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 2:26:18 PM

Sam, May I suggest that you and your fellow 'vegan bashers' have a read of this. http://wp.me/p4rioa-Jj
5/08/2014 3:05:40 PM

Carolyn, you do know that our maker actually placed many animals on earth to feed humans, just as he did with plants.
5/08/2014 3:18:31 PM

Why is it that some in society always want to "inform" the rest of us of our errors. Why are the vegans so insecure about your choice that you feel the need to justify it at every opportunity? I don't care what you eat, are you all so self obsessed that you believe people want to know you choices and beliefs? Why do you have to right to enforce your beliefs on others and destroy the food supply chain for your fellow man, your children and grandchildren. Most farmers grow grain and livestock but cannot survive on grain alone, have a think about that and the consequences.
5/08/2014 3:54:23 PM

Cant we all just get along?
5/08/2014 4:15:58 PM

Killing an animal (for food and other by products), or exploiting an animal (for eggs dairy etc) IS compromising their health. The baby male chicks that get minced up alive due to the egg industry are getting their health compromised. The bobby calves only a few days old sent to slaughter with no liquids for up to 30 hours are having their health compromised. The sow that can't move because of the prison she is in with sores festering on her body sure is having her health compromised. To say these things don't happen is a lie. (And, yes, I grew up on a farm)
5/08/2014 4:28:06 PM

The operative word used was heavy (heavy meat eaters) fortunately the general population does not live on red meat alone. So we can safely continue eating a healthy diet of red meat, vegetables and fruit. Why don’t you focus on the unhealthy imported fruit and vegetables, it’s not going to take 20yrs for modern medical research to find chemical residue from dangerous chemicals banned from Australia agriculture.
5/08/2014 5:19:09 PM

I think we should wake up to the divide and conquer mentality of the extremists. Vegetarians and vegans are legitimate and valued clients, the food they eat does not grow on a petrie dish, it is also grown by farmers. It is not us vs them. Most vegans and vegetarians are just ordinary Aussies who have quietly (or not) made a choice about what they eat. We are being played. Listen to us ranting about 'vegans' as if they are evil. We need to give ourselves an uppercut and wake up to the tactics of the zealots.
5/08/2014 7:21:27 PM

Have to say I'm glad to live in Australia if this is going to be our biggest issue. A anti-meat debate is a "first world" problem. There is not many higher sources of protein than red meat. There are vast tracks of the globe completely unsuitable to crop production and only suitable for grazing purposes, which actually can enhance the natural landscape and carbon cycle. Keep on grazing and eating red meat I say!!
5/08/2014 8:25:58 PM

The anti meat brigade is also well funded. Imagine receiving a wage to troll around the blogs of agricultural websites? That is what you are up against. But the fact still remains meat is delicious and cholesterol ain't bad for you. 60% of it is manufactured by your own body. Veganism is actually a modern day anomaly made possible by pills and dietary supplements. No thanks, not for me ...
6/08/2014 4:49:22 AM

Wow, the language in this article and the comments, astonishing :-O So those who don't believe in killing an animal and who choose to eat well without the pain are now terrorists? You all keep banging on about vegos being the fringe and a minority, yet you can't seem to stop talking about them. Really, take a good hard look at yourselves, you have clearly lost the plot.
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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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