RARELY has a parliamentary speech led to such widespread outrage as Lisa Baker’s relatively mild prompt to eat less meat.
But the Maylands MP told the Voice she won’t shy away from bringing up difficult issues.
Ms Baker finished her speech with a quote from a Lancet article: “So what is a healthy amount of red or processed meat? It’s looking increasingly like the answer, for both the planet and the individual, is very little. The conversation has to start soon.”
The conversation started two days after her speech on February 15, and it was not a kind exchange.
The West Australian ran an article with quotes from four people who thought her idea was silly, including Angus cattle breeder Gary Buller, who said “people with these views are away with the fairies—they’re green communists”.
Pastoralists and Graziers Association WA President Tony Seabrook said Ms Baker was hellbent on bringing down the red meat industry, and WA Farmers chief executive Trevor Whittington said Ms Baker represented “inner-city, green elitism gone mad”.
This led to hundreds of outraged online comments on The West articles from meat eaters, including personal attacks on Ms Baker and her appearance.
In a follow-up article, The West included a comment calling for “a psych evaluation of all newly elected persons to parliament”
In the days following the articles, Ms Baker’s Facebook page has been relentlessly trolled: she can’t post about a school funding announcement without a torrent of abuse, often about her appearance.
Her speech has been interpreted as a demand for people to go vegan, as a call for a new law for “Meat-Free Mondays”, and as an attack on men — one prolific poster on her Facebook page said she was a “dirty feminist man-hating liar…and I will push this come election time”
The man-hating backlash stems from a reference she made to a UK study, which broke down diets into six categories and found greenhouse gas emissions were highest for mainly carnivorous men and lowest for vegan women — and Ms Baker clarified she’s not a vegan herself.
It was also described as an “attack on farmers,” with MP Peter Rundle saying during her speech “there won’t be any farmers left”, if her ideas come to pass.
But the speech was calling for changed farming practices; not to ban them.
“There will be a definite need for farming,” Ms Baker replied to Mr Rundle, and the speech actually began by drawing attention to the plight of farmers suffering at the hands of climate change followed by suggestions to mitigate it.
Ms Baker told the Voice: “The speeches I make in the WA parliament are well-researched, based on solid evidence and are comprehensively referenced.
“I make it clear what is fact and what is my opinion and I don’t pick topics I don’t believe in. Once a year I take the opportunity to speak about a broad issue that is not restricted to my electorate but has universal relevance.
“Some of the topics I have raised in previous years include ethical investment and business models, housing affordability and homelessness, and the growth in global science and investment in genetically produced meat.
“I intend to continue to bring big issues to this parliament.
“My constituents expect me to be authentic.
“Starting conversations about issues that may be considered complex or difficult is an opportunity that I value.”
Stories by DAVID BELL
A spicy speech
REDUCE meat consumption to fight climate devastation, Maylands MP Lisa Baker told state parliament on February 13.
“We have been looking long and hard at some of the more obvious culprits—namely coal and gas—for a long time, but there is definitely an elephant in this debating room, and I turn members’ attention to it: the impact of food production and the livestock industry on greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and health.
“Meat has been and continues to be excluded from most public policy debates about climate change.
“I suspect we all know why: it is highly sensitive.
“We live in a meat-eating culture and we have made a lot of money out of breeding animals and feeding the world.
“It is a tricky subject, but if we do not address this, climate change will continue.”
Ms Baker said a meat-eater’s diet results in 52 per cent more greenhouse gas emissions compared to a vegetarian, and 100 per cent more than a vegan.
“Personally, I think governments have a role to play, as do each of us as individuals. We can set examples by limiting our consumption of intensively farmed meat for human health and for global environment, as well as animal welfare reasons. Programs like Meat-Free Monday are a really good start in changing behaviours.”
Ms Baker raised the “Planetary Health Diet” described in UK medical journal The Lancet. It’s a “science-based diet” that aims to avert “global environmental catastrophe” and also improve the poor quality food eaten by billions of people.
The Planetary Health Diet calls for global red meat and sugar consumption to be cut by half, and vegetable, fruit and nut consumption needs to double.
She noted The Lancet was “not generally acknowledged to be a left-wing radical driver of change; It is pretty conservative”.