Tackling activism and telling red meat’s story are important, says MLA


Beef Central (Australia)

June 8, 2019


WITH anti-meat extremism attracting more attention in the media recently, the Australian red meat and livestock industry has been working to inform consumers about the health, welfare and environmental credentials of red meat and share the story of its production.


However producers want industry leaders to do more in this space and give them the information and resources to be better advocates, Meat & Livestock Australia suggests.


The high-profile demonstrations of recent months, which included trespassing on private property, continue to attract public attention, and are increasingly putting the practices of the red meat industry under the spotlight, it said.


While this is occurring against a backdrop in which most of the population in Australia continues to buy red meat as part of the weekly diet, the seriousness of the situation shouldn’t be underestimated, MLA managing director Jason Strong said.


In fact, activism and community sentiment were the most topical issues MLA is dealing with at present, he said.


“The red meat industry recognises the right of every citizen to protest, but it had to happen in a manner that did not put in harm’s way the safety of people or animals,” Mr Strong said.


“Trespass to protest is illegal, and interrupts and causes financial damage to legitimate businesses, including small family-owned businesses.


“The industry and business owners in it, including producers, are prepared to meet and discuss issues raised by activist protestors in a safe and respectful manner, and we invite and welcome such discussions.


“But no-one in the food supply chain should be placed in a situation where they have to defend themselves from physical attack, and the industry does not endorse – in any manner – aggressive business owner behaviour towards protestors,” Mr Strong said.


This illegal behaviour also poses serious food safety and biosecurity risks.


Industry representatives were advocating for a better position in relation to trespass laws and their application being in far more harmony across Australia, he said – one in which advocates from any organisation could sit down with industry and talk about their issues and concerns, a constructive and respectful engagement could be held.


The National Farmers Federation had issued guidelines to protect the safety of farmers and other supply chain partners, trespassers, animals, and equipment, in case of trespass to protest.


“However, it’s in no way ideal that a producer has to be prepared to manage an illegal trespass that places the safety of their animals, their employees, and often their families, at risk,” Mr Strong said.


Many producers were feeling enormous frustration and concern after repeated public attacks by vegans on their integrity and on their industry.


He reiterated the fact that the proportion of households that eat beef and lamb remains very high (beef was on the menu in more than 90pc of Australian households last year, and lamb in 76pc), and MLA market research continued to show consumers had a very positive view of the industry.


Community respect and appreciation for red meat producers was exceptionally high, MLA research shows.


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