Vegetable growers and Victoria’s premier are among a swelling group voicing condemnation of vegan protesters who staged city rallies and targeted farms.
Police have confirmed the 40 animal activists arrested and charged in Melbourne on Monday face up to five years in prison for obstruction offences.
Scores of people linked arms and used three vehicles to block a major intersection outside Flinders Street Station at the height of the morning commuter peak, with Premier Daniel Andrews suggesting the action backfired.
“I don’t know (that) they served their interests very well yesterday in completely disrupting the city. And for what?” Mr Andrews said on Tuesday.
“I don’t think they’ve advanced their cause with too many Victorians.”
The activists chanted for animal liberation, with some sitting on tram tracks, calling for the community to stop eating meat and animal-derived products.
The police response to the Melbourne protest was reported to have cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the government is unlikely to recoup those expenses.
“I don’t think there are vast sums of money that are going to be secured by taking action against these people,” Mr Andrews said, adding many may go to great lengths to avoid paying.
Most of the activists were charged with obstructing an emergency worker, road and path of a driver, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.
Another person arrested outside the nearby Melbourne Aquarium was charged with assaulting police and drug possession.
All adults were bailed to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court on June 5.
Two youths, aged 17 and 15, have been bailed to appear at a children’s court a day later.
Monday’s protests also saw abattoirs and farms in Victoria, NSW and Queensland targeted.
In a statement AUSVEG, representing veggie and potato growers, said it was disappointed plant-based commodities were used by vegan activists.
“The radical views and actions of these individuals is not representative of the community, including those that are vegan, who take full advantage of the high-quality fresh produce Australia has to offer,” CEO James Whiteside said.
“It’s disappointing that the extremist attitude of a few has led to such aggressive action.”