Rural tourism is expected to rise in the coming years. This is good news for farmed animals as it will allow more farmers to move out of animal exploiting industries.
In a recent talk to a conference on rural tourism, Sarah McKinnon of the National Farmers Federation defined 'agritourism' as "Inviting visitors into rural communities to experience landscapes, culture, produce & environment". Activities included in this vary from farmstays, food trails and wine tours to rural escapes, farmers markets, food tourism and eco-tourism.
Rural tourism allows people to connect to the land and the food it produces. It can also improve farmers' income and re-energise rural communities.
While the rise in rural tourism can be good for farmed animals in the long term, parts of the farming industry see the public's growing concern for animals as a threat to the livelihoods of Australian farmers. They want to use rural tourism to portray a romantic impression of animal farming, to counter people's increasing knowledge about the inherent suffering which occurs in the animal agriculture industry. Calling veganism a "fad", Sarah McKinnon says, "farmers are desperate to tell their story, their reassuringly positive story, about the animals and the land they care for and the effort they put in to feed us all three times a day."
This attempt to knowingly gloss over and hide the suffering of farmed animals is highlighted when she says, "we can't control what people do with their smartphones, but we can plan to limit their exposure to things they may not understand, or may find confronting. And to educate them, so that they do understand and so that they feel a connection, not just with the animals, but also the farmers who care for them."
Nowhere in the farming tourism literature are we ever invited to visit piggeries, turkey sheds, battery chickens, feedlots or slaughterhouses. Nor are we ever invited to watch standard procedures carried out on farmed animals without pain relief, such as beak mutilation, branding, castration, declawing, dehorning, ear clipping, forced impregnation, gassing day-old male chicks, long painful transportation, mulesing, overcrowding, tail docking or teeth clipping.
With the phase out of animal farming as our goal, rural tourism will be an important part of restructuring the Australian agriculture industry.