Pulped fiction hurts farmers

It’s time to wipe your mouth and get a bit of s**t on your boots

I FIND it sad when people make decisions about what to eat or not to eat based on assumptions or skewed information about agricultural production. Many vegans, especially in Australia, are an example of this worrying trend.

It’s hard for people to determine the difference between information that is universally true and that which confirms their bias or values – but even with that in mind, it must take a brain devoid of inquisitiveness to shift ingrained behaviour like eating habits to suit a belief based on misinformation and no personal experience.

Add to that the side-serving of conditioning that many vegans try to deliver and you've got a message hard to digest - case in point is columnist Sam De Brito.

De Brito writes for Fairfax metros The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. On Saturday he published a piece labelled “confessions of a vegan”. It demonstrated a soft spot for ignorance and a taste for truly heinous art. If you’ve read De Brito before, you may be familiar with his adjective-laden style and self righteous tone.

With a view of Australian farming which seems purely derived from activist propaganda, he went to town plugging a cause built on generalisation, misinformation and outright lies to put an end to farming animals.

His article led me to believe that De Brito assumes all farming is ‘factory farming’. It makes mention of “spooning the misery of other creatures into my mouth” and claims the “food you so blithely eat actually causes massive, lifelong, completely avoidable suffering to billions of animals”.

This is news to me, and I work in the industry.

This kind of diatribe makes my blood boil - it adds fuel to the fire of misinformation that rips through urban Australia without shedding new light on the issue.

And the issue here to me is that De Brito’s reckless writing - along with that of others equally as gullible and artless - reaches (even influences) audiences also unaware of what actually happens in their own primary industries. They would have us take up the most unrealistic, unsustainable, inefficient and uneconomical methods as solutions to incidents far removed from their comprehension.

On Sunday, ABC Landline's Pip Courtney interviewed filmmaker Michael Dahlstrom, whose film The Animal Condition just premiered at the Melbourne Film Festival. It charts the journey of animal welfare in Australia from a fringe issue to major community concern. What started out as an activist-driven film to expose parts of Australian animal production that use intensive farming, changed tack as Michael spoke with farmers and saw for himself the complexity of the issues involved. He’s reserved judgement and now also leaves that up to the viewer.

It’ll be great to see an independent movie that leaves the sensationalised (and often US-inspired) views behind to let audiences have a tiny snapshot into the issue and those factions of Australian agriculture that farm intensively.

I was once hauled over the coals by angry readers for likening the propaganda and tactics of animal activist groups to Hitler's Nazi regime. While I had no intention of causing offence to Holocaust survivors and victims, I stand by that analogy - and see some activists use the same language. The Animal Holocaust exhibition by Gold Coast artist Jo Fredricks is applauded and recommended by De Brito in his article.

And while I may not know art, I know what I like - this particular exhibition, dare I say it, is a bit too “Gold Coast” for my taste.

Last October De Brito wrote a very ‘pro-farming’ piece that spruiked an industry which successfully feeds and clothes Australia - and millions more. In that piece he wrote how “easy (it is) to forget there's a vast green, brown and red expanse of agricultural land inside the coastal ring of our cities that fills our bellies and contributes $36 billion to our exports”.

He warned readers they’d hear more of agriculture with Nationals leader Warren Truss now the Deputy PM and even expressed a wish “to learn how to operate a Massey combine harvester” and speculated: "Who knows, we might even see the odd animal husbandry course inserted into compulsory subjects along such 'real world' lessons as balancing a budget or applying for a personal loan?"

I offered to take Sam out to drive a harvester, but never heard back. After Saturday's article, I’d offer again to show him around some farms that produce some of the best food in the world to the highest global standards - without compromising animal health.

Either way, Sam, it’s about time to wipe your mouth and get a bit of s**t on your boots.

Read Sam de Brito's 'Confessions of a vegan'

Sam Trethewey

Sam Trethewey

grew up farming down south and now commentates on agriculture across Australia
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


5/08/2014 6:11:33 AM

How do know if someone is a vegan? - Don't worry, they will tell you! Religious self righteousness, has been around forever. There were probably cave men trying to browbeat the rest of the clan, into being as miserable as them. The general population don't buy this crap, the problem is lazy politicians trying to pickup a few easy votes.
Rob Moore
5/08/2014 6:30:55 AM

Great article Sam- take it up to the airheaded basket weavers!
5/08/2014 6:36:59 AM

Hi Sam, I understand the point you're making and the article was quite a good read to be honest, but as a producer in the middle of this battle I really don't think a headline including "get a bit of s**t on your boots" is helping anyone. You are in an effective position within this paper to be able to represent us meat-loving Australians and use your words (which were so much better later in the article) to uphold the image of Australian Producers - so please don't ruin it with red-neck headlines and shock-tactics against others who might not feel the same way. They have to live here too.
Rob Moore
5/08/2014 6:50:48 AM

So as per usual "Concerned"- the miniscule minority gets sway over the huge majority. Who cares what they think - they will never be our customers.
5/08/2014 6:59:16 AM

Sam, I'm with 'Concerned' - it is very populist to bash vegans, but I don’t know that it advances agriculture. But it does sell papers I guess. Ag hides from the fact it does have operators that don’t stand up to scrutiny - and they probably do more damage than the odd vegan. Your best articles are those that challenge ag readers, not follow the ag herd mentality. Cheers.
5/08/2014 7:23:54 AM

Concerned......oh come off it and get into the real world. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with the headline, and telling the jouno to get some sh*t on his boots is so far removed from anything even resembling shock tactics.
5/08/2014 8:24:25 AM

Well said Sam! Sam De Brito has no idea what harm he is doing to people who really do ensure animals have a comfortable and healthy life. What a load of arrant ignorance De Brito spouts! Unfortunately there are plenty of equally ignorant people who will swallow this rubbish. This is all because agriculture's peak body (supposedly NFF) has failed to protect Ag's social licence through education in the cities.
5/08/2014 8:39:42 AM

Keep on promoting the healthy red stuff and consumers will keep lining up for it. Dispell the negative health effects which have been manufactured by the anti meat brigade. The welfare angle is losing traction because over time people become desensitised. It has been a brilliant campaign but in the end meat is still delicious and healthy. Look at the world's carnivores, they ain't dieing from heart attacks!
angry australian
5/08/2014 10:12:14 AM

Well said Sam. You cannot appease terrorists, the industry has to rid themselves of the Chamberlains and let in the Churchill's, for there can be no peace in our time. The fishing industry has all but disappeared up its own a*** because it thought it could deal with people like De Brito, for them their income is safe, many are teachers,nurses,academics and public servants.As Qlander alluded they are religious zealots and to them the ends justify the means.
5/08/2014 10:22:55 AM

Actually the majority of modern medical research on the subject shows that heavy meat eaters ARE dying of heart attacts. That's if stroke and bowel cancer haven't got them first. We're only 20 years or so away from viewing meat consumption the way we once viewed smoking. And factless propagandists such as Trethewey will be in the dock.
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Get MuddyTo think clearly in farming and about farming, you need to get muddy - commit, roll up your sleeves and get involved. SAM TRETHEWEY gets stuck into some of the issues facing those on the land.


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