This week Australian animal charity organisation Aussie Farms released an online map detailing the location of over 5000 animal farms and other related animal facilities around Australia. Since its release, it has caused notable reaction among farmers, creating controversy. Following this response was a national televised debate on Australian news talk show The Project about the purpose of the map between animal activist and Executive Director of Aussie Farms Chris Delforce, and president of National Farmers Federation Fiona Simson.
This debate shows a stark example of the use of misleading emotional rhetoric, as demonstrated by the president of the National Farmers Federation. Watch the debate here, and notice the difference between the speakers’ arguments and the use of common reasoning fallacies among Simson, which have been outlined below:
Simson begins the interview by denying Delforce’s facts about animal farming, claiming they depict “the wrong picture”, despite these facts being publicly available information, both as shown in numerous accounts of undercover footage as well as having been cited in the farming industry’s very own code of practices.
She then repeatedly describes that unlike international farming that “may” have the issues Delforce describes, in Australia they are “all about family farms”. This focus on families is an attempt to distract from the issue – the problematic nature of Australian animal farming – by focusing on a different aspect of farming – the people. This is called the redherring fallacy. This is also a particular misrepresentation of Australian farming, which is predominantly intensive factory farming, not farming that contains vast green fields. It is one of the reasons why despite there being upwards of 500 million animals being killed yearly in Australia, these animals are almost nowhere to be seen. What is also implied here by Simson is that one thing (animal cruelty) can’t go hand in hand with the other (family farms) without any reason as to why.
Simson uses the words “mums, dads and kids” and related words repeatedly in an attempt to appeal to emotion (another fallacy), leading the argument to make farmers sound like vulnerable victims among activists, both starting and ending her talk with these descriptors as her focus, often not answering the specific questions asked.
She refers to Delforce and his beliefs as “extreme”, in another attempt to detract from the core issue by instead making a personal attack on the individual behind the argument. This focus on attacking the individual is called the ad hominem fallacy. In doing so, she uses heavily evocative buzzwords like ‘terrorist’ to describe Delforce and activism, language that tends to evoke implicit emotionally laden responses in listeners (e.g. doubt or fear) and attempts to dehumanise and villainise the individual, in this case, animal activists.
Lastly, you will notice Delforce is abruptly and vehemently spoken over when he makes an attempt to describe legal standard practices that the industry describes as ‘humane’ such as the use of gas chambers in pig farming, which Aussie Farms footage has shown time and again as being incredibly cruel, with pigs thrashing and squealing in pain for prolonged periods of time before becoming unconscious.
Why is it important to watch out for misleading rhetoric in this interview?
This interview is an important one to breakdown because it is one of the first televised moments shining a light on the Australian animal agriculture industry and its practices as a whole. This industry has thus far (successfully) relied on keeping their practices largely hidden from consumers, as well as on misleading advertising to consumers about the ethics of current animal farming. When this has been challenged by activists, the industry has consistently attempted to portray activists as criminals and extremists. When it had been insisted that their practices become transparent (as has been repeatedly attempted by Aussie Farms over years) the industry responded with deflection and even denial of the very practices they claim are ‘humane’.
What does it mean if the president of the National Farmers Federation is unwilling to admit to the standard legal practices of animal farming on national TV (to the point of even abruptly cutting off the person describing some of these practices)? And given the location details on the Aussie Farms map is publicly available information that anyone can find online (e.g. through Google Earth, the same program used to build the map), why is the industry suddenly adamant about keeping these details out of the public eye? As a business who profit from the sale of their ‘products’, why do they wish to keep their business details hidden?
Do animal activists want to attack farmers?
Simson and others such as Agriculture Minister David Littleproud have claimed that the map is a means for activists to ‘attack’ farmers. However, activists have consistently shown that their aim has always been to show the public what is happening inside these facilities, so that consumers have the knowledge to make informed decisions about what they eat; not to try to harm farmers, nor destroy farms when they enter them. If their aim was to focus on the “families” behind the farming, as Simson claims repeatedly in the interview, then in the thousands of photos in the Aussie Farms website, why do we only see photos of the animals? And if we do see images or videos of people (usually workers), their faces are concealed or deidentified.
[This claim that what activists are doing is ‘wrong’ because they have created an “attack map” (as Simson & Littleproud have gone so far to call it), is another fallacy by the way- the strawman fallacy, arguing against a distorted version of the opponent’s argument or one the opponent never actually made, rather than their actual argument. Simply put – it’s a way of misrepresenting the opponent’s position in a bid to easily discredit them or knock them down]
So no, activists don’t want to ‘attack’ farmers. In fact, ultimately activists wish to see farmers thrive in an area that doesn’t harm animals, like others around the world who have transitioned to plantbased farming due to a shifting culture around food, awareness of the inherent suffering involved in animal farming, and concern of the sustainability of animal agriculture due to its drastic impact on the environment, and leading impact on climate change. In the eight years this map has been in development, Aussie Farms have incrementally released inside footage and details of farms around the country, and their aim for transparency has continued to be the underlying result of their work.
As stated by Aussie Farms, many businesses benefit from transparency and an open, accessible exchange between them and their consumer, yet the animal agriculture industry seems to consistently feel threatened by the idea of increased transparency. This in itself is quite telling, and a reminder as to why we must keep pushing for freedom of information and honesty from the corporation that not influences our daily lives, but that of millions of animals.
What did you think about this the segment on The Project? Comment on your thoughts below.
Visit dominionmovement.com to learn more about the work of Aussie Farms and the inner workings of Australian animal agriculture