Activists are spinning scripture with Lent around the corner

We’ve seen animal rights activists dress up in costumes, storm NFL football fields, protest inside grocery stores and do just about anything to gain attention for their cause, but many people don’t know about their efforts in an unexpected area. With Lent around the corner and activist groups calling for the Pope and others to give up meat, now is the time to become familiar with how animal rights groups are “spinning scripture” (in the words of Paul Copan, PhD, Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University).

Animal rights groups using religion to petition people to eat less meat is not a new tactic, but it has been gaining traction in recent years. The Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are two groups with established faith outreach or religion programs.

“Activists re-translate God’s mandate to say something different in their favor” and “cherry pick certain phrases and give them a spin not aligned with the author’s intentions,” said Walter Kaiser, PhD, President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary at the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2016 Stakeholders Summit.

So, why are they targeting people of faith?

  1. They have sustained beliefs – so once they believe something, they are more committed.
  2. They traditionally contribute more money to charities.
  3. Animal issues appeal to their sense of compassion.
  4. Giving money may help appease guilt associated with knowing animals die for their benefit (guilt that activist groups drive and foster).

Lent is a religious period before Easter in which people of faith refocus their lives on God. It is often characterized by giving up things to help rid oneself of distractions and selfish desires. Unfortunately, Lent is currently being used by animal rights activists to spread misinformation about animal agriculture.

Activist messaging is getting into the hands of children during Sunday School and into sermons as they persuade church leaders. As overwhelming and frustrating as this is, there is hope. Wes Jamison, PhD, Associate Professor of Public Relations at Palm Beach Atlantic University and ordained minister said, the Bible “gives you permission [to use animals] and applauds you for doing so. You have the truth on your side.” The Alliance has resources available for discussing this sensitive topic in your communities – contact us at info@animalagalliance.org for more information.

Wes Jamison, PhD at 2016 Stakeholders Summit

American farmers gratefully receive God’s bounty and graciously share that bounty, using their God-given skills to multiply the harvest.

Raising food is a way of life that requires dedication and a lot of hard work. Farmers and ranchers working to raise the food we all eat, recognize this as both a duty and a privilege. While farm families comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population, they strive to provide food to 100 percent of the people in our nation. Through innovation, determination and support, they are responsible for the safest food supply in the world.

Good stewardship of God’s gifts demands that farmers make the most products for the most people out of the least resources.

Livestock production is responsible for only 4 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Each industry is doing their part to reduce its environmental impact and use of natural resources. Take the beef industry for example. Since 1977, the beef industry decreased its water use by 12 percent and land use by 33 percent. It was also able to reduce its feed input by 19 percent and carbon footprint by 16 percent. Today’s ranchers produce 20 percent of the world’s beef with just 6 percent of the world’s cattle.

The pork industry has reached similar achievements. Since 1960, the pork industry has reduced its water use by 25.1 percent. It also decreased land use by 75.9 percent, energy use by 7 percent and its carbon footprint by 7.7 percent.

We farm animals because they take creation we can’t use and convert it into things we can; that’s the very definition of biblical stewardship!

Cattle are great recylers. They are able to eat parts of foods that humans cannot digest and turn them into nutrient-rich milk and beef. Citrus pulp and peels, pits and seeds from fruits and vegetables, cottonseeds and grasses are a few things added to a cow’s diet.

Farms and ranches are also able to recycle manure into organic fertilizer for nearby crop fields. Contrary to popular belief, farmers help produce much more than meat. By-products from animal agriculture are in everything from pet food to fireworks, ensuring nothing from the animal goes to waste.

To learn more about animal agriculture, check out the Sustainability Impact Report of animal agriculture in the United States.

Sustainability Impact Report

How to protect your farm from extreme activists

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all; treat others like you would like to be treated; always be respectful – these are all basic rules I learned growing up. Unfortunately, some people have forgotten these simple gestures and need to listen to R-E-S-P-E-C-T by Aretha Franklin on repeat.

