AN anti-dairy group has challenged south-west industry representatives to a debate on the pros and cons of the dairy industry.
In the wake of an online petition calling on Warrnambool-raised comedian Dave Hughes to give up milk, the Dairy Debate group has asked Corangamite mayor Chris O’Connor, Farmer Power leader Jock O’Keefe, and Dairy Australia managing director Ian Halliday to take part in “a public debate on the facts about dairy” on September 21 in Melbourne, according to a press release.
Cr O’Connor responded that he would love to have a debate with them on September 21 — at DemoDAIRY near Terang.
“I want to invite them out to milk the cows at Demo Dairy, because my view is that they wouldn’t know which end of a cow to go to and then after we milk we’ll have a debate in one of the rooms there,” the former dairy farmer said.
“I’m not sure if they realise cows are milked in western Victoria, not Melbourne.
“I’d like to give them an education about milking cows and I think Demo Dairy is the ideal site. I’d like to give them some first-hand information rather than what they’re getting from their so-called experts.”
Dairy Debate launched a petition on August 20 via change.org calling for Hughes to “give up animal milk”. It had attracted 1327 supporters by yesterday afternoon.
Hughes responded in The Standard, saying he was only planning to give up milk for a week and that he was a great supporter of the dairy industry in the south-west.
“My brother Michael works at Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory,” he said.
“He makes cheese for a living. I’ve got shares in WCB.”
But Dairy Debate has taken the matter further by calling for the “dairy industry representatives … to back their claims in a public debate”.
Dairy Debate spokesman Bruce Poon, who is standing for a Victorian Senate seat on behalf of the Animal Justice Party, said Cr O’Connor’s idea of a trip to DemoDairy was an interesting one.
“Maybe we could have that as an additional event to follow up the debate,” Mr Poon said.
“Probably most people (in Melbourne) haven’t been to a working dairy farm.
“I’ve certainly visited dairies before.”
Mr Poon said the plan would be to hold the debate in Melbourne, as it would be “easier for people to go”.
“The idea is to get as many people (to the debate) as possible … so they can hear the arguments and make a decision for themselves,” he said.
“I think (drinking milk) is something most people do by default and sometimes those things need to be examined.”
The organisers challenged Cr O’Connor, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Halliday to go head-to-head with “experts to respond to the dairy industry claims”, including Mr Poon, who will talk about environmental impacts, and dietitian Amanda Benham, who will talk about health impacts. Another unnamed speaker will talk about the effects the dairy industry has on animals.
Ms Benham, in a Dairy Debate press release, said people needed to hear both sides of the story.
“There needs to be more awareness of the potential negative effects of consuming dairy products, including the impact on the environment and on the animals involved,” she said.
“If the people quoted in The Warrnambool Standard newspaper stand by what they claim, they should be happy to publicly debate the topic.”