Animal Ag Engage


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Reflections from the Animal Rights National Conference: what can we learn

Attending Animal Rights Conferences blog picture

The Animal Agriculture Alliance frequently attends conferences hosted by animal rights groups. The purpose of attending – to get inside information straight from the source and generate reports for its members. I attended Taking Action for Animals, hosted by the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Rights National Conference, hosted by the Farm Animal Rights Movement. The experience was eye-opening. I went in open-minded and intrigued by the conference themes. The themes targeted the rights and welfare of all animals. After a few phrases were repeated, the strategic position these organizations held was clear: these conferences are an attempt to undermine the animal agriculture community.

While attending each of the conferences, I did not see eye-to-eye with much of the information shared. Oftentimes the information was outdated, out of context and invalid. There was one speaker howbeit, that I did side with in one regard, Steve Hindi. Hindi is president of SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness). During his presentation Hindi said, “We’re winning? That’s absurd.” A statement which I applaud. The animal rights movement is far from a winning force. Hindi verified this truth in front of all attendees at the Animal Rights National Conference.

Why They Are Not Winning farmer-657332__180

Taking Action for Animals and the Animal Rights National Conference are the two primary conferences hosted for animal rights activists. As a result of their significance, messages conveyed were synonymous and presentations paralleled. Despite undeniable resemblance, the animal rights movement as a whole lacks synergy. There is no combination of strengths among organizations. Instead, speakers denounced other animal rights activist groups discrediting their effectiveness as an organization. Besides the lack of unity, the animal rights movement also fails to convey current and original information. Repetitive speeches at workshops with replica information and analogies was a common occurrence.

The animal agriculture community has become the primary focus of activist groups. By targeting animal agriculture, these groups claim they can “spare” the most animals. To do this they attempt to discredit scientifically-backed practices and protocols. With these tactics, activist groups draw profound attention to the animal agriculture community; but these organizations have forgotten a key business strategy –  never underestimate your opponent, but never make them bigger than you either. In attempt to discredit farmers and ranchers, these conferences do just the opposite. The conferences sing the praise of how far we as a collective, undivided industry have come and shine a light on what we are – science based.

My Take-Away 

AAA_group_con-eng-pro_4CAs a result of these conferences, the animal agriculture community must face the “marketing campaign” of the animal rights groups. Immediately, the question “how?” is raised. My answer – we don’t. Instead, we should aim to expand public knowledge about how farm animals are cared for and broaden the understanding of animal agriculture practices. At these conferences Wayne Pacelle and Nick Cooney said, “People are smart.” They are correct, the public simply has minimal exposure to agriculture. Animal welfare is a driving force that influences both the farmers and consumers. The well-being of animals’ health are valued by each, and because of this, practices reflect both values. By seeking what is understood by the public, and further developing their knowledge, there is no fight. The importance of animal care will be unquestionable. So I thank the conference speakers for drawing attention to animal agriculture – now it’s our opportunity to shine a light on the indisputable, humane methods of America’s farmers and ranchers.

The Alliance recently released its report from the 2016 Taking Action for Animals conference, available to Alliance members only.


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Should we use animals to save human lives?

I missed my father’s birthday last week. No gift, no card, no call; I forgot. I remembered the next day and gave him a call. I figured I could wish him a happy birthday in a public way to help make up for it. He’s not on Facebook so here it is: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD! I’m especially grateful he was able to spend his birthday enjoying the northern New York sunshine and perfect temperatures – because last year he spent it recovering from heart surgery.

Sadly, animal rights activists would rather he wasn’t able to celebrate any more birthdays than have a lifesaving procedure to transplant a healthy valve made from bovine tissue in his heart to replace the one that was failing him. Although animal rights activists may engage in what looks like animal welfare advocacy from time to time, their true goal is total animal liberation. If they ever succeed, this would mean no more pets, zoos, animals used for food and clothing, and animals used for research that could lead to life-saving medicines and procedures for humans.

My dad is healthy today and living a normal life because of advances in science, technology, medicine and the use of animals in medicine.allyson and dad

Should we use animals to save human lives? I’m not talking about the big picture, philosophical debate. I’m talking about standing next to a loved one’s bedside in the hospital room and wondering if you’ll see them tomorrow, if they’ll get to celebrate another birthday, if he’ll be there to walk me down the aisle. In those moments, the only answer is yes. Yes, we should use animals. I have a hard time imagining that anyone who has experienced this feeling would advocate against using animals to save human lives.

There were options to not use animal tissue to mend him; however, doctors discussed the complications and risks associated with those options. Using bovine tissue was the best option for my dad. It’s possible the medical community would not have been able to develop these other options without studying and researching using animals. Animals have been helping improve research and medicine for ages. Research on dogs and cattle in the late 1800s and early 1900s led to understanding insulin and treating diabetes, which was a deadly disease at the time.

