Animal activists trespassing on WA farms now face a $24,000 fine and two years’ jail under beefed up State Government penalties that also hand animal welfare inspectors more power. Under the new Animal Welfare and Trespass Legislation Act 2023, which came into force this month, penalties have doubled for those found guilty of the offence of aggravated trespass. Attorney-General John Quigley said the new laws would strike a balance between protecting the agricultural sector and ensuring the community “had confidence” in animal welfare standards. “Animal advocates will no longer be able to use lack of transparency in abattoirs and other intensive production facilities as a reason for their illegal actions,” he said. “They will face far greater consequences should they break the law.” The changes mean misconduct restraining orders are more likely to be put in place. If a court chooses not to send an offender to prison, it must impose a minimum of a $2400 fine and a community order banning the offender ffrom stepping foot in a specified farm or workplace. The reform package also includes changes to the Animal Welfare Act 2002 allowing designated inspectors — employed by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development — to enter abattoirs and intensive food production facilities to monitor their compliance with animal welfare requirements. Previously, the Act only permitted inspectors to enter these places by consent, under a warrant, or where the inspector reasonably suspected that an offence had or was taking place. Farmers or other people who attempts to “hinder, obstruct” or “abuse or threaten” an inspector could face a $20,000 fine and one year imprisonment. WAFarmers president John Hassell said he was happy with increased penalties for trespassers and “fine” with the inspectors’ new powers. “It’s about protecting people who are going about their business in a lawful way,” he said. “I’m fine with the designated inspectors so long as they are from DPIRD and know what they are talking about.” Pastoralists and Graziers Association livestock committee chair Chris Patmore said the industry pushed strongly for the designated inspectors to be qualified to do the job. “As much as we are hesitant about the legislation it is a good sign that only employees of DPIRD can do that role,” Mr Patmore said. He said industry would have to wait and see if the laws detered animal activists from continuing to break the law and trespass on farms. The new laws were first discussed in 2018 after issues emerged between farmers and vegan activists seeking to disrupt farmers and expose any animal welfare issues to boost their profile. Direct Action Everywhere vegan activist James Warden, who stole a $1500 calf from a farm in 2019, was handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence for the crime in 2020. That sentence also took into account a separate trespass incident at a Pinjarra piggery where he stole a dead piglet to later display at a protest. Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis said the State Government was committed to enhancing animal welfare as a priority for consumers and global markets. “This legislation will not only protect WA farmers and their families but also assist our primary industries to satisfy community expectations,’ Ms Jarvis said. “A strong and transparent animal welfare system is imperative to support the long-term vitality and sustainability of our agricultural sector.” WA is the latest State to introduce tough new legislation, with New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria bringing in tougher penalties in recent years. In 2019, NSW upgraded its laws so offenders could receive an on-the-spot fine of $1000 and further fines of up to $220,000 per person and $440,000 for corporations. A year later, the South Australian Government passed legislation that included the maximum penalty of $10,000 or 12 months imprisonment, along with compensation for the farmer. South Australia also doubled fines for trespassing on farms to $5000 and increased the fine for disturbing farm animals from $750 to $2500, or a prison term of six months. Victoria passed its updated laws last year, which included on-the-spot fines of $1272 for an individual and $8178 for an organisation caught trespassing on farms. The Victorian Government brought in penalties of $10,904 for an individual and up to $54,522 for an organisation for more serious offending.