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  • Writer's pictureMeg

Everything You Need to Know About Agricultural Corruption in Australia

Updated: May 29, 2022

“In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people” – Ruth Harrison

Corruption (definition) is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. Corruption is the opposite of justice, so wherever there is injustice there is always a corrupt force at play. Corruption is often motivated by money or other forms of power.

Cowspiracy was revolutionary in disseminating information that even environmental groups are susceptible to hush money from big animal agricultural industry. A few years ago I stood in peaceful resistance with Animals Australia and Adam Bandt (MP) outside of Parliament House in Melbourne to protest that live export has still not been banned in Australia. Outside of protests, there are plenty of other things you can do to stop participating in corruption, including ceasing to fund it. Perhaps the biggest reason live export cruelty continues under our governments watch is because of the gag that the industrialised agriculture industry have on those wanting to expose their practices to the public.

Ag Gag

The term “Ag-Gag” was coined in 2011 and typically refers to state laws that forbid the act of undercover filming or photography of activity on farms without the consent of their owner— particularly targeting whistle blowers of animal rights abuses at these facilities. Ag-Gag laws operate to conceal and hide the truth about how animals are grown, treated on factory farms, transported nationally and internationally and slaughtered, with legislation that effectively silences animal rights activists and stifles transparency. Ag-Gag laws suppress the public’s right to understand and question the current use and abuse of farmed animals while allowing the concealment of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect.


If you’re surprised to learn that Australia even has a Minister for Animal Welfare you’ll be even more shocked to hear it’s the same person in charge of protecting our cruellest animal industries, from factory farming to live export – his name is Barnaby Joyce. Animals Australia likens putting animals in the hands of the Agriculture Minister to putting healthcare in the hands of tobacco companies.

This is because:

  1. Barnaby champions live export, promising more of it so long as he is in power

  2. One of the first things he did in his portfolio was to abolish the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee

  3. He has not only failed to outlaw battery cages, but defended them as well as establishing the new national standard for ‘free range’ eggs which set the stocking density as 7 times higher than the guidelines published by CSIRO in the model of practice

  4. After an international live export was rejected on the shore of Saudi Arabia and thousands of sheep died at sea, the safeguard put in place requiring importing countries to unload Australian animals even in the event of a dispute was deemed unnecessarily by the Minister for Agriculture

  5. Similarly, when Animals Australia exposed the widespread horrific abuse of Australian cattle in Indonesian slaughterhouses, the Labor government of the time suspended trade for five weeks. But Barnaby called this temporary halt in trade which was put in place to prevent further cruelty, “perhaps the worst decision (among many) of the last government”

  6. Barnaby backs Ag-gag, calling animal cruelty investigators ‘vigilantes’. His response to the horrific live animal baiting in the greyhound racing industry was to condemn the investigators for documenting the evidence in the first place.

Barnaby Joyce isn’t confused about what he should be doing to advocate, least of all, for the welfare of animals, he is simply being paid more not too. Earlier this month, leaked documents revealed federal and NSW governments hosted a series of joint round table meetings to devise ways to destabilise and discredit animal advocacy groups, rather than discussing animal welfare. Barnaby wants to make it easier to prosecute animal advocates by altering how evidence can be gathered and even stooped as low as proposing to strip some animal groups of their charitable status.

Truth in Labelling and Freedom of Information

“Collectively the media; the meat, oil, and dairy industries; most prominent chefs and cookbook authors; and our own government are not presenting accurate advice about the healthiest way to eat” ― Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

These authorities are telling us to eat animal flesh for protein and animal milk for calcium – that’s their first lie. The second lie, or deceit, is that they are also not telling us about the environmental costs of these food choices nor are they talking about how these animals were treated whilst living and dying. We are so disconnected from our food.

Consumers are often unaware that many of the animal products for sale in Australia are sourced from factory farms. In Australia, consumer misconceptions are perpetuated by weak labelling legislation which does not require producers to adequately disclose information about farm production methods, such as the use of sow stalls. Moreover, there are a number of terms currently used to differentiate the source of animal products, including:

  • caged eggs

  • battery hens

  • barn laid eggs

  • free range eggs

  • open-range or range eggs

  • grain fed

  • free range

  • free to roam

  • bred free range

  • organic

  • biodynamic

Most of these commonly accepted terms are not defined in nationally consistent legislation and therefore, these industries are able to continue taking advantage of the consumer confusion this creates, hiding behind packaging which uses positive imagery and ambiguous terms like ‘farm fresh’. In this way, producers shield consumers from the realities of intensive farming practices and persuade them to ‘buy into’ animal cruelty. Low welfare producers may even profit from the willingness of consumers to pay more for products which appear to adhere to higher welfare standards but are, in fact, untruthfully labelled. If an Australian animal-derived product does not clearly state its production method, it is highly likely that it has been sourced from factory farmed animals who have been confined indoors and subjected to painful farming practices for the entirety of their life.

The documentary’s Food Inc and GMO OMG discuss how the legislation to label caloric information, trans-fat content, country of origin and GMO foods in America was fiercely fought to be hidden from the public. Therefore, our right to information, which informs the basis of making thoughtful, informed decisions is restricted by the corporations in power. I believe this is a social justice issue, but it’s not all bad news – the power of the people got us our food labelling because when we demand, we receive.

The recent Four Corners report Big Fish, shone a light on the issue of aquaculture: feeding farmed fish chemicals to turn their otherwise grey flesh pink in an effort to make it look like its wild counterparts, knowing consumers would not purchase this product. Caro Meldrum-Hanna, the Four Corners journalist, reported that in America when consumers found out this was occurring in the salmon stocked on their supermarket shelves, there was a law suit in which the people won. Farmed fish feed chemicals legally have to be labelled as such and as a result, American consumers are consuming less of it.

“You can vote to change this system. Three times a day. Buy from the companies that treat workers, animals and the environment with respect. When you go to the supermarket choose foods that are in season. Buy foods that are organic and know what is in your food. Read the labels. The average meal travels 1500 miles from the farm to the supermarket. Buy foods that are grown locally. Shop at farmers markets. Plant a garden, even a small one. Cook a meal with your family and eat together. Everyone has the right to healthy food. Ask your school board to provide healthy school lunches. The [government regulatory bodies] are supposed to protect you and your family. Tell [your government] to enforce food safety standards. If you say grace, ask for food that will keep us and the planet healthy. You can change the world with every bite. Hungry for change?” – Food Inc

I hope you use the rage corruption may spur in you to make a kinder choice about what you’ll eat for dinner tonight and encourage others to do the same.

Thanks for reading,

Meg x

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