We live in a world of anarchists/activists and they’ll stop at nothing to create mayhem. Farmers are not exempt. These wackos are really nothing more than criminals but unfortunately their shenanigans can have devastating impacts on a business. The Center for Food Integrity is conducting a webinar to present ideas for how to deal with the situation from some recent research they conducted. Register here.
The recent flurry of undercover videos is a painful reminder of just how damaging these graphic images can be to a company, a brand and an industry. There is no substitute for reliable animal well-being programs, but an effective response to an undercover video can be the difference between staying in business and seeing a lifetime of work destroyed. Recent research by The Center for Food Integrity explored consumer reaction to “good actor and bad actor” responses to on-farm undercover video. The results could not be more clear. In this webinar we will share the research results, our strategic insight and a step by step plan for not just surviving, but restoring public trust after an undercover video. Please join us.
Dr. Richard Raymond, former Under Secretary, Food Safety Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dr. Scott Hurd, former Deputy Acting Under Secretary, Food Safety, USDA Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, PhD, University of Illinois, Associate Professor Animal Science Dr. John Glisson, DVM, MAM, PhD, Retired Department Head of Population Health and former Head of the Department of Avian Medicine, University of Georgia; Vice President, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association Dr. Frank Mitloehner, Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Science, University of California Davis
You can listen to the press conference here: Animal Ag Alliance Press Conference
Experts discussed the progress made by the animal agriculture industry in the areas of responsible use of antibiotics, environmental sustainability, and animal well-being, and they vehemently disagreed with the former Pew Commissioners’ assessment of the animal agriculture industry.
“We are providing the safest and most affordable food supply in the world,” said former USDA Under Secretary Dr. Richard Raymond. “The words—like antibiotic resistance—that groups like the Pew Commission and others toss around are meant to inflame the American public and dis-inform them.” Continue reading →
This is no surprise to me. The Meatless Monday campaign doesn’t have the participation the organizers would like you to think they have. I have thought for some time that reports and effects of animal activists and their trendy sounding ideas are way over estimated.
Thanks to the Animal Agriculture Alliance for doing this research!
After weeks of investigation, the Animal Agriculture Alliance has concluded that the Meatless Monday Campaign is grossly misrepresenting the campaign’s enrollment and prevalence among schools, restaurants, hospitals and colleges. Since the inception of the Meatless Monday campaign, the Alliance has closely monitored the campaign’s progress and tried to correct its misinformation about the healthfulness of meat consumption and environmental impact of livestock production.
In anticipation of the Meatless Monday campaign’s 10th anniversary, the Alliance analyzed the overall effects of the campaign and gauged its effectiveness by individually surveying every participant listed on the Meatless Monday website. The Alliance found that the campaign has not been as popular as the Meatless Monday movement claimed. Most notably:
Out of the 236 kindergarten through twelfth grade schools listed as participating, more than 51% no longer or never participated in the program; Out of the 155 colleges/universities listed as participating, more than 43.2% no longer or never participated in the program; Out of the school districts listed as participating, more than 57% no longer do.
The Meatless Monday campaign also counts restaurants and food service providers among their allies, yet, over 35% and 47%, respectively, no longer participate in the program.
It looks like Panera Bread has heard from the countryside. However, to date, their response has been lazy at best. Earlier this week Carrie Mess brought to our attention the Panera Bread campaign all about the EZChicken which implies that farmers raising chickens and using antibiotics are lazy. It has launched a grassroots campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Just follow #PluckEZChicken. So what is Panera’s response? Here’s one they’ve put on Facebook:
We truly didn’t mean to offend the farming community with the posts and apologize for how the campaign was received. We have incredibly strong and personal relationships with our farmers and we could not be the company we are today without their hard work. We appreciate the feedback on how EZ Chicken was received and are removing all references to it from our posts on Facebook and Twitter.
So, what do you think? Just because they deleted the Twitter EZChicken account and took down some images doesn’t seem to be much of a response. The website still has the pill capsule EZChicken with inflammatory language. I’d like to see a blind taste test to see if antibiotic free chicken tastes better like Panera claims. How about you? Do you know of any such research?
I visited with the manager of my local Panera this afternoon. I asked him if he was aware of the new Panera EZChicken campaign. He said that he thought he’d seen something about it on the internet. I asked him if chicken raised antibiotic free tastes better than chicken that might have been treated with antibiotics. He said that he had no idea and that the chicken they serve has always tasted the same to him. So, I guess there’s not much communication at the store manager level on things like this.
