Summer is here and that means county fairs and livestock shows are in full swing. For many producers and youth involved in agriculture, fair season means putting in extra hours of practice and preparation in order to show off a year of hard work in the show ring along with making friendships and memories to last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, animal rights extremist organizations see fairs and events as something entirely different – an opportunity to disrupt and protest, ultimately bringing attention to their cause of eliminating animal agriculture and promoting animal rights. Individuals representing activist organizations have disrupted everything from Independence Day hot dog eating contests to the Pennsylvania Farm Show this year. As another example, an organization called the Alliance for Animals and the Environment is campaigning to end the hug-a-pig event at Wisconsin fairs.
“If you will be involved in a fair or expo this summer and fall, we strongly encourage you to prepare for activist protests and disruptions,” says Hannah Thompson, director of communications for the Animal Agriculture Alliance. “We sincerely hope you do not end up needing to activate your plan; however, preparation and planning is key to ensure that the event is a positive and educational experience for everyone.” The alliance offers the following suggestions.
A few tips for security preparation:
-Contact local law enforcement officials and let them know about your potential concerns. Ask for their advice about handling different scenarios and when you should get law enforcement involved. This could also be a great opportunity to build a relationship by inviting them to stop by the show and learn more about your industry.
-Monitor online conversation to see if you may be a target. Protests are frequently organized on websites or social media. Search the web and social media for the name of your event a few times a week leading up to the event. Also, be sure to be aware of high-profile visitors or activities going on that may draw media (and therefore activist) attention.
-Establish a protocol to follow in the event of protests or disruptions. Designate clear roles and responsibilities – including media spokespeople – and have back-ups in place in case the primary individuals are unavailable.
-For more resources, visit http://animalagalliance.org/resourcelibrary/results.cfm?ID=646
“While you prepare for the worst, you should also hope and plan for the best – meaningful engagement with curious fairgoers,” says Thompson.
Some ideas for maximizing fairs and shows as an opportunity for consumer conversations:
-Brush up on your industry’s animal welfare guidelines and talking points. Be prepared to answer a wide range of questions from consumers, including ones on controversial topics.
-Make sure your barn or exhibit space is always clean and inviting to visitors. Consider displaying posters or signs with facts about agriculture and animal care.
-Draft an animal welfare policy for your farm or club. Have every exhibitor affiliated with you sign the policy and keep it readily available during the event. Having your commitment to animal care clearly written out will help demonstrate how seriously you take it if it’s questioned by a visitor.
-For more tips, visit: http://animalagalliance.org/resourcelibrary/results.cfm?ID=647
The Animal Agriculture Alliance is committed to the mission of bridging the communication gap between farm and fork. Thompson says the alliance has outreach and security resources, “so don’t hesitate to visit www.animalagalliance.org or contact us at 703-562-5160 or [email protected] if you have questions.”
Source: Animal Agriculture Alliance