Time to directly challenge misinformation from animal rights activists

Looking to Europe & the UK, we often see what filters down to Australia – good or bad. There are 18,000 butchers in France and there has been a string of attacks on butchershops.  The UK Telegraph newspaper story, “French butchers issue plea for police protection from vegans after a spate of attacks” quotes the President of the French Federation of Butchers and Caterers as saying he is “worried about media overexposure of the vegan way of life”. I suspect the UK Telegraph’s interpretation/translation has been either lazy or more likely – deliberately disingenuous, due to where they’ve chosen to place their quotation marks throughout the article. I’m sure the president means the avid promotion of veganism via conventional media; because that’s what’s happening in Australia. Every day our media organisations are running  animal rights activist media releases as editorial content, and interviews with people making claims not based on fact, without anyone questioning the veracity. This has ramped up as media journalists are increasingly pushed for time due to budget/staff cuts and the repetition of the misinformation so often that many journalists are themselves believing these claims are true. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes accepted as fact. Nobody returns to check the source.

Here’s some of the misinformation that is now widely accepted as fact, in Australia:

  • Livestock damage the environment – using ridiculous amounts of water, damaging soil and causing deforestation (vegan crops are evidently grown amongst trees and are never irrigated)
  • Petrochemical clothes don’t harm animals whereas natural fibres such as wool do (let’s ignore the now-recognised effect of microfibres on aquatic creatures and that most Australian livestock run on wholly or partly native grasslands where native animals co-exist; unlike crops)
  • People are healthier if they don’t eat animal products (let’s ignore what happens to our brains with insufficient B12; plus anaemia, low bone density and other health issues which are increasing in our society).

The underlying theme animal rights activists are running with is that all livestock industries are cruel to animals and we do not have a moral right to eat them or use what they create (such as milk and wool). Anthropomorphism is promoted heavily via Facebook, including via farmers who think the cute cow images are just cute cow images, without checking who was behind the post and whether promoting animals as just people in hairy suits will help stoke a lifelong belief that this is fact, amongst children.

Letting these claims pass by in the media without challenging them is helping to reinforce the erroneous view that these claims are fact rather than fiction. We stay silent at our peril! It is no longer enough just to tell factual farmer stories. Misinformation in the public space must be directly challenged, by people working in agriculture, people who have firsthand experience (city residents are great allies; vast numbers grew up in the bush, have relatives there, or they’re simply well informed regarding reality), and by Australian agricultural organisations.

The Guardian newspaper is the worst that I’ve seen, in terms of printing articles so full of factual errors they’d be better off binned and completely rewritten by someone who actually has some knowledge on the topic.  Next time you see or hear a newspaper, magazine, television or radio story full of misinformation or hear a celebrity or anyone else repeat rubbish – directly challenge it, with facts.  This includes keeping a special eye on the media releases churned out by ‘conservation’ organisations such as Bush Heritage, who are fond of claiming they’ve bought land decimated by livestock and completely devoid of native species, only to trumpet miraculous discoveries of thriving native species a year or two later. (Truly miraculous on properties measuring hundreds of thousands of acres, surrounded by other pastoral properties, in arid areas where annual average rainfall is less than 10″ per annum and the pace of change is glacial.  These now-thriving colonies must have been dropped on the planet by a spaceship.)

A typical scene in central & northern inland (‘outback’) Australia – well bred cattle in good condition, low numbers ranging vast areas, grazing on 100% native vegetation. This is the reality of the majority of Australia’s landmass. It has never been cleared; it is not suited to any other kind of food production; and it is full of native animals – in fact in many areas, due to the provision of permanent water where otherwise non-existent, native species have increased. A huge contrast to capital cities – the most polluted places in Australia, cleared of native vegetation and virtually devoid of native animals and birds. Oh the irony of residents of urban areas criticising environmental management in Australia’s rangelands. This is not to say that everything is perfect – but the best thing consumers can do to help land managers improve sustainability? Pay more for their food, so land owners are able to fund the conservation measures they want to undertake.

As for incessant media support for calls to close Australia’s live export industry: why not just demand that people doing the wrong thing are identified and penalised? In other industries, are there calls for a whole industry to be abolished due to the bad actions of a few? Never! Instead, steps are taken to penalise the wrongdoers and more legislation and enforcement introduced when necessary to prevent a reoccurrence. The only reason there are calls for the banning of the live export industry is that the driving forces behind it want all livestock industries abolished.  They DON’T WANT LIVE EXPORT WELFARE IMPROVED as this would actually hamper their campaign to get the industry abolished completely! (And yes they are so zealous about their end goal that they will use any means to reach it; including watching animals suffer and delaying the release of video footage in order to have maximum campaign impact. Another line of questioning that journalists have failed to actively pursue.)

Closing Australia’s live export industry would result in cattle and sheep being sourced from other countries where a) the standard of animal welfare management is lower in the source country; & b) absolutely no money, time or effort is invested in raising the animal welfare standard in the receiving countries.  IE the closure of Australia’s live export industry would change where Australian cattle end up – and have a major deleterious effect on the welfare of livestock in other countries as Australian producers would no longer have the funds or be permitted to raise welfare standards outside of Australia. When Australian animal rights activists are asked about whether they care about livestock in other countries they cannot come up with answers.

IF – Conservation organisations wanted bigger and faster and more cost effective outcomes, they’d partner with farmers – who have a genuine love of the land and lifelong local experience – to work together and achieve exponential results.

IF – Animal rights activists wanted to improve the welfare of animals (all species, including the not-so-cute); they would be:

  1. Funding the eradication of feral species (cats being top of the list in Australia; responsible for continent-wide decimation of a huge range of native species)
  2. Helping to fund education programmes and equipment that helps raise animal handling standards in countries where standards are much lower than Australia. As Australian live exporters are doing.
  3. Promoting the wearing of natural fibres and campaigning for a global reduction in polluting materials such as the petrochemical products used to make clothing.
  4. Spending their own money on practical measures that raise the standard of livestock management in countries where the standard is far lower than what is the case in Australia. (Instead, the millions of dollars raised by animal activist organisations is typically spent on their own marketing and staff salaries.)

Why don’t they do any of this? These organisations want livestock farmers gone.

Next time you meet a vegan, ask if their own backyard is full of native plants, to support native animals and birds; and whether they trap the cats that roam their neighbourhood.

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