Unfortunately, when dealing with the threat of activist groups it is hard to avoid the courtroom. During the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit we heard from those who have seen first hand the legal ramifications of activist tactics.
John Simpson, partner at Fulbright and Jaworski LLP, shared how he fought back for his client for 13 years and tips for those courtroom battles. John represented Feld Entertainment, who produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The team was victorious and ASPCA paid Feld Entertainment a $9.3 million settlement.
John doesn’t refer to these groups as activists, he says they are special interest groups with a radical agenda. He also stressed that they will attack you at the local, state and national levels. They will not only attempt to take action in the courtroom, they will attack the legislative, science and vet labs, in the media and your very own business.
The 12th Annual Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit is a wrap. Each year staff and board members try to bring topics that are hot to the table for experts to share their insights into what the agriculture industry is facing. This year the theme was focused on animal activists and ways we can protect our animals, farms and food but not forget the importance of consumer confidence.
I caught Kay Johnson-Smith, President & CEO for the Animal Agriculture Alliance just after the last guest speaker finished up. She was glad to have another successful event in the books and excited to see how the information given to attendees will be put into action in the future.
The Alliance also recently elected elected Paul Pressley, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, chairman of its board of directors. USPOULTRY has been an active member of the Alliance for 24 years, and Pressley will serve a two-year term as chairman. The Alliance’s board of directors consists of representatives from all major sectors of animal agriculture.
“I look forward to working with Kay and the Alliance staff. The Alliance has been a strong voice for all of animal agriculture for over 25 years. Now, more than ever, the ability to unite the industry across species lines is critical to responding to animal welfare issues,” remarked Pressley.
Fox News loves to point out media bias in mainstream reporting on politics in particular, but probably not when it comes to agriculture.
Fox carried an AP story over the weekend about state bills seeking to make it more difficult for animal rights activists to go undercover at agricultural operations to get video of abuse and sometimes hold it for weeks or months before alerting authorities. Reasonable enough, unless you are the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which is vehemently opposed to such legislation.
The media bias in the story was clearly on the side of HSUS, quoting three different HSUS spokespersons and only one agricultural organization person. Two other quotes supporting such legislation were from a California assembly staffer and a spokesperson for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a state level public policy organization.
There was one interesting item in the story that raised a question in my mind about USDA’s plans to furlough meat inspectors under the sequester. According to the story, last year USDA created “24 new positions in the Food Safety Inspection Service were dedicated to humane handling.” Now, the quote was attributed to a “high-ranking food safety official not authorized to speak publicly” – which makes one question its accuracy – but if it is true, you have to wonder if the sequester will impact those positions as well. Just sayin’.
Our latest ZimmPoll asked the question, “Should we sit down with HSUS in ‘common cause’?”
The results of this poll are skewed due to the hacking by HSUS. In the end, the poll read that eighty one percent voted Definitely, fifteen percent said Never, and four percent thought we Should in some cases. The attempt to affect our poll reflects the HSUS/PETA goal of an end to animal agriculture. They are working to get the livestock industry to make concessions that drastically change production methods. When that happens it becomes a very slippery slope very quickly. It will only be a short matter of time before allowing chickens more room in cages becomes allowing all animals the right to life. Treating animals humanely is not the same as treating them like they are humans – but many activists see no difference.
The hacking we are referring to was having almost 400 poll responses to the Definitely answer come in during a few hours one night last week and none since. If you take them out, the answer Never would have been the highest result by far.
Our new ZimmPoll is now live and asks the question, “How many machines (tractors, etc.) does your farm own?” Some of the urban folk believe that if you own more than 1-2 pieces of machinery, that would classify you as a large farmer. We disagree with that. So let’s see how many pieces of equipment most farmers/ranchers own. Let us know!
The question of whether agriculture should sit down with groups like HSUS to find “common cause” is our poll question this week on AgWired.com and while the answers had at first been running well against such dialogue, the poll has now been “hijacked” by HSUS supporters voting in favor. Overnight last week, the poll received nearly 400 responses in the affirmative – and some of the comments of those supporters show exactly why all of agriculture should be very afraid of their agenda.
“Let animals be animals, not commodities.”
