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Mad scramble at egg farm `rescue'

ASSAULT CLAIM: A distraught Patty Mark and Deb Tranter leave the Happy Hens Egg Farm after the animal liberation raid. Photo: MIKE DUGDALE

Friday, July 29
PETER BEGG

AN attempt to ``rescue'' birds from Happy Hens egg farm at Meredith turned nasty yesterday, with three female Animal Liberation members claiming they were assaulted.

Animal Liberation Victoria president Patty Mark claimed the three were manhandled, and someone at the egg farm had grabbed one of the protesters on the breasts.

The three activists were dropped off outside the egg farm in Taylor's Road at 2pm, and were sighted by workers as they ran into sheds on the opposite side of the road.

Soon after the activists disappeared into the shed, egg farm workers on foot and in vehicles converged on the building.

At one stage Ms Mark telephoned the Advertiser from inside the shed: ``You better get over here 'cause it's getting ugly.''

The three protesters emerged from the shed after only a few minutes, but were unable to ``rescue'' any birds.

They were in the process of leaving the property when a police officer arrived from Meredith.

An hysterical Ms Mark tried to describe events in shed when she returned to the road.

``We were going, we just stopped to get our breath and get some water and all of a sudden poor Deb screamed,'' Ms Mark sobbed. ``I didn't know what had happened, but he assaulted her.''

Deb Tranter repeated the accusation: ``We were leaving and he assaulted me,'' she said.

``He grabbed both breasts from behind and he just squeezed.''

Ms Mark, 56, said she had a ``crook knee'' and she was repeatedly pushed.

The third protester, Ivana Moretti, said that of all the rescues Animal Liberation had done, she had never seen protesters manhandled as they were yesterday.

Ms Moretti said later, after being interviewed by police about the incident, that there had been seven men in the shed at the time.

Ms Mark, who said she expected to be jailed in September for non payment of fines for similar incidents at the same egg farm, said it was her first raid at Happy Hens for five years.

Happy Hens partner Guido Colla said after the raid it was the first time protesters had raided his property in broad daylight.

He said previous raids had taken place after dark, but the presence of dogs and an electrified fence appeared to have acted as a deterrent.

``We hurried them out of the shed and called the police and let them take care of it,'' Mr Colla said.

Ms Mark said yesterday's rescue was necessary because protesters had not been able to get in for an inspection because of the trained guard dogs and a high electrified fence.

``We're just going to get really cheeky and when the coast is clear we're just going to do a runner with the gates open,'' she said before the attempted rescue.

The Animal Liberation protesters later attended a meeting of Golden Plains Shire council, which was scheduled to discuss applications for broiler sheds at Lethbridge and Rokewood.

Ms Mark said she had never heard of such huge broiler sheds, each of which would hold 320,000 birds.