IN THE NEWS: On FEB 17, 2008
The featherweight frontman of power-pop band Kisschasy, Darren Cordeaux, is lying supine on hay, dangerously close to the hulking frame of a 100-plus kilo pig named Bur.
As the beast lumbers around his stall, it's painfully apparent that, one false move, and the band could be scouting for a new singer.
Not that Cordeaux seems concerned. The 23-year-old behind such hits as Spray on Pants explains that he's rather fond of pigs.
"They're smart and sociable," he says, "every bit as intelligent as dogs."
In fact, he has a soft spot for all animals. So much so that he refuses to eat them and volunteers his time, and fast-growing profile, to campaign against animal cruelty as youth ambassador for Animals Australia.
While Cordeaux accepts that not everyone is ready to turn vegan overnight, he says the very least we can do is choose humanely farmed products.
Cordeaux, who juggles his burgeoning stardom with a paid job spruiking for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, points out that most pigs don't enjoy the same sort of bucolic comforts as Bur.
Rather, 95 per cent of the five million pigs killed in Australia each year endure a lifetime of concrete and steel.
Breeding sows, for example, are confined to ‘gestation crates' so small they can't turn around. (Such ‘sow stalls' have been banned in the UK.)
Just before giving birth, the sows are moved to ‘nurseries' that prevent virtually all movement. Here they give birth and nurse piglets through bars until the young are taken away to be raised for bacon, ham and pork.
The sow is impregnated again and the cycle continues until she is taken away for slaughter.
While Cordeaux is loath to preach about such grim realities to his fans – "that pushes people away" – he fronts a 15 minute DVD on the subject, which Animals Australia gives away at stalls at Kisschasy concerts.
He's also penned a song, Factory, on the band's latest album, Hymns for the Nonbeliever, in which he asks: "Is it right to take a life for the taste of a mother or a child?"
Cordeaux seems an unlikely candidate to have become an outspoken champion for animal rights.
Growing up in a deeply religious, meat-eating family in suburban Melbourne, he was busy dreaming of being a star. At 16, he left school, joining a succession of local bands before forming Kisschasy in 2002.
His metamorphosis to animal-rights campaigner began when Cordeaux was staying on a farm on the Mornington Peninsula.
"There was a lamb we loved. We used to go out and feed and play with it. One day it wasn't there – it had died. I was like, wow, I'm really upset, yet I eat lamb. I'd never connected the dots."
Now a committed vegan, he says he doesn't miss meat at all, although he admits it can be hard avoiding eggs and dairy products during the band's hectic touring schedule. In the two-and-a-half years since releasing their debut album, United Paper People, Kisschasy have toured Japan, the US and "every corner of Australia, except Broome".
Another American tour is scheduled for the next few months.
All of which has not only inspired Cordeaux, it has given him a better platform for talking about his other true passion.
"It's great that I can use my profile, but I'll always be passionate about animals, even when I can't play music any more. Music is something I love to do, but helping animals is something I have to do."
Read more at AAY.org.au