Dangerous ideas tread wary path | OPINION

Dangerous ideas tread a wary path | OPINION


Agriculture should be cautious of activist ideas.



THE slope, for sure, is a slippery one.

Or perhaps more so, it's a subtle slope that Australia is on.

Many won't even believe or know we are on it but, slowly, ever so slowly, there are indicators things are changing in the public sphere over farming practices.

Not long back it was revealed the University of Sydney was conducting research into "Multispecies Justice", which includes looking at the rights of plants.


The university did clarify that it wasn't as a simple as that but it copped a wave of criticism and opinion pieces over the issue.

Even the Federal Agriculture minister, David Littleproud, weighed in labelling the university study "out of touch with everyday people".

"Rather than researching the justice for plants, they could be investigating how to feed the world sustainably, or how to farm with less water, or how to cure cancer," Mr Littleproud said.

He also asked the questions: "How far does this go? Are Australians to be guilt tripped for eating lettuce now?"

And therein lies the real concern. How far does this sort of thinking go?

What seems like something almost laughable today could turn into a major issue tomorrow.

Wind back 60 years or so, and livestock producers would have smirked at the thought of vegans invading farms and chaining themselves to abattoirs.

Today, there are coordinated and escalated attacks on farming.

That extends beyond paddock trespassing as well and exists on social media and film screens.

In a recent column, agribusiness lawyer, Trent Thorne, echoed the concerns the current trend raises.

"If we review the playbook of the animal rights activist, granting 'plant rights' will mean that they are deemed to be on the same playing field as humans and cannot be harmed in any way," he wrote.

"It is a pretty slippery slope from that point on, as almost all forms of farming will need to stop - broadacre cropping, horticulture, forestry - and all of human existence looks pretty precarious from that point on."

It's part of a bigger trend of questioning foundational truths and solid societal building blocks.

In recent years, the rights of chimpanzees and monkeys have been battled in court as if they were human.

The decision to make gender optional on birth certificates in Tasmania is another example of tampering with laws and nature.

All these things seem to come in waves; they make headlines, are generally dismissed, but then rise again with more momentum until they become mainstream.

The consequences for such moves may not be seen immediately.

It will be years down the track when gender-neutral activists are chaining themselves to vegetable packing shed doors or staging a "sit in" on orchard floors that we'll wonder how on earth we got to this point.


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