It’s no surprise that animal rights activist extremists are not fond of farmers and ranchers who raise animals. No matter how well the animals are treated under the farmers’ care, it will never be enough for the activists because their goal is a world without meat, milk, poultry and eggs. Just because these activists would rather see farmers out of business, it does not give them the right to break the law in the name of animal rights – but that is exactly what they are doing.

Animal rights activists harass farmers

Across the world, animal rights activist extremists are harassing and stealing from farmers and ranchers. Here are just a few of their stunts:

Turkey biosecurity

Wearing plastic booties for biosecurity

Since when is this type of behavior okay? Thankfully, the law is catching up with some of them. The leader of the very extreme group, Direct Action Everywhere is facing multiple charges for his illegal actions against farmers.

Breaking into farms could potentially put the animals in danger. Farmers take the health and well-being of their animals seriously. Biosecurity is any procedure or practice intended to protect humans and animals against disease. When someone breaks into a farm they may track in germs that could get the animals sick, especially if they are traveling from farm to farm trying to gain access.

Protect your farm

To protect your farm and animals from these extreme actions, here are a few things you can do:

  1. Have proper lighting, motion detectors, security cameras, and locks or key code access on gates and doors.
  2. Proactively connect with local law enforcement – let them know any concerns you have and ask for advice and protocol suggestions. Make sure they have access to maps of your facilities.
  3. If you do encounter any suspicious activity, immediately report it to law enforcement and notify the Animal Agriculture Alliance and your state commodity association. This could be anything from someone trying to get hired on your farm with dishonest intentions to a drone flying overhead.

If you are being harassed or activists are trespassing on your farm, please contact the Animal Agriculture Alliance at info@animalagalliance.org.

Key points from the 2017 National Animal Rights Conference

Do you ever wonder what campaign, movie or myth the animal rights movement will think of next? The Animal Agriculture Alliance has been tracking animal rights groups for more than 30 years to predict their next moves and keep farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and everyone in the animal agriculture industry ready for what may come in the future.

The Alliance sends representatives to the National Animal Rights Conference every year to gather insight on strategies and tactics of the animal rights movement. The Alliance shares a detailed report including quotes and observations with its members so they can stay informed. The 2017 event emphasized the ‘humane meat myth,’ clean meat innovations, expanding vegan options into the marketplace and a need for inclusivity within the movement.

Speakers urged attendees to avoid using the term ‘factory farming’ to encompass small farms in their rhetoric and breaking the law in the name of animal rights was deemed acceptable. These tactics are already in use as we see an uptick of activists breaking into farms of all sizes and stealing animals. Just in the last few months two different animal rights groups broke into farms in Colorado and Utah to “rescue” animals. Direct Action Everywhere trespassed and broke into a commercial pig farm while Denver Baby Animal Save walked onto a free-range chicken farm. The number-one goal of animal rights groups is to put farmers and ranchers out of business, no matter the size of the farm.

The Alliance team

Another theme at the conference was to continue pressuring restaurants, retailers and food-service companies to adopt certain policies for their supply chain – not to improve animal welfare, but to increase prices for both the farmer and the consumer. The focus has shifted from egg-laying hens to broiler chickens and the next target is will likely be aquaculture according to speakers at the conference. The Humane League is notorious for pressure campaigns and their executive director recommended “putting blood drips on their logo.”

The Alliance keeps detailed profiles on more than 80 animal rights groups for its members. Some of the most active animal rights groups include: The Humane League, Direct Action Everywhere, The Save Movement, The Humane Society of the United States, Mercy For Animals and Compassion Over Killing.

To find out more about the Animal Agriculture Alliance and the resources that are available, visit www.animalagalliance.org.

Animal rights activists masquerading as consumers

Consumer demand is powerful. It can be the champion of a company’s success or the culprit of their failure. What I find even more interesting is how consumer demand is defined. Does a group of people with no intention of ever buying a restaurant’s product qualify as their consumer? With the avalanche of recent restaurant and retail pledges caving to pressure from animal rights organizations, it seems so.

