When does your right to freedom of speech get shut down for Privacy breaches?

Aussie Farms is a registered charity that has a website showing the location of hundreds farms and abattoirs. The website shows the location of hundreds of farms and abattoirs, and encourages people to upload photos or videos of animal exploitation in a bid to influence consumer choices.

What are your thoughts so far? From a legal perspective, isn’t that just freedom of speech? The question is, at what point do those sorts of activities breach privacy and raise concerns for politicians and lawyers involved in issues of public law and charitable status of organisations?

The Australian attorney general has pointedly asked the privacy commissioner to investigate Aussie Farms and called on states to increase trespass penalties in response to the animal rights group. The attorney general, is reported as stating “there are strong grounds to conclude that Aussie Farms Inc is engaging in a systematic effort in collecting, using and disclosing personal information to the detriment of farmers and agricultural producers”. A number of Australian politicians have gone so far as to demand that the government, including stripping Aussie Farms of charitable status due to concerns that publication of information about farms will encourages trespass.

These days, it’s not a surprise to hear of yet another animal advocacy group that has recorded animal husbandry practices and forwarded those recordings to the media. Politicians and industry calling for laws prohibiting recordings and access are so common that most everyone in the animal welfare field has heard of the term “ag- gag”.

This article demonstrates some of the issues, allegations, fears, and concerns of those on both sides of the activities, and the legal issues involved. Breaches of privacy, disruptive protest, calls for stronger penalties, public safety, charitable status, and of course, the interests of animals, are all referenced in the tabled arguments and counterarguments.

Perhaps consider what you would do if you were a governor responsible for balancing and prioritising the interests, agendas, and actions of these conflicting stakeholders. How would you prioritise the issues being addressed?