Feature

The animals' advocate

G Magazine

Speaking for those who can’t, Lyn White has developed one of the loudest voices in animal advocacy.

Lyn White

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In the past couple of years, she’s been nominated for Australian of the Year, crowned Crikey Readers’ Choice Person of the Year and named ABC Radio’s Newsmaker of the Year. But being showered with accolades isn’t really Lyn White’s style, just an inevitable outcome of being Australia’s most prominent animal welfare advocate.

Having served 20 years with South Australia Police before realising her true calling was to put an end to animal suffering, White’s career took a very different turn when, at 38, she became the campaign director for Animals Australia.
“I was shocked to learn that animals raised for food in this country do not receive the same legal protection from acts of cruelty that’s afforded our dogs and cats, purely for commercial reasons. And the 500 million animals raised in factory farms each year can legally be so confined that they can barely move; they can undergo surgical procedures such as teeth clipping and tail docking without pain relief; and the deaths of millions of these animals as a direct result of the production method is considered an acceptable part of the daily business of factory farming.”
White’s prestige in recent years has been predicated by anything but a glamorous task. Best known for influencing improvements to live animal export (as seen last year on ABC’s Four Corners), she’s been inside the most brutal abattoirs in the Middle East, Turkey and Indonesia and, though she continues to campaign for a complete ban on live export, her compassion is also shared among the defenceless animals closer to home.

A 2009 exposé of Australian piggeries on 60 Minutes helped to initiate positive change. Australian pig farmers have since voted to phase out sow stalls, where a sow spends her entire four-month pregnancy in a concrete enclosure barely bigger than her body.

But Australia is still well behind in animal welfare; the UK banned sow stalls over a decade ago and recently freed its last battery hen, yet there are still 12 million birds caged each year for egg production in Australia. White attributes the lag to the Federal Government’s “irrational fear of losing the rural vote”, but firmly believes the power of change lies in consumer choices.
“The only reason factory farming exists in Australia is because it’s hidden from public view,” she says. “I have no doubt that when people realise animals are paying a high price for cheap products, they will choose not to buy them, which will force these industries to change to more humane methods of farming.”

White has evoked widespread admiration, yet her commitment to animal welfare always prevails. “While cruelty continues in animal industries, I won’t feel any sense of pride,” she says.
“In 20 years’ time I would hope that many of the great injustices have been addressed – that animals raised for food receive equal legal protection from acts of cruelty, and that factory farming and live export have been relegated to the dark pages of history."