At the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s recent Stakeholders Summit, speakers offered insights about consumer demand – suggesting consumers aren’t the ones demanding restaurants and grocery stores to change their supply chain policies at all. Dr. Dan Thomson of Kansas State University stated, “activists today are masquerading as the consumers.”

I have yet to hear a person order their chicken sandwich only with meat from “slower-growing” chickens, so Thomson’s statement didn’t surprise me. Although I understand why restaurants adopt certain sourcing policies in the face of mounting activist pressure, it would be refreshing to see a company stand up against the “self-appointed food police” as Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate calls them. Thankfully, there is still at least one brand with a backbone – Domino’s Pizza.

Tim McIntyre of Domino’s Pizza

Tim McIntyre from Domino’s shared how the pizza company hears from animal rights “extremists” all the time, but they value the hard work of farmers and ranchers and will never make a policy announcement threatening farmers’ livelihoods [cue standing ovation].

Animal rights organizations hide behind the guise of being concerned about animal care and well-being, but in reality they are campaigning for animal rights. No matter how well animals are cared for, if it benefits humans in any way it is unacceptable in their eyes. The pressure campaigns are about one thing – driving up the cost of production and in the end, consumer costs to put farmers and ranchers who raise meat, milk and eggs out of business.

I urge the consumers who don’t want to be bullied by animal rights organizations to take a page out of Domino’s playbook and stand up and take action. A simple thank you to our favorite restaurant or the manager at your grocery store can go a long way.

HSUS bullies animal ag and hurts low-income families

Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate, shares her story of standing up for agriculture while the Humane Society of the United States pushed for a ballot in Massachusetts that would hurt low-income families at the grocery store. 

Less than a year ago, I attended the 2016 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, my first real introduction to agriculture beyond labels on products in the grocery store. I had recently learned about a ballot initiative filed in my state that, despite efforts to legally challenge its certification, would become Question 3 on the Massachusetts 2016 ballot.

As I considered engaging in this food policy debate, I reflected on my own family’s experience with hunger, homelessness and poverty which drives me in my work for social justice. I recalled the times I would dig through my sofa for change just to purchase a dozen eggs to feed my children some protein for dinner. In deference to the real victims of Q3, I would later agree to become campaign manager for Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice.

In my work, I have always sought to break down the stereotypes we all know too well – that poor people are lazy and uninspired; that if we would just go to work, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Rather than focus on solutions to poverty, policies began to look more like punishments, as broad brushes of accusations of fraud, waste and abuse taint us all when one bad apple makes a new headline.

While attending last year’s summit, I quickly learned that those of you providing the gift of nutrition have your own unique, yet similar challenges. I noted to Brian Klippenstien of Protect the Harvest at the time that low income families and farmers have their respective stories to share, stories that left untold by us, would be told for us by others with self-serving interests.

My years in policy work have also shown me that when we start to solve for a problem that does not exist, there will be unintended consequences. More often than not, the poor will suffer the worst. Q3 is the very definition of social injustice, those elite with money and satisfied choices imposing burdens on those with neither.

On its surface, Q3 would appeal to the good-hearted voters in Massachusetts who want to prevent cruelty to animals. In reality, Q3 was a cruel indifference to those of us who struggle to feed our families in a state ranked 47th in housing affordability and where our food costs are already 26 percent higher than the national average. Like most everyone, I don’t want to be cruel to animals, but I refuse to be cruel to people.

The Humane Society of the United States and their supporters would ultimately spend $2.7 million on the passage of Q3, while ensuring that the good and truth of agriculture would be a story left untold in my state. HSUS would continue to ignore not only the economic impacts for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens, but also the animal welfare trade-offs for the very livestock they claim to protect.

The politics is strange. Imagine if President Trump were to propose doubling the cost of the most affordable and accessible source of protein available to low income families. Outrage would ensue as advocates for the poor and the media would express their disdain for such a heartless and reckless act. Yet, when merchants of veganism do it, compassion for our fellow humans can simply be set aside, it seems.

