In Brief

Australian PM Scott Morrison takes aim at ‘green-collar criminals’

Animal rights activists criticised as ‘shameful and un-Australian’ after dozens arrested in nationwide protests

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has declared war on animal rights activists after nationwide protests brought cities and farms to a standstill, leading to dozens of arrests.

In a coordinated campaign across the country, activists broke into abattoirs, chained themselves to farm machinery and blockaded main city intersections in protest against the meat industry.

“We want people to go vegan - we want people to stop supporting animal abuse,” one campaigner, Kristin Leigh, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“Animals are suffering in ways that most of us could never imagine. It is not about bigger cages - it is about animal liberation,” she added.

It prompted a furious reaction from Morrison, who called the actions of Aussie Farms, the group allegedly behind the protests, “shameful and un-Australian” and running “against the national interest”.

He later called on state authorities to bring “the full force of the law... against these green-collared criminals”, adding the government was prepared to join a legal challenge if any landholder wanted to launch legal action against animal rights activists protesting on their farms.

It comes as part of a concerted effort to protect farmers while coming down hard on animal rights activists.

APP reports that “privacy laws were changed last Friday which exposes Aussie Farms’ website to significant penalties for publishing farmers' addresses and contact details”.

On Monday Attorney-General Christian Porter went a step further, writing to the Australian Information and Privacy Commissioner, asking for an investigation.

“There are strong grounds to conclude that Aussie Farms is engaging in a systematic effort in collecting, using and disclosing personal information to the detriment of farmers and agricultural producers,” he wrote.

The Flinders News says Queensland animal rights protesters who invade farms for illegal and potentially dangerous protests will “soon face stiffer penalties for harassing farmers already stressed and struggling after floods and drought”.

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner says he has had a “gut full” of animal activists putting farms at risk. Once new regulations are in place Police and Agricultural officers will be able to issue on the spot fines to people whose incursions threaten biosecurity and the lives of farmers, workers and animals.

According to the World Economic Forum, Australia is second only to the US for meat consumption per person and “the nation's livestock industry accounts for more than 40% of its agricultural output,” says the BBC.

Meat production today is nearly five times higher than in the early 1960s - from 70 million tonnes to more than 330 million tonnes in 2017, according to the Our World in Data project.

However, with campaigning already underway ahead of next month’s election, Morrison has looked to use the vegan protests as a way of burnishing his Conservative credentials and appealing to rural voters.

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