Whenever people ask what trends we're seeing in animal rights activism, I know one in particular is almost guaranteed to make their eyes widen. Did you know that animal rights activist groups have been working to develop relationships within faith-based communities for years? It's true – both the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have "faith outreach" programs, and staff dedicated to this audience.
While it may seem like an odd pairing, HSUS and PETA see faith-based communities as critical allies in their mission. If they can manipulate values and sense of morality to enlist religious leaders to oppose the use of animals by humans, it will make their cause look much more mainstream. Of course, they are beginning with very general statements that most people could support– see the Evangelical Statement on Responsible Animal Care. We know that this is part of the "incremental changes" approach to animal rights activism.
Activist groups realize that a simple "go vegan" message does not resonate with the average consumer. To achieve their goal, they instead "scale back" their demands – rather than pushing people to abandon eating meat altogether, animal rights activist groups portray themselves as focused on animal welfare and advocate for changes that they deem to be "more humane" in how meat and poultry are produced. Of course, the intent is to make livestock production increasingly more difficult and expensive. These groups will continue to move the goal post of what they consider to be acceptable until animal agriculture is no longer sustainable.
Seeing these organizations attempting and sometimes succeeding (with HSUS recently announcing a partnership with a large Jewish organization) to enlist faith-based organizations in their mission should be alarming to all of us involved in agriculture. I encourage you to remember your local churches and religious organizations when offering farm tours or connecting your community with information about animal agriculture. The more we can expose people to factual, positive information about our industry, the more we can inoculate consumers against the myths and misinformation routinely disseminated by animal activist organizations