Thankfully, Mr. Forrest Lucas and the National Pork Producers Council would provide enough funds for me to give voice to the voiceless in this debate. Sadly, we would ultimately be outspent 10:1 as funds directly from HSUS and their supporters in places like California, New York and DC poured into their campaign. Citizens for Farm Animal Protection rained down TV ads that portrayed animals in awful conditions, duping MA voters into thinking these conditions existed across farms in our state and were acceptable, normal agriculture practices across the country.

Walking into this debate, I had no idea how extraordinary our food producers and science partners are at providing healthy, affordable and sustainable nutrition. I am among the grateful who appreciate why your work is so critical and meaningful. I know why, going forward, the coalitions that I am accustomed to working in must be working in partnership with you all who feed us.

HSUS cleverly played on the emotions of voters in a progressive state where we, in general, know very little to nothing about agriculture. HSUS has bullied our local farmers into submission with direct threats to their livelihoods. HSUS lied about the cost, as they did in CA, selling their ‘penny-an-egg’ story to unsuspecting voters. HSUS claimed that consumers were driving their cause, not mentioning the consumers they were referring were retail executives who know about a good marketing plan, not your average shopper on a budget. HSUS called me as a pawn for big agriculture.

HSUS would soon learn that my supporters hadn’t just come to MA to randomly pick some low-income woman to be the face of this campaign. HSUS wasn’t certain how to handle me. This low income grandma, working 2 jobs to survive, with a solid record of 15 years in anti-poverty work, was on a crash course in agriculture. I found myself being the voice for not only those victimized by Q3, but also in defense of agriculture.

I created a unique challenge. HSUS couldn’t protest in front of my home: my neighbors would have had a field day with them. HSUS couldn’t threaten a boycott of my business: I don’t own one. HSUS couldn’t bully me out of this debate: though they tried. Their supporters suggested that I be locked in a cage. Some commented that my children should not exist if I ever struggled to feed them.

Despite our efforts, Q3 would pass overwhelmingly in MA, with a 2022 implementation date. As predicted, HSUS has moved along to another small, coastal state that, like my own, ranks among the very lowest in agriculture receipts in the country. HSUS is taking to state legislatures and ballots what they have been losing at the check-out counter where 90 percent of us purchase conventional eggs.

As I consider my next steps in this debate, I am reminded that HSUS did not happen overnight. Campaigns take time. Now, I know there has been an on-going food policy debate where those most impacted – and harmed – have been absent. I am here to take my seat at the table. HSUS is now pressing further, trying to bully big agriculture into producing slower growing broilers driving up the consumer price of chicken meat. That negotiation does not include the voice of those most adversely impacted. Any meaningful debate on these issues requires the presence of one of its major stakeholder groups –low income consumers.

In MA, nearly 800,000 residents rely on the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). Nationwide, that number is 45.5 million. We know that these numbers only scratch the surface at what food insecurity in the United States really looks like.

We must be more united and assertive in protecting and distributing our abundance. We must have the victims of this debate join with those who produce. The voice of low-income consumers can no longer be excluded from the negotiating tables. It is critical we unite urban and rural partnerships to promote food security and protect our dinner plates from the self-appointed food police.

When a farm kid goes to an animal rights conference…

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.

IMG_5702

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.

Reflections from the Animal Rights National Conference: what can we learn

Attending Animal Rights Conferences blog picture

The Animal Agriculture Alliance frequently attends conferences hosted by animal rights groups. The purpose of attending – to get inside information straight from the source and generate reports for its members. I attended Taking Action for Animals, hosted by the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Rights National Conference, hosted by the Farm Animal Rights Movement. The experience was eye-opening. I went in open-minded and intrigued by the conference themes. The themes targeted the rights and welfare of all animals. After a few phrases were repeated, the strategic position these organizations held was clear: these conferences are an attempt to undermine the animal agriculture community.

