When a farm kid goes to an animal rights conference…

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I grew up on a cattle farm in rural Missouri. I am a classic, stereotypical farm kid that was involved in the local 4-H and FFA. I raised cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and ducks. I know how to drive a tractor and drove a truck in a field before I drove a car on the highway.I'm a farm kid, and I went to animal rights conferneces.

Bullying farmers and ranchers 

I became aware of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) from their pessimistic TV commercials trying to gain more donations by appealing to viewers’ emotions. I knew these animal rights organizations always said they were trying to help dogs and cats, but when they said they needed to “rescue” farm animals, that’s when I started to do research.

In August of 2014, Missouri residents voted on a “Right to Farm Bill”- ensuring Missouri farmers and ranchers are guaranteed the right to farm for forever in the state. I advocated heavily in favor of this bill, yet I met several people who were skeptical, and the majority of those people were misinformed on the bill by anti-agriculture groups. Therefore, I attained a dislike for these groups that felt the need to bully and pressure their way into getting what they think is best for animals – which often does not align with science.

blog picBlending in with the activists

After that, I never thought that I would attend multiple events sponsored by the organizations that are trying to annihilate the industry that possesses my livelihood.

That quickly changed when I moved halfway across the country for my summer internship with the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The Alliance sends representatives to national animal rights conferences each year so that it can inform the industry about what strategies and tactics activist groups may be using next. Not knowing what was going to be said or done, I sat quietly and noted what the organizations had to say about the animal agriculture community.

I did not know exactly what to expect when I walked into the first conference, the HSUS’ Taking Action for Animals Conference. My first thought was that I was not going to blend-in with the activist crowd. During the opening session, Paul Shapiro, HSUS’ vice president of farm animal protection, said something opposing the animal agriculture industry that made the whole audience stand up, clap and cheer. Since I was trying to blend in, I had to stand and clap as well. I was weak in the knees to stand and applaud somebody that doesn’t understand the importance of animal agriculture and the hard work and dedication that farmers like my family possess.

The second conference I attended was the 2016 National Animal Rights Conference hosted by FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) in Los Angeles, California.

The banquet entree at the 2016 Animal Rights Conference was "chicken" in a mushroom sauce.
The banquet entree at the 2016 Animal Rights Conference was “chicken” in a mushroom sauce.

While at this conference I tried vegan food, which added to the eye-opening experience of being exposed to the animal rights movement. This conference was much larger than the one hosted by HSUS and included more radical sessions that made me cringe by just reading the titles like, “The Spirituality of Veganism,” and “Getting to Know Our Adversaries.”

While sitting through hours and hours of similarly themed sessions I did learn a few things. I learned that most of the animal activists will believe the lies of “factory farming” without ever hearing the truth from farmers themselves. Several of the activists think that animal agriculture is an abomination to mankind that needs to be destroyed and the animals need to be “liberated.” I also learned of the different tactics that are being used by groups to essentially spy on farms, fairs, and other similar events. From drones, telephoto camera lenses, body cameras and the use of the Freedom of Information Act, activists are willing to stop at nothing to “free” the animals. To see what these people are willing to do to “liberate” animals is intimidating, because their tactics are ruthless and unethical.

SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) uses drones like this one nicknamed “angel.”

Controlling my emotions 

A skill I learned while attending these conferences was to control my thoughts and expressions while listening to the lies spewed by speakers. During the HSUS conference, Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy for Animals, specifically said that “4-H is a child’s first betrayal of animals.” I retired as a 12-year 4-H member and Missouri State 4-H President in early June. It took courage for me to clap at the comment rather than speaking out to defend the organization. I learned that the activists are willing to say anything to make people believe their lies about farming.

Leading with lies and misinformation

As I unwillingly applauded several animal rights leaders, listened to speakers preach about plant-based diets, tried vegan food and talked with people about “how horrible farmers are,” I realized the key difference between myself and the activists. While claiming to care about farm animals, activist groups rely on lies and misinformation to spread their goal of ending animal agriculture while I rely on truths, farmers’ experiences and science to promote the industry I love.

If you have questions or concerns about how farm animals are cared for please ask a farmer who cares for their animals every day, not animal rights groups with a radical, unrealistic, and downright absurd agenda.

The Alliance has published one report on the HSUS conference and is currently working on a report from the 2016 National Animal Rights Conference. These reports are exclusively available to Alliance members.


