The Ag Forum is a chat room for discussion of current issues in Australian and international agriculture policy. Join the conversation today!

An open letter to Michelle Bridges about so-called ag-gag laws

- Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dear Michelle, my apologies for writing to you out of the blue and unannounced, but I hadn’t heard of you until today when I drove into town to pay some bills online at the school library. We don’t have internet at the farm and we don’t get newspapers delivered very often, so I was reading the Sydney Morning Herald online while I was there and noticed an article you wrote.

It was about a law the government is talking about introducing to stop people from illegally trespassing on farms and planting video cameras in pig and chook sheds to try and catch farmers mistreating their animals.

Apparently you don’t like the law, because you think people should be able to illegally enter farms and livestock facilities and plant secret cameras around the place, and then come back later and break in again and retrieve the cameras and the video footage.

I was pretty cranky about what you wrote because the people breaking into farms in the middle of the night have been terrifying farm families (farms are also where farm families live) and also breaking biosecurity rules that prevent the animals getting diseases.

Why they are bothering to break into these farms is a bit of a mystery – most of the local farmers I know are more than happy to have visitors call in, and so much the better if they want to stay a few days and help out.

You seem to think it’s OK to break into a farm and secretly film what is happening on account of the fact that you and your mates in the city want to be sure the food you are eating has come from farms that don’t treat their animals badly or break any laws. This is a bit surprising to me, as last time I was in the city and went to a supermarket I noticed that most of the pigmeat and nearly all the canned fruit and vegetables in the supermarket was imported from overseas countries that don’t have any of the rules we operate under here, so that left me wondering just how fussy you and your mates really are about where your food comes from.

I was so upset about what you had written, I had to go to the pub and have a beer to calm down. While I was there I asked Snowy, our local publican, who Michelle Bridges was. Turns out you are something called a personal trainer and lifestyle coach, and you spend a lot of time on TV telling people how they can get fit and lose weight. I had never heard of a lifestyle coach, but I could certainly do with a bit of fitness, so I thought it might be interesting to find out a bit more about what you do. I went back to the library and found your website online. It certainly looks impressive, but I still couldn’t work out how you could make money from your job.

Then I discovered your “12 week body transformation” which I can apparently sign up to for $200 and you will send me all sorts of advice about how I can get fitter and feel healthier. I tried to find out a bit more about what I would get for my $200, but there wasn’t much information available unless I joined up. It also looked to me like most of the information you would send me was delivered by the internet – which isn’t much use to me.

But then I got to thinking about how you think farmers should be under constant video surveillance so their customers can be sure about what they are getting. It struck me that perhaps this isn’t such a bad idea, especially for customers of personal trainers and lifestyle coaches.

The way I see it, if I was going to send you $200 for fitness and lifestyle advice, I would want to be sure that the advice was coming from someone who actually takes their own advice.

And the only way I can see to make sure you always follow your own advice would be for surveillance cameras to be put in your home, and for other cameras to follow you around and keep track of what you eat and drink and how much exercise you do, and for that video footage to be made available to all your customers.

That way they could be sure that you really do all the exercise you recommend and only consume the right food and drink, and that you don’t cheat by taking a few weight loss pills or having a bit of cosmetic surgery done to keep you looking good.

So, what about it Michelle? I’m happy to become your customer and take on your “12 week body transformation” course, but only if I can be absolutely sure you take your own advice, which means you will need to arrange video surveillance of yourself around the clock that your customers can check to make sure you’re not cheating.

Of course it will be a bit hard for me to see the video or take you advice if you post it online, but I’m sure you could send it out on a DVD every week or so.

Looking forward to being your customer,

Bill Farmer.

Jim commented on 27-May-2014 11:07 AM
How do you do business with no internet?
Debbie commented on 27-May-2014 03:54 PM
What an awesome letter....if inly more people had the whereabouts to question things they don't agree with in the media!
Well said Bill Farmer well said.....I would be happy to donate money towards your membership costs if this goes ahead! I believe it will be very interesting footage!
Anonymous commented on 27-May-2014 07:46 PM
If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. If you followed Michelle about you would probably just be bored.
Jay commented on 27-May-2014 08:37 PM
Why not put guarantees in place so that there is no talk of people illegally trying to find out information they're after.

That's really what we're talking about here - information that guarantees that animals are being treated with the respect the consumer feels they deserve.
Liam commented on 27-May-2014 09:41 PM
Anonymous - really? If you have nothing to hide then there is nothing to worry about? So that gives people a right to play animal police officer and come illegally on a property to set up illegal cameras. Not at all - if I have nothing to hide then this lot can bugger off.
Farmgirl commented on 28-May-2014 01:19 AM
If anyone from "the City" ever visited a real farm they might find out that farmers in Australia actually look after their livestock and try to make a tiny profit to live on. Of course it's much more entertaining for people to believe in their "causes" and paint Aussie farmers in the same light as those filmed overseas. I personally would love to see Ms Bridges on a real farm serving a chook a cosmo as it relaxes with a foot massage- a handful of chook poop is a great leveller:)
AnthonyT commented on 28-May-2014 02:55 AM
Great Jay. I guess you read the article carefully and are busy packing for an overseas trip to check on those foreign farms that are out of our regulatory control to ensure they are treating their animals the way you like and expect.