While attending each of the conferences, I did not see eye-to-eye with much of the information shared. Oftentimes the information was outdated, out of context and invalid. There was one speaker howbeit, that I did side with in one regard, Steve Hindi. Hindi is president of SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness). During his presentation Hindi said, “We’re winning? That’s absurd.” A statement which I applaud. The animal rights movement is far from a winning force. Hindi verified this truth in front of all attendees at the Animal Rights National Conference.

Why They Are Not Winning farmer-657332__180

Taking Action for Animals and the Animal Rights National Conference are the two primary conferences hosted for animal rights activists. As a result of their significance, messages conveyed were synonymous and presentations paralleled. Despite undeniable resemblance, the animal rights movement as a whole lacks synergy. There is no combination of strengths among organizations. Instead, speakers denounced other animal rights activist groups discrediting their effectiveness as an organization. Besides the lack of unity, the animal rights movement also fails to convey current and original information. Repetitive speeches at workshops with replica information and analogies was a common occurrence.

The animal agriculture community has become the primary focus of activist groups. By targeting animal agriculture, these groups claim they can “spare” the most animals. To do this they attempt to discredit scientifically-backed practices and protocols. With these tactics, activist groups draw profound attention to the animal agriculture community; but these organizations have forgotten a key business strategy –  never underestimate your opponent, but never make them bigger than you either. In attempt to discredit farmers and ranchers, these conferences do just the opposite. The conferences sing the praise of how far we as a collective, undivided industry have come and shine a light on what we are – science based.

My Take-Away 

AAA_group_con-eng-pro_4CAs a result of these conferences, the animal agriculture community must face the “marketing campaign” of the animal rights groups. Immediately, the question “how?” is raised. My answer – we don’t. Instead, we should aim to expand public knowledge about how farm animals are cared for and broaden the understanding of animal agriculture practices. At these conferences Wayne Pacelle and Nick Cooney said, “People are smart.” They are correct, the public simply has minimal exposure to agriculture. Animal welfare is a driving force that influences both the farmers and consumers. The well-being of animals’ health are valued by each, and because of this, practices reflect both values. By seeking what is understood by the public, and further developing their knowledge, there is no fight. The importance of animal care will be unquestionable. So I thank the conference speakers for drawing attention to animal agriculture – now it’s our opportunity to shine a light on the indisputable, humane methods of America’s farmers and ranchers.

The Alliance recently released its report from the 2016 Taking Action for Animals conference, available to Alliance members only.

PETA may be crazy, but other groups aren’t that different

If you had cream in your coffee this morning or had meat for dinner last night, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants you to seek help for your “addiction.”

PETA supports a new group called Meat and Dairy Eaters Anonymous by providing sites for their meetings. The support group follows a 12-step program like any other addiction support group, except they are providing guidance on how to be vegan. They are comparing eating meat to being a drug or alcohol addict essentially, which is insulting to people who actually struggle with addictions that negatively affect their physical and mental health.

I think we all can agree that PETA is on the extreme end of the spectrum with their insane publicity stunts, but maybe you’re thinking this is just PETA and other animal rights groups really do care about animal welfare without wanting to stop everyone from eating meat.

activst web

Activist Web

Animal rights groups have the same mission

PETA and other animal rights extremist groups like The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Mercy for Animals and Compassion Over Killing  have the same end goal: total veganism. This means no more cream in your coffee, milk in your cereal, cheese in your macaroni or grilled meat on the Fourth of July (or any other day for that matter). Sure there are meat and dairy substitutes, but do you really want to eat tofu, veggie burgers, soy milk and fake cheese the rest of your life?

The Alliance has tracked animal rights activity for almost three decades and has identified connections between the groups that illustrate how similar they are despite their differing public appearances. Our activist web shows the transfer of money and/or personnel between the groups and our top profile pieces include key campaigns and quotes to show their true agendas.

John “J.P.” Goodwin, the director of animal cruelty policy at HSUS, is one example of key staff members moving between animal rights groups. Goodwin was a former spokesperson for Animal Liberation Front (ALF) – one of the most extreme animal rights groups that exists.  ALF is known for acts of violence including property damage and threats all in name of “total animal liberation.”

