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Vegan protests pose meaty questions on cover

Farms, abattoirs and other food-chain producers targeted by animal rights activists may find they are not covered for potential impacts on their businesses.

Protesters have chained themselves to equipment, invaded farms and abattoirs, stolen livestock and blocked a major Melbourne intersection as part of a wave of activity that culminated in simultaneous demonstrations last week.

Gallagher National Head of Food Production Stephen Elms says the brokerage has been talking with clients about the risk, with more vegan protests likely to remain a possibility.

“While we have seen it this last month in Australia, it is a global push as well and I don’t think they will go away,” he told today. “Certainly they have a bigger voice than maybe we all appreciated and I think it will be an ongoing issue.”

Mr Elms says off-the-shelf business and farm insurance packs are not aimed at such events and more bespoke solutions are required. The brokerage has developed its own endorsement for impacts such as protracted lockouts or extended property invasions, but he says such solutions are not widely seen in the market.

“We are looking at areas where we can help our clients mitigate some of those costs, and obviously an insurance policy is one of them,” he said.

“Some of our very large [agricultural] clients have increased security around their premises. Others at this point are just keeping an eye on it.”

Activist group Aussie Farms in January launched an online map with details of “factory farms, slaughterhouses and other animal exploitation facilities” and the National Farmers' Federation says an increase in activity has followed its publication.

“Since January we’ve seen dairies, feedlots, abattoirs and even aquariums targeted,” CEO Tony Mahar said.

The Federal Government has moved to close a Privacy Act loophole that allowed publication of the details and last week the Coalition said that if it is re-elected next month it will introduce tougher punishments for those who incite farm invasions.

In a website post titled “Vegans at the gates”, Gallagher notes that diets excluding animal products are becoming more popular. Swiss food giant Nestle expects its vegan business to reach $US1 billion ($1.4 billion) in 10 years.

Nearly 2.25 million Australian are now vegetarian or nearly vegetarian, according to Roy Morgan research. Market research firm Euromonitor International says the country is the fastest-growing vegan market behind the United Arab Emirates and China.