PETA's Pathetic Message To Farmers Shows A Drought Of Decency

“If you can’t feed them don’t breed them.”

Oh, PETA.

As a farmer, I have had a history with you.

There was that campaign last year against shearing -- the one where Jona Weinhofen held the sheep-that-wasn’t-even-a-sheep, all bloodied and raw, with the caption, here’s the rest of your wool coat, while every farmer in Australia rolled their eyes at such false propaganda; a viral scurry of photos depicting what shearing actually looks like appearing all over the internet soon after. Which, consequently, looks nothing like “lamb-clubbing.” But props for trying.

(Image: PETA)

Then there was that 'Go Vegan' campaign with the toddler smoking the cigar and the slogan, You Wouldn’t Let Your Child Smoke – claiming eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer – which was not only so inappropriate, but also so misleading, it was banned by UK’s Advertising Standards Authority.

(Image: PETA)

I can’t even get started on the disturbing trend of naked celebrities used in campaigns such as I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur, Meat and Dairy Farms Drain Half the Country’s Water, and Pamela Anderson’s All Animals Have the Same Parts, also banned in Canada – yes, let’s atone for animal cruelty through the sexual objectification of women instead; women are absolutely taken more seriously in regard to the falsely portrayed dead animal they hold in their arms when naked, pouting and giving their best come-hither eyes.

(Image: PETA)

And of course, more recently, there was the campaign against live export where you found an exception, an extreme, and tried to use that to destroy an entire industry where the majority of farmers strive beyond measure to ensure adequate care and health of their animals during live export; where we, too, are equally as sickened and heartbroken by these extremes and just as determined to make certain this does not continue.

But I have to say, you’ve outdone yourselves this time.

Creating a campaign targeted at farmers as they face the hardest decision in their lives - to either sell or shoot the livestock they have bred for generations? Well done, PETA, for offering the easy solution. If you can’t feed them, don’t breed them. How easy. How simplistic. How had we not thought of this ourselves?!

How typically, utterly, naïve.

Yes, had we been able to forecast this drought, we surely would have stopped breeding decades ago. Just as, had we been able to forecast any of Australia’s weather extremes, we’d have prepared as best we could. Not sowed thousands of acres of wheat to feed the country only to see it destroyed by fire. Not re-pastured all our paddocks to give our stock the best feed only to see it lost beneath floods of water. Not kept our animals today only to have to shoot them tomorrow because shooting them has become the least cruel thing we can do in the midst of a drought of which we can’t control.

Not held onto our farms only to watch our farmers take their own lives because they felt there was no other way out.  

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This, PETA, is what you don’t understand. To our farmers, these are not just farms; these animals not just animals. They are the representation of generations of hard work, the outpouring of sweat, the desperation of tears. They are decades of breeding, rearing, feeding and nurturing a bloodline of stock they can proudly call their own. Beneath sun that blisters and rain that pelts through every fibre of their being, these farmers are out there every single day of the year, no matter what, to check water troughs in summer, to help birth in the depths of winter, to mend fences and fix gates, to drench and vaccinate and shear and everything else that must be done to keep their stock in good health, to sow pastures and harvest crops, to drive around their herds each day for no other reason than to make sure all is well.

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And yet. And yet. You dare to state:

"From the farmers’ perspective, the problem is not that they have to kill animals -- since they were going to do that anyway -- but that they’re not getting paid to do so.”

Really, PETA? Really? You think this is about the farmers not getting paid to shoot their sheep?

I just. can’t. even.

Let me hazard a guess of how many of those farmers, while having no other choice than to shoot their livestock, have contemplated shooting themselves instead. One hundred percent. One hundred percent. Because while you have been dreaming up misinformed propaganda to shock the world into how damn-awful these farmers are, they have been busting their arses to try and to save the lives of their animals. Only to come to the realisation that no matter how hard they have tried, they just can’t.

You think they don’t see the way their paddocks become barer each week; the way the ribs of their animals protrude a little more each day? You think this doesn’t break them; that they don’t do everything within their means to care for their animals through drought in order to hold onto something so valuable to them?

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These are farmers already in financial crisis, forced to borrow money they know they can never repay, just to purchase water and hay and grain to keep their animals alive - if the drought doesn’t sink them, the bank interest alone will.

These are farmers who are strong-willed, resilient, often too stubborn and proud for their own good; who have tried to believe in tomorrow knowing all it takes is one day. Just one day where the clouds give; one day to turn this all around. But this drought holds on too long; tomorrow does not come for them.

These are farmers who now realise they, too, have held on too long. Who feel as though they have failed - their animals, their families, the generations before; themselves.

With their livestock now skin and bone, most would not survive an interstate truck drive. Those that did survive would not cope with the cold climate; they would die within a week. The change of dry feed to green pastures alone can often be enough of a shock to their system to kill them. And even if they could survive. Even if they could. All of Australia is affected by drought; those who are not in extreme dry conditions suffer what’s known as a green drought – though paddocks appear green, there is still not adequate pasture for stock to graze. Farmers must close off these paddocks to give them a chance to grow, either for spring feed or to cut for hay later in the year to provide summer feed; the reality is, there are few places these drought-affected animals could be taken.

These are farmers who are faced with no other choice - watch their livestock starve to death or shoot them before they suffer another day of a drought which nobody could predict, nobody could be prepared for, and nobody can know when it will end.

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These are farmers who have lost everything, many of whom will take their own lives a result of the devastation and hopelessness, as a result of their self-perceived failure; many of whom feel death is the only way to financially support their families when looking down the barrel of a bankruptcy they will never recover from.

But thank you, PETA, for your facile advice, for your easy solution to a situation of which there is no possible way you could even begin to understand. Thank you for your do-good campaign that once again strives to give Australian farmers a reputation they are not deserving of. But thank you, most of all, for seeing every Australian farmer at their lowest, down on their knees praying for an end to this despair, and choosing to kick them in the guts anyway.

Truly, PETA, you’ve outdone yourselves this time indeed.

If you want to help Australian farmers in need, you can donate to a registered charity. Donate online to Rural Aid's Buy a Bale, Drought Angels or Lions' Need for Feed. You can also support farmers by buying Australian grown produce at your local supermarket.