  1. Thanks for the report and I know what you mean However when I attend HSUS “lobby days” I am already well known. At times i have been refused entrance.. but when I was in one session someone mentioned FFA and either zealots stood and said don;t you mean FFAA that stands for Future Factory Farmers Of American the crowd cheered.. disgusting people keep up the good work

  2. You did a great job of reporting . Appreciate every long winded speech you had to endure.

    They will never understand the love and responsibility a Farmer takes on .

  3. These activist have not another thing to do but think up lies about farming and animals connected to the farms. They don’t realize how much the farmers have to do with furnishing the food they buy in the stores and put on their tables for their families. I agree with the 4-Her from Missouri. She had the strength to listen to all the lies that these activist put together . I can’t stand liars. I give this 4-Her praise for having the courage to sit quietly at these conference. So that she can continue to work toward some committee to expose these lies in regards to HSUS, 4-H, FFA, animal care, FARM ANIMAL RIGHTS, & farming. Keep up the good work. They are always trying to close down 4-H & FFA, but some people don’t realize how possitive these two groups are for the young generations.

  4. I liked your post! Could you expound more on what types of things were said (or lies) at the conference, and your ideas and examples of how those are false? I’m really curious.

  5. Thank you for the well written and informative article. It was very brace of you to attend such an event full of one sided propaganda. However calling such groups activist groups for animals is giving them far too much praise. These groups and their leadership are adgenda driven extremists not truly motivated by the welfare of animals. The true advocates and activists for the actual welfare in the best interest of the animals are the farmers, ranchers, dairymen, veterinarians, and all who own/care for animals everyday.
    Once again thank you and I applaud your bravery in attending such an event to learn more about such underhanded and extreme groups.

  6. You did better than I would have, my face betrays my emotions and someone would have likely asked why I was so angry and I can never get the good comeback until hours later so I probably would have said something really bad. We are a 4H family and I don’t care what people eat or don’t eat, but I do hate bad science & the PETA etc. people use bad science a lot. I know lots of families that eat Kosher or Halal, but they are never rude to others about it like some of the vegans I know, so sad.

  7. HEAR HEAR!!! You are a very courageous young lady and boy do I applaud your efforts!!
    thanks so much for sharing your insights –

  8. She’s got more self-control at her age than I did. I would NOT have been able to clap to “fit in”. I probably couldn’t have controlled my mouth either. Years ago, I went to a one day conference that was similar but not quite as radical-sounding. It was my introduction and eye-opener to the AR movement. I don’t think I could go to a full-blown AR crazy conference and remain incognito!

  9. I appreciate your initiative and gained insights into “human behaviour” at a young age. When you assist farmer groups you need to be more specific so that peak bodies can add to cumulative knowledge in a vigorous rebuttal across mainstream society. I had a similar background and I have worked in 14 countries, many cultures and farming and rangeland systems. I was also an agri college lecturer and large scale farmer with 30,000 sheep and 1000 cattle. I understand life and the importance of agribusiness to the nation. The combative nature of people who move beyond animal welfare to “rights” is a political narrative no different to jihadi motivation. In the digital / money age good people will have a lifetime of combat to retain their fundamental rights. That is how serious it is. Vegan / Peta and the like are scammers. Nothing more nothing less. Your farm preservation legislation is a very useful and timely weapon to provide an information window to joe public. Make your message factual and understandable because urban society is divorced from country cousins. There is almost no sentiment in such debates until children are reunited with food production and rural experience.

  10. This is really well written, but it left me with a big question. If what activists say about factory farming is untrue, why are ag-gag laws passed? Why do activists need to use drones and telephoto lenses and spy on these farms to find out what is going on there, if the farmers have nothing to hide?

    The only cure for misinformation is more information and openness to the public’s gaze. If people can see for themselves what’s going on, then they won’t have to rely on activist reports.

  11. I’m just curious, because you mention many lies that they spouted and that their findings didn’t stack up to science – what specifically you found to be untruths and propaganda, etc. and how you would have responded to those specific lies? I’m a meat eater, and support sustainable agriculture and would like to support farm and farmers, but I have been vegetarian in the past and would just like to know more about your perspective. You seem to imply with your post that nothing that farmers or big factory farms do could be improved.. but I don’t like animal abuse and it does seem that some farms do regularly engage in actions against animals for efficiency or profits sake that aren’t necessarily kind or healthy…. I guess I would just like clarification.. Thanks!

  12. Do you all actually believe what you’re saying? The group that kills (and profits from the killing of) animals is probably not the group with the animals’ best interests at heart. It’s not an insane and radical agenda to say that we shouldn’t needlessly slaughter living beings! The environmental impact of animal agriculture especially can’t be ignored or denied any longer. The only people calling animal activists liars are those who profit from animal ag. You mention animal rights groups’ “lies” repeatedly, but never once give factual information about what these lies are and what the truths are that contradict them. Sure, there are some smaller farms where animals are treated okay until the day they’re murdered. The majority, however, come from factory farms where they suffer their whole lives. If you actually don’t believe that, you’re not really looking for the truth; you’re looking for the information you want to see.

