Friday, 8 June 2012

What did the Vegan say to the Pork Growers?

Earlier this year I was approached by Australian Pork and asked to deliver a lecture at the 2012 Pan Pacific Pork Expo. Their interest in hearing me speak was a result of my recent book 'Animals, Equality and Democracy'. 

Although I had my reservations, I accepted the invitation. 

Speaking to the pork growers of the Pan Pacific region was one of the most challenging things I have every done. I felt safe in assuming that I was speaking to a less than supportive crowd!

The conference was opened by the Minister for Agriculture Joe Ludwig. I was the first speaker and I was followed by a agricultural scientist speaking about climate change and pork production.

A recording of my talk, with slides, is available on the Australian Pork website. You can listen to it here:

Question time was not recorded and in many ways it was the most challenging part of the presentation. In particular two members of the audience made it clear that they found my presentation offensive. I was later told by various sources that my use of the expression 'factory farming' was considered particularly offensive and that using that expression is a good way to get a farming audience off side quickly. Interestingly enough, I had no idea that the term factory farming offended some. I thought it was widely used - another lesson in the benefits of getting out of your comfort zone and speaking to people you would not normally mix with!

One member of the audience also cast aspersions on my capacity to teach. I assume the point was to ensure that I understand that he thought very little of my intellectual capacity and/or my understanding of the issue. 

But others seemed much more interested in what I had to say. Australian pork growers have voluntarily phased out sow stalls and appear to have an interest in remaining in touch with community attitudes.

I don't think I will volunteer myself to speak to industry again soon. But it certainly was an interesting experience!   

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