Restraining orders pitched as alternative charge for vegan activists following calls for tougher laws

West Australian agricultural minister Alannah MacTiernan has revealed alternative charges, such as restraining orders, would be explored for animal activists who trespass on farms rather than introducing tougher legislation like the federal government.

Speaking out after Darling Range MP Alyssa Hayden and shadow agricultural minister Ian Blayney criticised her for "ignoring farmers' concerns" over the issue, Ms MacTiernan said the current 'status quo" was enough.

"What we've got here is a lot of posturing. We do find that a lot of our friends on the conservative side of politics want to ramp up these issues," Ms MacTiernan told the Mail.

"The fact is that we have been very supportive of our farmers. We've made sure that where there has been trespassing, we've acted quickly. We've had successful prosecutions.

"We're trying to follow the 'calm the farm message'.

"We've got to be careful. We've got to get this mix right because, to some extent, some of these activists are completely wanting more and more oxygen.

"They want people to play from the predictable songbook and that just gives them more oxygen."

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Along with Keysbrook, Serpentine and Jarrahdale, Ms Hayden's electorate includes areas that have recently been targeted by animal activists.

"Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own homes and when at work," Mrs Hayden said.

"Sadly, a minority of extremists have recently targeted our local farmers in their homes, by trespassing, stealing livestock, and publishing the details of local farms online in order to push their vegan agenda.

"I am aware of a number of properties in Darling Range that have been targeted already, and with the recent protests in Melbourne... am concerned this illegal and damaging behaviour may escalate if not dealt with swiftly."

Between August 2018 and February 2019, farming properties in West Pinjarra, Nambeelup, Hopeland, Benger and Mundijong were allegedly targeted by activists.

On April 15, Police charged six people in relation to trespass and burglary incidents in that period, which included a Waroona woman.

The six accused people are due to appear in the Mandurah Magistrates Court on April 30, 2019.

Mr Blayney said current trespassing penalties were clearly not acting as a deterrent.

"The state minister for agriculture [Ms MacTiernan] initially downplayed calls for tougher penalties, ignored farmers' concerns and has failed to prepare for further activism," Mr Blayney said.

The state minister for agriculture [Ms MacTiernan] initially downplayed calls for tougher penalties, ignored farmers concerns and has failed to prepare for further activism.

WA shadow agricultural minister Ian Blayney

"The state Labor government has had months to review penalties for extremists who illegally trespass on farming properties, but they are yet to outline any appropriate consequence for such action."

Mrs Hayden agreed and said that instead of "cracking down on these lawless activists", WA Labor had called for them to "act responsibly".

She said the actions of the activists were illegal and it was important for the community to report such activity.

However, Ms MacTiernan said evidence that enough had been done came when vegan activists held a national day of action on April 8.

The most high-profile incident on the day was when Melbourne's busiest intersection was shut down, with hundreds of activists bringing traffic to a standstill. No such incident was recorded in WA.

"We saw that in the 'national day of action' there was no incident in WA. That just shows that there was an efficient and focused police action. I think we'll find the conservatives are very disappointed with that but the reality is that we've acted very quickly," she said.

Melbourne's vegan protest led to criminal charges and a renewed call for farmers to take action.

Melbourne's vegan protest led to criminal charges and a renewed call for farmers to take action.

Ms MacTiernan said the WA state government would be in conversation with the state's police force to workshop alternative charges if primary producers were targeted again.

"We are absolutely going to throw the book at people that create difficulty for farmers," she said.

"What we're also very keen on... is some different sorts of penalties such as restraining orders that would provide a different layer of protection. We're working across portfolios.

"Our view is that the two things that are absolutely necessary - which we're doing - is giving priority to those cases. We're making sure that people are aware that if they do this they are going to be prosecuted and that secondly, that we are actually looking at other penalties.

"That work is being done at the moment as to whether there are different styles of penalties such as restraining orders that could be used in the case of vegan activism.

"Now, we're not being complacent, we're making sure that police are properly being resourced to respond to that.

"The police along with our departmental officers are continuing to meet with industry groups to make sure that we have got a good range of penalties."

What are your thoughts? Send the Mandurah Mail team a letter via editor.mandurahmail@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

Follow Caitlyn Rintoul on Twitter via @caitlynrintoul.