Australians are the second biggest meat eaters in the world, the biggest exporters of red meat, and our dairy industry is worth $13.7 billion… but we are also the third fastest growing vegan market.
In the UK a dramatic rise in veganism has led to clashes between those who want all animal products banned and the livestock farmers whose way of life is under threat...and it's getting nasty.
In a timely and thought-provoking documentary, Dateline reporter Dean Cornish meets the British farmer who's been called a -rapist and a murderer' – and received kidnap threats against his two young children – and the Australian leader of the vegan activists kicking up a storm in the UK.
Diet and health expert, Michael Mosely also offers his unique perspective as Dateline explores the innovators looking at meat alternatives from edible insects to lab-grown meat.
'I think there's no doubt that being vegan or vegetarian is a more ethical option, in the sense that it's very hard to justify eating other animals," explains Mosely. 'Whether I will ever become vegan is another matter."
By 2050, it's estimated that there will be 9.7 billion people[iii] – how does the world provide protein for this many without decimating the environment?
Australian born Joey Armstrong is an animal liberation activist and social media personality who has made it his life's work to abolish the meat and dairy trade. He believes that farmers are -playing god' with the lives of animals and that it's consumers who are ultimately responsible.
'Animals are not willing participants in any of this", explains Armstrong. 'The farmers are determining when they will die. They are being chopped up into pieces and served to us as consumers. What I want consumers to understand is that they are the most key player in all of this. Without their money, these industries do not exist,".
In the UK, Dateline meets third generation dairy farmer, Jonny Crickmore, who believes that farmers are the lifeblood of the UK.
When Jonny posted a photo of a mother cow and her triplet calves on social media, he and his young family became the victims of abuse from -militant vegans' who accused them of rape, murder and slavery.
Patrick Hutchinson, CEO of the Australian Meat Industry Council, says it's easy for vegans like Joey Armstrong to ignore the benefits of an $18 billion industry[iv].
'He doesn't have to care about anybody but himself. He doesn't care about working families, he doesn't care about working Australians, he doesn't care about anybody else but himself and the outcome that he's looking for, period."
More than 56 billion farm animals are slaughtered globally each year[v], and that number is expected to rise as the human population booms. Animal agriculture is responsible for roughly 18% of greenhouse gas emissions[vi] and 80% of the world's deforestation[vii].
The UN wants the world to eat less meat and dairy to help ease both food shortages and climate change.
Dateline looks at what solutions are available including lab-grown meat, made from the same cells that make the muscles of animals, and edible insects.
With the rise of veganism, the future of the meat and dairy industries are uncertain. Many non-western countries already include insects and worms in their diets – are Australian's ready to swap their steaks for protein-packed worm cake?
Watch the full report – The Vegan Wars on Dateline, Tuesday 29 May at 9.30pm on SBS. The program is available after broadcast anytime, on your favourite device via SBS On Demand.
Join the conversation on Twitter #DatelineSBS