Monday, 14 May 2012

Farmers told to jump online

One of the big themes at this year's Beef Expo was the power, and importance, of social media. Specifically, the message was that social media is a critical way of combating animal rights activists who are perceived to be more technologically savvy than the farming community:

The Greens, lobby group GetUp! and animal rights group Animals Australia - who released the damning footage to Four Corners - quickly took to social media in the wake of the suspension to drive an intense campaign for the live export trade to be permanently banned in Australia.
Now, MLA managing director Scott Hansen says the way those groups used social media was a wakeup call for the beef industry.
"We realised we could no longer just have people sitting on the sidelines and watching, that we needed to be actively putting the counter story, the real story of what happens on Australian farms across the country."
According to the ABC's Landline, beef producers should be at the fore of this farming/social media revolution because of the damage done to them by the Four Corners' expose of live export and the related social media campaign by animal groups.

This is an interesting development and one I will be watching closely. My research, published in 'Animals, Equality and Democracy,' suggests that the invisibility of animal production allows farmers to treat animals in ways that would be considered offensive by the wider community (if the community were aware they were occurring). 

I don't see the temporary suspension of live animal exports from Australia to Indonesia as the result of farmers not effectively telling their story. Rather, my reading of the situation was that animal exporters were able to get away with the harmful treatment of exported animals for as long as they did, precisely because very few people knew it was happening.

If farmers really are going to let us take a peak inside their farmers I will be very interested to learn whether the community likes what they see.     

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