“Stop the torture and Killing of the animals.”
“People should just stop eating animals period – there’s no such thing as humane murder.”
The ultimate agenda is obvious – the end to animal agriculture. Once the livestock industry begins to make concessions to animal rights activists that drastically change production methods it becomes a very slippery slope very quickly. It will only be a short matter of time before allowing chickens more room in cages becomes allowing all animals the right to life. Treating animals humanely is not the same as treating them like they are humans – but many activists see no difference.
This website is very well-read by animal activist individuals. We have an obligation to not just defend, but educate. We get lots of comments on our posts about topics like this and it is important for the agriculture community to use this forum for intelligent dialogue and healthy debate. Sometimes it’s easier to just call them wackos and be done with it, but better still to rationally explain that livestock producers know way more about how to care for their animals than HSUS does, and we really like to eat meat!
Many eyebrows were raised during Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s speech at the AFBF convention yesterday. It was really a stand out moment in an otherwise pretty good speech and I wonder what you think about it. The photo is from his press conference following the closing session.
Sec. Vilsack was talking about creating strategic alliances and reaching out to groups that we may not agree with. He used several examples. But this is the one that stood out.
And frankly those who are engaged in constructive engagement They shouldn’t be faulted for doing so. Now I know that there are not too many fans of the Humane Society in this room. But egg producers thought it was in their best interest to avoid fifty different referendums, fifty different sets of rules. So they sat down with folks and they reached common ground. After all, isn’t that what we’re asking our Congress to do? Isn’t that what we’re asking our political leaders to do? To sit down and make common cause? I think the egg producers have the right idea. Now, the issues may be different for different types of producers. But we need to be constructively engaged at all times and conversations. We may not find agreement. But I think we will substantially reduce those who oppose farming and substantially reduce the reach of those and hopefully be able to get enough proactive activity that results in a five year bill.
I can’t agree with him on this. My reason is that when it comes to an organization like the HSUS which has a well known desire to end animal agriculture there is no “common cause.” I see efforts to do so as admitting defeat and just hoping to buy some time before losing the game. And we’re not talking about a game. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods and one of the most promising and productive sources of food to feed a growing population.
So, what do you think Sec. Vilsack meant by using this example and stating that he thought it was a good idea? Is it a portent of things to come? Should we expect to see our USDA sitting down with HSUS in common cause?
The lawsuit charges that the National Pork Board “struck an unlawful backroom deal with a D.C. lobbying organization for the purchase of the iconic ‘Pork: The Other White Meat’ slogan. The deal allows $60 million in pork producers’ money collected for marketing and promotion purposes to be diverted into industry lobbying efforts aimed at harming animal welfare and small farmers.”
The slogan was developed by the National Pork Producers Council in 1987, prior to the formation of the National Pork Board, and has been credited with helping to increase pork consumption in the United States as much as 20% by 1991. The Pork Board purchased all rights to the slogan from NPPC in 2006, to be paid over 20 years in annual installments of $3 million each. The Pork Board used the slogan with the tagline “Don’t be Blah” for its 2008 advertising campaign, but started using “Pork. Be inspired” last year.
NPPC CEO Neil Dierks responded to the lawsuit by calling it a “bullying tactic” on the part of HSUS. “NPPC is reviewing the HSUS complaint, but it appears there is no legal merit to this claim, and it is another desperate attempt by the radical activist group to severely curtail animal agriculture and take away consumer food choices,” said Dierks in a statement from NPPC. “This also is the latest bullying tactic by HSUS in its efforts to force NPPC to abandon its position on allowing farmers to choose production practices that are best for the welfare of their animals.”
HSUS also includes “an independent pig farmer and on behalf of its pig farmer members” as a plaintiff in the lawsuit and they are asking the court to “cancel the unlawful purchase and ensure that the remaining balance—tens of millions of dollars—will benefit the producers who fund the checkoff instead of NPPC’s anti-animal, anti-farmer lobbying agenda.”
The environmental and health effects of livestock production and meat can be debated, but one fact is for sure – most people like to eat it.
A brand new Gallup Poll finds that only 5% of people in the United States consider themselves vegetarians – and only 2% say they are vegans who eat no animal products. According to Gallup:
Vegetarianism in the U.S. remains quite uncommon and a lifestyle that is neither growing nor waning in popularity. The 5% of the adult population who consider themselves to be vegetarians is no larger than it was in previous Gallup surveys conducted in 1999 and 2001. The incidence of veganism is even smaller, at a scant 2% of the adult population.
