The Intentions Behind PETA Attack Ads

Jean L Clavelle

You may have seen the DairyCarrie post recently regarding the PETA video which told a story of cows slogging through deep mud, living in deplorable conditions, emaciated, and generally uncared for. However, upon further investigation DairyCarrie identified several questionable points about the statements and images in the video and that perhaps the story was not all it was shown to be. The video stated that cows were emaciated and generally uncared for however upon closer look the cows had shiny glossy clean coats, were bright and alert and actually in good condition. To the uneducated eye and in comparison to say a sow with large rounded hips dairy cows may look emaciated but that is really just their anatomy – this is normal. It was said that cows were forced to live sleep and eat in mud and manure but if cows actually lived in the conditions shown their bodies hips and tails (not to mention the walls and every other surface in the barn!) would be covered in mud but they were sparkly clean above their legs. (See DairyCarrie.com for the full article).

This one small blog stirred up a virtual hornets nest on social media. By the next day DairyCarrie had 1.2 million views on Facebook and 160,000 people reading the article. Harris Teeter (the grocery food store chain), implicated in the video by PETA as purchasing directly from the farm, denied ever having any relationship with it and PETA was forced to retract their statements.  Upon investigating PETA’s allegations, local county inspectors determined they were unfounded, the cows were actually well cared for and there were no (zero nada zip) welfare concerns.

So why would a group like PETA set out to defame a small dairy farm like this and the dairy industry as a whole? What could possibly be the objective of such a stunt if there was in fact no animal welfare issues? PETA, Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals and others believe in animal rights. Simply put they do not wish for anyone to use, own, have animals of any kind whether that be for food, for entertainment or for pleasure. Including companion animals. They often implicate poor animal welfare as the reason for investigating farms or organizations that involve animals. And let’s be honest occasionally there are poor animal welfare conditions that are beyond ideal and downright negative. However as shown by the DairyCarrie post sometimes (and perhaps more often than you realize) it has more to do with the fact that people are simply using animals (regardless of animal welfare) and the posts and videos distributed by these extreme animal rights groups have nothing to do with animal welfare. And because the general public doesn’t understand the normal anatomy, physiology and animal management of a particular species PETA and other groups spins false truths playing on our emotions. For example in the PETA video it was noted that cows were referred to by number and that implied uncaring conditions. However what an excellent management practice for producers to know an animals complete history from birthday to health issues to production. So even though they do have numbers it’s a practical way to provide the very best health management and individual care for each animal based on what each cow requires.  And as I mentioned earlier to the untrained eye, it might appear that dairy cows are emaciated however obvious hip bones are normal for cows in good condition or even overweight cows.

The Animal rights belief system is certainly a valid one.  It’s unfortunate that these groups behave so badly and devalue that perspective by lying and marketing false truths. I ask each one of you to ask more questions before you believe on face value everything that is published by one of these extremists groups. Contact your local agriculture office, or any of the provincial industry associations who can help you answer your livestock questions or to visit a farm and find out what really happens.

Dear Wayne Pacelle

Guest blog by Carrie Mess, Wisconsin Dairy Farmer (www.dairycarrie.com)

Reprinted with permission

Dear Wayne,

I hope you’re not offended by my calling you Wayne. You don’t know me but my name is Carrie Mess and I am a Wisconsin Dairy Farmer. A few weeks ago you posted an open letter to Agriculture Journalists and Leaders. While I’m just a blogger and don’t consider myself anywhere near a journalist, I do think of myself as a leader in my community, so I am taking your letter to be directed towards me and my peers.

After reading your open letter, I had a few thoughts that I wanted to share in response. I like your format so I figured an open letter back would work well. Your letter is pretty long winded so I’m just going to pull out a few bullet points to discuss.

