RECENT activism at Queensland feedlots has created anxiety and concern among operators and has made the red meat industry rethink its position in defending and promoting itself.
However, Australian Lot Feeders' Association president Bryce Camm says Australia is not ready for a national discourse.
Mr Camm traveled to Western Australia, for Better Beef 2019, hosted by the WA Lot Feeders' Association at Kylagh Feedlot south of Tammin last week.
He said with the campaigning underway for the federal election, to be held on Saturday, May 18, the issue of "farm activism was now in the national spotlight".
"While it is great that both sides of politics appear supportive of industry, I'm not sure we are quite ready for a national conversation about the rights and wrongs of meat consumption," Mr Camm said.
"So the policy of ALFA has been to make this about a public safety and security issue and a right to land tenure and safety of people, staff and families, rather than making this about the rights and wrongs of whether lotfeeding should exist.
"I don't think we are ready to have that conversation on a national level but there is hope because the industry has been investing in things that do make it possible to start to have that conversation with the wider community."
Mr Camm said traditionally lotfeeders "haven't dealt with a lot of the confrontation from groups that may not be pro animal agriculture".
"Maybe as an industry we have happily sat by and watched it happen to chickens, pigs, to live export," he said.
Mr Camm outlined how veganism or the vegan society was started by Donald Watson in 1944 as a movement about food, health and longevity of life.
"I think the difference we are seeing post 2010 is an emergence around animal liberation and using food, diet and health as a way to communicate that message," he said.
"They are two very different outcomes.
"One is the dietary choice; for various reasons you decide to consume what you will.
"The second is a movement as an effort to discourage or move away from animal agriculture, which to me is a much more frightening movement that needs our industry's focus."
"Confrontation and activism" was not something that agriculture was immune to as "we have done plenty of it in the past" but there was a question around "what it means to the feedlot industry".
"I had countless conversations over the past month with operators who were wondering if they may be next."
Mr Camm said ALFA had kicked off a working group to help the industry deal with the issues but also to "calm the nerves of operators that are experiencing this".
"The working group of ALFA members plus representatives from outside the industry offered advice about what to look at at the feedlot including, security measures, being aware of the surrounds, of people coming on and off operations, and also looking at legal advice because it is a continual question that we have at the moment; is what are the legal ramifications of such activism in the various state jurisdictions?
"So a program will begin under that space to understand and make available what their legal rights are and are not in these situations."
Mr Camm said he had had countless conversations over the past month with operators who were "wondering if they may be next, or whether they will be targeted or invaded".
"They were worried about the safety of their employees, their stock and their children," he said.
"And that's confronting; that's hard."
Mr Camm said Australia was a red meat nation and "while there has been some criticism in the past few months I think what we have seen out of the media is that there is strong wider community support for our industry and for the people involved in it and the work that we do".
"A lot relates to the product, it is a product that is loved the world round, but also by Australians as well, and we should be proud that we are involved in its integrity and in producing that," he said.
"About 500,000 people are employed in the wider red meat sector; and it contributes about $65 billion to the national economy."