Animal rights activists launched protests across the country, with 38 protesters arrested after blocking a major Melbourne CBD intersection for most of the morning.
The vegan activists have also swarmed abattoirs in Goulburn and Queensland, with protests held to mark one year since the release of the film Dominion -a documentary focusing on factory farming in Australia.
There were multiple arrests across the country this morning and Prime Minister Scott Morrison has admonished the group as “un-Australian”.
Police confirmed protesters had blocked the intersection of Flinders and Swanston streets using vehicles, which a small number have chained themselves to.
A total of 27 people – including two 17-year-olds and a 15-year-old – have been arrested following the CBD protest.
The protesters have been arrested in relation to obstructing a roadway, resisting or obstructing police, and are assisting police with their enquiries.
Superintendent David Clayton said the lack of prior engagement with police from the protesters was disappointing and also caused considerable disruptions to thousands of people attempting to navigate through the CBD during peak hour.
“This lack of engagement puts the entire community at risk with road closures and delays to transport services,” a spokesman said.
“We respect the right for people to protest peacefully but we will not tolerate anti-social behaviour that disrupts the broader community.”
Police have monitored a number of other protests at locations state-wide, including Bacchus Marsh, Laverton North, Pakenham and Corio. Officers are also monitoring a protest at the aquarium, where protesters have blocked the main entrance.
More than 100 activists were chanting: “What do we want? Animal liberation – now!” with some sitting on tram tracks near the Flinders-Swanston St intersection.
One man started jumping up and down before being detained by five police officers
The vans, promoting vegan documentary Dominion, have also now been towed.
Vegan activists also blocked the entrance to the MC Herd abattoir in Geelong.
Event organiser Christine Lee said protesters were on site to bring attention to the film Dominion – a film hoping to expose “the dark side of animal agriculture”.
“The film shows the truth about what is happening to animals in this country and around the world, but it was all Australian footage,” she told Today.
“We want to show we’re regular people who have had enough, we are killing the planet and killing animals at rates that are just unacceptable.
“And drastic times call for drastic measures so that is why we’re here today. We have nine teams around Australia that are going to places of violence to draw attention to them directly.”
Protest organiser and director of animal rights film documentary, Dominion, Chris Delforce, said the protest marked one year since his film’s release.
“The industry is telling people these animals are being killed ethically, that they are being killed humanely – the reality is … it’s the furthest thing from humane.,” Mr Delforce told AAP.
He laughed off Prime Minister Morrison’s suggestion the protests occurring across the country were “un-Australian”.
“Most Australians are opposed to animal cruelty,” he said.
The protests come as the Queensland Government is drafting new laws to allow police and agricultural officers to fine vegan activists whose activities risk the lives of farmers, workers and animals.
A joint task force with the state police intelligence unit and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will focus on acts of animal activism. The move comes after Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has been calling for higher fines from states.
Activists in Queensland could face a trespass offence, which currently carries a penalty of up to one year’s imprisonment or a maximum fine of $2611.
The penalties in Western Australia are the toughest in the nation, with the maximum penalty for trespass 12 months’ imprisonment and a $12,000 fine.
NINE ARRESTED AS PROTESTS CONTINUE
Nine people have been arrested at an abattoir in the state’s Southern Tablelands.
About 2.30am, nine people attended an abattoir on Mazamat Road, Goulburn, where they chained themselves to a conveyor.
Officers from The Hume Police District were contacted and attended the scene, after the protesters allegedly refused to leave when asked by the owner.
Goulburn Police Rescue cut the people free and arrested them at the scene.
Three women refused to walk from the abattoir and had to be carried to the police vehicle.
Three men, one aged 46 and two aged 22, and six women, aged between 21 and 61 were taken to Goulburn Police Station where they will be charged.
QUEENSLAND PROTESTERS INVADE ABATTOIR
About 20 animal rights campaigners descended on the Warwick abattoir and chained themselves to equipment, with up to 200 others remaining outside the facility protesting what they label as the barbaric slaughter of sheep and pigs.
Police were called to Carey Bros Abattoir about 3.30am and began negotiating with the activists.
The protest was over by about 5.30am after the handing over of three lambs. No arrests have been made.
Farm Animal Rescue activist group member Brad King was among those at the protest and said animals slaughtered at the site had endured terrifying deaths.
“There are numerous occasions where they’re not stunned properly, but even when they are, the footage unequivocally demonstrates that it’s impossible to ‘humanely’ kill an animal who desperately doesn’t want to die,” he said in a statement.
A Queensland Police spokesman said the situation had been resolved peacefully and no charges had been laid as there was no complaint from the land owner.
Police said there would be no further investigations into the protest.
PRIME MINISTER SLAMS ACTIVISTS
Scott Morrison has admonished as “un-Australian” the animal activists behind a controversial map of farmers’ addresses and contact details.
The prime minister has also scolded the “shameful” actions of vegan protesters who have invaded farms and abattoirs.
“It is shameful, it is un-Australian,” Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday.
“This is just another form of activism that I think runs against the national interest, and the national interest is being able to farm their own land.”
Tony Mahar from the National Farmers’ Federation has also slammed the behaviour of the protesters, saying it was extremely concerning.
“What we’re dealing with is radicalised extremists, and they are that,” he said.
“They have philosophical views. They are forcing on to other parts of the community. So farmers are law abiding, hard working citizens going about their daily jobs of producing all the food and fibre that Australians love.
“They have had to put up with drought, floods and fires. And now – now they have to deal with these radical extremists coming on to their businesses, terrifying them, invading their homes so it’s a really serious development and we would love the community support to stop this.”
Mr Mahar said there are indiciations which suggest this will be targeted in every state across the country.
“It’s just irrational behaviour, unreasonable behaviour. Can you imagine if 100 or so people dressed in black turned up to your place of business or your home and forced their views on to you because you have a different view to them?,” he said.
“It is unreasonable and we would love the community’s support to sign our petition at farmers.org.au to bring some deterrence to these people. They’re terrifying the population.”
THE ‘SECRET MEMO’ PLANNING THE PROTESTS
The National Farmers Federation and the Australian Livestock Exporters Council sent alerts to members warning about the nationwide protest from the activists after an interactive map was published showing the location of the nation’s farms and abattoirs.
“We want people around the world to see that our work for animal rights is no longer a minority grassroots movement but instead a rapidly growing phenomenon that can’t be stopped,” an internal memo by a group read.
The Aussie Farms memo added the plans would be kept completely private to protect them from sabotage.
“We ask that you respect this by not asking details about the plans on the day and not speculating what might be planned,” it wrote.
“It’s important to not communicate about any plans, known or speculative on any form of electronic communication.”
The move was labelled “despicable” by the federal government.
Last month, 100 members of the organisation also stormed onto a Queensland cattle farm wearing “meat the victims” T-shirts.
Farmer David McNamee said he feared for his family as they were alone with no protection during the invasion. He added when he ordered the demonstrators to leave, they ignored him.
On Sunday, state Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said he’d had a “gutful” of activists putting farms at risk and said new regulations were being drafted to allow police and agriculture ministers to issue protesters with on the spot fines.
The Department of Agriculture will also form a taskforce with the state police intelligence unit to try and prevent animal activism attacks on farmers.
– AAP contributed to this report.
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