An open letter written by the Australian Farm Institute to celebrity fitness trainer Michelle Bridges in response to her comments criticising so-called ‘ag-gag laws’ has attracted national media attention this week.
One week ago Ms Bridges, who appears on Channel Ten’s Biggest Loser series, wrote a column in the Sydney Morning Herald discussing veganism and praising the work of Lyn White from Animals Australia for exposing the “cruel way we routinely treat the cows, pigs and sheep we eat”.
She condemned ag-gag laws which have been passed in some US states to prevent people from illegally entering and filming farming enterprises and criticised those in Australian agriculture who support similar bills being introduced here.
In response the Australian Farm Institute has written a tongue-in-cheek letter from “Bill Farmer” posing a challenge to Ms Bridges: let’s film you all day and see how you like it.
In the letter Mr Farmer suggests Ms Bridges is advocating breaking and entering, and suggests that to be fair, she should allow people to film her 24 hours a day before they can make a decision on whether the $200, 12 week online fitness course she offers on her website is worth paying for.
In a national news article drawing attention to the letter today, News.com online quoted the institute’s executive director Mick Keogh as saying the letter “was a lighthearted response to a serious issue”.
Bill Farmer’s letter is published in full below.
An open letter to Michelle Bridges about so-called ag-gag laws
Dear Michelle, my apologies for writing to you out of the blue and unannounced, but I hadn’t heard of you until today when I drove into town to pay some bills online at the school library. We don’t have internet at the farm and we don’t get newspapers delivered very often, so I was reading the Sydney Morning Herald online while I was there and noticed an article you wrote.
It was about a law the government is talking about introducing to stop people from illegally trespassing on farms and planting video cameras in pig and chook sheds to try and catch farmers mistreating their animals.
Apparently you don’t like the law, because you think people should be able to illegally enter farms and livestock facilities and plant secret cameras around the place, and then come back later and break in again and retrieve the cameras and the video footage.
I was pretty cranky about what you wrote because the people breaking into farms in the middle of the night have been terrifying farm families (farms are also where farm families live) and also breaking biosecurity rules that prevent the animals getting diseases.
Why they are bothering to break into these farms is a bit of a mystery – most of the local farmers I know are more than happy to have visitors call in, and so much the better if they want to stay a few days and help out.
You seem to think it’s OK to break into a farm and secretly film what is happening on account of the fact that you and your mates in the city want to be sure the food you are eating has come from farms that don’t treat their animals badly or break any laws. This is a bit surprising to me, as last time I was in the city and went to a supermarket I noticed that most of the pigmeat and nearly all the canned fruit and vegetables in the supermarket was imported from overseas countries that don’t have any of the rules we operate under here, so that left me wondering just how fussy you and your mates really are about where your food comes from.
I was so upset about what you had written, I had to go to the pub and have a beer to calm down. While I was there I asked Snowy, our local publican, who Michelle Bridges was. Turns out you are something called a personal trainer and lifestyle coach, and you spend a lot of time on TV telling people how they can get fit and lose weight. I had never heard of a lifestyle coach, but I could certainly do with a bit of fitness, so I thought it might be interesting to find out a bit more about what you do. I went back to the library and found your website online. It certainly looks impressive, but I still couldn’t work out how you could make money from your job.
Then I discovered your “12 week body transformation” which I can apparently sign up to for $200 and you will send me all sorts of advice about how I can get fitter and feel healthier. I tried to find out a bit more about what I would get for my $200, but there wasn’t much information available unless I joined up. It also looked to me like most of the information you would send me was delivered by the internet – which isn’t much use to me.
But then I got to thinking about how you think farmers should be under constant video surveillance so their customers can be sure about what they are getting. It struck me that perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea, especially for customers of personal trainers and lifestyle coaches.
The way I see it, if I was going to send you $200 for fitness and lifestyle advice, I would want to be sure that the advice was coming from someone who actually takes their own advice.
And the only way I can see to make sure you always follow your own advice would be for surveillance cameras to be put in your home, and for other cameras to follow you around and keep track of what you eat and drink and how much exercise you do, and for that video footage to be made available to all your customers.
That way they could be sure that you really do all the exercise you recommend and only consume the right food and drink, and that you don’t cheat by taking a few weight loss pills or having a bit of cosmetic surgery done to keep you looking good.
So, what about it Michelle? I’m happy to become your customer and take on your “12 week body transformation” course, but only if I can be absolutely sure you take your own advice, which means you will need to arrange video surveillance of yourself around the clock that your customers can check to make sure you’re not cheating.
Of course it will be a bit hard for me to see the video or take you advice if you post it online, but I’m sure you could send it out on a DVD every week or so.
Looking forward to being your customer,