Why is promotional material from Meat & Livestock Australia permitted to be used within the Australian school curriculum?
MLA provides marketing and research services to cattle, sheep and goat meat producers.
Its “core purpose” is “fostering the prosperity of the red meat industry”.
“Good Meat is an online platform created by MLA on behalf of the red meat and livestock industry . . . Good Meat informs consumers about the great work of Australian red meat producers and the high quality product they produce.”
The “Good Meat” site tells teachers:
“All Australian Good Meat primary and secondary resources are aligned to The Australian Curriculum. Review the following curriculum tables . . . to see how you can best incorporate Australian Good Meat resources into your lesson plans.”
That approach appears to indicate that “education resources” are a key component of “marketing beef and lamb” and “promoting the industry”. They clearly do not involve MLA’s research role.
The material, targeting primary and secondary students, comprises: “National curriculum study guides”; “Lessons and activity sheets”; “Facts for students”; “Digital lessons”; “Virtual excursions”; “Classroom posters”; “Interactive board game”; “Australian Good Meat Paddock to Plate VR Roadshow”; and “Other helpful resources”.
Primezone is managed by Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA).
PIEFA is a registered not-for-profit charitable institution “formed through the collaboration of the Australian Government, primary industries organisations and the education sector”.
A key objective of PIEFA is (with my underlines) to “provide a source of credible, objective and educational resources for schools to maintain and improve community confidence in Australia’s primary industries”.
Consistent with that objective, it claims to be “a credible and authoritative one stop source for primary industries educational information and resources to help build knowledge about this sector”.
How credible and objective can the resources be when a member organisation provides access to them via its marketing and promotional pages?
In PIEFA’s 2017/18 annual report, its CEO stated:
“Like many not-for-profit organisations, our biggest threat remains the security of sustainable levels [of] funding. Tied in with this is the need to demonstrate continued value to our members’ investment.“
PIEFA’s apparent desire to demonstrate to members a return on their “investment” seems inconsistent with the requirements of a registered not-for-profit charity.
According to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) (with my underlines):
“Generally, a not-for-profit is an organisation that does not operate for the profit, personal gain or other benefit of particular people (for example, its members, the people who run it or their friends or relatives).”
In its 2018 Annual Information Statement on the ACNC’s website, PIEFA claimed its main beneficiaries were children aged from 6 to under 15.
Other beneficiaries were claimed to be: general community within Australia; youth aged 15 to under 25; and people in rural/regional/remote communities.
There was no mention of MLA’s stakeholders despite the fact that PIEFA was sharing the organisation’s marketing and promotional material.
An example of PIEFA’s material (including MLA resources) in use elsewhere can be found on the Fuse website of the Victorian government’s Department of Education and Training. A video on the site (“Producing cattle and sheep . . . beef and lamb: teacher video”) shows a teacher saying:
“It is wonderful to be able to go to websites that have been authenticated . . . that the discernment doesn’t have to be made by the teacher . . . before the kids get to it. I’m confident that you can just pick this unit up and it is correct, up to date information.”
The Fuse website also includes items such as MLA’s “Virtual farm excursion“, “The virtual farm visit“, and “Target 100: study guides“. (Target 100 was a forerunner to “Good Meat”. The study guides can be downloaded in a zip folder.)
The second of the “Good Meat” site’s “other helpful resources”, the Kids Media site, has the title “For teachers for students: Communicating; Educating; Empowering”.
The relevant page identifies MLA as the contributor, and is headed, “Cattle and sheep farming today“.
Kids Media Pty Ltd claims that its corporate culture and operating principles “are underpinned by the key value of only providing education services and products accepted within the Australian education community as being in the best interest of Australian youth”.
Although this author is not questioning the motives of Kids Media, the question of whose interests are actually being satisfied in this instance could possibly be answered by this statement on MLA’s “Promoting the industry” page:
“. . . MLA has developed a program that aims to . . . Support cattle and sheep industries to maintain the community’s trust in their integrity and ethics by building understanding”
There’s more than a little irony in that statement.
At the time of writing, a primary level “study guide” released by MLA in 2010, but since withdrawn from the organisation’s website, was still available on the “KE Teacher” website managed by Kimberlin Education, based in Sydney. This author highlighted serious flaws in that document, “Cattle and the environment“, in a 2015 article.
An example of such a flaw remaining is the approach to land clearing, with a failure to acknowledge the vast extent and devastating impact of the meat industry’s past and present clearing on Australia’s natural landscape, with climate change and other impacts.
