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Animal care issues could bring activists to farms

Published Nov. 12, 2009 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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Buckeye Farm News

With issues of livestock care being prominently debated in Ohio, farmers are reminded to be vigilant in taking measures to protect themselves from becoming the targets of undercover animal rights activists.

“They will be looking for any type of photo opportunity to smear the livestock community,” said David White, senior director of issues management at OFBF’s Center for Food and Animal Issues.

Either by gaining employment or breaking into farms, activists have had success in negatively portraying livestock farmers through these so-called investigations. Often hours of video are edited down to imply that a single lapse in management on a particular operation is representative of the actions of all farmers. Activists who find employment may gather video over a period of months.

“Farmers should have an open door policy with the public. They need to be as transparent as possible,” White said. “But that doesn’t mean strangers have the right to trespass onto farms.”

While some videos clearly depict instances of inappropriate animal care, other situations may be staged to make a farm appear worse than it is or contain images from other operations. Because images are used selectively and videos are heavily edited, even well-run farms could be susceptible to these attacks.

“We see headlines the next day with allegations of abuse, but unfortunately we rarely see a follow up  story by the media when a farmer is cleared of wrongdoing,” White said.

White encourages farmers to engage in good hiring practices, such as running background checks, to ensure that employees are who they claim to be. He added the trespassers not only seek to damage the image of livestock farmers but also pose a health risk to animals by potentially bringing diseases into biosecure barns.

White also suggests that farmers work through their county Farm Bureau to build a strong relationship with local law enforcement so that they understand the seriousness of the issue.

Farmers should look out for one another and let neighbors know if it appears that a certain situation could make them a potential target, he said.

“It’s not about pointing fingers,” White said. “It’s about having a greater awareness that there are activists out there who will do whatever it takes to make livestock farmers look bad.”

Farmers are also encouraged to find ways to show the public the truth about what happens on livestock farms.

“Farmers have nothing to hide. They need to be the ones telling their story and not let animal rights activists tell it for them,” White said.

Advisory Council Questions: Are farmers in your council taking additional measures to protect themselves from undercover animal rights activists? How can farmers be open and welcoming to the public, while at the same time protecting themselves from animal activists? Share your answers on the Ohio Farm Bureau Advisory Discussion Board.



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