A vegan activist who published a map of farmers’ addresses has defended breaking «unjust» laws including invading private property to expose alleged animal cruelty.
Chris Delforce, who runs the controversial Aussie Farms database, was grilled on Monday at a Senate inquiry into proposed legislation cracking down on activists who incite farm trespass.
Mr Delforce said civil disobedience had led to great changes in society and declared he would be happy to face court if he was charged.
«If the law is wrong, if people are being deceived into buying products they wouldn’t buy if they were given the truth, I think that’s necessary,» he told senators.
The activist urged the committee to watch his documentary which collected footage of alleged cruelty in Australian agriculture.
Mr Delforce said he didn’t want to see «horrific» slaughterhouses and «gas chambers» used to kill animals, but would continue his mission to make farming transparent.
«I have been personally traumatised by it for years. This is destroying my soul seeing these things,» he said.
«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.»
He denied invasions posed biosecurity risks, describing some farms as «disease-ridden» and saying animals could never be slaughtered humanely.
«Farmers are sending their animals to death. You don’t do that to people or animals you care about,» Mr Delforce said.
The Aussie Farms website sparked the proposed laws, with the activist refusing to pull the online map down despite heavy pressure from government and the agriculture lobby.
Nationals senator and veterinarian Sam McMahon clashed with Mr Delforce over animal welfare standards.
«I like kale and mung beans as much as the next person, but do you accept you’re in the minority not the majority?» she asked him.
The inquiry heard pork farmer Ean Pollard’s NSW piggery was invaded during the middle of the night around Easter last year.
Mr Pollard said the picture and videos misrepresented the farm because his sows thought the visitors were going to feed them and were rattled when they didn’t.
The farmer received backlash through emails, letters and phone calls after the footage was put online.
The challenging aftermath rocked the interest of one of his two daughters in getting involved in farming, he said.
National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said Mr Pollard was just one farmer who fell victim to increasing numbers of farm invasions.
RSPCA acting chief executive Bidda Jones said illegal activity was counterproductive to securing better protections for animals.
She said she’d rather see better compliance regimes for animal welfare to meet rising community opposition to mistreatment of animals on farms.
The Law Council of Australia has warned the legislation would duplicate existing state and territory provisions and could stifle legitimate public debate.