Peter Hunt, a Weekly Times reporter, has treated the concerns of Victoriaâ€™s pastured livestock farmers over proposed planning reforms with total contempt,Â calling them â€˜delusional.â€™
This seems unsurprising given Hunt spent many years in a policy role with the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), a body whose reputation for attacking small-scale farmers is increasing.
Pastured pig and poultry farmers have rejected factory farming and are instead growing animals outside in the fresh air. They devote their farms to growing healthy animals in ethical and ecologically-sound ways.
In anÂ op ed in last weekâ€™s Weekly Times, Mr Hunt trotted out the drivel the Victorian Government is seeking to rectify when he called pastured livestock farms â€˜intensiveâ€™.
Hunt went on to make spurious claims about the biosecurity risks of free-range poultry and pigs. However, it is sheds full of thousands of animals living with their own excrement that are the real source of a massive public health threat â€“ those sheds are â€˜food for fluâ€™ as evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace states.
The Governmentâ€™s attempt to reform the planning provisions has fallen short of the 2016 recommendations of theÂ Animal Industries Advisory Committee (AIAC). The AIAC called for the scheme to recognise the lower risk small-scale pastured pig and poultry farms pose, and for planning controls to be commensurate with that risk.
The AIAC called for small-scale pastured pig and poultry farms to be treated like other grazing production systems.
The AIAC went through an independent public consultation. However, once handed to Agriculture Victoria, the ongoing consultation was limited to peak bodies for intensive agriculture â€“ Australian Pork Limited (APL), Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), and the VFF, and a handful of cattle farmers. There was no representation for pastured pig and poultry farmers, andÂ Ag Vic came back with a draftÂ that sees all pig and poultry farms with more than 200 birds or three sows needing a permit.
The Government, the VFF, and the likes of Hunt keep repeating that all pig and poultry farms have always needed to get a permit, however, they fail to acknowledge that requirement was only recentlyÂ established by a VCAT case in 2015. This was a trigger for the need to reform the planning scheme. Calling a farm with 100 pigs on 40 acres â€˜intensiveâ€™ was deemed inappropriate, and the controls applied incommensurate with the risk.
Huntâ€™s track record of sloppy and inaccurate journalism does the public interest no favours, and his disdain for pastured pig and poultry farmers tells where his allegiances lie.
Tammi Jonas, President
Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance