Thursday, 25 May 2023

Shadow Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Susan McDonald, has expressed horror that the Federal Department of Agriculture is “engaging with thugs, bullies and terrorists” from the animal liberation movement suspected of recently using an unverified video to target an abattoir and threatening a pork industry representative in an incident that has been referred to the Australian Federal Police.

Senator McDonald used Senate Estimates hearings in Canberra on Thursday to ask department officials about their willingness to engage with radical activists in formulating animal welfare standards when their sole aim is to shut down commercial protein production. 

These groups purport to represent about 4 per cent of the population, but she suggested the federal department should instead consider the views of the vast majority of people who want the ability to consume affordable and high-quality Australian protein.

Senator McDonald said the vast majority of “Australians would think it (meat production) is actually fair and reasonable work. And yet, we are giving breath to these people who are not respectful of human safety, of human needs.” 

“And I want to make sure that the department feels empowered to act in the best interests of people, and of industry representatives who are being personally attacked and are now frightened for their personal safety and referred to the Australian Federal Police for action.”

While declining to name the individual at the centre of the AFP investigation, Senator McDonald said she was appalled at the activists’ alleged actions and expressed worry that Agriculture Department officials were giving them unwarranted relevance. Not only are pork representatives being attacked on social media, and their personal accounts hacked but their children are left feeling afraid and wondering when their homes will be breached.

She also expressed disgust that extra security was needed in Parliament House on Thursday to protect Australian Pork representatives there giving evidence.

“What I’m concerned about is that we are giving space and airtime and credence to people who are dangerous in their actions. They are threatening animal welfare in some of their activities in farm invasions…and now they’re extending to actually physically and mentally attacking people who are just doing their jobs,” she said.

“I was really horrified to discover that this particular person has been threatened personally on social media, in their homes. Their children are frightened…How do we keep giving breath to these organisations?”

Australian Pork CEO Margo Andrae told the hearing an activist recently trespassed at her organisation’s office disguised as a plumber and hid in the toilet.

“They had taken photos of my team celebrating International Women’s Day, put it on social media and called them murderers,” she told the hearing.

“Every Australian Pork Ltd social media account was attacked with messages after messages. (I received) 86 calls to my personal mobile in an hour…

“(Our people) are now scared of …being followed home” she said, adding “It is not peaceful. It is intimidating and bullying and it needs to be called out.”

In her first year in the Senate in 2019, Senator McDonald was instrumental in pushing the then Coalition Government to impose harsher penalties on animal activists who trespassed on farms after a feedlot at Millmerran in Queensland was invaded by dozens of people demanding it be shut down, causing distress to the owner and his family.

“They’re thugs, they’re bullies, they’re terrorists. And the way they engage with the department, I think we need to be conscious and careful that they are not given more power and more air than they deserve,” she told the hearing.  

“Enough is enough, we must do better for our farmers, graziers and Australian consumers.”


Media Contact

Julian Tomlinson – julian.tomlinson@aph.gov.au – 0421 059 187