And there were cases recently broadcast on the ABC of an illegal abattoir operating in suburban Melbourne.

Mr Delforce : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: People were operating in basically a backyard garage. Are you familiar with that case?

Mr Delforce : Yes, I am.

Senator KIM CARR: Was that part of your work?

Mr Delforce : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: What happened on that occasion? Was regulatory action taken?

Mr Delforce : We have received very little detail. We have been told that an investigation is underway. We have been told this before from other regulatory bodies in other states, and in those cases it has taken over a year for anything to happen, and the end result was that no charges were ever laid. So I'm not hugely optimistic that charges will be laid in this instance.

Senator KIM CARR: You'd have to appreciate that regulators are not going to act in a reckless way. Just because you draw attention to allegations doesn't necessarily mean prosecutions automatically follow. But, in the footage I saw, clearly there were animals being slaughtered in a garage and put in the boots of cars. The normal health and safety standards were not being followed. That may well be a prima facie case of breaches of the health and safety acts and various regulations in the state of Victoria, but it would take a while to actually prepare a proper prosecution. You would accept that, would you?

Mr Delforce : I would. I would like to point out that, whether or not a prosecution happens and whether or not this facility is stopped from what it's doing, that footage was obtained as a result of activist trespassing. If it hadn't happened, this facility would still be operating without anyone knowing, as it has for the last 20 years.

Senator KIM CARR: And you regard that as a legitimate whistleblowing activity?

Mr Delforce : Absolutely.

Senator KIM CARR: Was that an incitement?

Mr Delforce : I didn't personally incite anyone to do it. My organisation did not incite anyone to go gather that footage. We received the footage and chose to publish it. What I think this bill is trying to do is suggest that the publishing of footage itself is incitement, because someone might then go and do something like take an animal from that farm. Regardless of whether that actually happens, they can claim—and, from statements made by the Attorney-General, it sounds like they will try to claim—that simply publishing footage is incitement to trespass.

Senator KIM CARR: However, the proponents of this measure are suggesting that there be a defence that it wasn't your intention to incite people to trespass. What do you say to that?

Mr Delforce : I think that is a reasonable—that would resolve a lot of my issues with the bill.

Senator KIM CARR: But, under this bill, it would be argued that you could rely on that as a defence—allow you to continue to publish that material.

Mr Delforce : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Would you agree?

Mr Delforce : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: So it may well be that your activities would not change if it can't be demonstrated that you intended to incite people to trespass.

Mr Delforce : That's correct.

Senator KIM CARR: Is that how you've understood the intent of this?

Mr Delforce : Yes. But, as far as I know, that defence is not currently in the bill.

Senator KIM CARR: That's not the evidence that's been presented to the committee, as I understood it.

Mr Delforce : From my reading of it—

Senator KIM CARR: We have to demonstrate that your intention was to incite people to break the law.

Mr Delforce : From the statements I've heard from the Attorney-General, it's been suggested that simply having the map available online, with footage on it, or publishing footage on there, would itself be considered incitement, even if I've never made a statement to anyone—

Senator KIM CARR: Okay. That's your interpretation of the bill.

Mr Delforce : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: Thank you.

Senator VAN: Mr Delforce, what tertiary qualifications do you have?

Mr Delforce : None.

Senator VAN: If I recall correctly, you gave an opinion on biosecurity before about evidence that was given earlier and you said that that was incorrect. On what basis are you making those judgements?

Mr Delforce : From what I've seen of these places and how they're quite clearly not biosecurity environments.

Senator VAN: But you have no professional capacity to make those decisions. Is that correct?

Mr Delforce : I have no professional desire to make it seem like they're something that they're not.

Senator VAN: Sorry, just a yes or a no answer is all I need.

Mr Delforce : No.

Senator VAN: Good. Second question: have you ever run for politics?

Mr Delforce : Yes, I have.

Senator VAN: For what party?

Mr Delforce : The Animal Justice Party.

Senator VAN: So it could be characterised that your position here is purely a political one?

Mr Delforce : Not at all. I'm not currently running, and I have no intention to do so.

Senator VAN: But you have.

Mr Delforce : Yes.

Senator VAN: Thank you; that's all.

Senator CHANDLER: You've spoken about illegal activities in farming facilities. On what basis are these activities illegal? Give me an example and say what law they're breaking.

Mr Delforce : The abattoir in Victoria that is operating without an abattoir licence. Abattoirs in Victoria, if they are producing meat that leaves the property and is for human consumption, are required to have a licence under PrimeSafe. This facility does not. They are also, to my knowledge, breaking laws under basic food safety and hygiene.