  • It’s quite obvious that you don’t care for Rick Berman and Humane Watch. If I was in your current  position after years of being fast and loose with the facts and I suddenly had a group calling my organization out, I wouldn’t like them much either.  I find it funny that you call out Rick Berman for being a lobbyist when HSUS spends millions on lobbying each year.
  • You state that the HSUS is governed by a 27 person board of directors and that those  directors are unpaid volunteers. That sounds about right for a nonprofit  organization to me. However, according to the HSUS      2012 tax filing you make $347,000 a year. Your organization has  another 38 people making over $100,000 a year. I know that my local human society  would be able to make a world of difference with just a fraction of your  salary. How many animals would be helped if you took a pay cut and sent that money on to local shelters?
  • You claim that HSUS has the highest charity rating from the Better Business Bureau  and Charity Navigator. Never mind that the Better Business Bureau is Pass/Fail and seems      to have serious issues with your organization. In the last 12 years, HSUS has only been ranked at the top of Charity Navigator’s scale 50% of time. You also leave out your D grade from Charity Watch.

To read the rest visit http://dairycarrie.com/2014/02/10/dear-wayne-pacelle/

A poultry vet responds to this week's activist videos

Guest blog by Dr. Mike Petrik, Ontario poultry veterinarian

(reprinted with permission from http://mikethechickenvet.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/response-to-activist-video/#comments)

This blog post is one I was hoping not to have to write. In Canada, there was recently an “investigative report” on the commercial egg industry. It developed after an animal activist group took undercover footage and passed an edited video to a television newsmagazine. The resulting 30 minute show was a black eye to the professional farmers, and has caused a stir in the public. I am disappointed in the response from the industry groups to address this attack, so I am writing this blog post in hopes of doing my part. This commentary does not represent any organization, and is entirely my own opinion.

First, let me point out some of the issues that are at play in animal activist videos in general.

1) Modern farms are large. This is daunting to most non-agricultural people. Looking at a barn with 10,000 chickens is as alien to you as me looking at an auto assembly plant, or a brewery, or a company that makes computer components. The shock of seeing the alien environment is leveraged by insinuating that it is impossible to care for large groups of hens. The fact is, there are basically as many laying hens in Canada as there are people. The farms are large because so many people live in cities and towns and don’t have time or interest in raising their own food. 30 Million chickens have to live somewhere in Canada if we want to continue to eat eggs the way we do now. Interestingly, the average flock size in Canada is smaller than anywhere else in the developed world….in the US, farms are between 50 and 100 times as large.

2) Activist videos are not what they seem. No, I’m not saying they fake them (although that has happened in some cases). What you need to realize is that the activist takes video for 4-5 months, then edits the video into the worst possible 15 minutes possible. The mandate of animal activists is to stop the use of animals…..all animals. They aren’t interested in showing the truth….if false representation helps them stop a process they see as immoral, that is very acceptable to them. Think about what this means. Imagine someone secretly taping you interacting with your kids or coworkers for months, and then trying to make you look bad. Imagine going through 4 months of footage of baseball games, and clipping out batters getting hit, hard slides, collisions at the plate, then make a 15 minute video of how baseball should be stopped because it is too violent. If the people watching were from the interior of China where people are unfamiliar with baseball, what would their opinion of the sport be? Continue reading

Expert Panel Addresses Hidden Camera Investigation at Alberta Egg Farm

A panel of farm animal care specialists has examined undercover video footage from an egg farm in Alberta and says that the scenes clearly show unethical and irresponsible treatment of animals. The panel also felt it was difficult to reach conclusions based on the video footage as presented.

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) created the Animal Care Review Panel to engage recognized animal care specialists to examine hidden amera video investigations and provide expert perspectives for food retailers, the egg industry and the media. The panel was asked to examine video contained in a report on the television news magazine W5 as well as a 3-minute video segment posted on the Mercy for Animals Canada website.

The panel was comprised of Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue University; Dr. Ed Pajor, University of Calgary; and Dr. Stewart Ritchie, a British Columbia veterinarian and poultry consultant.

In the video, hens are seen being tossed and handled roughly by workers, dead birds lie in cages and on floors in various levels of decay and chicks appear to be trapped in cages or farm equipment.