Even where grazing lands have not been cleared, factors such as soil erosion and the introduction of invasive pasture grasses have had dramatic impacts, including loss of coral coverage on the Great Barrier Reef and loss of biodiversity generally. Introduced grasses have the ability to transform diverse woodlands into vast monocultures, with modelling indicating that buffel grass alone has the potential to become established across more than sixty per cent of mainland Australia.
MLA’s material continues to gloss over, understate or ignore other negative impacts of meat production and consumption.
Parents and children place enormous trust in educational institutions. To subject children to promotional material in support of an industry organisation is an inappropriate practice that the education departments of Australia’s states and territories must address.
All links and references were current at the time of publishing but may subsequently change.
Additional comments on the Fuse website added 10 December 2019.
Meat & Livestock Australia, What we do, https://www.mla.com.au/about-mla/what-we-do/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Who we serve, https://www.mla.com.au/about-mla/who-we-serve/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Marketing beef and lamb, https://www.mla.com.au/marketing-beef-and-lamb/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Marketing the industry, https://www.mla.com.au/marketing-beef-and-lamb/promoting-the-industry/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Good Meat, https://www.goodmeat.com.au/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Good Meat, About Us, https://www.goodmeat.com.au/about-us/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Good Meat, Educational Resources, https://www.goodmeat.com.au/education-resources/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Promoting the industry, https://www.mla.com.au/marketing-beef-and-lamb/promoting-the-industry/
Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Good Meat, Curriculum link tables, https://www.goodmeat.com.au/education-resources/curriculum-link-tables/
Primezone Australia, Cattle and sheep farming, https://www.primezone.edu.au/page.php?id=6&keyword=cattle+and+sheep+farming+
Kids Media Pty Ltd, For teachers for students, Cattle and sheep farming today, https://www.forteachersforstudents.com.au/site/themed-curriculum/cattle-sheep-farming/
Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA), https://www.piefa.edu.au/
Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA), About, https://www.piefa.edu.au/about.html
Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia (PIEFA), 2017/18 Annual Report, p. 14, https://www.piefa.edu.au/uploads/9/8/9/8/98986708/piefa_annualreport_digital.pdf
ibid., p. 8
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), Not-for-profit, https://www.acnc.gov.au/for-charities/start-charity/not-profit
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), Annual Information Statement 2018 – Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia, https://www.acnc.gov.au/charity/ais/eaaeef5559b00f89b84491e15badc73d
State of Victoria (Department of Education and Training), Fuse, https://fuse.education.vic.gov.au/?SearchScope=All
State of Victoria (Department of Education and Training), Fuse, “Producing cattle and sheep . . . beef and lamb: teacher video”, http://fuse.education.vic.gov.au/Resource/ByPin?Pin=GJZT2B&SearchScope=All
Kids Media, For teachers for students, “Cattle and sheep farming today”, https://www.forteachersforstudents.com.au/site/themed-curriculum/cattle-sheep-farming/
Kids Media, About Us, http://www.kidsmedia.com.au/about-us.html
KE Teacher, http://www.keteacher.com/
KE Teacher, Cattle and the Environment, http://www.keteacher.com/resource/cattle-and-the-environment-information-guide/
Mahony P, “Meat, the environment and industry brainwashing”, Terrastendo, 28 April, 2015, https://terrastendo.net/2015/04/28/meat-the-environment-and-industry-brainwashing/
Kids Media, For teachers for students, MLA, Cattle and sheep farming today, Caring for the environment, https://www.forteachersforstudents.com.au/site/wp-content/uploads/MLA/CattleSheep/pdfs/mla-facts-environment.pdf
WWF, “ABC News: Qld Government buys Cape York Cattle Property”, 23rd June 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdNQC-X8vfs
Planetary Vegan, Extent of coral cover on Great Barrier Reef, https://globalvegannet.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/great-barrier-reef-coral-cover-update-2.png
Mahony, P., Submission to inquiry into Australia’s faunal extinction crisis: Direct and indirect impacts of eating animals, 13 August 2019, https://globalvegannet.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/fed-govt-fauna-extinction-inquiry-submission-paul-mahony-v5.pdf
Government of South Australia, South Australia Buffel Grass Strategic Plan 2012-2017, p. 2, https://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/237340/SA_Buffel_Grass_Strategic_Plan.pdf
Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock ID: 138148460