Animal welfare group Aussie Farms loses charity status

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Aussie Farms published a map of farms and abattoirs in Australia earlier this year
Aussie Farms published a map of farms and abattoirs in Australia earlier this year

Related tags Australia Animal welfare Beef Lamb Livestock

Animal welfare campaigners Aussie Farms has had it charitable status revoked following an investigation by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

Aussie Farms was registered by the ACNC effective 1 January 2018, with the purpose of preventing or relieving the suffering of animals. The group hit the headlines earlier this year when it published a map of farm and abattoirs across Australia​. At the time, Australian Meat Industry Council CEO Patrick Hutchinson described the website as “irresponsible and a breach of privacy​”​, as well as dangerous to the activists and animals under care at the locations.

When announcing his decision, ACNC commissioner, Dr Gary Johns, said revocation of charity status was reserved for the most serious of cases. 

“Charities must stick to their purpose, and maintain their obligations under the ACNC Act, Charities Act and adhere to Governance Standards.”

In a statement in response to the revocation, Aussie Farms expressed its disappointment with the decision and suggested that there was “clear and extremely inappropriate influence from ​[agricultural] industry”.

“The ACNC has failed to satisfactorily explain why this decision has been made, other than a lack of formal documentation regarding the decision to publish our Farm Transparency Map in January this year, but appear unable or unwilling to explain why such documentation is necessary or how we are to retroactively create it without engaging in fraud. Questions we have asked of the ACNC in earlier communication this year have been ignored and left unanswered. This attitude is ultimately unsurprising given the ACNC Commissioner Gary Johns' openly anti-charity stance and previous disgusting remarks.

“While not directly admitted by the ACNC, we suspect that this decision is strongly related to damning footage we have released this year including the exposure of an illegal slaughterhouse in southeast Melbourne, the routine shooting of "useless" male baby goats at a major goat dairy farm, and extreme cruelty including a lack of effective stunning at slaughterhouses in Sydney and southern Queensland.

The Aussie Farms statement added that rather than appeal to the ACNC, it urged a review into the body itself.

“Given the lack of independence exercised by the ACNC in this investigation and the clear bias in favour of industries that are by definition directly opposed to our charitable purpose, it is suspected that an appeal through the ACNC would be futile. At this stage we are calling for an external review of the ACNC’s ability to perform its role independently as it ought to do, and must now consider whether to pursue legal action for gross misuse of the ACNC Act.

“As for how this affects our operations, the only difference is that we must now pay tax on any unspent fundraising at the end of each financial year. We remain a non-profit animal protection organisation dedicated to exposing and ending systemic animal cruelty.”

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