THE Australian Greens have voted against a motion to condemn People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for its recent misleading campaign against the Australian wool industry.
The motion was moved in the Senate on Tuesday by NSW Nationals Senator John Williams.
Agreed to by the Senate, the motion said that for over 100 years the Australian economy was said to be 'riding on the sheep's back'.
It said wool was the nation’s third largest agricultural export with gross value of production in 2013-14 of $2.53 billion, while wool exports were valued at $2.87b.
The motion stated that shearers and wool producers are hardworking people with strong animal welfare ethics.
But activist group PETA had admitted its picture of a supposed bloodied lamb - which featured in the campaign with Californian based musician Jona Weinhofen - was a fake used to mislead the Australian community “to the detriment of the wool industry”.
Senator Williams said the campaign was “a disgraceful slur on the shearers and the wool industry as a whole”.
“Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce describes as 'a pack of lies' the campaign video by animal rights group PETA,” he said.
“Mr Joyce said that the video star, guitarist Jona Weinhofen from the band I Killed the Prom Queen, was a man 'living in vegan splendour' in California and who had little knowledge of shearing practices in Australia.
“Being a shearer for some 27 years part time, I know the care that the shearers take in looking after the sheep, as do the graziers as well.
“We get emails from Ms Claire Fryer, campaign co-ordinator of PETA Australia, and phone calls to Senator Heffernan, saying that we should not be running sheep.
“I hope that these people do not have woollen jumpers, woollen suits or woollen coats in their wardrobes, making hypocrites of themselves.”
Senator Williams said the wool industry had built “this modern nation of Australia through wool exports”.
“The people who work in the industry are good, hardworking, decent people and they do not deserve to have this propaganda spread against them,” he said.
NSW Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said Greens senators did not support the motion and “we note the constructive work that PETA undertakes to end cruelty carried out against animals”.
Green's policy conclusions
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said new Green’s leader Senator Richard Di Natale had some tough decisions to make on farming and agricultural issues, like supporting PETA and opposing genetically modified (GM) crops.
“If you follow the Green’s policy through to its conclusion, with everything they want, there won’t be agriculture in Australia and we’ll be broke,” he told Fairfax Media.
“The challenge is for Richard to lay down his strategic view of where agriculture should go but it can’t be fanciful rubbish.
“The Greens have to make some tough decisions, for instance are they on the side of PETA or not?
“If he’s on the side of PETA you can forget about the wool and cattle and pig and chicken industries and you can forget about a soft commodity industry in Australia because everything else is attached to it.
“So they’ve got some hard decision to make there,” he said.
“There are some groups in Australia if you try and placate them all you do is completely isolate yourself from the Australian people.
“This food production task requires the smarts and to do it in the best way you have to have the best technology.
“But if you don’t believe in GM you’d have to take your shirt off because 99 per cent of it is GM cotton.”
Ms Fryer said PETA Australia had not admitted its picture of a supposed bloodied lamb was a fake used to mislead the Australian community to the detriment of the wool industry.
She said the lamb in the advert was indeed a prop.
“However, the only misleading information being circulated is by the wool industry, who is desperately attempting to distract from the very real issue of the abuse of sheep by shearers,” she said.