Previously, I’ve written about Direct Action Everywhere (DXE), an extreme activist group that believes in animal liberation (all animals need to be given the same “freedoms” as humans). DXE’s opposition to the mere existence of animal agriculture is clear, with founder Wayne Hsiung stating, “We are trying to destroy animal agriculture,” when speaking at the 2016 National Animal Rights Conference.
DXE is known for crossing lines and breaking laws in the name of activism. They have made numerous unauthorized visits to farms (they call these “stealth visits”) and entered barns to take photos or videos of alleged cruelty.
In some instances, they have stolen animals during these visits. DXE has also held protests at farms and food companies in addition to various other publicity stunts (holding “funerals” for animals, placing flowers in the meat case at a grocery store, putting stickers on egg cartons in stores, etc.).
In late May, DXE conducted its largest “open rescue” yet, with a group of about 500 activists descending on an egg farm in Petaluma, Cal. (a supplier to Whole Foods, previously the target of a DXE ‘investigation’) who entered barns, removing 37 birds. After law enforcement got involved, around 40 activists were arrested. The whole incident was broadcast live on Facebook.
Unfortunately, farms, processing plants and any other locations that are involved in the process of producing meat, poultry, milk and eggs need to prepare to potentially face similar incidents, as the perpetrators are already calling for others to follow their lead. Now is the time to review security procedures and consider taking additional measures such as installing gates, fences and locks. The Alliance has many farm security resources that we would be glad to share with you.
The Alliance also is constantly consulting with security and crisis experts so it can provide farmers with the most up-do-date resources and advice. Public relations agency kglobal has an Animal Agricultural Crisis Team who provided the following suggestions:
All producers are potential targets for activists, no matter the size or even location of your operation. You should meet with local law enforcement agents right now in preparation for any possible protest or undercover expose and get a lawyer’s advice to prepare for any possibility. Local laws are going to vary based on variables like whether a permit is required for the protest assembly, etc. The more proactive producers are (especially if they hear rumors about a threat or if there has been a nearby protest), the better position they’ll be in if an event materializes.
- Crisis plans should be created with a crisis expert team, including legal counsel if possible, and various scenarios should be explored as soon as possible. Without a plan in place, you can be more easily victimized by the activists who know their plan.
- Don’t give protesters ammunition through any kind of confrontation. Especially do not get into a public confrontation with news media.
- If possible, record video of any protestor trespassing and/or stealing of property or animals. Record as much of the event, including actions of law enforcement agents.
- Follow the Animal Agriculture Alliance cautions to secure and lock buildings, maintain security cameras and not physically or verbally threaten protesters during an attack. Consistent messaging and knowing what owners and staff should and shouldn’t do under crisis circumstances are crucial to practice as part of your crisis planning.
While we hope no other producer will ever have to face this type of situation, prior planning and preparation can help prevent a crisis from escalating. The Alliance will continue doing everything it can to help protect animal agriculture from the threats of extreme activism.
Editor’s Note: Hannah Thompson-Weeman is Communications Director at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The opinions in this commentary are expressly those of the author. For more insights into activist activity and farm security, visit www.animalagalliance.org or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional hiring and farm security resources, contact email@example.com or visit www.animalagalliance.org.