A WIDELY telegraphed campaign of disruption and trespass has been undertaken by groups of anti-meat activists in several locations in three States this morning, generating mainstream media attention but also condemnation from political and industry leaders and waves of opposing comments on social media.
Protestors have blocked a major intersection in Melbourne causing peak hour traffic chaos, parked vehicles across roads to prevent transport access to meat processing plants and chained themselves to abattoir equipment.
At each protest activists held banners promoting the vegan film Dominion, which was released exactly 12 months ago to the day by the anti-farming activist who recently posted thousands of farm addresses online in a widely criticised “attack map” for vegan vigilantes on his Aussie Farms website.
This morning’s protests were flagged by vegan activist groups on social media last week, claiming the events would be the biggest anti-meat protests the world has ever seen.
In Victoria police had begun physically removing protestors from the intersection this morning while tow-trucks were called in to remove their vans covered in Dominion signage. In a statement released early this afternoon Victorian Police said they had arrested 38 people, including two 17-year-olds and a 15-year-old.
The protesters had been arrested in relation to obstructing a roadway, resisting or obstructing police, and “were assisting police with their enquiries” – more below
NSW Police have detained nine people who were arrested after chaining themselves to abattoir equipment in Goulburn this morning.
No arrests have been made against trespassing activists in Queensland, where the State Government yesterday said it was increasing powers to stop animal rights protesters invading farms.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the protesters as ‘green-collared criminals’ who were targeting drought and flood affected farmers who were going through some of the hardest conditions in more than a century and should face the “full force of the law”.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said if the aim of activists was to convert Australians to veganism today, they had done “huge damage to their cause”.
“Fair minded Australians find this behaviour extreme,” he said in a media statement.
At the time of publishing early this afternoon Federal Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten had not commented publicly on the protests.
Activist activity today has included:
– An estimated 100 activists blocked one of Melbourne’s busiest traffic and tram intersections at Flinders Street and Swanston Street during peak hour this morning.
– In the early hours of this morning an estimated 20 people chained themselves to equipment at Carey Brothers abattoir at Yangan near Warwick. Police said negotiations between the protestors and the abattoir led to three lambs being handed over to the activists who then left.
– Dairy farmers near Warwick told ABC they were confronted by activists outside their property about 6:30am after they had Carey Brothers abattoir. Farmer Jason Christensen said five or six cars pulled up near a herd of heifers and had scared the animals. “Dad had the main confrontation with them — swearing at dad, trying to get at him — they were trying to tell him he should be growing vegetables.” (see full ABC story here; Facebook video posted by the Christensens below:
– A small group of protested parked a Pantech truck across a road near Pakenham, blocking access to the G & K O’Connor abattoir, and chained themselves to the vehicle.
– Another group broke into and attached themselves machinery with chains at the Goulburn abattoir in the early hours of this morning, where nine were arrested after being cut free and refusing to leave.
– Other Victorian locations targeted included the MC Herd abattoir in Geelong, Westside Meats at Bacchus Marsh, Australian Food Group plant at Laverton.
– Activists leaving the Flinders Street protest in Melbourne reportedly chained themselves to the doors of the Sea Life Aquarium, blocking access to the facility on the first day of school holidays.
On Sunday the owners of the Gippy Goat cafe in West Gippsland, from where goats were ‘rescued’ by activists earlier this year, earning those responsible a $1 fine, posted on Facebook they had decided to close the business, saying their staff and customers have been subjected “to nearly 4 months of constant harassment, vile statements and threats from the abusive vegan activists.”
Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton said the lack of prior engagement with police from the protesters was disappointing and also caused considerable disruptions to thousands of people attempting to navigate through the CBD during peak hour.
“There will be people who couldn’t access services during this time,” Supt Clayton said.
“The safety and security of the community is Victoria Police’s number one priority.
“Police were not engaged with prior to the protest that took place in Melbourne CBD this morning.
“Police are able to facilitate planned protests when we are engaged with which doesn’t put the community at risk.
“This lack of engagement puts the entire community at risk with road closures and delays to transport services.
“We respect the right for people to protest peacefully but we will not tolerate anti-social behaviour that disrupts the broader community.”
