THE Victorian government has passed new legislation to penalise those who trespass onto Victorian farms.
The laws have been dubbed the "toughest in the nation", and could see individual trespassers face fines of up to $10,904 each or $54,522 for organisations.
The legislation forms part of The Livestock Management Amendment (Animal Activism) Act 2021 which was introduced as a response to the Inquiry into the Impact of Animal Rights Activism on Victorian Agriculture.
Over the last few years, farmers and agricultural industry leaders have continually expressed their concern over animal activists trespassing on private properties in order to campaign for increased animal welfare.
However, peak industry bodies representing farmers and agribusinesses and animal welfare organisations were consulted during the development of the new regulations.
The state government is also encouraging farmers who would like to better protect their livestock to implement biosecurity management plans (BMP's).
The BMP's would allow the fines to be issued on-the-spot to any trespassers.
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Agriculture minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the new regulations would be a positive step forward in protecting Victorian farmers.
"Farmers and workers in the agricultural industry should be able to do their work without fear of being targeted by animal activists," she said.
"This sort of activity is highly distressing for farming families and puts the biosecurity and safety of animals at risk.
"We are backing our hard-working farmers because they are critical to keeping food on our tables and supporting local jobs in regional and rural communities across Victoria."
The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) welcomed the passing of the new legislation, saying that it was a long time coming.
"The VFF worked with parliamentarians back in 2018 to get the Inquiry off the ground at a time when we were faced with an unacceptable situation where animal activists were getting off virtually scot-free," said VFF president Emma Germano.
"This is a big step in providing better protection for farmers from law-breaking animal activists," Ms Germano said.
The VFF will also work with Agriculture Victoria to assist farmers to put these BMP's in place.
"At a time when we are dealing with significant human and animal biosecurity outbreaks, our rigorous farm biosecurity systems have never been more important," she said.
"The biosecurity management plans will not only protect farmers from unacceptable harassment by animal activists, but also from potential biosecurity breaches."
The new arrangements should come into effect later this year.
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