THE animal rights activist behind the Aussie Farms website says his work stemmed from his initial involvement publishing video footage two years ago after an approach from Animal Liberation ACT and NSW.
Chris Delforce said the two animal rights groups had obtained video footage inside Wally’s Piggery at Murrumbateman, about 30 kilometres from Canberra, and asked him to create a website, which launched Aussiepigs.com.
Media exposure of the piggery’s animal handling practices led to public outrage and 53 animal cruelty charges being laid after pigs were seen being beaten with a sledgehammer and other shocking vision.
Mr Delforce said after the Wally’s Piggery expose, Animal Liberation ACT and NSW obtained more footage that was also added to the website.
He said Animal Liberation then decided to turn the website's attention on the whole industry, rather than just on the one piggery and making it seem like a one-off.
The two State groups then had to pull out of the campaign “because of a few legal issues mostly”, he said.
But he said the campaign was “growing so much we decided it was better to create a new organisation to cover it”.
“My idea coming into it was that I wanted to show people that animal cruelty does happen in Australia,” he said.
“This line that everyone says ‘oh it doesn’t happen here, that’s just over in America’, I wanted to prove that wrong, which is why I’m focussing on Aussie-pigs (and) Aussie Farms.”
Mr Delforce said Aussie Farms was a small volunteer run organisation comprising full time students or other members with full time jobs.
“They say things like we manipulate footage yet they’re never able to provide an example of how we’ve manipulated footage”
He said they received the footage anonymously and reviewed it extensively before editing the vision into a more condensed package to post online.
They also promoted the video footage on Facebook and distributed media releases in the hope of sparking media interest.
“It just happens to be that I’m able to look through footage and put it online and keep the website up to date and that sort of thing,” he said.
“There wasn’t really anyone who wanted to front the media, I certainly didn’t want to, but it just sort of happened that my name got put to it.”
Mr Delforce said he’d never trespassed himself to gather the video footage, nor was it something he wanted to do.
Neither does he meet with the people who do the trespassing to gather the video, he said.
“I don’t know who they are,” he said.
Mr Delforce said he had a post office box and received an email notifying him when something had arrived.
He said sometimes he also received emails with a link to a file sharing website to access the footage, stressing it was easy to create an untraceable email address.
Mr Delforce said Aussie Farms had no formal links with other animal rights groups like Animals Australia but they had recently shared footage taken at a facility in Corowa.
Mr Delforce said the majority of industry criticism he’s seen and read about the Aussie Farms campaign and his work are just “lies”.
“They say things like we manipulate footage yet they’re never able to provide an example of how we’ve manipulated footage,” he said.
“I don’t understand how they’re saying that we’ve manipulated footage of a shed with sow stalls.
“What can you manipulate there?
“The fact is that there are thousands of animals trapped in cages - there’s no manipulation happening there.
“It’s literally just showing people what is happening and that itself is pissing people off (and) it’s annoying farmers because it’s showing what they’re getting away with legally.
“(This) is not about those few farmers who go way off the track and break the law and commit real horrific crimes.
“I’m more interested in showing people what the standards are - what the farmers believe is okay - and if they believe it’s okay, then why do they have an issue with it being shown?”
Becoming an activist
Born in Adelaide, Chris Delforce has been living in the ACT for 17 years and turned vegetarian at age 10.
He was interested in human rights issues during his teenage years which led to him touring Zambia, South Africa and Indonesia, with aid organisations looking at various projects that also involved web design.
But the 23-year-old felt he was having little impact on overseas aid issues and decided to move onto the vegan world.
Mr Delforce said he started finding vegan friends in Canberra in his teen years which saw him start a university-based organisation called, The Youth Vegetarian Association.
He said the new vegetarian movement, “didn’t really get anywhere but he “had a go”.
“It got my name out there, so the local activist scene knew who I was,” he said.
When he first became a vegetarian, it was motivated by an idea that animals probably don’t want to be eaten or killed and “it’s not in their interests”, he said.
“It was a fairly superficial reason I suppose, but then a few years later I started getting into the philosophy behind it and questioning exactly what was wrong with this system that exploits and kills billions of animals every year,” he said.
Mr Delforce said he then started watching video footage of animal farming practices and was moved to action by a well-known documentary called Earthlings about society’s treatment of animals.
Most of the documentary footage is based on US farming but a lot of it also applies to Australian practices, he said.
“I suppose I had this feeling, as every vegetarian does, that if people were to see this footage, if they were to see this treatment, they would not support it.”
'Humane slaughter' an oxymoron: Delforce
He believes livestock farming and production is “a great injustice” that’s only allowed to continue because people don’t know about it, due to the “concerted effort by these industries to hide it and to keep it secret and behind closed doors”.
Mr Delforce said trawling through hours of footage from abattoirs and piggeries or other facilities was “absolutely tough”.
“At times I feel hopeless, seeing the scale of this issue,” he said.
Mr Delforce said his ethical choice to be an animal rights activist and vegan was also based on environmental values and impacts on Third World nations.
He said people in those countries were all starving but “so much food is going into producing very small amounts of meat, so it’s an inefficient system”.
“I think it’s an injustice system that can be compared to the slave trade, where people thought they had every right to own slaves because African Americans didn’t have rights, and they were the property of their owners,” he said.
“I see that as being a very similar situation now where these animals are viewed as simply property, they don’t have rights (and) they’re not viewed as individuals with personalities with desires and everything else that they have.”
Mr Delforce considers the term “humane slaughter” to be an oxymoron.
He said if an animal doesn’t want to die and it’s being killed for personal benefit, whether that’s money or food or entertainment, “I don’t think that can be considered humane”.
“One method of slaughter might be more humane than another, it might involve less suffering, but even if the animal is completely stunned and they fall asleep and there’s no pain, I still don’t believe that’s okay,” he said.
“Regardless of what farmers try to say, those animals do want to live, they do have an interest in living and enjoying their experience in life.
“For us to say ‘no, that’s enough we’re going to kill you now because we want to make money from you’ I don’t see that as being morally acceptable.”