Another example is financial support between HSUS and PETA. Why would you send financial support if you don’t agree with and support the core beliefs of the organization? The answer is simple – it’s because HSUS does share the same core beliefs and values as PETA.

HSUS is PETA in a business suit

HSUS is on Capitol Hill (literally in business suits) lobbying against animal agriculture while PETA advocates are standing on the front steps in fake blood demanding that people go vegan. This isn’t just a coincidence. HSUS and other groups rely on PETA and ALF to be crazy and obnoxious so that they seem level-headed and rational when in fact they each have the same goal of ending animal agriculture and meat consumption.

Animal rights advocates argue that it is impossible to care for animals and also eat meat, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Animal rights organizations are concerned about animal rights (treating animals as equal to humans), not animal welfare (making sure animals are well cared for). They will spread misinformation and use undercover video smear campaigns in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of hardworking and dedicated farmers and ranchers and make consumers uneasy about the food supply.

You can care about animals and still eat meat, milk and eggs11731729_10152937901995636_1288857164315442414_o

Animal welfare is a top priority for the animal agriculture industry. If it weren’t, why would there be so many industry programs and organizations dedicated to ensuring livestock and poultry receive the best animal care?

Animal rights groups will never be happy until meat and dairy products are off the menu for good and all animals are “free,” so the next time you think an animal rights group sounds rational and has the best interest of the animal in mind, ask yourself who is caring for that animal 24/7, 365 days per year – the animal rights organizations and activists or the farmers and ranchers?

Proactive steps to prevent an “undercover activist” from telling their version of your farm’s story

In my previous blog post, I examined the various “ag-gag” laws across the country. These laws vary widely in their scope, intentions and effects. Some farmers living in states with these laws may fear they do not go far enough to protect against undercover activists. Farmers living in states without these laws may fear that without them, they are defenseless against smear campaigns against their livelihoods. Agriculture is a business, and just like any business, farmers need to proactively protect themselves from potential legal issues. Below are some suggestions that farmers could implement today that may help mitigate the disaster that is animal rights activism.

Paper trail and training

First and foremost, all agricultural employers should provide written guidelines on every action employees should undertake on the farm, coupled with appropriate training. In the case of animal rights activism, making sure that all employees understand how to properly care for livestock is an excellent safeguard for employers. These guidelines and training sessions should also include information that explicitly demandCollege_Math_Papers employees raise any concerns about animal abuse – or any other problem for that matter – with a supervisor or employer immediately. This kind of rule will prevent animal rights activists from being able to claim that abuse is rampant on a farm; if employees are not holding themselves and each other accountable, it is less likely that the employer can be responsible as well. That said, employers should always try their best to personally oversee operations to ensure that no improper actions are conducted. Additionally, employees should sign a notice indicating that they have read the written guidelines and received appropriate training. This way, animal rights activists or otherwise rogue employees cannot claim ignorance of the materials an employer provides.

Be your own ‘Undercover Boss’

In conjunction with creating a paper trail that proves vigilance in caring for animals, employers should consider installing cameras on their property in areas where employees will likely handle livestock. While this can be expensive, having your own video evidence to combat the claims of thsurveillance-camera-241725_640e significantly altered activist videos can provide necessary context. Also, having this kind of video evidence is beneficial to the entire animal agriculture industry, as consumers could have the opportunity to see what really happens on farms. Perhaps if consumers better understood what farming operations really look like, they would swallow sensationalist claims from agenda-driven animal rights organizations less readily.

