Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > Austria
Austrian activist found not guilty in fur farm trial in Finland
Verdict puts a stop to the criminalisation of legitimate animal rights activism, the activist says.
In autumn 2003, 3 Austrian animal rights activists went to film fur farms in Finland in order to inform the public on the conditions in these facilities. The activists were attacked by fur farmers and arrested by police, held 3 days in police custody and questioned. A Finnish activist suspected of aiding the 3 had his home raided by police. Media and authorities brandished the activists as dangerous terrorists and the arrests as an important victory to prevent a threat to national security. Eventually, two men were charged with intrusion and spying on fur farms.
On 20th August 2007 the appeal court convened in Vaasa. The 3 judges heard all the evidence of the activist explaining how he filmed on the fur farms and delivered their verdict today: not guilty!
DDr. Martin Balluch, the Austrian activist found not guilty today, comments: "For the democratic process in society to reach a decision on the issue of fur farming, it is vital that the public is fully informed on what fur farming means for the animals involved. In Austria, in 1998 Parliament banned fur farming and all farms were closed down. For a similar democratic decision in Finland and elsewhere, film footage of the conditions on fur farms must be made public. We did nothing but provide this service to the community � and were attacked by fur farmers, arrested by police and slandered by media and authorities. The strategy of criminalising legitimate protest and investigative work to make the conditions on fur farms public, is truly undemocratic and should worry anyone believing in the freedom of speech and in the democratic process. This verdict should now put a stop to this vendetta against people being concerned about how society treats animals in their name."
And he continues: "The Finnish tax payer will have put about 30.000 Euro into this case. And that for no other reason than to stop pictures of Finnish fur farms going public, i.e. for preventing the public to see the truth. This verdict should send a clear message to the authorities and to fur farmers: it is not just necessary and legitimate to investigate and publisize the conditions on fur farms, it is fully legal as well. Those concerned citizens, who sacrifice their valuable time and resources on behalf of society, to get the evidence to trigger the democratic decision process on whether certain ways of treating animals should be banned or not, must be applauded, not harassed and threatened. Their actions are important contributions for our society to develop more compassionate, caring and respecting forms of relationships with animals. I should hope that the police have learned their lesson and change their prejudices against animal rights activists."