The Australian prime minister has called animal rights activists “un-Australian green criminals” after massive protests across Australia led to dozens of arrests. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would back farmers if they took legal action against animal rights activists caught protesting on their land.
He spoke out after hugely disruptive protests took place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
Activists broke into farms and abattoirs, and more than 100 activists blocked one of Melbourne’s main roads, bringing traffic to a virtual standstill.
Some chained themselves to vehicles in the street police said and 38 people were arrested at the Melbourne protest alone.
The prime minister, who said the protestors were “un-Australian” said: “If there are pastoralists, farmers, graziers that are in a position to bring a civil action against these groups looking to undermine their livelihood, the commonwealth is totally open to supporting them in a test case to show these green criminals.”
Victoria Police Superintendent David Clayton said the activists “caused considerable disruptions” to thousands of people attempting to navigate through the central Melbourne during peak hour.
Elsewhere across the country, nine people were arrested in New South Wales after they chained themselves to machinery in a slaughterhouse. Another group of activists entered a Queensland slaughterhouse and tried but failed to steal three sheep.
Prime Minster Morrison didn’t mince his words in response to the protests.
He said militant activism was damaging to farmers’ livelihoods: “This is just another form of activism that I think runs against the national interest, and the national interest is farmers being able to farm their own land.”
Australia is second only to the US in meat consumption per person, with the nation’s livestock industry accounts for more than 40 per cent of its agricultural output. The Australian Meat Industry Council said butcher shops across the country had been suffering from repeated efforts to disrupt their business and intimidate staff.
AMIC Chief Executive Patrick Hutchinson said: “This has to stop and stop now. We need to look at the 99 per cent of people in Australia that are looking to and wanting to consume red meat products.”