By Hannah Thompson-Weeman
Usually this time of year the Animal Agriculture Alliance is providing resources to county and state fairs on preparing for animal rights activism. Activist groups see any large gathering as an opportunity to get attention for their messages against animal agriculture, and they see fairs and expos as the perfect place with livestock and poultry on site. We advise any event to have a plan in place and be prepared for protests or disruptions from groups like Direct Action Everywhere, The Save Movement or PETA.
Fairs are looking quite a bit different this year with many going virtual or being held with very few spectators. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we can take a break from the threat of activism. Many activists have taken the current circumstances and lack of public events as an opportunity to ramp up their online efforts, including ones targeting 4-H and FFA. While it seems counterintuitive for anyone who claims to care about animal welfare to be opposed to groups who help teach kids responsibility and how to care for livestock and poultry, it’s important to realize that animal welfare really is not the goal for animal rights activists. If we’re using animals for any purpose – whether for entertainment, food or anything else – they do not believe it’s possible to be done humanely and responsibly. Activists believe that 4-H and FFA along with fairs and livestock auctions “are teaching young people to exchange their compassion for money.”
If you are involved with a livestock project, either as an exhibitor, parent or event organizer, here are some steps to take to help mitigate the influence of activist groups.
• Avoid the urge to engage. As a 4-H and FFA alum myself, I know how passionate we are about these programs and how strongly we want to defend them when we see them being attacked. However, every time we engage with activist content online – even if we are expressing our disagreement – we are helping it get more attention. Let the activists remain in their echo chamber and resist the impulse to comment or share. You will not change their minds and your energy is much more wisely invested in sharing positive stories about your experiences and what you’ve learned from showing livestock.
• Understand their real intentions. Some activist groups are trying to encourage youth to give them their project animals in order to spare them from being sold in auctions. It’s important to understand (and especially help younger members understand) that considering doing this will give them credibility and more content they can try to use against 4-H, FFA and fairs. Make sure you are having conversations with kids throughout the process of raising project animals about their important role in providing food for a hungry world and our important responsibility in raising them ethically.
• Be prepared for online attacks. Posting anything on social about showing livestock or animals being used for food might bring out the trolls, either on your personal page, your club/chapter’s page or your fair’s page. Have a comment policy already in place and be empowered to delete inappropriate comments and ban harassers.
The Alliance has many additional resources on understanding and preparing for activism on our website: www.animalagalliance.org. If you are dealing with a situation involving activists and could use our assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected] We’re wishing you a safe, educational and fun summer fair season, regardless of how it ends up looking!
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