Animal rights activism ranked as the number one challenge for the future of the pork industry, according to a 2019 Farm Journal survey. Respondents under 40 ranked it No. 1, followed by staying profitable and low pork prices. Meanwhile, respondents over 40 ranked it No. 2, just behind low pork prices and ahead of regulation of on-farm practices.
During the 2020 Illinois Pork Expo, Allyson Jones-Brimmer, director of industry relations for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, presented the keynote address on Tuesday. She shared four ways farmers can protect their farm from animal activists.
1. “YouTube-proof” your farm.
“Take a look at things on your farm from an outsider’s perspective,” Jones-Brimmer says.
Establish science-based animal care and environmental policies on your farm. Utilize advice from experts. Carefully train employees. Conduct regular audits to evaluate your farm’s practices. And most importantly? She advises farmers to continually strive to improve their operation.
2. Increase farm security.
Although most pig farms have high levels of biosecurity, physical farm security is also important, she says. Implement the basics such as no trespassing/biosecurity signage, locks, lights and cameras. Make sure all visitors – expected and unexpected – verify their identification and are escorted around the farm at all times. Make sure all staff know how to welcome visitors onto your farm.
“Carefully evaluate information requests,” she adds. “Implement a rigorous hiring process, too.”
3. Create a crisis plan.
Proactively connect with local law enforcement and let them know of any concerns you may have about your farm’s security. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and a protocol, she says.
“Have a plan in place for handling activist issues before they happen,” Jones-Brimmer says. “Watch for warning signs.”
In addition, she encourages anyone who works on special events such as fairs, shows or open houses, to have a crisis plan in in place for those special events, too.
4. Put a face on animal agriculture.
“People are hungry to learn about where their food comes from,” Jones-Brimmer says. “Help them get answers from people who work in agriculture instead of the internet or activists.”
She also encourages farmers to go through media training, share their story on social media and engage with their community. Being willing to answer genuine questions not only helps people gain more knowledge of the industry but shows people that you are not hiding anything.