By Hannah Thompson-Weeman
Winter in agriculture means one thing: it’s meeting season (or “meating” in animal agriculture!). It’s just about the only time you can get a farmer to leave the fields and head to a conference room or exhibition hall to connect with their peers and see the latest and greatest technology heading to their industry.
Unfortunately, farmers aren’t the only ones looking for events to attend – animal rights activist groups are known to target agricultural fairs, exhibitions and conferences with protests. For example, a group of activists stormed the stage during an awards banquet at a veterinary conference last fall. Another group entered the show ring during a livestock show at the Royal Winter Fair in Canada shouting about animal liberation.
Whether you’re part of planning an event this winter or will be attending one, we all need to take steps to prevent activist activity and respond appropriately if anything does happen.
o If your event requires registration, keep a close eye as requests to register come in. If you don’t recognize a person or organization, do some searching online. Don’t be afraid to ask them to verify their connection to the industry or provide you with more details. If an activist tries to register, decline their request. The Animal Agriculture Alliance can help you with wording. Make sure whoever is managing the registration desk at the event knows your on-site registration policies and procedures and has guidance for how to handle someone who has no apparent connection to the industry trying to register.
o Proactively connect with local law enforcement (and facility security if appropriate) to discuss potential issues. Let them know that while you hope there are no problems, similar events have been targeted before. They can react more quickly and effectively if they have been warned about what might happen, and they may have recommendations for you.
o Have a plan in place for handling any disruptions. Think through who on the event planning team will handle which responsibilities. Prepare contact lists for anyone who needs to be notified or consulted.
o Report any suspicious activity to event organizers immediately. This could include large groups of people gathering outside a venue, people carrying banners or other items (activists frequently carry flowers to symbolize a funeral). If protesters have entered a secure area or are disrupting an event, call the police.
o Do not give activists the attention that they seek. Their goal is to have conflict and confrontation, so do not give them the satisfaction of getting angry. Ignore any protests completely and let event organizers and law enforcement handle the issue.
o Do not engage with activists on event social media or on their social media channels. Every time you interact with their content, it helps get it more views.
For more event security recommendations, don’t hesitate to contact the Alliance at [email protected]