We get lots of vegetarian comments whenever we do stories like the one this week about USDA and Meatless Mondays. They tend to make claims about environmental and human health impacts that they call facts but are not necessarily true. This is a fact: People like meat. Thank God we live in a free country where people can choose to be vegetarians for whatever reason they want to be, but the problem is trying to force that diet down the throats of the rest of us, which is what the radical fringe of that 5% would like to do. Many of them would like nothing better than to shut down animal agriculture for good, and that makes it an agenda.
So, for the 95% of us who love our meat – let’s have some steak tonight to celebrate our freedom to do so!
An internal USDA Greening Update newsletter that promotes “Meatless Mondays” caused a bit of an uproar on Wednesday.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) sent out a news release linking to the newsletter and questioning USDA’s commitment to the livestock industry. The newsletter talked about various “greening” initiatives by the agency and suggested that “one simple way to reduce our environmental impact while dining at our cafeteria is to participate in the “Meatless Monday” initiative.” But it didn’t stop there:
The production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well), has a large environmental impact. According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources. It takes 7,000 kg of grain to make 1,000 kg of beef. In addition, beef production requires a lot of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides. In addition there are many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat.
Within an hour after the NCBA release went out, USDA pulled the newsletter from the initial link and a statement was sent out by USDA press secretary Courtney Rowe. “Today, we have received a number of inquiries regarding a rumor that USDA is encouraging “Meatless Mondays,” she wrote, adding a statement from an unnamed USDA spokesperson that “USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. The statement found on the USDA website was posted without proper clearance and it has been removed.”
The offending document was found on another link, and you can read the whole thing here where we uploaded it to our server. Just deleting the document from the link does not address this issue at all, since this is an internal newsletter that was sent to USDA employees. That makes this more than a “rumor.” While the Secretary may have been unaware of this gaffe and it may not be “official” USDA policy, the message has been sent to USDA employees that meat is bad for the environment. Not only does this have to be pulled, action should be taken against whoever wrote it and an immediate retraction should be made in a new “Greening Update.”
This is animal activism in a government agency that should be supporting all of agriculture and it is unacceptable.
Results of a survey issued opening day at the World Pork Expo show that the overwhelming majority of the U.S. sow herd spends some time in individual housing, known as gestation stalls. The findings confirm concerns by the National Pork Producers Council about food retailers who have bowed to demands of animal activists and announced they will use only pork from operations that are gestation-stall free.
The survey, conducted by University of Missouri extension economist Ron Plain, found that currently only 17.3 percent of sows spend a portion of gestation in open pens. Plain surveyed pork operations with 1,000 or more sows. He received responses from 70 operations, which combined own about 3.6 million of the nation’s 5.7 million sows.
The Plain survey found that 20.2 percent of sows on operations of 1,000-9,999 sows, 18.9 percent on operations of 10,000-99,999 and 16.4 percent on operations of more than 100,000 are in open pens for some portion of gestation. When asked about plans to put more sows in open pens, the largest operations indicated that 23.8 percent of their sows would be in them in two years, operations of 10,000-99,999 sows would have 21.3 of their pigs in such pens and operations of 1,000-9,999 would have 20.7 percent.
We know what’s for dinner tonight – Domino’s Pizza!
This weekend has officially been declared “Thank Domino’s Ag Pizza Party Weekend” by the agriculture social media community. It is our way of saying thanks to the pizza corporation for not caving into the demands of HSUS (Humane Society of the U.S.) Last month, Domino’s Pizza shareholders voted against a resolution that would have required pork suppliers to stop housing gestating sows in stalls. Domino’s made that decision after consulting industry experts about what is best for the animals. “We rely on established industry experts and the USDA to determine best practices in this area, and will continue to do so,” they said. Yes!!!
Thousands have joined “The Truth About Agriculture” movement called “Farmers Paying it Forward with Pizza” and are planning to purchase pizza from Domino’s this weekend to say thanks! They have even created a custom thank you note for people to print out and deliver to Domino’s.
When you get your pizza this weekend, make sure to take photos and share them on the Pizza Party FB page and tweet using the hash tag #agpizzaparty with handle @dominos.