CHAIR: They're in residential Melbourne, right? They're not an agricultural facility. They're not a farm that would be protected by the bill?

Mr Delforce : They would be considered a commercial farm if they're—

Senator KIM CARR: The bill would cover those circumstances.

CHAIR: A primary production business on agricultural land—it doesn't really sound like it.

Senator KIM CARR: No. But that's the point. The bill covers abattoirs.

Mr Delforce : Yes.

Senator KIM CARR: It covers abattoirs. That's been the point of my questions all day.

CHAIR: There's a two-step definition there. There's no way they could be covered. Anyway, I beg your pardon; I interrupted.

Senator CHANDLER: So you think this activity is wrong?

Mr Delforce : This activity of what they were doing in that abattoir?

Senator CHANDLER: That what you've just described is wrong and is breaking the law?

Mr Delforce : Yes. That's my understanding of the law on it.

Senator CHANDLER: Right. So farmers shouldn't break the law, but you are allowed to break the law in your activities?

Mr Delforce : If that law involves cruelty to animals. It's my personal belief that, if everyone were to know what is actually legal to do to animals, it would no longer be legal to do those things to animals. It's already illegal for some animals. It's illegal in other parts of the world that I would say are far more advanced in terms of animal welfare than Australia is. I believe that five to 10 years from now we will see laws criminalising what is currently happening to animals in farms and slaughterhouses. We're not there yet. We will only get there through people trespassing and uncovering this—

Senator CHANDLER: But it's not a particularly consistent jurisprudent philosophy to say that some laws should be adhered to and some laws should not.

Mr Delforce : I think that unjust laws should and must be broken.

Senator CHANDLER: So you are saying that, to your mind, if the law that we are discussing today were passed, you would be more than happy to break it?

Mr Delforce : I'm not saying any such thing, because I have no intention of inciting anyone to do anything. My concern is that simply publishing footage will be claimed as incitement, regardless of whether or not it is.

Senator CHANDLER: Can you describe an activity that you might have seen occur on an abattoir that you think would be illegal?

Mr Delforce : That I think would now be illegal or should be illegal?

Senator CHANDLER: Beyond what we're discussing today—prior to?

Mr Delforce : So illegal under today's laws?

Senator CHANDLER: Yes.

Mr Delforce : Routine failure of stunning—animals are supposed to be stunned before slaughter. We've seen many instances where they are not stunned.

Senator VAN: But they're attempted to be stunned?

Mr Delforce : They're intended to be stunned, but it's clear a lot of the time that the workers involved know that these animals are not stunned. There's also no CCTV in place to ensure that these animals are being stunned.

Senator VAN: We heard evidence this morning from a number of people giving testimony that CCTV exists in most facilities, so you're not actually right about that, are you?

Mr Delforce : It exists in some facilities. It's not monitored independently. It's monitored by the managers of the facility, who have an inherent desire to not publicise cases where animal cruelty occurs.

Senator VAN: So you're saying farmers don't care about their animals?

Mr Delforce : Farmers are sending their animals to death. You don't do that to people or animals you care about.

Senator VAN: That is the industry.

Mr Delforce : Farmers are part of the industry. I have nothing against farmers individually. I believe that what they do should be transparent.

Senator McMAHON: You've said that unjust laws must be broken. Do you then accept that, by breaking these laws, invading farms, protesting, that in itself is actually leading to animal cruelty, which is supposedly the thing that you want to stamp out?

Mr Delforce : No, not at all.

Senator McMAHON: So it's fine for piglets to drown in effluent ponds because your protesting friends have destroyed the infrastructure that keeps them safe?

Mr Delforce : It wouldn't be and it never has occurred, so it's an entirely hypothetical situation.

Senator McMAHON: It has.

Mr Delforce : No, it hasn't.

Senator VAN: You heard evidence this morning that it has, so—

Mr Delforce : Yes. I'm sure that's not the only false evidence you would've heard.

Senator VAN: It wasn't a question to you, Mr Delforce; it was a statement—

Mr Delforce : And I was responding to the statement.

Senator VAN: quoting evidence from this morning.

Senator McMAHON: So, if that happened, you'd be okay with it, would you?

Mr Delforce : Not at all, no.

Senator McMAHON: What about animals being trampled, animals having legs broken—

Mr Delforce : I've seen footage of animals trampled in slaughterhouses. I am not aware of any incidents of activists causing that.

Senator McMAHON: Well, it does.

Mr Delforce : Well, perhaps these animals should not be packed, tens of thousands, into the one shed.

Senator McMAHON: Perhaps your activists shouldn't be going there doing that.

Senator CHANDLER: Precisely.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for your evidence today; it's greatly appreciated.