Protecting against anti-farm activist threats and fake news

by Stephen Wagner

Allyson Jones-Brimmer is the Director of Industry Relations for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and was once a member of the Western Equestrian Team at Cornell University. She spoke recently at Penn-Ag Poultry Council’s Annual Meat and Egg Meeting about the title topic. “We were formed over 30 years ago because we realized that the ag industry and farmer’s and rancher’s livelihoods were being put at risk because of groups attacking the industry; they used a lot of different tactics to put a negative spin on animal agriculture, which they are still doing today, using different methods to put you all out of business.”

Jones-Brimmer says her group is tracking over 100 organizations that are engaged in these types of missions. They are primarily animal rights organizations whose credo includes a bias against animals being used for food, entertainment, medicine, research, labor… anything like that. Extreme environmental groups are also focusing on antibiotics and other consumer issues, and using similar talking points. “We are tracking all of them as well as the resources they share,” she says. “The Humane Society of the United States is often seen, because of the fund-raising they do, as an organization that helps cats and dogs. They are often viewed as an umbrella organization over your local humane societies, but they aren’t really that. They have a very strong vegan mission, and they work with more radical groups like PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], the Humane League and Mercy for Animals, which are openly and outwardly promoting that vegan mission.”

These groups have a lot of money to carry out their varied but unified agendas. AAA estimates a combined $500-million is being used to change your opinion. That figure comes from the tax reporting from several of the groups. The website for Mercy for Animals also shows legions of young people, many of them volunteers, carrying signs that forward the cause. MFA’s home page has a photo of a man named John Sally whom they quote as saying “If I were a factory farmer, I’d lose sleep knowing that Mercy for Animals was out there.” A girl in a panel next to Mr. Sally, Kat Von D, is quoted as saying “I love MFA because they are one of the most inspiring organizations doing so much good work for farmed animals. The world wouldn’t be as amazing as it is without them.” AAA sends representatives to the annual meetings of these groups to try to get a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what they are focusing on, what tactics might come into play, and what strategies to prepare for. The Alliance, says Jones-Brimmer, has harvested some quotes over the years that underscore this vegan mission:

• ‘We are preying on emotions to push our vegan agenda. We do not give our consent to enslave meat, we do not give our consent to murder.’ – David Coman-Hidy, The Humane League, National Animal Rights Conference 2016

• ‘My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.’ – John (J.P.) Goodwin, HSUS, quoted on AR-Views discussion board

• ‘All farms are factory farms, no matter the size.’ – Hope Bonahec, United Poultry Concerns

If you think any of these statements are extreme, you’re not alone. “They are really starting to get more extreme,” Jones-Brimmers says. “It has been a long time since we tracked terrorist-type activities, like people setting barns on fire or harassing people in their homes. But lately, it is getting more disruptive, professing confrontation,” things that are again security concerns, not to mention just plain obnoxious. Undercover employment and videoing is a tactic that’s been around for a while, cyclically it seems. “Either they are taking normal practices that are good for the animal out of context,” she notes, “or there is actually abuse going on that they let happen, and they do nothing to stop it because they are there to photograph it or take videos of it.”

Generally, such videos are selectively edited and used with other unrelated footage from other farms to present fake news of farm evil-doings to a susceptible and unaware public via YouTube, Facebook and other social media.

Another tactic, this particular one, held in May of last year, is known as Open Rescue. Busloads of people, totaling about 500, descended on a California egg farm to “protest.” Citing a piece of California ‘legislation’ as a justification for being there, between 40 and 50 of the protesters entered the farm and its barn and stole some chickens. This lasted for three hours, and even law enforcement was puzzled by what was going on. Forty of them in this scenario were arrested, but “this doesn’t really matter to them because they are willing to go back and do it again,” Jones-Brimmer says. “It happened again but the next time police were there. One protester complaint after emerging from a chicken house was “these chickens have no food!”

But, she says, “stop and think about this. If you’ve never seen the inside of a chicken house, would you see food there? This is what we’re up against; this is where ag education is happening.”

The demonstrators set up an animal care tent with a Red Cross symbol on it and took some chickens over to the tent to be treated for whatever treatments are used for chickens that have nothing wrong with them.

2019-02-19T11:08:47-05:00February 18, 2019|Eastern Edition, Mid Atlantic|0 Comments

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