Bloody Friday farmers praised for bravery

TERRI RUSSELL
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2013
Bloody Friday
The Southland Times/Fairfax NZ Zoom
File photo from June 9, 1978 of the 'Bloody Friday' protest by Southland farmers against the meat works by bringing their sheep into the city of Invercargill and letting them run around the streets before taking them towards the former showgrounds in Victoria Ave, to be slaughtered.

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Hundreds of Southland farmers involved in the 1978 "Bloody Friday" protest were praised for their bravery at the weekend.

About 200 people gathered at the Invercargill Workingmen's Club for the 35th anniversary of the protest, when farmers ran 1300 ewes down Dee St before slaughtering them on a Victoria Ave section.

Farmers were frustrated by industrial chaos across the meat industry, exacerbated by the worst drought much of the province had seen since 1956.

Protest leader Syd Slee said there were about 200 people at the reunion and half were involved in the protest. "We're very proud looking back on the protest," he said.

"You don't run a protest, about anything, without helpers. We had a lot of support and without that we wouldn't have been successful"

Alex Miller, of Te Anau, who was involved in the protest, said the union's industrial action cost him a lot of money because he was unable to kill his old ewes, some of which he kept up until lambing.

"It [the protest] was the best thing we ever done. We've had no problem with the union since," he said.

Wilma Humphries, of Lumsden, said at the time it was "all go" for her and her husband.

"We had hungry sheep. Farmers were very stressed, there was not enough food and the sheep desperately needed to be killed."

Former Alliance Group operations manager and now Prime Range Meats chief executive Anthony Forde, congratulated those involved in the protest.

Southland Times former chief reporter Clive Lind said it was a significant news event and there was a sense of excitement the night before the protest.

It was a "glorious piece of civil disobedience" that was called for in the times, he said.

Author and event organiser Dr June Slee launched her book Bloody Friday Revisited: Recollections of the 1978 Southland Farmers' Protest.

Speaking to the crowd, she said: "You had mortgages, you had families and you couldn't get your stock killed. It's absolutely worth getting it right and writing it down." 

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