Melbourne’s busiest intersection has been completely blocked off by vegans conducting a “peaceful” peak-hour protest.
Hundreds of animal activists from all over Victoria gathered at 5.30am outside Flinders Street Station holding signs and blocking cars and trams from passing through. protesters
Animal rights protesters are slowly being arrested and dragged into police vans after blocking a major Melbourne CBD intersection.
More than 100 activists are chanting: “what do we want? Animal liberation - now!” with some sitting on tram tracks near the Flinders-Swanston St intersection.
Protesters are holding signs that say: “This is a peaceful protest” and “SOS animal emergency climate emergency”.
One man started jumping up and down before being detained by five police officers.
News.com.au reporter Rohan Smith, who is at the scene, said protestors were sitting in a tight circle in the intersection and police officers were now physically lifting them and carrying them away — as tow trucks arrived to move rental vans out of the way.
He said cops arrested one woman in her 40s and another woman aged in her 70s.
A large crowd cheered as the pair were handcuffed and led into the back of a waiting police van.
More than 10 protesters were lifted from the intersection by Victoria Police’s Public Order Response Team. Others, who were not willing to face arrest for their cause, quietly took their signs and walked away.
Four rental vans, covered with signage for a documentary, were parked at all four corners of the intersection before tow trucks were called in to move them.
As the intersection cleared, protestors moved to Melbourne’s Sea Life Aquarium, where they chained themselves together in front of the doors, blocking entry to parents and children on day one of school holidays.
The protests are part of a wave of action that includes activists blocking the entrance to the MC Herd abattoir in Geelong and chaining themselves to a truck in Pakenham, southeast of Melbourne.
Protests are also being planned for Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart, but the exact locations are closely guarded secrets.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison admonished the animal activists as “un-Australian” on 2GB radio this morning.
“It is shameful, it is un-Australian,” Mr Morrison said. “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.”
The PM isn’t the only one frustrated. Commuters were turned away from tram stops and told to find alternative options. Traffic was diverted around the CBD.
One man, with a toddler in a pram, confronted the protesters and called them “absolutely pathetic” for blocking the Melbourne CBD.
Angry tradesmen were also seen yelling at the vegans.
Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith tweeted that the “militant vegans” should be “arrested or moved on”. Then he blamed the Daniel Andrews-led government for watering down laws “for these types of self indulgent nutters”.
On social media, the activists were slammed, but vegans on the ground say they’re “hard to argue with”.
Doctor of Paediatric Neuropsychology Helen Jeges held a sign above her head at this morning’s protest on Flinders Street. It read: “I am a doctor. Vegan: 5 years”.
“We want to open people’s eyes to what they’re really paying for,” Dr Jeges told news.com.au.
“A lot of people don’t know that if you buy eggs, male chicks are ground up alive. It’s to raise awareness.”
She said the protests had not been met by hostility, but commuters were frustrated this morning when trying to catch trams through the CBD.
“The response has been really great,” Dr Jeges said. “We don’t expect any antagonism. We represent kindness, equality, non-violence, and so it’s hard to argue against that.”
The activists are trying to bring attention to the documentary Dominion on the one-year anniversary of the film’s release. It shows footage inside Australia’s abattoirs.
The peaceful protest is a far cry from what took place at the Gippy Goat Cafe in Victoria’s Gippsland region over the weekend, according to owners.
The cafe was forced to close because of what staff called “nearby four months of constant harassment, vile statements and threats from the abusive vegan activists”.
In a Facebook post outlining the business’s decision to shut up show, owners said it was “regrettably the best option”.
Farmers across NSW and Queensland have also been placed on high alert as a number of groups plan to carry out a series of co-ordinated raids — which they say is “the biggest animal rights direct action the world has ever seen”.
In Goulburn, in the NSW Southern Tablelands, nine people were arrested after chaining themselves to a conveyor and refusing to move on, police say.
“Three women refused to walk from the abattoir and had to be carried to the police vehicle,” a police spokesman said.
This morning, police have broken up a protest at a Queensland abattoir.
About 20 animal rights campaigners descended on the Warwick abattoir and chained themselves to equipment before police were called to remove them.
Brad King, from the activist group Farm Animal Rescue, was among those at the Warwick 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.
The Queensland Government is increasing powers to stop animal rights protesters invading farms for protests that are putting stress on farmers already struggling after floods and drought.
New laws are being drafted to allow police and agricultural officers to fine vegan activists whose activities risk the lives of farmers, workers and animals, says Mark Furner, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries.
“Everyone has the right to protest, but nobody has the right to break the law,” Mr Furner said in a statement on Sunday.
Queensland farmers deserved respect and needed to be protected, he said.
“Many of our farmers are already under great stress following years of drought and more recently the floods, and we are standing side-by-side with them,” Mr Furner said.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will form a joint taskforce with the state police intelligence unit to focus on animal activism.
Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk said the activists were coming mainly from interstate to cause Queensland farmers distress, and their activities were also impacting the export industry.
Mr Furner said the taskforce and fines were being designed to act as a strong deterrent to unlawful behaviour.
The move comes after Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has been calling for higher fines from states.
He has also been calling, so far unsuccessfully, for one animal rights group to pull down a controversial map of farm locations the minister calls an “attack map”.
The Aussie Farms Map says it is a comprehensive, interactive map of factory farms, slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities across Australia.
It lists the exact co-ordinates of people’s home businesses and other details, such as ABN numbers, that can be used to find more personal details about the owners.