LE: Melbourne Pig Save is part of a global movement to raise awareness of the plight of pigs everywhere. Can you talk about some of the strategies MPS have found most beneficial to the cause?
AA: Melbourne Pig Save holds regular rallies in the city of Melbourne, relying on posters of various images and sizes to create a powerful visual display, along with the delivery of short speeches on particular topics that may have recently attracted commercial or social media attention. Supporters stand on the steps of a building conveniently located in the city’s busy shopping strip, in front of which we have a table for people to approach and a replica sow and stall on display.
We have benefited greatly by maintaining a regular, consistent approach to our campaign. Not only do we reach many people, but our supporters also know what to expect. We are peaceful and measured in our approach and believe this creates a safe space for members of the public to feel comfortable in approaching us, and also for supporters to feel comfortable in joining us.
We know that members of the public stop due to the posters and the sow/stall display, as we have conducted short surveys which tell us so, and we have received positive feedback from supporters as to the organization of the events, so we’ll continue with this strategy until we think there are more effective ones to take.
LE: In Canada there are numerous issues in relation to the welfare of farmed animals like transport, use of gestation crates, and cruel standards of practice in relation to industry. What are some of the issues your group focuses on in relation to the plight of pigs in Melbourne?
AA: All over the world, the same issues are present when it comes to using animals in the agricultural machine. Melbourne Pig Save highlights the legally condoned practices used by the industry when raising pigs as food. These standards are noted in various Codes of Practice, and would otherwise be illegal if inflicted on domestic animals. We aim to educate people on the hypocrisy of the system, whereby the same act results in two very different outcomes, based purely on the animal’s deemed purpose.
We bring to people’s attention the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates, mutilations without pain relief, and the harsh and oppressive living conditions pigs have to endure that are completely devoid of any pleasure. We also highlight the deception of “free range” and the misconceptions perpetuated by the industry to market this, as well as the brutal “best practice” methods of slaughter. The animal rights organisation, Aussie Farms, has a website full of Australian material that we have used to our benefit in order to highlight the cruelties occurring in our own backyard.
LE: Undercover investigative work is critical to the work of animal advocates, yet we are seeing a rise in the criminalization of dissent, as evidenced with the Ag-Gag bills currently in place in the United States. Can you discuss this issue as it pertains to animal activism in Australia?
AA: Over the last few years there has been a very noticeable increase in activity to expose animal cruelty. It is no secret that the aim of the Australian animal rights group, Aussie Farms is to make transparent the suffering animals endure behind closed doors.
This activity has obviously attracted the attention of the industry and politicians, and has even been deemed by some as an act of terrorism. NSW Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson has labelled these activities as “fanaticism, radicalism, veganism and terrorism,” and has stated she will do everything in her power to halt the activities of animal activists.
The current governments at both federal and state levels are mostly unsympathetic towards animal cruelty. The Federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce is encouraging all states to implement legislation that will mean harsher penalities given to animal activists, as well as effectively preventing media from publishing materials received unless they first go through a bureaucratic process of approval.
Currently the Surveillance Devices Bill 2014 is before the Legislative Council (Upper House of Parliament) in South Australia which effectively seeks to suppress the release of footage and images obtained covertly. Although the Bill does not specifically name the activities of animal activists as its target, it is obvious this is the intention.
The Western Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back has also announced a federal Bill that would make it mandatory to provide footage of animal abuse to authorities without delay.
We find it extremely disconcerting that governments and authorities focus on punishing animal activists who expose the immense suffering and cruelty that animals endure, rather than penalise the perpetrators. If any of these Bills become law, animals will be even more vulnerable to acts of cruelty that go unseen, however there is no doubt this will make activists more determined to act on their behalf.
Melbourne Pig Save is our Featured Animal Ambassador for September 2014.