“What was shown in the video is inappropriate and unacceptable,” said Croney. “Handling birds that roughly reflects a lack of cognizance that these are live, sentient animals that can feel pain. What I saw shows a real need for additional training of farm employees at the very minimum.” Continue reading

"Shocking" undercover dairy video hits home

There’s a growing community of agricultural advocates in North America – farmers and farm enthusiasts who are passionate about what they do and who, more importantly, are focused on finding ways to stand up and tell their stories to the world.

One of these enthusiasts is Dairy Carrie, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin. You can read her blogs at www.dairycarrie.com.

In particular, we’d like to call attention to her latest blog entitled “Shocking undercover dairy video hits home” which features footage filmed on her farm. If the title has piqued your curiousity, chcek it out for yourself at http://dairycarrie.com/2013/02/14/shockingvideo/

Read the comments below the post too. They’re sure to make you smile!

 

Expert Panel Addresses Hidden Camera Investigation at Manitoba Swine Farm

Kansas City, MO. (Dec. 10, 2012) – The Animal Care Review Panel, a panel of animal wellbeing experts, created to analyze undercover video investigations at livestock farms, has examined undercover video from a Manitoba hog farm and concludes while some of the animal handling practices shown are improper, most of what is seen are widely considered acceptable and humane.

The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) created the Animal Care Review Panel to engage recognized animal care specialists to examine hidden camera video investigations and provide expert perspectives for food retailers, the pork industry and the media. The panel that examined the recent video in Manitoba was comprised of Dr. Laurie Connor, University of Manitoba; Dr. Jennifer Brown, Prairie Swine Centre; and Dr. Robert Friendship, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph.

The experts viewed a 3-minute video segment produced by the group Mercy For Animals. The news magazine television series W5 also used clips of the video in a report.

Their report follows: Continue reading

We can all make a difference – one farming story at a time

Stacy and Troy Hadrick

 By Patricia Grotenhuis (with tips from Lilian Schaer)

Everyone has a story to tell, and for Troy and Stacy Hadrick, sharing their story through social media has taken them around the world.

The ranching couple from South Dakota found out the hard way that relying on someone else to tell your story can have unintended consequences.  Since an early media experience in 2002, where an interview with food activist Michael Pollan saw Troy – and the conventional beef industry –  vilified in a feature article, they have vowed to do a better job telling their own story so misunderstandings do not happen again.

“Every single one of us involved in agriculture is a spokesperson,” says Stacy.

Over the years, the couple has found themselves sharing their story with people in the agriculture industry and also with consumers, businesses, activist groups and more.  They are examples of how much one person can do, especially with social media’s ability to allow people to reach so many.
The Hadricks encourage all farmers and ranchers to tell their story.  They stress the importance of bringing your connection to agriculture up when you introduce yourself to someone, opening the gate for conversations.

“Take a couple of minutes to answer questions.  If you’re not excited about the stories you’re telling, they won’t be,” says Troy.

The couple gave both a workshop and a keynote address at the Farm & Food Care Ontario AGM in Waterloo during the month of April.  Speaking to the conference topic, “Building Better Bridges”, they shared a number of stories about how they began advocating for agriculture on a large scale, and the experiences they have had since they began.

Troy and Stacy are daily examples of what they advocate – talking about how important it is to speak up when you hear information being shared which is not factual.  One of the examples of how they have made a difference includes Yellowtail Wine and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Upon hearing that Yellowtail donated $100,000 to the HSUS, an animal activist organization (which fronts as a humane society but spends less than half of one per cent of its total budget to help animals, according to Humane Watch) Troy took action.  He began by posting on Yellowtail’s facebook page, simply stating he was an American farmer and the donation would impact his family negatively, as HSUS strives to end animal agriculture.  Troy encouraged family and friends to do the same.