Lets get one thing strait here. Farmers can only survive by having a good quality product. That does not come from poor management and poor animal welfare. It never ceases to amaze me how well intentioned zealouts who have no knowledge of the matters they champion all become instant experts just be cause they want to. Somehow they suddenly know more than what we farmers take a lifetime to master.
Anonymous commented on 03-Jun-2014 04:51 PM
What about braking into homes and putting in cameras to watch pet owners-to look at
so called house cats and dogs- Cats that never left the house are locked in and to afraid to go out because that is all they know
-to look at the back yard spaces animals are kept it- How big it really is
-to look at how many times a week a pet get exercised or fed
- To look at how many times that pet's poo got picked up
- to look at how many times a week the talk or even pat that animal-
- On a farm most of the above are looked after- An animal do not perform if it is under stress- There is no sense in mistreating them on a farm

Voilah commented on 26-Jun-2014 12:12 PM
DON"T tell her she should put cameras around herself 24/7, cos she'd LOVE it. She's her own BIGGEST fan, and would probably watch the footage 24/7 too.
Anonymous commented on 09-Jul-2014 06:23 PM
Wow what a comparison! So, you're basically saying $200 and the life of a living being is worth the same? I would definitely like to see what happens at a farm like yours.

I'm not a pig eater, I'm also not a canned fruit and vegetable eater. I just want to know that animals are treated properly. I'm so glad you and you're country mates are willing to welcome us.. But it's what happens behind closed doors that we are interested in.

Yours sincerely,
A girl from the city
Anonymous commented on 10-Jul-2014 01:28 PM
If Michelle Bridges was serious about health, had a good knowledge of nutrition and cared about animals, she would be vegan.
Anonymous commented on 10-Jul-2014 01:33 PM
There is no such thing as 'humane slaughter'. Anyone who tries to justify eating an animal that has been 'humanely killed' are just trying to appease their guilt for eating the animal in the first place. Sop trying to find the right way to do the wrong thing!!
Mick Keogh commented on 11-Jul-2014 08:38 AM
Anonymous, Human beings are omnivorous, in just the same way that a multitude of primates and mammals are omnivorous. But I have no more right to preach to you about your diet than you have to preach to anyone else. Its your choice to be vegan, but its not your right to preach that others should be vegan. As to the question of cruelty to animals, farmed animals have much higher survival, growth and longevity of lives than their non-domesticated counterparts. Your judgement about the cruelty of their slaughter is highly subjective and emotive, and lacking in logic and relativity. Is it crueler to allow an animal to be savagely killed by a carnivore, or to slaughter an animal in a meatworks? Is it crueller to restrain a sow for a week in order that all her piglets survive, or to allow the sow and the elements to kill up to 80% of her piglets within the first week of their life in a free-range system? Is it crueller to restrain hens in cages and to remove their sharp beaks, or to allow them to free range and cannibalise each other by pecking or be killed by predators? Farm production systems aim to optimise the productivity of animals while treating them in a humane manner and protecting them from disease, stress and predation. While they are inevitably slaughtered for human consumption, the aim is to have this occur as quickly and painlessly as possible. Livestock farmers are fully aware of the responsibility they bear for the wellbeing of their animals, and fulfill that responsibility 24/7, unlike publicity-seeking activists who think a couple of minutes of notoriety is somehow fulfilling a noble cause. If you are serious about understanding how livestock production works in Australia, then we can easily organise farm visits to increase that understanding.
Sarah commented on 11-Mar-2015 01:31 PM
really? Comparing cameras within any workplace (which is what a farm is) to having them in the home is ridiculous.
Now, I am a farmer and come from generations of farmers (many of whome farm live stock) and that vital discussions regarding animal welfare should degenerate into the base level that is has I find reprehensible.
If we had legitimate welfare control, autonomous spot insoections, then perhaps, the arguments for keeping activist from our farmns would carry weight.
Yes, many of work very hard to be transpraent and ethival in our treatment of the animals we we do with ferals animals opon our properties. I find it offensive that I, as both producer and consumer, do not have the recognised right to expect certain levels of care to be adhered to or routinely confirmed.
It is rubbish like these supoposed laws (lets be honest, it has nothing to do with animal welfare) that keep consumers from trusting us.
The reason these activist have resorted to undercover work is because it is so easy to santisie our farms when expecting visitors...I know. I have worked on unsavory farms - they are all too common (as are great farms!)...The reason many of the pubic are turning from us is not because of the footage that is obtained but because of what is within the footage.
Don't bother getting hysterical at activists - the world is not going to turn vegetarian/vegan - we are not going to loose our farms or livlihoods - unless, we continue pretending that all is well on our farms (again, I stress there are GREAT farms as well)
We should all be actively involving and engaging the public - being as open as we can so they can trust us. They can't at the moment - and laws like this only seperate us further from them - and margionalise us even more.
Paul Archer commented on 01-May-2015 02:33 PM
A great response from Sarah above. Most activists don't want to be doing this work - if the farming ( and animal sporting) community cleaned up their act on those that are letting them down, this will go away. Turning on the activists is not treating the problem you have. My family have completely stopped eating meat and bird because of what has been exposed. And there are very many like us.

We welcome comments

To leave a comment existing users need to login, new users need to register.



Share |

Register for AFI news via email