Vegan Activist Group Among 10 Organisations Stripped Of Their Charitable Status In 2019
A vegan activist group accused of terrorising dozens of Australian farmers has been stripped of its charity status.
Animal activist group Aussie Farms published an interactive map online which included details of thousands of farmers and encouraged people to invade their properties.
The group also held a number of protests at farms, including abattoirs.
On Monday, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission stripped the group of its charity status. The reasons as to why remain confidential.
"Charities must stick to their purpose, and maintain their obligations under the ACNC Act, Charities Act and adhere to governance standards," ACNC Commissioner, Dr Gary Johns said, confirming that Aussie Farms will no longer have access to Commonwealth charity tax concessions.
“Revocation of charity status is the most serious action the ACNC can take,” Johns said.
Not only was the group at war with farmers, it appeared to be at war with the federal government as well. Water Resources Minister, David Littleproud, was quick to label ACNC's decision a "win for common sense."
“As Agriculture Minister I wrote to the Charities Commissioner asking him to review Aussie Farms charitable status. Today he acted," Littleproud said in a statement.
“Charities do not invade people’s privacy and encourage illegal behaviour. Our farmers deserve respect for putting the best food in the world on our dinner tables.
“These activists put farming families at risk by encouraging large-scale trespass. No one wants 50 strangers invading their backyard where their kids play," he said before describing those involved as "militant activists".
The National Farmers Federation also made a formal complaint against Aussie Farms, as too did hundreds of their members and supporters.
Aussie Farms were quick to hit back, accusing the ACNC of being corrupted by business interests, claiming the decision "points to a clear and extremely inappropriate influence from that industry".
The group said there was a lack of transparency and that the ACNC "failed to satisfactorily explain why this decision has been made". They are calling for an external review of the watchdog and are considering taking legal action.
The group was a registered charity effective of January 1, 2018, with the purpose of preventing or relieving the suffering of animals. Despite no longer being exempt from tax, it will remain a non-profit "dedicated to exposing and ending systemic animal cruelty".
While Aussie Farms may be the most high-profile organisation to be stripped of its charity status, it is one of 10 penalised in 2019 and 80 in the past five years.
The groups were granted charity status for a range of purposes from advancing social or public welfare, to protecting human rights, to relieving and preventing the suffering of animals.
Details about individual cases remain confidential, however, an ACNC spokesperson confirmed that are several main reasons why an organisation loses their charity status.
"The most common concerns received by the ACNC relate to allegations of financial mismanagement, potential harm to beneficiaries, private benefit or fraudulent activity," a spokesperson confirmed to 10 daily.
The ACNC will launch an investigation wherever there is evidence a charity has failed to comply with its obligations. The complaints often come from everyday people but can also arise through government agencies such as the tax office, and also media reports.
"When we investigate concerns about a charity, we work with the charity to address issues we find," the spokesperson explained to 10 daily.
"Our regulatory approach focuses on guidance and education as a way to help charities get back on track, and can escalate to more punitive measures if necessary.
"Any action we take follows a thorough investigation process that involves correspondence with the charity".
There are currently more than 56,000 registered charities in Australia.