A meat industry leader has called vegans’ nationally co-ordinated trespass ‘‘an attack on regional Australia’’ and says it was harmful to anyone working in the $22billion sector.
Australian Meat Industry Council chief executive Patrick Hutchinson said five member operations on the eastern seaboard, as well as a number of other farm businesses, had been illegally disrupted by vegan activists.
The actions, which included activists chaining themselves to equipment and disrupting small to medium meat processing facilities, were part of a national animal rights protest that also shut down traffic in the Melbourne CBD.
‘‘Of course people are entitled to their own views, but illegally entering facilities is just not okay,’’ Mr Hutchinson said.
‘‘It creates biosecurity risks, it leads to breaches of privacy, it is potentially unsafe for the activists themselves and at the end of the day it puts at risk jobs in regional communities.
‘‘It’s an attack on regional Australia, pure and simple,’’ Mr Hutchinson said.
‘‘(Activists) come in from the city, they cause trouble, they create images that are not representative of the work our members do, they damage a business’ ability to operate, and then they’re gone.’’
The protests were organised to mark the one-year anniversary of the film Dominion, which used drones and hidden cameras to film inside farms to show how animals are treated during the production process.
Police also arrested 38 activists in Melbourne who blocked a major intersection, causing chaos for commuters during the morning peak hour.
National Farmers’ Federation chief executive Tony Mahar and president Fiona Simson were among the industry leaders condemning the trespasses, with Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud urging state governments to hasten the introduction of stronger farm trespass laws.
Mr Hutchinson said he supported the right to peaceful protest but could not condone action that may hurt an industry employing 55000 people, mostly in country areas.
‘‘We have a supply chain that will be impacted all the way through, from farmers through to transport individuals, blue and white collar workers at the abattoirs, meat wholesalers, right through to local butchers,’’ Mr Hutchinson said.
‘‘They will stop at nothing short of abolishing our industry, and you just can’t negotiate with that.’’