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 11:25:34 AM

David Harrison
5/08/2014 11:58:46 AM

PorcaMiseria, may I suggest that it is the lack of a BALANCED diet that is causing heart attacks/stroke/bowel cancer, not simply being a heavy meat eater. Include smoking, lack of exercise and you have a sure fire remedy for the above problems. Everything in moderation. The same thinking could be applied to the discussions in this forum.
angry australian
5/08/2014 12:25:00 PM

Really PorcaMiseria, I will give you any odds you want to name on that prediction. I cannot envisage over a billion Chinese or 1.6 billion Muslims forgoing the need to eat meat.Let alone the vast majority of the rest of the world population, bud you really need a lamb chop the lack of iron is affecting your thinking.
5/08/2014 12:35:39 PM

So somebody chooses a life philosophy based on compassion for all living creatures and that makes you defensive and angry? No wonder there is so much misery in the world. You are what you eat!
Lily T
5/08/2014 12:42:12 PM

As usual, the true reason the majority of people are vegan has been missed by a mile. It seems that meat eaters either can't comprehend the issue, or (more likely) that they choose not to understand. Bashing vegans might be trendy, but rest assured, those who farm animals are under the spotlight as never before, and that spotlight is only going to grow brighter. Many consumers now want to know how the animal was treated before he/she ended up on their plate, and most are appalled when they find out the truth.
5/08/2014 1:02:57 PM

It's not how harshly the animals are treated (though they are) nor how early they are slaughtered (though they are generally still babies) it's the fact that they are used at all. There is no need for the foods that are produced from these sentient animals. We can, and do, live very well without meat, dairy and eggs. As it's possible to live without killing, why wouldn't we?
5/08/2014 1:15:02 PM

I'm 85 and play tennis twice a week and live an active life. I have eaten meat all my life as part of a balanced diet. My heart is as good as gold. Nothing better than a scotch fillet on the BBQ.
David Harrison
5/08/2014 1:21:23 PM

Lily T, given that I enjoy meat products, I will admit to not understanding why vegans make the lifestyle choice that they have. Having said that, you seem to have fallen into the generalisation that ALL meat eaters/animal producers are of the same ilk. Is bashing vegans so very different to bashing farmers? I raise my own animals, care for them, ensure their needs are met. At the end of the day, I raise them for consumption. This doesn't mean I care for them any the less. If I may ask, why is it that we see vegan/vegetarian food styled to look like the various cuts of meats?
5/08/2014 2:25:06 PM

You say you'd offer to take Sam out to some farms that produce some of the best food in the world - "without compromising animal health". It's amazing that the acceptance of the violence inherent in the animal agriculture industry is so entrenched in our culture and we consider it so incredibly "normal" to slaughter individuals who wish desperately to live, that any person could claim that slaughtering another being constitutes not compromising their health. Accepted social norms are very powerful, aren't they?
Rob T
5/08/2014 2:25:06 PM

Actually there is no farming practice that doesn't kill animals. If I stick a camera on my header and have a look at what goes thru put it on youtube hmmm. That doesn't even include the sowing. I Suspect that eating grass feed livestock causes less animal suffering than Tofu. The best we can do is go for minimum impact. As a wool grower I cannot believe the flak we cop for wool being "cruel" where as cotton gets of scott free. The minimum animal impact fiber is wool but nooooo. I think these Zealots should boycott all our products for a month that will teach us.
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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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