Take steps to protect farms from animal activists, lawyer says

Incidents of animal activism continue to rise and impact farmers' businesses
Incidents of animal activism continue to rise and impact farmers' businesses

Heightened vigilance and preventative measures on-farm are needed when dealing with the growing threat of animal activism, according to an expert.

Incidents of animal activism continue to rise within the UK agri-food sector, with both farm businesses and processors being increasingly targeted.

Aled Owen, an agricultural solicitor who has first-hand experience of advising on recent cases, reinforces the importance of heightened vigilance.

“Animal activists are more sophisticated than ever before,” explained Mr Owen, who is at partner in HCR Law.

“And as recently highlighted by National Pig Association Chair, Rob Mutimer, they are increasingly targeting both farm businesses and processors.”

While encountering activists on-farm is extremely challenging, Mr Owen said it was essential for famers to remain calm in the heat of the moment and take the right steps to help protect their business.

“When activists are present on farm, it may be tempting to engage with them. However, it is crucial to refrain from doing so,” he explained.

“Prompt involvement of the police not only helps manage the situation but also eliminates the necessity for any commentary due to the incidence being ‘subject to police inquiry’.

“And, although activists have the right to protest, the methods they employ may sometimes lead to legal violations. It's therefore important to let the police handle these matters professionally.”

He advised that all farms and processors adopt more robust preventative measures to protect their operations and proactively mitigate potential disruptions.

"Security measures such as CCTV, security lighting, and fencing are essential. However, what often gets overlooked is the importance of thoroughly vetting potential employees.

“I'd recommend conducting thorough background checks and scrutinising potential employees, especially when their experience appears questionable or misaligned with the job they are seeking, or when their qualifications do not match the job requirements.

“Make sure employment contracts include specific conditions that prohibit employees from working with third parties, as any breach of these terms constitutes fraud.”

Mr Owen concluded that the issue of animal activism trespassing on-farm or on-site was 'unlikely to go away'.

"I’d therefore suggest that all farm businesses and processors employ preventative measures and take the right steps in the event of being targeted, to help protect themselves and their businesses.”