Is the modern farmer going to be allowed to farm? By that I don’t mean, will there be laws prohibiting them from farming, but will they be able to go about their everyday business without fear of constant interruption from Vegan activists? The Vegan activist modus operandi certainly seems to be to create mass disruption. In an interesting move, this morning’s activities (protestors blocking Flinders St Melbourne) indicate that they have decided not just to frustrate farmers & meat processors, but also the everyday person in the street trying to make their way to work. I’m not sure that was their smartest move, but we will have to wait and see.
I am absolutely, and unwaveringly in favour of better animal welfare across our industry, and the need for that to be an infinite aspiration. I am even of the belief that without animal welfare activists throughout history, then our industry would not have made the progress it has in animal welfare. I encourage our industry to continue to have its ears, eyes and mind open to the many and various viewpoints and opinions when it comes to animal welfare. But this is different. This latest movement has nothing to do with animal welfare. This is simply proselytism.
Proselytism is the act of attempting to convert people to another religion or opinion. Attempting to convert others to veganism through activism and protesting, is no different to attempting to do the same based on religious beliefs. We are very lucky in Australia to have such a diverse community, and the opportunity to follow our own beliefs and opinions. Free speech is a great thing. Proselytism is not.
As an industry, however, we must not fall into the same trap. Everywhere I look at the moment, I see people suggesting that “we cook the vegans some chops”, or even “throw a vegan on the BBQ while you are at it”. Just because we love meat, doesn’t mean everyone has to, in exactly the same way that we expect Vegans to keep their opinions to themselves.
So, the question remains… “how do we deal with this activism”? I believe there are three critical components to counteracting these sorts of actions.
The first is to understand that there is a clear distinction between animal welfare activists and vegan activists. There is absolutely nothing wrong with advocating better animal welfare, whether you are from outside or within our industry. Better animal welfare should be an insatiable aspiration of our industry.
The second is transparency. A willingness to show the world, and in particular our consumers just how good we are at ensuring the best possible animal welfare. Imagine a TV crew following you around, with the live feed streamed onto big screens in the centre of Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, or Brisbane. Would you be comfortable? If not, do something about it. Transparency is the key to trust, and trust with our consumers is exactly what Vegan Activists are desperately trying to erode. It is up to all of us to tell our story, in a personal, professional, and polite manner.
We can all do these first two, as they are well within our control. The third is more difficult, but also the most critical.
The third is a legal system which can actually provide the protection that any business, farm or other, should have from disruption. Unfortunately, the Australian legal system appears to be a toothless tiger when it comes to this type of activity. The face of our legal system, the police force, unfortunately wear a lot of the criticism. This is unfair as they can only do what the law allows, and even then, the court system can still bring good work undone.
Already today there have been strong statements from both sides of politics, at both a state and federal government level. It’s a great start, but it will achieve very little without actual action. This isn’t a farm issue, this is a community issue, and it is something that must be fixed. Trespassing laws must be strengthened, and businesses must be allowed to operate effectively with the protection of the law.
Blocking access to businesses, breaking into businesses, and harassing staff and customers cannot be tolerated. If vegans, or any other group looking to undertake proselytism want to hold up signs on the side of the road, then let them. That is free speech. The minute they disrupt traffic, cross onto private property, or undertake some form of harassment, then throw the book at them. Throw the book at them, in exactly the same way that I would expect it would be thrown at me if I was doing the same thing.
Now is the time for politicians to take a stand to protect the interests of the everyday
Australian. It may not win many votes, but it is the right thing to do.