  13. Hi Laura, I am a biological scientist and would like to speak with you about the science around animal agriculture and animal welfare. Which parts of the science do you think demonstrate that current animal agriculture practices are ethical and justified? I have tried to be quite unbiased and look at things from a skeptical viewpoint, however I have come to a different conclusion to that which you have adopted. As far as I can see the science demonstrates that animal agriculture is negative for the environment, negative in terms of food production efficiency, negative in terms of animal welfare, and slaughterhouses are both negative in terms of animal and human welfare, appear to cause increases in violent crime in the areas that they are established, and also shows that processed meat and unprocessed red meat consumption is generally detrimental to human health.

    If you could let me know which science reliably demonstrates these points to be false I am all ears. Thanks!

  14. Hmm; looks like a few animal rights extremists have found this blog post and are attempting to plant seeds of doubt in readers’ minds. Matt Walker for one, a self-described biological scientist, who asks this blog author (a teenager/young adult) for scientific research. Fascinating, eh? Why would a scientist ask a young person for that, when she was writing about her impressions after visiting several extremist, anti-animal usage and ownership conventions?

    When I clicked on his icon, next to his comment, it shows the avatar name ‘cheaptorque’ – when one goes to that profile for the hovercard, one sees this: http://en.gravatar.com/cheaptorque. Gravatar is, according to the page, a place to manage all one’s online identities. **All** one’s identities. Why would a biological scientist use or need multiple identities? Why would s/he not simply use his/her own name so one could find and peruse the researcher’s own published research?

    My interest piqued, I continued searching and found Cheaptorque’s blog, here: https://cheaptorque.wordpress.com. This is his About section (and yes, I saved a snip of it):

    This blog is dedicated to science based philosophy, with particular focus on bioethics and animal welfare issues in New Zealand.

    Cheaptorque is a double bachelor’s degree holder (BA & BSc) and is currently completing an MSc in biological sciences. Cheaptorque has a strong interest in topics ranging from philosophy, psychology, sociology, & social work, to biological science & bioethics, chemistry, physics and astronomy.”

    So, there you have it: Matt (if that is his actual name) is in fact a college student. Not a full trained, employed scientist (yet). And he has an agenda. 😉

  15. It is very nieve and ignorant to believe all farming is done the way your family does it. Factory farming is very real and very devastating not only to consumers health but the health of our planet(land & water), and to the animals themselves. Expand you consciousness and awareness in an OPEN minded way. Your views are only one sided. Your can support traditional farming without ignoring facts of factory farming and calling them lies. There’s a whole world outside of your rural town sweetheart.

  16. Were NOT animal Rights we support 4H and FrA and we raise livestock, poultry, compete and Oppose Horse Slaughter. We are Not Vegan, or Vegetarian and we don’t waste time as you have going to a conference. All the things your talking about are Common knowledge. It’s been Animal Rights for decades, my question is this.So in your mind you found it best to attend meetings and then be those People Against animal Rights who get angry when they hire on at a farm to investigate them? If I had been there I wouldn’t have been quiet nor clapped, I would have been true to myself. You do not blend in because that means your doing exactly what AG says they do. You should have stated your position, explained it and took a stand. I know your gaining evidence, same as they have done. When you can no longer see the Forest for all the trees you are as extreme as them. HSUS has helped stop horse slaughter to date. The problem is Both sides do not want to compromise so as long as both sides keeping sneaking up on each other your not accomplishing anything. And under right to farm was right to own a horrendous puppy mill and slaughter horses even if people said no. That’s what they were battling. I don’t take either side in fact, I am on mission to make the people who are doing the Right thing keep on keeping on. Abuse needs stopped no matter who is abusing. Your notation of their commercials asking for contributions. Without them there were no laws protecting animals in the first place, I remember the abuse that occurred in a lawless time. Times have changed and ranchers and farmers are learning to change, but those that haven’t need to laws to urge that change. As for 4H it’s going to be gone if the war doesn’t stop. The Illinois Farm Bureau nearly closed 4H in Illinois until I started an uprising. It’s not always AR s sniffing out programs. Just fyi. The BLM is trying to slaughter Wild Horses Not Animal Rights, it’s Pro slaughter trying to kill domestic horses not ARs. It’s not always what it appears is what I am saying.

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