Activists warn of renewed live export campaign

Animal liberationists will step up their campaign against live exports, following the acquittal of a man who stopped the loading of a sheep shipment at Portland in western Victoria.

Ralph Hahnheuser of Adelaide was found not guilty on the charge of deliberately setting out to cause economic loss.

The County Court jury in Geelong ruled Hahnheuser wanted to save the sheep from export to the Middle East, when he contaminated the shipment by spreading pizza ham through sheep feed and water two years ago.

The action delayed the loading of 70,000 sheep, which exporters say cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

In light of the ruling and the reopening of trade with Saudi Arabia, animal rights organisations across Australia will meet in the next three weeks to discuss increasing their campaign against live exports.

The chairman of the Livestock Exporters Council, Ian McIvor, says he accepts the ruling but hopes it will not encourage more protest action.

"Let's hope there are not any future cases and for obvious reasons the security has been stepped up to make sure things like that can't happen again," Mr McIvor said.

The Victorian Farmers Federation has asked the State Government to change the law to ensure animal activists can be brought to account for causing economic damage.

Livestock president Simon Ramsay says the federation will proceed with civil action against Mr Hahnheuser.

"We're also in consultation with Federal Court lawyers at the moment discussing the civil case," he said.

"The civil case is based around breaches of the Trade Practices Act which is somewhat different than the Government's criminal charge hearing and I guess we'll take advice on how we'll proceed with this civil case.

"I just hope the community and the State Government will quickly change the laws and this criminal act to facilitate those people who take unlawful action to the like we've seen to be bought to justice and punished."