The political influence of anti-animal agriculture groups is on the rise with two senior figures in the Federal Labor Government also high profile advocates of animal rights group Voiceless.
Newly appointed foreign minister and former NSW premier Bob Carr is a councillor of Voiceless, an animal rights group that seeks to end livestock exports, intensive chicken and pig farming and commercial kangaroo harvesting.
Voiceless was founded by former multi-millionaire banker Brian Sherman in 2004 with a mission to “bring the institutionalised suffering of animals to the forefront of Australia’s agenda; ensuring that animal protection is the next great social justice movement.”
The organisation funds public campaigns, engages lawyers to progress animal rights causes, and provides grants to groups with vegetarian and vegan alignments.
A profile on the Voiceless website said Mr Carr’s desire to promote a more ethical relationship between humans and animals led to the formation of his strong relationship with Voiceless in 2008.
“His commitment to diverting public attention towards animal welfare issues as a Voiceless Council member has never been stronger, as he continues to encourage the phasing out of cage eggs and the use of sow stalls in pig farming through his writing and myriad speaking engagements.”
In his personal blog Mr Carr recently criticised the use of hormonal growth promotants in the Australian beef industry, describing it as “cruel, chemical dependent farming practice”.
“According to the paper (Australian Financial Review) about 40 per cent of the 7.5 million head of cattle slaughtered in Australia each year are raised using HGPs. I hope that’s triggering a round of projectile vomitng: like you, I don’t want to eat meat with hormones.”
He said that market pressure was the key getting change in such practices.
“Voiceless is an organisation advocating on behalf of animals. I am a strong supporter.”
Also on the Voiceless Council is Ken Henry, former Federal Treasury Secretary and now a special advisor to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Voiceless recently launched a television advertising campaign against intensive animal agriculture in Australia.
Voiceless chief executive officer Dana Campbell told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time that Voiceless’ strategy was to make the public “emotional” and to direct that emotion towards politicians.
''We all know how politics works; it's not going to go anywhere unless politicians know there are votes behind those opinions,'' Ms Campbell said.
The report said Channel Nine and Channel Seven had promised Voiceless free television advertising spots.
Last year in the wake of the Four Corners program showing video footage of cruelty inside Indonesian abattoirs, Voiceless founders Brian and Ondine Sherman said the vision indicated that the same conditions existed across most Indonesian abattoirs that process Australian cattle – a claim the industry and Government has repeatedly rejected.
Cattle Council of Australia said Voiceless was an organisation at the "more extreme end" of the animal rights spectrum.
“They have a focus of opposing factory farming, however we can assume that they are really opposed to animal agriculture in any form,” CCA executive director David Inall said.
“Voiceless has been quite pivotal in the movement to use legal channels and hence have a number of animal rights lawyers that provide them with pro-bono legal support on any cases or work that they do on the legal area with regard to animal rights.
“They are certainly very strong in the vegan area, and hence they are not an organisation that we ever have or ever would engage with.”
Mr Inall said the industry was heavily exposed to foreign markets and expected Australia’s foreign minister to support Australian agriculture.
“It (Mr Carr's strong support of Voiceless) is certainly something that we would harbour some concerns about, particularly given events of the last 12 months with regard to Indonesia,” Mr Inall said.
“I was in Indonesia when Kevin Rudd was there in June. It is our view that he did a fantastic job in pulling together a very difficult set of issues, and since then the trade has well and truly got back on track and we’re hoping it will go from strength to strength.
“So we would hope that Mr Carr is able to put aside any of his views in that area and to provide a very strong service for Australian agriculture, that is what we would expect of a foreign minister.”