Growing animal activism calls for focus on dairy farm security
By Darren Turley, TAD executive director
Farmers feed the world. Dairy farmers work hard every day to take care of their cows, land, and community, and they nourish the world with dairy. It’s not just a job, it’s a way of life; a calling. And research tells us that the majority of the public trusts farmers.
The average person in the United States has never been on a farm and doesn’t know a farmer. However, they do want to know where their food comes from, and they want to feel connected and informed about the processes involved to get it to their refrigerators.
Many have questions. As dairy farmers, we have to provide those answers to better their understanding of what we do. The key to connecting with them is finding common ground. Once that’s done, you can share your story about why you operate a dairy farm and help bridge the gap from the farm to their table.
But what about the rest? A small but active and vocal group of people called animal rights activists has a goal to end all animal agriculture. Unfortunately, they have become more focused and active; it has become imperative for you to remain diligent to protect your farm.
Any interaction with animal rights activists is strongly discouraged. You will not find common ground, gain trust, or make a friend. Their goal is disruption, confrontation and sensationalism, and most of them are willing to go to great lengths to advance their agenda.
A common tactic is to gain access to your farm to gather information and take photos to use with extreme online campaigns. This can include trespassing on your farm without your knowledge, contacting you under false pretenses to request a farm tour, and/or holding a protest or vigil close by a farm but on public property.
Steps you can take now to focus on farm security basics include:
- Start by being beyond reproach. Protect your farm by implementing science-based animal care and environmental practices, striving for continuous improvement.
- Make yourself a harder target. Use “No Trespassing” signs, gates, locks and fencing, and consider installing security cameras and motion-sensor lighting.
- Consider what is visible from the road. Consider the “curb appeal” of operations and make any possible appropriate changes.
- Take time to have a proactive discussion with local law enforcement about the threat of animal rights activism. Advance discussions have been shown to make a considerable difference in effectively managing a protest or other activist incident.
- Be sure all employees are aware of the need to be vigilant and follow proper protocol, including making you aware of any unexpected visitors to the farm.
Should unannounced visitors trespass on your property, please contact your local law enforcement official immediately and have them handle the situation. Remember, any activist on or around your property will be recording all activities.
How can you spot an activist?
- Check their name against social media platforms to verify who they are.
- The line of questioning typically “feels off,” or different, than most other questions you have received.
- They take an excessive number of photographs.
It is also recommended that you claim your farm’s online properties like Facebook business pages, Google places listings or Yelp pages. Claiming these helps prevent activists from taking control and posing as you or your farm.
Do not allow activists to shake up your emotions and be pulled into their agenda. While we cannot stop activist protests, trespassing and disruptions, we can take steps to prepare and plan to help ensure the safety of our animals, employees and families.