Meat and Livestock Australia is helping to build a cohesive, all-of-industry approach to counter the problems and stress being caused by radical animal activists, its managing director, Jason Strong, says.
"For example, an industry corporate affairs unit has been established to co-ordinate responses and strategies, with MLA a key driver," Mr Strong said.
"The NFF has started to develop a program around a broader community engagement program, promoting Australian producers, and MLA will develop programs that are red meat-specific to go in behind that," he said.
"Under its statutory funding agreement, MLA isn't permitted to engage with the government or the public on an advocacy basis.
"However, MLA can - and is - communicating the good job producers do and the high standards of animal welfare in the industry."
The Australian Good Meat website engages directly with consumers and society about how beef and lamb is produced, acknowledging and answering questions posed.
Mr Strong said hundreds of animal welfare research projects were being co-ordinated and delivered by MLA including work in areas such as pain mitigation, understanding animal stress/behaviours and reducing mortality rates.
Research by MLA indicated around 10pc of consumers report to be limiting red meat consumption for animal welfare reasons and this group was typically 25-49 years old, well-educated, affluent and more likely to reside in inner city locations.
MLA's chief marketing and communications officer, Lisa Sharp, said this group was interested in food and how it was produced and was active on social media.
"This group has concerns and questions about red meat production but they don't want to be 'talked at' or 'educated'," Ms Sharp said.
"They tend to be very sceptical of large corporates, industry bodies and in some cases, the claims and actions of activists."
MLA was targeting this group through food events, online content and social media, with producers acting as advocates.
School programs were also utilised and MLA's Rare Medium program aimed to share the red meat story with chef influencers and lifestyle influencers.
Mr Strong said activism and community sentiment were the most topical issues MLA was dealing with at present.
"The red meat industry recognises the right of every citizen to protest but it has to happen in a manner that does not put in harm's way the safety of people or animals," Mr Strong said.
"Trespass to protest is illegal and interrupts and causes financial damage to legitimate businesses, including small family-owned businesses.
"The industry and business owners in it, including producers, are prepared to meet and discuss issues raised by activist protesters in a safe and respectful manner, and we invite and welcome such discussions.
"But no-one in the food supply chain should be placed in a situation where they have to defend themselves from physical attack, and the industry does not endorse - in any manner - aggressive business owner behaviour towards protesters," Jason said.
This illegal behaviour also posed serious food safety and biosecurity risks.
Mr Strong said many producers were feeling enormous frustration and concern after repeated public attacks by vegans on their integrity and on their industry.
But he said the percentage of households that eat beef and lamb remained very high (beef was on the menu in more than 90pc of Australian households last year and lamb in more than 76pc of households), and MLA market research continued to show consumers had a very positive view of the industry.
The story Livestock taking 'whole of industry' approach to animal activists first appeared on Farm Online.