Lessons Learned From Europe was the topic addressed by Mike Sheldon, Greenway Farms Limited, during the opening session of the 2012 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. Mike talked about regulatory burdens and activist influence. You’ll hear him say in my interview with him that what’s happening there is coming here to the USA.
I asked Mike what he wanted to communicate to our group here. He says that he first wanted us to know how big the impact is going to be on hog production when closed confinement stalls for sows are banned next year. He says this change is happening in Europe and will happen here as well. This change is going to be huge. He says that minor changes can be dealt with but a change of this magnitude which will require massive investment to implement without showing a greater return is going to be hard to deal with.
Are you familiar with Protect the Harvest? Just received a press release from them about the video below. I sure understand their message but wish there was more information on who they are.
“Protect The Harvest” released a controversial web video entitled “The Humane Society’s Rotten Eggs,” adding its voice to the growing outcry against the attempts by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to enact dangerous new federal restrictions on egg farmers.
“Enough is enough,” declared Erik Helland, a Protect The Harvest board member. “It’s clear that HSUS cares less about protecting chickens from inhumane treatment and more about making it impossible to produce eggs or raise poultry in America. If Americans aren’t careful, HSUS will succeed in pricing eggs out of the market for most U.S. families while putting countless farmers out of business.”
The two minute animated video details the continuing efforts by HSUS to control America’s egg farmers that began with California’s Proposition 2 campaign in 2008 and have now reached Congress with H.R. 3798. The video explores the impact these proposals by HSUS will have on the economy and the food supply.
This was a very surprising sight to Cattle Industry Convention attendees when they checked in to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It’s an image promoting the Humane Society of the United States, an organization very antagonistic to farming and animal agriculture in general. It has created quite a buzz on the floor. I have a feeling that it has something to do with the fact that HSUS holds a large pet show here in May. To find out more I have emailed a request for response to the hotel but have not heard anything back at this point. I did notify NCBA and was just notified by their staff that the hotel has apologized for this oversight and has removed the “commercial” from all television screens, including the hotel bus. It is hoped that the hotel will make sure to not air this again in the future.
That was quick work by the NCBA issues management team and I applaud them for the effort. I also applaud the Gaylord for their decision and action to be sensitive to all their clients.
In a move to avoid fighting legislative battles in individual states, United Egg Producers (UEP) will work together with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) “toward the enactment of comprehensive new federal legislation for all 280 million hens involved in U.S. egg production.”
According to a release from UEP, the proposed standards advocated by UEP and HSUS, if enacted, would be the first federal law addressing the treatment of animals on farms.
The two groups will jointly ask Congress for federal legislation which would require egg producers to increase space per bird in a tiered phase in, with the amount of space birds are given increasing, in intervals, over the next 15 to 18 years. Currently, the majority of birds are each provided 67 square inches of space, with roughly 50 million receiving 48 square inches. The proposed phase-in would culminate with hens nationwide being provided a minimum of 124-144 square inches of space, along with the other improvements noted.
Other livestock sectors facing challenges by HSUS are concerned about the agreement. National Pork Producers Council President Doug Wolf says they fear that legislation pre-empting state laws on egg production systems would “set a dangerous precedent for allowing the federal government to dictate how livestock and poultry producers raise and care for their animals.”
If Congress passes the legislation proposed by UEP and HSUS, it would supersede state laws including those that have been passed in Arizona, California, Michigan and Ohio and “puts a hold on planned ballot measures related to egg-laying hens in both Washington and Oregon.”
Protecting and growing agriculture amidst the activist conflict was the topic of the first panel discussion at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit. Nebraska Senator Tom Carlson was a panelist and he made it very clear that animal rights activists are not welcome in his state. He says that when these groups come into a state, they don’t know the state and they try to paint all of agriculture with a broad brush. The fact is that farmers love their animals and take very good care of them. He uses an anecdote of how during a winter blizzard farmers were out in the severe weather taking care of their livestock and HSUS was no where to be seen. He also pointed to research that found that ninety percent of people in Nebraska believe the livestock industry is important and ninety four percent trust farmers to take humane care of their animals!
The Senator believes the mission of the Church is number one and the mission to raise food to feed people follows and is a noble mission. He says activists just want to stop killing animals for food. They really aren’t in favor of the humane treatment of animals for food. He says this conference helps bring out how important it is for different agricultural interests to come together in the face of a common threat.