Farmers have been advised how they can protect themselves from vegan activism in the wake of Channel 4’s controversial programme ‘How to Steal Pigs’.
The show has been criticised for glamorising intimidation and criminal activity while others feel the presenters are bringing serious societal and environmental concerns to the masses. Subsequently, UK farmers are being forced to reassess their business security and insurance cover, along with their legal rights when confronted by activists. Charlotte Wilson, from Farmers & Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB), advises farmers how they can protect themselves from ‘animal liberators’.
Intimidating theft or compassionate liberation?
One of the most obvious signs that people have entered a farm without permission is unexplained animal deaths or outbreaks of disease. Other less obvious signs of an incursion by activists include locks that have been tampered with and doors, or interconnecting gates, being left open resulting in the mixing of animals. Farmers should also look out for unexpected tyre tracks and discarded protective gloves and overshoes.
The latest case of farm animals being ‘liberated’ and the incidents being filmed for a prime-time TV show takes proactive animal activism to another level. Removing pigs or any farm animal from a controlled, secure and regulated environment can pose a significant bio-security risk. By ‘liberating’ pigs, activists can inadvertently transfer disease from abattoir to farm, or from farm to farm. Furthermore, the impact of such coercive interruption on farmers’ mental health, income and livelihood and be equally damaging.
And what becomes of the ‘saved’ animals? How will the liberators take care of them and house them? Setting them free into the wilderness would be irresponsible and a certain death warrant for animals that don’t know how to fend for or feed themselves.
Police are sending out a zero-tolerance message to the ‘philanthropic thieves’. After the show aired, Cheshire Police issued a statement on Twitter.
“We support peoples varied lifestyle choices, but stealing livestock is a crime. Committing crime for social media likes and then risking the biosecurity of the farm, could result in all the livestock being destroyed.”
Know your rights and wrongs
Animal activists are undoubtedly increasing their anti-farming agenda, with many high-profile demonstrations hitting headline news and protestors becoming ‘social media famous’. But this new TV programme puts their protests on a media platform which can imply acceptability.
However, Ofcom has already received hundreds of complaints – and not just from pig farmers. Following complaints by viewers, the National Pig Association and the four UK farming unions, the National Rural Crime Network (NCRN) has now written to Ofcom asking for it to investigate whether the programme breached broadcasting rules. While the ruling is awaited, it is imperative that farmers protect themselves from the latest ‘pignapping’ furore and avoid becoming unexpected media celebrities.
Six ways to protect farms
FMIB have outlined six practical ways to protect farms from the latest trend in vegan influencer and animal activism.
• Install CCTV at vulnerable points throughout the farm and at entrance points hidden from view. Consider investing in a smart camera which allows live streaming via your phone or tablet so you can be vigilant 24/7. You can even choose to receive alerts or text messages when the camera picks up movement.
• Consider additional security lighting as standard CCTV is of limited use in the dark. Be mindful that CCTV footage can only be used as evidence in court if it complies with the Data Protection Act which means it must:
• Use high quality padlocks or security systems to restrict access across your land as long as you are not impinging on a public right of way.
• Make sure the main farmhouse and all outbuildings are locked and secured at all times – even when you are present.
• Familiarise yourself with removing trespasser procedures – for example, according to the law, a police officer can intervene once the occupier has asked trespassers to leave if a person.
• From an insurance perspective, malicious damage cover can be a lifeline for vulnerable farming businesses. It helps cover the cost of repairs and replacement items and can also help minimise lost income. Farmers should stay on the right side of the law and get risk management and insurance advice to ensure they are adequately protected.
For more information on how we can help with your farm insurance needs, contact us on 01604 782782 or firstname.lastname@example.org .