Animal Activist Groups Targeting Australian Farmers Could Lose Charity and Tax-Free Status

Animal Activist Groups Targeting Australian Farmers Could Lose Charity and Tax-Free Status
Minister For Agriculture David Littleproud during a press conference in the Mural Hall at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on June 12, 2020. (Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

Animal activist groups that target Australian farmers could be stripped of their charity and tax-free status, potentially hobbling their ability to fundraise.

The new regulations aim to stop extremist organisations from illegally harassing, intimidating, and spying on rural families.

"Groups who target law-abiding Australian farmers will no longer be able to claim tax-free status for their fundraising efforts," Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said in a statement on December 13.

The measures introduced by the federal government also prohibit trespassing, unlawful entry, vandalism and threatening violence.

The changes could see groups stripped of their charitable status if they encourage or foster behaviour prohibited by the new regulation.

"I know these changes will be widely welcomed and supported by farmers who live with the very real nightly threat of being attacked and having their property destroyed and vandalised," Littleproud said.

"Activist thugs who take the law into their own hands will now find it more difficult to fund their illegal operations."

The National Farmers' Federation said it supports protest when it's lawful and respectful.

"Unfortunately, a number of radical, fringe anti-farm groups have chosen to express their views by trespassing, harassing and putting at risk the safety of farming families, workers and animals," chief executive Tony Mahar said.

"Too often, the conduct of these groups is completely inconsistent with the high standards required of a registered charity."

The new rules follow calls by activists to undertake blockades and protests at farms in the name of animal welfare.

In one instance, activists broke into a piggery in the middle of the night to take photos and videos of animals.

Assistant Minister for Finance and Charities Zed Seselja said taxpayers subsidise charities through tax concessions and expect the money to go to charitable works, not supporting unlawful behaviour.

Under the previous rules, charities were prohibited from engaging in conduct that could be an indictable offence under Australian law, or as a civil penalty.

Many other unlawful activities were not covered. They now are.

Individual states have introduced and proposed increased penalties, including jail terms and hefty fines, for farm activism.

Aaron Bunch in Brisbane