Showing Dairy Positivity in a World Hostile to Animal Agriculture.

Published on Wed, 09/18/2019 - 10:17am

Showing Dairy Positivity in a World Hostile to Animal Agriculture.

Jaclyn krymowski

  As if a difficult economy, ever-changing genetics, and tough decision making wasn’t enough, dairy producers all over the world are facing a mounting new concern – animal rights activism. Organized extremist groups threaten people, businesses and animal welfare with the clearly defined goal to eradicate the animal industries all together. They have a particular disdain for dairy and are willing to target farms sizes and management styles. Events that were once carefree celebrations of breeding accomplishments and community are now under fire by radical activists with an agenda to promote, indeed public events as lofty as World Dairy Expo and the Royal Agriculture Winter Fair all the way down to the local county fairs are no longer immune.

If we like it or not, there is always a spotlight on animal agriculture be it at public events, an unsavory social media posts, or negative attention from passers-by on the roadway. A lot of dairy producers have taken to social media platforms and opened their barn doors to share the story of agriculture and advocate for their industry. While a noble cause, and a very necessary one at that, this certainly isn’t an option for everyone. All dairymen, however, have the responsibility of reflecting a positive image of dairy to our consumers, be it out at public events or keeping the farm well-maintained. On the same note, we are in an era where we must all take precautions against unwanted attention from extremist groups.

Out and about
The festivities at World Dairy Expo creates an ideal platform for showcasing the industry’s very best. Such family-friendly events are filled with community, fun times, and exchanges of information. But when visitors show up looking to create trouble and undermine the true spirit of such an event, how dairy producers react is most critical.
A major tool of animal rights activists is social media. Many anti-animal agriculture organizations have boldly shared farm invasion and event disruptions to online platforms via photos, posts and livestream video feeds seen by thousands. That means any and every potential reaction or confrontation can be recorded and fed to the masses watching online. While it may be difficult, it is for this reason many industry experts recommended not engaging with activists in any way if at all possible.

Most events will have a plan in place on how to handle such disruptions and contacts assigned to handle these matters. Still, it is beneficial to communicate with everyone in your party how to handle any activists should they arrive. It is also helpful to explain your list of expectations and standards when your farm is on display to the public. After all, shows, fairs and other dairy events are the prime opportunity to exhibit all the best things about the business and farm life to the public. It is now more important than ever to present your animals and your farm to the highest standard possible. This means having everyone on their best behaviors, keeping stalls, equipment and animals very clean and positively engaging with curious visitors.

Having a farm display with strong eye appeal is always a huge bonus! Nice signs, name plaques and awards are a great way to not only promote your business, but advocate as well. Some farms have gone a step further and include handouts and information on the benefits of dairy products and shared facts on dairy farming. There are great resources available through your local extension office and the American Dairy Council.

Protecting your farm
Sadly, not even the smallest family farm is safe from unwanted visitors and potentially dangerous invasions anymore. Many radical animal rights groups have stormed farms large and small entering facilities, refusing to leave, filming unsolicited footage and in some cases stealing livestock. The horror stories abound among many farmers who never thought such a thing could happen to them.

Organizations such as the Animal Agriculture Alliance strongly recommend all livestock operations have a plan in place should unwarranted activists ever arrive. In fact, it is a good idea to have at least one designated person on each shift to keep a lookout for any suspicious, unauthorized persons and can immediately contact the authorities. All employees and family members should be trained on how to react in such a situation and have a coordinated plan in place.

While we unfortunately have to face a lot of anti-dairy opposition who refuse to even consider a compromise, we do have the vast majority of the public interested in dairy education and open to support. Remember, even when you are not out in the public eye your farm and facilities are representative of the industry to all passers-by even from the road. Just going through the basics of keeping things organized and clean will speak volumes of your values and the pride you have in your work. It is just as important to instill these values and expectations on all employees and family members who are involved with the day to day upkeep of the farm and animal care.

While a growing concern, the rise of anti-animal agriculture movement is simply another struggle on the long road of our dairy history. These upsets should not inhibit our enjoyment of industry events nor the pride we take in the way we dairy. Instead, we can turn it into an opportunity to spread our stories further and radiate a positive image to our consumers.