Revelations about the alleged conduct and methods of Animals Australia have cast serious doubt over the integrity of the organisation and its motivations.
The National Farmers’ Federation, whose members include Sheep Producers Australia, Wool Producers Australia and the Cattle Council of Australia, has today expressed concern at the at-all-costs approach of Animals Australia’s campaign.
“Farmers more than any other interest group, want the mistreatment of livestock to be exposed and those found to be doing the wrong thing to be brought to account,” NFF President Fiona Simson said.
Ms Simson said payment for footage risked causing the very result the group was supposed to be calling out.
“It’s extremely concerning that Animals Australia has allegedly paid shipboard employees to obtain covert footage.
“It’s even more concerning that Animals Australia has failed to respond unequivocally to the compelling evidence that such payments are an ordinary part of its business model.
“When a cash reward is offered, it can act as an incentive to potentially misrepresent or manufacture circumstances where animals are indeed suffering.
“This risk is demonstrated in correspondence from the crew member in which he evidently made an offer to Animals Australia to switch off the ventilation in order to obtain footage of sheep panting.
“The taking of action based on such footage, without considering the context in which it was recorded, could cause significant detriment or even the demise of an industry, and hardship to the producers and communities who depend on the industry.”
Ms Simson said the activist group’s “questionable conduct” in no way diminished the seriousness of the problems raised in April.
“Farmers were horrified and appalled by the images broadcast by 60 Minutes.
“We felt shocked and let down that circumstances such as those on the Awassi Express were able to occur.
“Since April we have been working with exporters and Government to see measures put in place to guarantee animal welfare and a sustainable future for sheep exports. This process is ongoing.”
Sheep Producers Australia Chief Executive Officer Graham Smith said a live sheep export industry that met the welfare expectations of producers and the wider community was crucial to agriculture and regional Australia.
“Our trade relationship with many valued international markets provides farmers a choice in the avenue by which they market their sheep.
“Crucially, sheep export also delivers economic prosperity, in terms of employment, and in turn social benefits, to many regional towns.
“However, it is concerning that the questionable behaviour of one organisation could jeopardise an entire industry, and the communities which rely upon it, as well as the food supplies of other nations.
“This only further highlights why we need a calm and meaningful response to change from government leaders.”
Ms Simson said the antics of activists were increasingly “crossing a line”.
“Almost every day, we’re seeing examples of activists accessing farms without permission, seeking to disrupt the work our farmers do in growing food and fibre for Australia and the world.
“Importantly, farms are not just places of work but family homes. Unapproved access to a farm business is a very serious situation,” Ms Simson said.
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