Public defamation is already illegal

Now let’s assume that despite an employer’s best efforts, an undercover activist infiltrates a farm and releases a video that portrays out of context activities as abuse. Employers should not be afraid to sue the activist for defamation. These undercover videos can completely destroy the livelihoods of farmers. If an employer can prove – perhaps through the measures mentioned above – that no abuse has occurred on the farm, or that appropriate measures have been taken to eliminate abuse therefore placing liability on the individual abuser, then that is simply fantastic. But the damage that arises from public defamation can be absolutely devastating to farmers and their families, not to mention public perception of animal agriculture as a whole. Many animal rights organizations see 4442238548_e54f2c3396_oeconomic benefit from jumping from one issue to the next, as Chris DeRose – a fringe animal rights activist himself – points out in an interview with an animal rights terrorist organization. These organizations profit dramatically every time a new video or other public outreach campaign creates a national firestorm. Because we can connect economic benefit to defamation, it is even possible to claim that these organizations violate the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. Granted, this act has historically always been employed in cases of data theft, usually involving an individual attempting to sell or otherwise transfer trade secrets to foreign corporations. However, the text of the law could be interpreted to apply in this circumstance as well. Any attorneys out there? Just some food for thought.

Closing thoughts

With or without “ag-gag” laws, employers can disincentivize activists from even trying to erroneously accuse hardworking farmers. If there is real abuse, then employees should report it immediately so they and their employers can find a solutions to correct the problem. However, the likelihood of discovering real animal abuse on farms is far lower than animal rights organizations would like the public to think. Animal care is the number one priority on my family’s farm, and for all other farm families. At the end of the day, I hope my suggestions can help farmers effectively reduce the likelihood of being the target of an undercover activist while also improving the public perception of animal agriculture.

 

Why undercover videos aren’t the answer

They wear two faces, two hats, one hidden video camera and have one goal: to put all farming operations that produce meat, milk and eggs out of business. Undercover animal rights activists gain employment on farms across the United States and Canada under false pretenses to help animal rights groups produce undercover video campaigns.

Undercover video map
Undercover video map

Undercover videos

In the past two weeks I’ve watched more than 90 undercover videos from start to finish and researched past news coverage about each video, how the company responded and what actions were taken after the video surfaced. Sure I’ve seen undercover videos before, but this was the first time I actually sat down and not only watched, but analyzed about six hours worth of footage and media content.

Watching the edited videos filled with haunting background music was frustrating more often than not, but I’m glad I had the patience to analyze each video because I was able to find exactly what I was hoping for: reasons why these videos are not the answer to addressing concerns of alleged animal abuse in animal agriculture.

Before I dive into some common trends, let me first say that when actual animal mishandling or abuse occurs, the animal agriculture industry does not condone it or try to hide it. Farmers, ranchers and industry leaders are dedicated to providing the best animal care possible, but activist groups are not concerned about animal welfare and are hindering the ability of the animal agriculture industry to strive for continuous improvement.

Common trends 

As I was going through footage and reading what the activist groups claimed to have happened, I couldn’t help but notice common trends start to emerge within each video – all of which supported why activist groups aren’t concerned with stopping alleged abuse.

Here are just a few (I could write a book on this, but I’ll spare you the time):

1. Out of context

Dehorning cattle

The average length of an undercover video is about 3-4 minutes by design. Activist groups rely on the viewers’ lack of familiarity about animal agriculture to convince and mislead them into thinking that what they are viewing is without a doubt animal abuse when they could very well be watching a procedure that is for the long-term welfare benefit of the animal, approved and supported by science and for the safety of employees that work with the animal.

One example of something being taken out of context would be dehorning. This procedure may not be easy to watch for someone unfamiliar with raising cattle, but imagine how much pain another cow or an employee would be in if they had their side cut into by a sharp set of horns. People have even died from these types of injuries. Naturally polled cattle (cattle that are born without horns) are growing in popularity, but a transition to an entirely polled population wouldn’t be possible overnight. As long as there are cattle being born with horns, dehorning will be a necessary practice for everyone’s safety.

So remember… don’t believe everything you see and know that these videos only show what the animal rights groups want you to see.

2. Staged scenes

Undercover activists are paid up to $800 per week to capture footage of what they deem as inhumane. So what if they don’t find anything worth capturing? What if nothing they see is worth splicing together for an undercover video? We’ve heard that activists only get paid if they capture footage the animal rights groups can use, and this could very well explain why some activists are known to stage scenes and either encourage other employees or partake in abuse themselves.

