Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has criticised animal rights activists as “shameful and un-Australian” after dozens were arrested in nationwide protests.
On Monday, activists broke into abattoirs and chained themselves up to protest against the meat industry.
More than 100 protesters also blocked one of Melbourne’s main intersections, before many were forcibly removed.
Mr Morrison said the activism was damaging to farmers’ livelihoods.
“This is just another form of activism that I think runs against the national interest, and the national interest is [farmers] being able to farm their own land,” he told radio station 2GB.
He later called on state authorities to bring “the full force of the law… against these green-collared criminals”.
Australia is second only to the US for meat consumption per person, according to the World Economic Forum.
The nation’s livestock industry accounts for more than 40% of its agricultural output.
The protests took place in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and aimed to raise publicity about animal treatment and the ethics of eating meat.
“We want people to go vegan – we want people to stop supporting animal abuse,” one campaigner, Kristin Leigh, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“Animals are suffering in ways that most of us could never imagine. It is not about bigger cages – it is about animal liberation.”
Police said 38 protesters were arrested in Melbourne. A further nine were arrested at an abattoir in Goulburn, 168km (104 miles) south of Sydney, after chaining themselves to machinery.
The Australian Meat Industry Council said butcher shops had been under a sustained “attack” by campaigners.
“This has to stop and stop now. We need to look at the 99% of people in Australia that are looking to and wanting to consume red meat products,” said chief executive Patrick Hutchinson.
Global meat consumption has increased rapidly over the past 50 years.
Meat production today is nearly five times higher than in the early 1960s – from 70 million tonnes to more than 330 million tonnes in 2017, according to the Our World in Data project.
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