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Lights, Camera…Misinformation!

It’s lights, camera, action for America’s farmers and ranchers – whether they auditioned or not. Films are popping up on the big (and small) screen, putting animal agriculture under increased scrutiny. These films often claim they are “shedding light” on the agriculture industry, but they usually leave out the true story.

Producer vs. Producer 

It could be a great thing to have American farmers and ranchers showcased for raising the safest food supply out there and providing great care to their animals, but when film producers attack the producers of our food, fuel and fiber it can spread misconceptions and “alternative facts” – especially when the films are produced by or in collaboration with animal rights groups.

Producing films (and publishing books) is not a new tactic animal rights groups are using to further their mission of putting farmers and ranchers who produce meat, milk, poultry and eggs out of business, but they are getting more attention in recent years. This is due to increased interest in how food gets from the farm to the fork along with the popularity of movie platforms like Netflix.

Lights, Camera…Misinformation!

Documentaries are supposed to provide a factual report of a certain event or issue, but the films produced by activists skew the truth or ignore it all together. Some claim they are giving an “unbiased” look into how food is raised on farms, but is it unbiased if the film is produced a vegan who only interviews other vegans?

Activist films are often how myths get started – because if it’s in a “documentary” it must be 100 percent true, right? Here are a few ways to tell if you’re watching an activist movie, or as Leah McGrath, dietitian and agvocate, likes to call them – “Shockumentaries.”

  • Cherry-picking studies
  • Playing ominous background music
  • Using outdated information and studies from 1841
  • Taking things out of context
  • An animal rights group is the main sponsor
  • The overwhelming majority of the cast is vegan
  • The call to action is “GO VEGAN!”

One of the main claims from an activist film recently released to Netflix is eating one egg is the same as smoking five cigarettes. I was honestly happy to hear this lie included because any rational person would recognize it as crazy and discredit the rest of the movie.

A pig farm

The Animal Agriculture Alliance has more than 20 movie and book reports summarizing these activist films which are available to our members. Each report lists out the main claims so you don’t have to go through the trouble of wasting an hour or two of your time, but can stay informed on what the other side is saying about our industry.

What’s worth watching…

As for what you should watch to learn more about agriculture and food production, how about videos of farmers taking you on a virtual tour of their farms?! They may not be as dramatic as the activist films, but they do show the truth. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Fresh Air Farmer – a dairy farmer from Canada taking you on a different farm tour every week (from a celery farm to a pig farm!)
  • Farmland – a movie showcasing young farmers and ranchers across the United States
  • Chicken Checkin videos – the National Chicken Council put together a series of videos showing how broiler chickens are raised
  • Farm tour from Tyson Foods chicken farm – a recent video by Tyson Foods, Inc. about their commitment to animal care and sustainability
  • The Udder Truth – series of videos from dairy farmers about what really happens on America’s dairy farms
  • Veal farm tour – a veal farmer from Wisconsin invites you on a virtual tour
  • Turkey farm tour – a turkey farmers from California takes viewers onto his farm

Turkey farm tour!

Farmers and ranchers realize how important it is to be transparent and many have added advocate to their list of farm chores. They’re the true experts on farm animal care and know if they don’t tell their story animal rights activists will not only tell their version of the story, but make it into a book or film. So, the next time you hear of a “documentary” about animal agriculture ask yourself this question: who is telling the story? The farmers and ranchers who raise and care for the animals or the activists who could care less about animal care and just want to take meat off everyone’s plate?

 


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Cage-free eggs: a PR battle or concern for animal welfare?

To a lot of consumers, cage-free eggs probably seem like they are the best thing ever. Almost every week another restaurant or retailer is pledging to transition to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply, but these complex decisions have more implications for food costs, supply chain logistics and even animal welfare than many realize.

A one-sided story in the media

It’s not hard to understand where many people get the idea that cage-free egg production is ideal. The news coverage of the cage-free movement is picturesque. Animal rights organizations, such as the Humane Society of the United States and Mercy for Animals, are often quoted as claiming they “worked with” the company and want to express their appreciation for a “step in the right direction” for animal well-being.

What is often left out of the story is how those groups try to influence companies in their decisions to go cage-free.

Activist pressure, praise and repeat

Animal rights groups are notorious for “pressure campaigns.” They target a consumer-facing brand, restaurant or retailer with an often misleading campaign which aims to put the company in a spotlight as being supportive of animal mistreatment. With sales and a reputation on the line, the company needs the negative attention to cease.

The Humane League, another animal rights organization, placed an online ad for a “Kroger Campaign Organizer” to launch a pressure campaign against the grocery by motivating “local consumers to boycott their Kroger and Kroger subsidiary locations.”

Mercy for Animals recently launched a pressure campaign against Safeway. One of their tactics included a snapchat asking their followers to “politely ask why Safeway continues to torture egg-laying hens in tiny cages when Trader Joe’s, Target, CVS and Costco have committed to going 100 percent cage-free.” The message included the Safeway CEO’s name and a phone number. Less than a week later the Albertson’s Companies (one of the largest food and drug retailers in the United States which includes Safeway) announced they would be going 100 percent cage-free by 2025.

To think that activist pressure will cease once a pledge is made is just not the case. Animal rights groups pressure a restaurant or retailer to change their sourcing policies, then praise them once a new policy is announced only to repeat and pressure the food company again. They either argue that the food company isn’t moving fast enough and demand a quicker timeline or argue that cage-free isn’t enough and hens need to be raised on pasture.

cage free eggsShouldn’t science have a say?

