Farmers must 'destroy' PETA

The wool industry must stand its ground, fight back, and not give an inch

THE PETA campaign against the wool industry, using a fake sheep that appears to have major shearing cuts, signals a new episode in the organisation’s long-standing crusade to demonise the industry.

And just as when it engaged in the campaign against mulesing, its goal is not to encourage improved animal welfare. Rather, the ultimate aim is to close down any livestock industry on the grounds that humans should not utilise animals for food, clothing or recreation.

The campaign is based on lies and misrepresentation. Serious shearing cuts are rare, good animal welfare is good for business, and farmers take care of their sheep. But PETA is not really arguing about these. They are the terrorists of the animal rights world, with a messianic ideology that they seek to impose on everyone else. And like terrorists elsewhere, their record shows they are willing to use violence to pursue their aims.

Predictably, most responses from the wool industry have been civil and soothing. The facts are on our side, they say. We are really serious about improving animal welfare. Maybe if we agreed to a little bit more regulation they’d be happy. And of course, why don’t we just sit down and work things out like nice people?

Here’s what I think – PETA are not nice people. If they talk to the industry, it is merely to gather information to use against it. They will compromise today, but only to give themselves time to commence a fresh attack tomorrow. Hysterical claims are what prompt donations from the gullible public. And the only reason they might leave the sheep industry alone for a time is because they are focusing on another sector, like chickens or pigs.

Quite simply, PETA is the enemy of the livestock industries. PETA must not only be defeated, it should be destroyed by any legal means available.

When PETA launched its campaign against mulesing a decade ago, Australian Wool Innovation adopted a strategy of appeasement. Millions of dollars were spent promoting alternative means of flystrike control and finding non-surgical alternatives to mulesing. As a consultant at the time, I had a small role in seeking commercial partners for some of these alternatives.

In the end it became obvious that AWI had misjudged its members. Mulesing is cheap, effective and, especially compared to flystrike, totally defensible. As I predicted to AWI at the time, wool producers simply refused to give it up. Moreover, the market for wool from unmulesed sheep, supposedly driven by garment manufacturers and retailers intimidated by PETA, never developed. In the end it is consumers, not retailers, who make markets. The PETA roar was exposed as the squeak of an impotent mouse.

The wool industry should not forget that lesson. PETA is not invincible; it can be challenged and beaten.

There are many ways in which the fight can occur, and it is likely it won’t be limited to one. In the court of public opinion there are social media and mainstream media, where opinions can be influenced. In the courts of justice there are criminal and civil remedies against such things as trespass, incitement, malicious damage, defamation and nuisance. And of course there is the court of political opinion, where politicians with little knowledge of and no interest in the sheep industry might find themselves being asked to do something.

But wherever the fight takes place, there should be no appeasement. Any step backwards, even of a minor nature, will never be regained. The wool industry must stand its ground, fight back, and not give an inch.

David Leyonhjelm

David Leyonhjelm

has worked in agribusiness for 30 years and is a Senator for NSW representing the Liberal Democrats.
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Colin Blackhall
22/04/2015 10:24:43 AM

Hi David, couldn't agree with you more. PETA has consistently demonstrated they are obsessed with their own self centered approach. they don't care about who they hurt. Industry bodies must present consistently counter arguments to the powers that be to avoid another knee jerk farce that led to banning live cattle exports. A small minority do the wrong thing and should be stopped. No sensible farmer harms animals and they feel and care for their stock. Surprise, surprise eh! Those who know what really occurs need to communicate the true position. At least you are a strong voice in Canberra.
22/04/2015 10:43:02 AM

You've got it right - Total war, and total defeat is the only option. Churchill not Chamberlain.
Chick Olsson
22/04/2015 3:11:37 PM

crazy crazy talk David. The wool industry ( AWI ) tried such an approach with an inflammatory federal court case in 2007, which only made matters worse. Peta want you to act like this, beat your chest and talk about " we are at war". All it does is inflame the matter and helps them raise more funds.
Peter Williams
22/04/2015 9:03:56 PM

I'm with David.
23/04/2015 6:51:05 AM

Chick Ollson does it again, first he rebuffed Alison Penfold for her call on RSPCA for what it is and now you disagree with David who I believe is correct in his approach. Get real, Chick, if you aren't prepared to help protect agriculture's future then refrain from making public comment that seeks to give air to the likes of PETA.
23/04/2015 7:39:00 AM

Who are you fighting? PETA will have a clever corporate/charity structure where no one has any responsibility for what is said or done in PETA's name. This is why they can get away with defaming people and industries and there is no legal recourse. Until this is changes PETA will get away with telling lies to influence city people who have no idea about how farmers look after their animals. Poor husbandry is poor farming.
23/04/2015 11:55:15 AM

And the softly, softly, approach has worked so well Chick. AWI folded giving PETA the victory they wanted. It was the wool growers who stood their ground and saved the day. When they lie - hold them to account. If you stand, others will stand with you, if you run so will they. Stand, and the retailers, media, and general public, will stand with us. But we must stand first.
23/04/2015 1:26:39 PM

Challenge them & their bullshit at every step . Don't bother doing it in a dusty law court that takes years . They need instantaneous smack downs like what happened on The Project . Play the media game , embarrass the personalties used by Peta like what happened with Pink .The personalities won't stand up to scrutiny in the reason & facts game .
23/04/2015 1:59:45 PM

donkey vote. get out of the way and pass Govt legislation you decimal point.
Chick Olsson
23/04/2015 6:19:13 PM

Dear Mike, you might notice that you are the one actually mentioning the name of the rights group, giving them air, allowing them to get public attention. btw Mike, why tell us who you are if you are man enough?
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Agribuzz with David LeyonhjelmCommentary, news and analysis with agribusiness consultant David Leyonhjelm. Email David at


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