Speaker’s Corner

• There’s no doubt about Lisa Baker’s love for furry creatures, but her attempt to raise a parliamentary debate about meat consumption has led to some pretty oulandish (and we think at times fairly defamatory) claims on social media.

DOROTHY HENDERSON is a regionally based journalist with 30 years’ experience reporting on rural issues. In this week’s SPEAKER’S CORNER, she calls for calm and consideration following the huge backlash against Maylands MP Lisa Baker’s call to reduce meat consumption.

SO this has happened.

A politician raises the issue of livestock production in parliament, a place where our elected politicians discuss issues and debate thinking that will eventually inform and frame the policies and legislation that we live with.

In doing so she quoted some research published by others.

That is the politician’s job.

All around the world, there is discussion about the future of food production in the face of climate change, deforestation, degradation of our landscapes and in the light of human health issues, those known to be a consequence of the transitional diet (basically where we all adopt Western diets that are too high in fats and sugars etc), which include a skyrocketing diabetes rate in China, increasing obesity in Australia and starvation and a lack of protein in other countries in the world.

In the US, it has been suggested by some researchers that the average person eats five times more meat than they need to to be healthy, for example.

A quick glance at Google Scholar indicates that there are at least 79,000 scientific articles that show in response to the phrase “transition diets and meat consumption”– 223,000 when you plug in the words “impact of meat consumption on food security” and 638,000 when you consider “the impact of livestock production on climate change”: if nothing else, this indicates that a lot of people are putting a lot of time and effort into studying these subjects.

Globally, our meat consumption is increasing. That may be good, and it may be bad … it depends on how we produce the meat and distribute it – but that is a subject for another discussion on another day.

What I find distressing about this is that, as a journalist who has been reporting on rural issues for over 30 years and who has spent most of my life living on farms, I see an alarming trend here that is not going to do any of us any good in the long run.

As soon as we interpret anyone as being critical of what we do, we lower ourselves to the usual Facebook standard of behaviour.

Before you react to the comments reportedly made by this politician (and having worked for a few, I know how hard most of them work and how much they care), actually take the trouble to read what she said in parliament.

Farming

Do some work, find the link to Hansard, read her speech.

Then fly off the handle and abuse her if you like, or, take the time to digest the research she has quoted, and think about your own farming futures.

We cannot ignore the issue of climate change.

We have changed the landscape in the quest to feed the world, and in order to sell our products, we have inadvertently become part of a system that has changed people’s diets.

For the better in some places, and to the detriment of other people where food production systems have been destroyed by conflict, climate change and other events beyond their control.

Please, take the time to think about what you say, read and do your research and hope that smart, forward thinking and passionate people like Lisa Baker simply don’t bother to read the things you post on Facebook in the heat of the moment.

P.S. And just so you know, Ms Baker did not “demand” anything. Her closing words simply suggested the issue be discussed, as it is being in parliaments all around the world.

And why have I bothered writing this? Because, as Katharine Murphy points out, the truth matters, “journalists need to turn up to work.”

We need to set the records straight!

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