Thursday, May 29, 2014

An open letter to Will Potter

Dear Mr Potter

I have not had the pleasure of reading your book "Green is the new red" but I was rather interested in the sentiments you expressed in this talk you did for voiceless while you were in Australia.

I am no fan of jackboot politics and would never condone someone being prosecuted simply for filming a farm.

I feel however that you may have been misled about the calibre of animals rights activists we have in this country and the deliberate damage some of them visit upon Australian farmers and their animals.

As I write this the media here is buzzing with yet another break in at an Australian piggery where 250 piglets drowned as a result of suspected animal rights activists who damaged the farms water system deliberately. The piglets were caught in open drains and killed by the rising water.

Break-ins are common here despite trespass laws in Australia and damage to the farmers equipment is sadly not uncommon. Neither is the act of taking footage completely out of context to make a false point. Much has been made of pigs showing signs of distress when animal rights activists have broken into their shed in the middle of the night. This "distress" is a result of the pigs being disturbed in the middle of the night and vocalizing in protest because they were expecting to be fed.

I have to ask, do you really condone this sort of behavior in the name of freedom of speech? 

A few of the more extreme members of the animal rights community have openly discussed introducing foot and mouth disease to damage our livestock industry.

The disturbing thing about this is that it took a rural media backlash to spur prominent animal rights organization Animals Australia to condemn these rogues publicly. Intensively farmed animals are kept inside in part to shield them from disease. People creeping around who are not supposed to be there pose a definite threat to these animals and could introduce dangerous diseases both intentionally or unintentionally. 

A further problem with your talk is that you constantly come back to the notion that animal rights activists are only there to "tear down the walls" and "show us what they don't want us to see" in the name of having animals treated better. The problem is that in a lot of ways those walls were not there at all until animal rights activists began actively targeting the industry and that many of these organizations do not wish to make farming more animal friendly, they wish to see it abolished entirely.

Some of their tactics may shock you.

In November of 2011 an animal rights activist visited the Giles abattoir in Victoria. She had asked the owner for permission and was granted full access to the facility to take pictures while they were slaughtering pigs and lambs.

She even gave a false name.

The owners had nothing to hide. While she was there one young employee was incorrectly stunning the pigs, she filmed the act but did not take the time to inform the owner who had so graciously allowed her into the facility. Later, out of either malicious intent or a complete lack of livestock knowledge, she placed herself in positions which caused animals to rush gates and bounce off rails, eventually causing a pig to escape. Under the safety standards of the day, a loose animal on the kill floor had to be secured quickly and a sledgehammer was used for this task. (The Ag department later found this act was justified and the abattoir owners were not found guilty of animal cruelty despite the high profile nature of the case). The activist filmed this incident and again never reported her concerns to the owners. Once safely back in Melbourne the activist made herself famous by publicly vilifying the owners of the abattoir on prime time television, aided by ideologically aligned journalists. The use of the sledgehammer and animals bouncing off rails was of course skewed completely out of context.

The next day hysterical bureaucrats took away the abattoirs license and 30 people lost their jobs just before Christmas.

Things did go wrong here, but the few bad practices I have detailed above could easily have been righted had the owners been made aware of them or failing that, government regulators. 

Instead the activist involved aimed for maximum shock value by taking the footage straight to the media and the regulators showed (perhaps unlike regulators in the US) that they are all too keen to hang abattoir owners out to dry at the first sign of a cruelty complaint.

Your argument that animals are not protected by law, simply doesn't hold water in Australia.

For all of the published lies about Australian farmers, none are more often repeated than those told about live export by Animals Australia and their sister organizations. The best one being the "systemic cruelty" on the ships and within the supply chains overseas. Over the last two and a half years Animals Australia has reported 19 cases of animal cruelty within these supply chains. Over that time we have exported over 6 million animals. If the cruelty is so systemic, where are the reports?

One has to ask what they have done with the estimated $8,000,000  they've received during that time?  Besides campaign for more donations, my guess is not much.

In all of the examples I have detailed above, one common thread emerges. Australian farm animals are suffering, not from the cruelty of their owners but from well meaning and misguided activists invading places they have no business being and attacking people who have done no wrong.

In the last few years we have seen animal rights activists gather in packs to howl down anyone who opposes them online, posting photos of farmers children when they dare speak up for their industry. We've seen them breaking into farms and destroying our property. We've heard them threaten to bomb live export ships, make late night phone calls loaded with abuse to farmers whose cattle have been identified half a world away on a television program, sometimes death threats.

We've heard them threaten to introduce disease in an effort to cripple the industry they hate so much.

When a person is willing to go that far, to destroy the very thing they are trying to protect, to disregard all collateral damage.

Is that not the very definition of a terrorist?

I'll make you a deal Mr Potter, farmers will stop treating animal rights activists like terrorists, as soon as they stop acting like terrorists.      




  1. I LOVE this!!! Brilliant writing and agree with everything you have said!! Go the Farmers, they are the backbone of this country and we need them every single day of the week!