Australian Tongue and Ag-gag Law

Iris Ralph

Abstract


In this essay, I comment on two histories of animal farming in Australia in an ecocritical reading of several works of Australian literature: Tim Winton’s novel Shallows (1984), Susan Hawthorne’s collection of poetry, Cow (2011) and Francesca Rendle-Short’s novel Bite Your Tongue (2011). The first of those histories, the background of Shallows, refers to the whaling industry that operated in Western Australian waters up through the 1970s and the growing public awareness of that industry that eventually drove it to a halt in 1978, the year the main events of the novel take place. Cow and Bite Your Tongue, the texts that I mostly discuss, carry references to the history of industrial farming of cows in Australia, which, along with the industrial farming of other domesticated animal species, exploded after 1970 (in Australia and elsewhere in urban-industrialising countries), the same decade when Australians were beginning to rally behind animal rights activists’ opposition to whale slaughter. Today, almost half a century later, animal advocacy activists continue to raise pressing questions about animal species that are industrially farmed. They are doing so at the same time as the meat industry is attempting to restrict public access to and information about its operations. I address those questions in my reading of Hawthorne’s paean to cows and Rendle-Short’s references to the Moral Right movement in Queensland in the 1970s and attempts by its supporters to remove works of literature from school book shelves.


Keywords


Australian literature, animal studies, ecocriticism, Susan Hawthorne, Francesca Rendle-Short, Tim Winton

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References


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