Animal Liberation Tasmania would like to offer a formal comment to address statements made by Jan Davis in her opinion piece, Protest without breaking the law. (Talking Point, The Mercury, August 16).
Firstly, much of this opinion piece is centred around the theme of “what about the children.” This is despite there not being one single recorded case of a child encountering an investigative activist inside a piggery, battery farm or slaughterhouse, nor of an activist entering a farmer’s home. Indeed, the media and community outrage should such a thing ever occur would not only be deafening, it would be justified.
What has been recorded, however, are hundreds of individual and collective acts of animal cruelty within these facilities. Aussiefarms.org.au contains files, images and footage from 14 slaughterhouses, over 40 piggeries, 12 broiler chicken farms, four egg farms and hatcheries, two rabbit farms, two duck farms and one turkey farm. Two of those slaughterhouses listed are local Tasmanian operators, Gretna Meatworks and Tasmanian Quality Meats in Cressy.
This is irrefutable evidence of animal cruelty within the animal production and slaughtering industries, adding to an extensive body of evidence collected over decades of activist-led investigations.
Ms. Davis also raises the concern of disease transmission. Again, there has been no case in which a disease outbreak in an animal agricultural facility has been attributed to activists.
Furthermore, countless investigations have uncovered the filthy conditions farmed animals are often forced to endure, examples of which can be seen on the Aussie Farms website. Perhaps Ms. Davis should take her concerns over disease transmission to the producers themselves, who allow this poor animal husbandry to occur despite it being a known risk factor for disease outbreaks.
One thing Ms. Davis is correct about is her assertion that farmers and abattoirs are facing increased scrutiny by activists and protesters. This is because consumers deserve to know the truth. Not the “truth” promoted by the industries themselves, with happy animal labelling, slick TV adverts and online campaigns. Not the “truth” that promotes the increased consumption of animal products through industry-funded research.
The actual truth.
Animal agricultural practices necessitate cruelty to animals at the most fundamental level. And as we have too often seen, the regulations that are supposedly designed with animal welfare in mind are frequently applied loosely, or are entirely ignored with flagrant disregard, even in the presence of on-site CCTV cameras.
Ms Davis emphasises her trust in the law, however it has been proven time and again that approaching the police, DPI or RSPCA are not effective methods to addressing issues of animal cruelty within these facilities. First, much of that which is uncovered is industry standard practice, and as such would not be of interest to the relevant authorities. In fact, not only are many of these practices legal, they are endorsed by the RSPCA as being “humane” or at least “less cruel” than other options. Furthermore, when breaches are uncovered, there is no penalty for the perpetrators.
Taking Tasmania as a specific example, the DPI has utterly failed to act on the allegations of animal cruelty at Gretna Meatworks (October 2016) and Tasmanian Quality Meats (December 2016). Indeed, it is looking increasingly likely that no action whatsoever is to be taken, despite clear breaches of the Animal Welfare Act (1993) being documented. And RSPCA Tasmania cannot investigate cases of this size and nature, due to their Memorandum of Understanding with the DPI.
This leaves us with the consumer, as Ms. Davis so rightly points out, as being the most effective motivator for change. But how can the consumer trust an industry that operates behind closed doors? How are they able to make informed choices based only on information provided to them by an industry with a vested interest in maintaining continued consumption? Lack of industry transparency is the reason this discussion is needed to be had at all.
It is too easy to forget that at the heart of all this are the animals. The 700 million who face the knife in Australia annually, and the millions more who are kept for laying or breeding purposes in facilities across Australia. Beings who despite their proven ability to think, feel and suffer (as acknowledged by the very existence of welfare regulations) are regarded as little more than units of production, profit margins and barcodes.
Ms Davis reassures us that society will progress such that what activists protest now will one day not be acceptable, but how can she imagine this will happen if she wants the very catalyst of this progression to be stopped?
Activists and protesters will continue to advocate not only for the welfare of these animals, but for their inherent rights. Not out of any misguided sense of legal impunity or maliciousness towards farmers, and certainly not for any financial gain. But because no one else is taking their lives and voices into consideration.