Mercy for Animals ad
Mercy for Animals ad

One video taken at a poultry processing facility showed chickens in a room of the facility where they should have never been and was later determined that that the activist had access to the facility at night and staged the chickens and put them in danger just to shoot a video.

In another video at a dairy farm, the activist made sure cows were led through deep manure when the cows had no reason to be walking in that area. It was later found that this scene was staged and that if the cows were living in the conditions that the activist group had claimed, then they would be covered from head to tail in manure, not just their legs.

So if I am aware that undercover activists are staging scenes and even encouraging employees to break animal welfare protocols, then the animal rights groups must be aware since they supposedly expect an update from the activist each day. This begs the question that if they are aware then are they actually encouraging it too? Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are aware, but aren’t encouraging the activist to go to any measures possible to obtain footage of alleged abuse, then what are they doing to stop activists from encouraging or even being a part of what they claim they are trying to put an end to? From what I can see, nothing, because it continues to happen and a handful of activists have been charged as a result of their actions.

3. Refuse to cooperate with farm owners and law enforcement

Farm owners and law enforcement have requested to view the full, unedited video footage that the undercover activist obtained while working on the farm for the purpose of getting the entire story and finding out what exactly (if anything) went wrong and how to fix the situation so it doesn’t happen in the future. If activist groups were concerned about helping animals they would be willing to help management and law enforcement to take corrective action.

In all cases, the undercover activists leave employment before the video footage is released and therefore not available to answer questions regarding their concerns and what they allegedly witnessed because they are already undercover on another farm working on producing another video. If they are concerned about animal welfare, wouldn’t you think they would stick around and help in any way they possibly can?

4. Playing the innocent bystander

On many farming operations employers require their staff to sign an agreement stating that they will report any concerns about animal welfare immediately. Do the undercover activists sign this agreement? Yes. Do they adhere to the agreement and report concerns of abuse immediately? No, they just stand there and videotape. If I was witnessing something that I truly felt needed to be stopped, I wouldn’t be able to just stand there and watch from an arms-length distance. Would you?

Animal rights supporters often fire back with the argument that “we need to get as much evidence as possible” when asked why they wait to report concerns of abuse. Not only are undercover activists breaking protocols if they did sign an agreement, but all this so-called “evidence” that they are getting is not doing anyone any good. It is only prolonging this alleged abuse that they deem as their top priority. If you actually are witnessing true animal abuse it doesn’t matter if you have one instance or three weeks worth of footage.

5. Taking forever to release the video

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – this day in age it does not take more than a day to put video footage online. One activist group claims undercover “investigations” are the “livelihood” of their organization, so they should be pros by now and be able to edit together their catchy three-minute videos in a few hours, right? But they wait for days, weeks, months and sometimes even up to a full year to release video footage! A year!

Honestly, this is the most glaring flaw of the animal rights groups in my opinion because it screams hypocrisy. The fact that they wait so long to release and report concerns of abuse just proves that they are more concerned about fundraising and perfectly timing video releases within the media cycle and their own PR campaigns than stopping the alleged abuse.

What it means for farm owners

For farm owners, the concern has shifted from if they will run into an undercover activist to when will they encounter an undercover activist which creates distrust between employees and supervisors. Now owners have to worry about hiring people that are there for the wrong reasons instead of focusing their attention on how to improve their operation and take care of their livestock. Concerns of abuse need to be reported immediately so management can know about the situation and resolve it as soon as possible. Supervisors can’t be everywhere at all times and they can’t fix what they don’t know about, so they rely on their employees do their job and to report their concerns immediately, not five months down the road after their footage is made into a video or commercial.

What can you do?

Ask yourself: if you were concerned about the welfare of animals, would you help and report your concerns immediately or just stand there and do nothing for the sake of a campaign?

If you answered the former, then don’t let the activist groups mislead you into thinking they are here to improve animal welfare. I encourage you to speak up and share why you don’t support undercover video campaigns by posting your thoughts with the hashtag #ReportNotRecord, started by Dairy Farmers of America in response to an undercover video targeting one of its member farms.