NATIONAL Farmers Federation (NFF) president Jock Laurie has slammed Animals Australia’s attempts to counter Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Australia Day lamb marketing campaign.
The MLA promotion features former AFL footballer and media identity Sam Kekovich fronting various tongue-in-cheek campaigns urging Australians to eat more lamb out of patriotic duty. Running annually for almost a decade, this year’s initiative kicked off on January 10 and features Mr Kekovich suffering from “Lambnesia”.
MLA global marketing general manager Michael Edmonds said the 2012 campaign contributed to lamb sales increasing by 32 per cent for the week leading up to Australia Day, and a record month for January.
Animals Australia has been an ongoing critic of the Australian livestock industry and has targeted general meat consumption with its email newsletter, which drew Mr Laurie’s ire. Their new campaign calls on Australians to give animals a day off on Australia day, “by throwing some cruelty-free tucker on the barbie”.
It blames meat product consumption for rising obesity and a heart disease epidemic, “conditions linked to the overconsumption of animal products”.
It also blames meat consumption for mankind’s environmental demise, saying “our planet's health is suffering too”.
“This month we sweltered through the hottest day on record — all the while our pollies conveniently ignored the fact that farming animals for food is creating more climate-warming greenhouse gasses than all of the world's planes, trains and automobiles combined,” the email said.
The website also lists 10 reasons to not eat meat, including a personal attack on Mr Kekovich’s appearance: “because if you don't (take meat off your plate), you could end up looking like Sam Kekovich”.
Reasons number four promotes vegetable consumption saying, “Because you CAN win friends with salad. Especially a grilled tempeh salad with sweet corn, roast capsicum, rocket and avocado”.
Mr Laurie said the “outlandish statements” from Animals Australia were “typical” of the tactics used to try and mislead consumers and unfairly tarnish and damage the nation’s red meat industry.
He said lamb and other protein products formed part of a regular, balanced diet, along with fresh fruit and vegetables. Professional nutritionists recommend that balanced approach, he said.
“These types of scare tactics are used by different groups to frighten people into not eating protein products, rather than educating them about the importance of eating lamb or other protein sources, as part of a balanced diet.”
Animals Australia also accused MLA of hijacking Australia Day, saying “any visiting tourist would think that Sam Kekovich is the father of Australia and that it's a local tradition to lob a little lamb on the barbie to prove how Australian you are”.
The move effectively lines up Mr Kekovich’s public profile against that of Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White.
Ms White spearheaded last year's undercover investigation which exposed animal cruelty and poor slaughter practices in 12 Indonesian abattoirs.
The images were broadcast on ABC TV and ignited the live export ban, which saw sweeping reforms of the industry implemented.
In recognition of her animal welfare work, Ms White was a State finalist for the Australian of the Year award 2012.
Mr Laurie said Animals Australia’s move to discourage meat consumption on the national holiday this year was not unexpected.
“They will use any strategy they can to stop meat consumption (because) they are opposed to anyone using any animal products,” he said.
“But… there’s a hell of a lot of animals that live in the environment that slaughter and eat other animals and humans.
Mr Laurie said the MLA lamb marketing campaign had been successful over a long period of time, due to Mr Kekovich’s unique style.
He said the Animals Australia counter-campaign won’t stop him eating lamb on Australia Day.
“I’m a very strong supporter of the Australian red meat industry, as a consumer and producer, and can’t see that changing,” he said.
Mr Kekovich said the comments from Animals Australia demonstrated the efficacy of MLA's campaign.
He said, “I’m flattered by the acknowledgement of the campaign and my efforts to cement lamb’s rightful place on Australian menus, but these people must have a serious case of lambnesia if they think Australians will stop eating our national dish on our national day.”
Sheepmeat Council of Australia president Ian McColl said this wasn’t the first time there had been an attempt to highjack the "very successful lamb campaign”.
“We have been investing producer marketing levies into the Australia Day campaign and building its success for quite a number of years,” he said.
“It’s a key part of our major domestic marketing promotion for us and Sam has done a great job for our industry - we’re very happy with how this year’s campaign is going.
“We know that the public look forward to the campaign every year and it resonates with them because it has that larrikin, irreverent approach - and Australians love lamb.”