Toowoomba based lawyer Dan Creevey from Creevey Russell Lawyers was among the chorus of people calling for stronger penalties to deter deliberate law breaking by activists.
“Issuing of fines is inadequate and is a weak deterrent,” he said.
“Court proceedings need to follow, and courts should consider recording convictions against those breaking the law.
“We live in a democratic society. If activists want to protest, they have a right to do so, but there are right ways and wrong ways to do things, and trespassing on land, and impacting businesses, is not the right way.”
The Victorian Farmers Federation said it was fortunate that the protests, while causing disruption to the public and businesses, had remained peaceful.
“For those who choose to eat products from animals, they can be assured that Australian farmers care for their animals and strive to achieve world’s best practice when it comes to many standards of production including animal health and welfare,” VFF president David Jochinke said.
“If you choose not to consume these products, I am also proud to say that Australian agriculture provides you with many other healthy and safe protein sources.
“Our farmers deliver great produce – ethical and sustainable food for their communities and consumers. Healthy animals mean a healthy and productive farm.
“The protesters must show respect for the choices of others – people who enjoy chocolate for a treat, consume milk after exercise to assist with muscle recovery, through to those who start their day with scrambled eggs on toast and celebrate family events with a roast dinner or barbeque.
“Farmers respect their animals and invest heavily in research and development to ensure they are always adopting the latest science-based methods and to guarantee their end product meets a range of specifications to suit a wide variety of consumers from all around the world.
“While farmers and city-based consumers may at times live very different lives, we actually have many things in common. We value family and safety, we care for our animals be they pets or farm animals, and we pride ourselves in growing and consuming great food.
“We extend our thanks today to Victoria Police for their work in ensuring the safety of Victoria’s farmers and our community.”
Escalating harassment is a ‘tinder box waiting for a spark’
Radical green groups are an increasing menace to public safety and their social media activities should be monitored by law enforcement agencies in the same manner as extreme right or radical religious groups, Green Shirts Movement* national coordinator Marty Bella said.
He said a ‘significant and harsh’ joint response from industry and government was immediately required to tackle activist invasions or else there was a very real risk of violence breaking out as extremists escalate their intimidation of increasingly anxious and agitated landholders.
“The escalating harassment by activists is a tinder box waiting for a spark,” Mr Bella said.
“These activists have announced they are increasing their activity and each protest becomes more offensive and outlandish. Despite repeated intimidation, threats and agitation from the extreme green activists our landholders have behaved impeccably. But how long before someone cracks?”
Mr Bella made the claims following another protest action from extremist animal rights activists at the Carey Brothers meat works, where 20 activists infiltrated the abattoir facility and dozens trespassed outside.
Mr Bella said the Green Shirts Movement had issued repeated warnings to the office of State Agriculture Minister Mark Furner and Police Minister Mark Ryan about animal extremist social media activity in the days leading up to today’s activities.
He said the State Government’s newly announced on-the spot fines did not go far enough.
“An on the spot fine is a slap on the wrist –we give the same to people for jaywalking,” Mr Bella said.
“This government needs to prove its commitment to family farming in this state by enacting far stronger and harsher penalties for these illegal invasions.”
He said a portion of levy funds from all agriculture bodies should be redirected to establish a joint-rural industry investigation taskforce to confront and combat the increasingly hostile misinformation and harassment campaigns of extreme animal rights and environmental activists.
The establishment of an investigation team would provide a united voice that could liaise with police and government to monitor and respond to illegal protest action and misinformation campaigns from protesters in both print and online.
“These green groups use social media to arrange organized criminal activity,” Mr Bella said.
“They are conducting illegal actions and should be monitored in the same manner that extreme right or religious activists are monitored. “Our landholders are carrying out peaceful and lawful operation of their businesses. But these activists choose to invade our property, threaten our family businesses and turn our homes into a battlefield.”
Mr Bella praised the work of the Queensland Police Service but said all rural businesses should re-evaluate their contingency plans for organiaed trespasses to ensure the full force of the law could be brought down on any activist carrying out illegal activities.
* What is the Green Shirts Movement?
The ‘Green Shirts’ movement is grass-roots movement of landholders, regional businesses & individuals. It had its origins in the 2018 rallies protesting the amendments to the Qld Vegetation Management Act. Click here to learn more.