Further reflection reminded Troy that he had a bottle of Yellowtail wine in his cupboard.  He proceeded to create a 54 second video of him dumping the wine on the frozen ground while some of his beef cattle look on, explaining why he is dumping the wine and what impact the Yellowtail donation will have on many American families. You can see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCR_J2fWsKA

The video was uploaded to YouTube and the number of views began accumulating. Troy also started receiving attention from both  Australian media and the Australian government.  Unknown to Troy until this point, Yellowtail’s initial donation was part of a larger commitment to donate $300 000 over a three-year period.  Through his short video and the use of social media, Troy prevented an additional $200 000 from being donated and resulted in an apology to the industry from the company. A response from Yellowtail to the negative publicity said that the feedback “was very helpful to us — in fact, it prompted us to specifically choose the areas where we’d most like to celebrate animals. …We hope that you will understand that this allocation of money is a direct result of hearing your concerns.”

“We changed the future course of donations from a multinational company with social media.  That’s the power of social media,” says Troy.

Food and farming story telling tips- written by Lilian Schaer

Prepare a 30-second elevator speech – a quick description of who you are and what you do. Keep it simple by using words and concepts people will understand. Avoid using industry jargon and lingo, be prepared for the questions people will ask once they hear what you do and be aware of the criticism people have of your industry.

“For most people, meeting a farmer is like meeting Big Foot – they’ve heard it exists but have never met one,” says Stacy. “You only get one chance to make a first impression so make sure you adapt your elevator speech to your audience.”

Build a message map. If you’re asked to do an interview or answer questions about what you do, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts. Pick your topic or key point and support it with three key messages and supporting arguments. This technique also works for writing a letter to the editor, talking to your school board or meeting with politicians. Be careful not to overwhelm your audience with complicated messages or too many numbers, but if you don’t have any statistics handy, don’t make them up

“Always take a few minutes to compose yourself and get some points together,” advises Troy. “You can do this anywhere, in the dust on the dash of your pickup, on a napkin, anywhere – and don’t be afraid to have it sitting right in front of you.”

Stay informed. Know what consumers are seeing and hearing and what some of the common myths are about agriculture. To consumers, a farmer is a farmer regardless of what commodity you produce so you’re likely to be asked questions about all sorts of things people hear or see in the news. Be enthusiastic about what you do – if you’re not excited about what you do, no one else will be either.

“Talk with emotion, not fact and science,” says Stacy. “As farmers we’re not used to being emotional but activists and those who are against agriculture use emotion all the time.”

Become involved. Join the groups in your area. This can be a local chamber of commerce, business association or other organization so you can meet people who aren’t part of your regular agricultural world. These venues provide opportunities for you to speak up about who you are and what you do to produce food. The Hadricks also advise farmers to be active in the farm organizations they belong to.

“Take part in setting policy and be there when they need people to do things,” says Stacy. “We’re all busy but think about what you can do to squeeze a little bit more time to do your advocacy.”

 

The Power of Words

Guest Blog by: Sarah Hubbart, Communications Director, Animal Agriculture Alliance

Last week, I came across interesting new research on effective communication strategy that was conducted on behalf of the Humane Research Council (HRC), VegFund, and the Farm Animal Rights Movement, three organizations that work to promote a vegan diet. Continue reading

Animal activism: Like a charging cow

Guest blog: Adele Buettner, Farm Animal Council Saskatchewan

Most reasonable North Americans have always opposed animal cruelty. But if you had said “welfare” to ranchers and farmers 30 years ago most would have thought you meant a government cheque.  If you had spoken about farm animal care to most retailers, you would have been met with a blank stare. Continue reading

Guest blog: Ballot measures scuttled

Dan Murphy  

(Dan Murphy is a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator in the United States)

Updated: July 11, 2011 –  Both sides are carefully calling the agreement between the nation’s egg producers and HSUS leadership a “victory.” For industry, that means that two ballot measures set for November that would have asked Oregon and Washington voters to ban the use of cages in egg production will now be withdrawn.

Why? Mostly because the odds of victory were looking less certain for HSUS. Continue reading