Currently, there is a shortage of human organs donated to those who need transplants. According to the U.S. Government Information on Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation, an average of 22 people die each day waiting for an organ transplant. That is not acceptable. Scientists are working every day to discover solutions to this problem. If you or a loved one are depending on this research, the only option is for scientists to use all available resources to find solutions, including using animals.

It’s important for me to note that I also believe animals should receive best care possible throughout their life. I care that animals are raised in comfortable conditions, are free from pain and suffering, are provided quality nutrition and are treated for illness. Every farmer, rancher and researcher that I’ve met has shared these feelings on animal care. I know those I’ve worked with are doing their best every day to give their animals the best.

I’m thankful for modern medicine, just as I’m thankful for modern agriculture. We are better off today because we have both.


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Concerned about how animals are cared for? Discover the Truth Yourself

Kay Johnson Smith, President and CEO at the Animal Agriculture Alliance, joins us this week to share her experience at Discovery Cove which is owned by Sea World. 

When I was a child, the worst thing you could do in my home was lie.  It was my parents’ most important rule, and we knew no matter what we did that would make my parents disappointed or mad, it would be even worse if we lied about it.

Unfortunately, that rule does not appear to apply to many of the activists we in agriculture and other animal-related businesses have to deal with every day.  We find ourselves constantly responding to and defending against the lies and propaganda of those who feel humans and animals have no business working together or even interacting for the greater good of mankind.  The activists throw out accusations, innuendo and flat out lies at times, hoping anything will stick in the minds of the public who has little or no experience with farm animals, wildlife or any animals beyond their pet dog or cat.

Kay holding a starfish at Discovery Cove

Kay holding a starfish at Discovery Cove

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Discovery Cove in Florida which is owned by Sea World.  It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget.  Being submerged in the midst of thousands of tropical fish and manatees was an experience you could only get otherwise by scuba diving – which I’ve never done and most people never do.  I swam with dolphins and even got to kiss one.  I fed an anteater, otter and birds you would only otherwise see (but never interact with) in a zoo and saw other species of animals that you could only otherwise see if you traveled to Brazil.  But how many Americans will ever go to Brazil in their lifetime?

While there, I witnessed the behind-the-scenes work of some of their employees and their genuine passion for caring for these amazing animals was evident.  When introducing people to the animals, there was such respect for them and their environments demonstrated by the employees and required of us as guests.  I learned that Discovery Cove alone has nearly 200 employees in its zoological department!  That doesn’t include employees such as lifeguards, food service, hospitality or administration.  It was also impressive how many years many of the employees I met had worked there – some 10, some 15 and at least one for 30 years!  I took that as a sign that this company takes care of its employees in addition to its animals.

kay and peyton dolphinThis was truly an opportunity to interact with creatures I’d otherwise never get to experience in my lifetime.  And that’s the whole point of parks like Discovery Cove and Sea World – to give the average person an opportunity to discover, experience and learn about wildlife which in turn creates respect and appreciation.  It’s about education and conservation so that we can leave the world a better place for future generations.

This adventure was much like what I’ve experienced with farmers every time I have visited a farm during my nearly 30 year career in agriculture.  The people who raise animals, whether for food or education and conservation, love what they do.  They love their animals and respect their needs, and they expect others who enter those environments to do the same.

kay kissing dolphinSo the next time you see an “undercover” video about farming or a big budget movie like “Blackfish” disparaging companies like Sea World, don’t believe everything they say or show.  From my experience, every one of these videos is edited and narrated in ways specifically to mislead you with their emotional charges, when really the incidents shown are either staged, taken out of context (showing you 30 seconds of a 30 hour video) or they’re edited in ways to completely misrepresent what’s really happening.  One of our interns whose family owns cattle recently wrote a blog demonstrating that very point.

Do bad things happen at times?  I’m sure – we’re talking about nature and living creatures interacting with one another.  But these videos are edited to present a false impression about the people who grow our food or provide educational experiences about wildlife because they do not believe we should benefit in any way from animals.  And the activists producing these videos know that the majority of the American public has never had the firsthand experience to know otherwise.

That’s why it’s important for everyone to discover the truth about farming and other businesses that involve animals for yourself.  Talk to those who own and are responsible for the direct care of the animals in question.  Don’t believe the propaganda of activists with an agenda whose only mission is to take away your opportunities to interact with and benefit from animals in our world.

Lying for a living may be profitable, but it certainly wouldn’t pass the test of my parents – or likely theirs either.