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'