Many of the recent policy announcements are based on animal rights activist demands and what some consumers think is best.  Letting hens out of cages sounds like a rational decision for animal welfare, but many fail to address what science says is best.

The Coalition for a Sustainable Egg Supply is a multi-stakeholder group made up of leading animal welfare scientists, academic institutions, non-government organizations, egg suppliers, and restaurant and food retail companies. The Coalition conducted a three-year study to evaluate various laying hen housing systems by considering the impact of multiple variables on a sustainable system. The three types of housing evaluated were: conventional cages, cage-free aviary and enriched colony cages. The research assessed five areas of sustainability: animal health and well-being, food safety and quality, environmental impact, worker health and safety, and food affordability.

The final results revealed that in regards to animal health and well-being, cage-free has substantially worse cannibalism/aggression and keel (extension of the breastbone) damage compared to both conventional and enriched colony systems. Both cage-free and enriched colony have better tibia/humerus strength and feather and foot conditions compared to hens raised in conventional cages and the enriched colony proved to have the lowest mortality rate compared to both the conventional and cage-free systems.

In terms of worker health and safety, the cage-free had substantially worse particulate matter exposure and endotoxin exposure compared to the conventional cages and enriched colony. For the environmental aspect, the enriched colony has substantially better ammonia emissions, while the cage-free has substantially worse indoor air quality and particulate matter emissions with slightly worse natural resource use efficiency.

Bird health, worker safety and product sustainability are complex topics, and reducing them down to just cage size is an extreme oversimplification. Instead of following the commitment to continuous improvement based on science and selecting the solution that works best for their individual operation, most egg farmers are being forced to switch to cage-free systems with risk of being dropped by their buyer if they don’t comply. This would understandably frustrate any farmer.

Take action and stand with science 

Farmers and ranchers are not only committed to continuous improvement, but they also hold the experience of caring for their animals every single day. They work tirelessly to provide a safe, affordable and nutritious food supply for people who take it for granted.

Some animal rights groups may act like they have the best intentions in mind, but in reality they are only moving our society towards a more vegetarian and vegan way of life. They want prices to increase and eventually take milk, meat and eggs off your plate for good.

Whether you are a restaurant, retailer or consumer, I challenge you to stand with science, not animal rights extremists.

 


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PETA may be crazy, but other groups aren’t that different

If you had cream in your coffee this morning or had meat for dinner last night, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants you to seek help for your “addiction.”

PETA supports a new group called Meat and Dairy Eaters Anonymous by providing sites for their meetings. The support group follows a 12-step program like any other addiction support group, except they are providing guidance on how to be vegan. They are comparing eating meat to being a drug or alcohol addict essentially, which is insulting to people who actually struggle with addictions that negatively affect their physical and mental health.

I think we all can agree that PETA is on the extreme end of the spectrum with their insane publicity stunts, but maybe you’re thinking this is just PETA and other animal rights groups really do care about animal welfare without wanting to stop everyone from eating meat.

activst web

Activist Web

Animal rights groups have the same mission

PETA and other animal rights extremist groups like The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Mercy for Animals and Compassion Over Killing  have the same end goal: total veganism. This means no more cream in your coffee, milk in your cereal, cheese in your macaroni or grilled meat on the Fourth of July (or any other day for that matter). Sure there are meat and dairy substitutes, but do you really want to eat tofu, veggie burgers, soy milk and fake cheese the rest of your life?

The Alliance has tracked animal rights activity for almost three decades and has identified connections between the groups that illustrate how similar they are despite their differing public appearances. Our activist web shows the transfer of money and/or personnel between the groups and our top profile pieces include key campaigns and quotes to show their true agendas.

John “J.P.” Goodwin, the director of animal cruelty policy at HSUS, is one example of key staff members moving between animal rights groups. Goodwin was a former spokesperson for Animal Liberation Front (ALF) – one of the most extreme animal rights groups that exists.  ALF is known for acts of violence including property damage and threats all in name of “total animal liberation.”

Another example is financial support between HSUS and PETA. Why would you send financial support if you don’t agree with and support the core beliefs of the organization? The answer is simple – it’s because HSUS does share the same core beliefs and values as PETA.

HSUS is PETA in a business suit

HSUS is on Capitol Hill (literally in business suits) lobbying against animal agriculture while PETA advocates are standing on the front steps in fake blood demanding that people go vegan. This isn’t just a coincidence. HSUS and other groups rely on PETA and ALF to be crazy and obnoxious so that they seem level-headed and rational when in fact they each have the same goal of ending animal agriculture and meat consumption.

Animal rights advocates argue that it is impossible to care for animals and also eat meat, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Animal rights organizations are concerned about animal rights (treating animals as equal to humans), not animal welfare (making sure animals are well cared for). They will spread misinformation and use undercover video smear campaigns in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of hardworking and dedicated farmers and ranchers and make consumers uneasy about the food supply.

You can care about animals and still eat meat, milk and eggs11731729_10152937901995636_1288857164315442414_o

Animal welfare is a top priority for the animal agriculture industry. If it weren’t, why would there be so many industry programs and organizations dedicated to ensuring livestock and poultry receive the best animal care?

Animal rights groups will never be happy until meat and dairy products are off the menu for good and all animals are “free,” so the next time you think an animal rights group sounds rational and has the best interest of the animal in mind, ask yourself who is caring for that animal 24/7, 365 days per year – the animal rights organizations and activists or the farmers and ranchers?