Veganism is on the rise in Australia - a country where a large portion of the economy is funded by meat production. No other rural industry impacts more of Australia than the beef industry. More than 63,000 farming businesses are producing beef from 43% of the country's landmass. We are also the world's second-largest beef exporter, which injects an estimated $8.4 billion into the Australian economy.
Health experts have been warning for some time that Australians need to cut down on the amount of red meat we eat. And there's a growing body of research that says one of the key ways to combat climate change is radical shifts in diet away from ruminants like cows and sheep.
Now according to new market research, it seems Australia may be getting the message. Market researchers IBISWorld looked at changing food trends in Australia. While they found that the range of products and sales of vegan-friendly foods has soared over the past five years, red meat has stalled and is predicted to start going downhill and activism is growing.
Animal activists who brought central Melbourne to a standstill recently have vowed to step up their campaign of civil disobedience and raids on abattoirs and farms. Volunteers promoting the anti-farming documentary Dominion say they will also risk big fines and possible jail terms for privacy and trespass offenses.
Police charged 38 activists in early April after protesters chained themselves to vehicles at Melbourne's busiest intersection, causing massive disruption to the city's morning peak-hour transport. There were more arrests at simultaneous raids by activists on meatworks in New South Wales, Queensland, and regional Victoria.
Activists declared the coordinated action a success, with 60,000 online views of the two-hour documentary in the two days following the protests. Dominion's director, Chris Delforce, said animal rights activism was a natural extension of the growth of veganism, as people became more aware of the treatment of animals raised for food, fiber, entertainment, and research.
"Horrible things are happening every day across this country legally and as long as that's happening, more people are going to want to find out, more people will want to get active and do everything they can to stop it," he said.
Dominion is billed as an exposé on the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture in Australia.
Much of the footage was taken with hidden cameras and by volunteers trespassing on farms, hatcheries, and slaughterhouses. Delforce is also the founder and executive director of animal charity Aussie Farms, which has produced an interactive online map of Australian factory farms, abattoirs, and other facilities.
He said the map and repository of videos, photographs and campaign material were designed to force greater transparency on the industry.
The Coalition went to the recent federal election promising a crackdown on animal activists and specifically targeted Aussie Farms. Attorney-General Christian Porter removed the charity's exemption from the Privacy Act so that it could face fines of up to $2.1 million for offenses relating to its map, which the Government claimed had already led to some premises listed being targeted by activists.
It warned individuals could also face fines of up to $420,000 for privacy offenses. Mr. Porter promised to introduce a new criminal offense designed to protect Australian farmers from vigilante action. This week, the Aussie Farms map was still online. Delforce was defiant and accused the government of censorship.
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