Has PETA lost the plot?

Do the right thing PETA - it's your obligation to animals

HAVE the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) completely lost perspective?

For their sake I hope their perspective doesn't lie with three protesters, including one dressed incognito as lamb, on George Street, Sydney, last week.

PETA doesn't do itself any favours in gaining credibility when they stage a "protest" against the wool industry that's turns out to be merely a footpath gathering outside Australian Wool Innovation's headquarters at the HSBC building.

Kudos to PETA for knowing how to work the media, even if its message is lost in translation.

PETA have a tendency to rain on the sheep industry's parades - last July they released a video about "systemic abuse" by shearers that was allegedly "rampant in Australian sheds" during the country's premier lamb event, LambEx, in Adelaide.

They hit out again a fortnight ago timing their scourge on the industry with Australian Wool Week PETA's case against Boorungie Station hit the headlines which included alleged swearing at sheep, this was followed up by the three-person "protest" about abuse at Boorungie Station and that "Wool is F*#@ing Cruel".

We get the point PETA - you have identified some very bad eggs in the industry through eyewitness accounts and obtaining undercover footage.

While there is no way I want to defend the abhorrent abuse that was captured PETA in shearing sheds, I'm concerned about the fact they gather this information and are bystanders to the abuse to but then choose to hold onto the footage.

I just don't get why they think they have the right to sit on the footage while they build their cases and coincidentally release it when the lamb and wool industries are having a moment in the limelight.

Would a person in their right mind collect footage of paedophile but wait until they had footage from nine locations across two continents until they submitted it to authorities?

Why should sheep be any different to humans? Isn't that PETA's plea after all, to be a voice for animals that have no voice?

But yet they chose to stand by with a camera and capture a "shearer beating a sheep with clippers". Doesn't that make them an accessory to the abuse?

If they reported the first instance straight away the "bad eggs" could have been weeded out straight away and more sheep would not have endured the abuse that PETA continued to capture.

I know writing this column for an agricultural audience is preaching to the converted - we all know that industry bodies are doing their best.

In an era where just about everyone carries a mobile phone equipped with a video camera we could all make things look much worse than they are or use altered footage in a defamatory manner.

In my office today I could make a video, back it with some music, add the title "Wasted wages at Wagga" and send it off to the company's CEO.

All I need to do it get a few seconds of footage of a person with their eyes closed, three people huddled around a desk looking at a slide show of holiday snaps, and a couple of ladies having a chin wag in the tea room.

Put together it would paint a pretty bad picture - but the reality could be the person captured "sleeping on the job" could have been at work since 5am, have a splitting headache and screen fatigue and rested their eyes for three seconds; the people looking at photos could be on their lunch break, as too the ladies in the tea room; but sadly a YouTube video doesn't always tell the true story.

The point being: don't believe everything you read or see - sadly the colour of money can make people lose their morals and no one except those present with the cameras and featured in the footage know what happened and the context in which it occurred.

Recently I spent a day out at Colane Station near Nyngan in the New South Wales central west- there were 12 shearers on deck - from my "eyewitness" account there was no abuse. At lunch time one shearer was doing his back exercises and the rest were literally flat out enjoying a well-earned break and some refuge from the heat. Oh I did find one rogue shearer who strayed from the mob - he was making a gherkin sandwich by his ute.

That said, just like the people in the wool industry that do the right thing, there are no doubt people in PETA who do the right thing. I have interviewed PETA Australia's representative Claire Fryer and she seemed like a lovely person, but our opinions clearly don't align.

In fact, if your opinion or a story written about PETA doesn't align with their plight you are bound to get a letter threatening legal action from their head office in Washington. I know this as I received one after I reported shearer’s opinions following the release of video footage from PETA last July.

In talking with Ms Fryer, her opinion was sheep shouldn't be farmed - I just don't get that concept either.

Does PETA want them to become extinct? Or should they left to run wild until their legs snap under the weight of their wool or they become flystruck?

I think if PETA tried to be more proactive than reactive and moved away from tactical plays with the media and remembered their cause - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, not People with Animal Abuse for Entertainment - they would be of much greater service.

This is a nation that has long rode on the sheep's back and few pesky people gathered on a footpath aren't going to derail the sheep and wool game.

Do the right thing PETA - it's your obligation to animals.


Cara Jeffery

is the national sheep and wool writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.


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