Animal Rights Activists: Watch for the Signs

Animal rights activists continue to threaten animal agriculture and a recent ruling in Iowa, overturning a law that made it illegal to get a job at a livestock farm to conduct an "undercover investigation," is just one more hurdle that our industry has to cross.

Running a livestock operation is a huge responsibility that takes constant attention and focus. Trade tariffs, foreign animal disease, prices and daily production tasks keep farmers up late at night as it is. The last thing farmers need these days is to play undercover cop, digging into a potential employee’s background to see if they might have ill intentions when applying for a job.

But now, it looks like farmers in Iowa and other states that are not covered by farm protection legislation will need to do just that. 

Hannah Thompson-Weeman of the Animal Agriculture Alliance follows the topic of farm protection legislation very closely and says employees are one of the biggest vulnerabilities in animal agriculture.

“It’s so important for farmers to be increasingly vigilant when they hire people to come onto their farms,” Thompson-Weeman says. “We have to ask the right questions, contact references and do our research. Unfortunately, we have to worry about why they want to come work on our farms and figure out what their intentions are.”

So how do you make hiring decisions you won’t regret later?

Thompson-Weeman recommends these four tips when it’s time to make your farm’s next hire.

1.    Slow down. 
Yes, the cows need to be milked, the pigs need to be fed, but don’t be in such a hurry that you miss valuable signs when interviewing potential candidates. Take your time – each decision matters.

2.    Perform background checks. 
Dig into their previous work experiences. Be sure to contact references and ask around to others who may know this person but are not listed on their resume. If they don’t have an agricultural background or agricultural work experience, it may be a sign they are an undercover plant. 

3.    Require employees to sign social media and filming policy agreements.
Ask your new employees to sign a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement that clearly prohibits filming or photography on your property. 

4.    Look for red flags.
Is your candidate overeducated or inappropriately educated for the job they are applying for? Does their license and other information contrast with the background they’ve shared with you or their past work history? If something doesn’t feel right, explore it further. 

Going the extra mile during the hiring process could make all the difference.  

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