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Activists pose biosecurity threat

Pig farmers must remain vigilant and increase farm security, VFF Pigs Group chairman John Bourke warned producers at the group’s annual meeting in Shepparton on Thursday.

CATHY WALKER July 15, 2014 3:00am

Victorian Farmers Federation pigs group chairman John Bourke speaking in Shepparton last week.

In a week where animal activist group PETA gained international publicity when it released video of shearers — some allegedly in Victoria — mistreating sheep, Mr Bourke said animal activists continued to raid pig farms illegally, potentially causing a biosecurity disaster.

‘‘Only last month we saw extremist vegan group ‘Aussie Farms’ launch a spate of break-ins to ‘expose’ farmers in what was a cowardly name-and-shame game in protest at Bacon Week,’’ Mr Bourke said.

Drones have also been sighted recently flying over intensive farming operations in south-east Queensland.

Mr Bourke said the VFF was in the process of organising special farm crime information sessions in regional centres over coming months.

‘‘Ultimately the law needs to protect farms and farmers,’’ Mr Bourke said.

‘‘We are actively working with DEPI to implement laws to charge trespassers with biosecurity breaches.’’

While he outlined other challenges for pork producers such as foreign imports and the disease risks of swill feeding, it was an upbeat meeting headlined by the launch of the Pig Specialist Centre after what Mr Bourke said were five solid years of lobbying.

The centre will see the relaunch of DEPI’s Pig Health Research Unit in Bendigo. It will be funded in part by the Swine Compensation Fund, a producer levy that raises more than $250000 annually.

‘‘It’s a triumph for the Victorian pig industry and the opportunity to set the standard in pig health and research both nationally and internationally,’’ said Mr Bourke, who thanked Pat Mitchell, Hugo Dunlop and Ian Connaughton for their ‘‘input, passion and determination’’.

Former DPI research scientist and later Castlemaine Bacon Co operations manager Mr Connaughton said on Monday he applauded Victorian Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh for his foresight and for listening to the industry.

After being a part of three separate inquiries into the pig meat industry, Mr Connaughton observed that ‘‘a lot of reports can get buried’’.

‘‘The unit was doomed to closure and I admire the minister for supporting the ideas put forward,’’ Mr Connaughton said.

‘‘It’s a fantastic level of support for the pig industry.’’

Mr Connaughton said the development of vaccines and research into diseases that the Pig Specialist Centre could facilitate would only help enhance Australian pork’s clean reputation.

VFF pig producers’ annual meeting pictures: Page 4.

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