Farms across Southern New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have been listed on the animal rights-inspired ‘Aussie Farms Map‘, but those named are suggesting the listing is close to defamation.
With links to Animal Liberation Australia, the Aussie Farms Map is described as “a comprehensive, interactive map of factory farms, slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities across Australia”.
The definition of farming operations and their function is a broad one: in the wider Canberra region, an assortment of farms have been included, ranging from an unnamed free-range pig operation at Cootamundra to a duck farm and local dairy at Harden Murrumburrah and the Yass Livestock Exchange.
There’s a single unnamed sheep farm at Gunning and another wool producer at Jugiong while at Murrumbateman, Bindaree Bee Supplies, a provider of apiary equipment and beekeeping classes is listed alongside the Crestwood poultry operation. No explanation is provided about why these farms or businesses have been included.
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Across the site, links go to aerial photographs of houses and sheds, including machinery and hay sheds, shearing sheds and sheep yards. In another link, the aerial shot is of a well-known Canberra region rose-growing operation. Also included on the map are the National Zoo and Aquarium and Thoroughbred Park, Canberra’s horse racing facility.
Aussie Farms Repository who compiled and distributed the map say it is “an effort to force transparency on an industry dependent on secrecy.”
They suggest to readers: “If you find a facility that hasn’t been marked, you can login, right-click the facility on the map and choose to submit it for approval. You can also submit information about any facility already marked, and upload photos, videos and documents relating to that facility.”
The map makes no specific allegations of animal cruelty against any of the listed properties. The criteria for inclusion apparently includes any commercial relationship with animals. In one instance at Grenfell in central western NSW, there are multiple potential listings for a rabbit farm, each identifying a different farmhouse and farm sheds, and giving their addresses.
South Coast abattoir owner Graeme Afflick of Afflick Meats at Moruya says “It’s a defamation case really. They have put us on this map and we have done nothing wrong.”
The Afflick abattoir has been in operation for over 60 years and currently “kills” once a week supplying a couple of local butchers while also selling meat direct to the public from the facility’s boning room.
“We try and treat our product the same way we treat humans, we don’t use prodders, we make sure they have water and feed and always looking out for the general well being of the animal.”
Karen Howells, owner of Eucumbene Trout Farm near Jindabyne, says she is upset at being tarred with animal cruelty. “I invite these people to come and have a look,” Mrs Howells says.
“We really believe in pond-to-plate and animals being well cared for. We don’t overstock our ponds, we keep them clean, we don’t allow a fish to be returned to the water after it’s caught because they are unlikely to survive – we dispatch them immediately.”
Phil Ryan, who milks about 200 cows at Bega isn’t listed on the map but is angry for others in the area who are, among them many Bega Cheese suppliers. He describes the map as “hate speech”.
“I think this movement is very misguided, there is a lot of room for misunderstanding between people who think they are doing the right thing and farmers who are doing the right thing – the concept that we don’t care for our animals is greatly offensive,” he says.
Mr Ryan is concerned about the biosecurity risk to his industry since the Aussie Farms Repository encourages people to add more farms and more detail to the map including photos and video.
“If you are a farmer on this map I’d be suggesting you install cameras and other security devices, which really shouldn’t be necessary.”
Member for Eden-Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly says he is also deeply concerned about the group’s approach.
“I understand that some of the people involved in this project probably have good intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Dr Kelly says.
“These people are setting themselves up as judge, jury and executioner. In the current drought, these farmers deserve our support not to be highlighted in this way.
“We have regulatory organisations that deal with animal cruelty issues, citizens should not be taking matters into their own hands. I condemn this kind of vigilantism. If you have a concern, raise it with the appropriate authorities”, Dr Kelly says.