Livestock Producers Urged to Stay Alert as Animal Activist Groups Shine Spotlight on Agriculture

Listen to Ron Hays talk with Hannah Thompson-Weeman about animal agriculture headwinds

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster, Ron Hays, is talking with the Animal Agriculture Alliance president and CEO, Hannah Thompson-Weeman. Hays and Thompson-Weeman talk about headwinds in animal agriculture as we advance to 2023.

“One of the biggest concerns we have at the alliance coming out of this year is a recent court case in Utah involving Direct Action Everywhere (DxE),” Thompson-Weeman said. “DxE is one of the most extreme animal rights organizations out there. They are known for breaking in, and stealing animals- what they call ‘rescue,’ and they did face charges finally for the first time at the end of late last year dealing with the theft of a goat back in 2018 from a farm in North Carolina.”

In the case of stealing the goat from the North Carolina farm, Thompson-Weeman said DxE was found guilty of breaking in and stealing that animal.

“There was a second case in a different incident involving the death of two piglets from a Smithfield facility in Utah, and that case happened just a few weeks ago- last month- and in that instance, after quite a long deliberation and a week-long trial, the jury found them not guilty,” Thompson-Weeman said. “They were able to make an emotional argument and speak unfortunately very compellingly about how it was an emergency once they got into the barns and saw these conditions, they had to ‘rescue’ these piglets, and unfortunately, they were able to convince the jury that what they were doing, they thought was the right thing.”

After DxE’s victory in successfully stealing from the Smithfield facility in Utah, Thompson-Weeman said the organization now has more momentum to continue to make offense.

“We believe they are going to up the ante, there is going to be more break-ins, more theft, so producers really have to be vigilant, and this case has really upped the ante on their efforts,” Thompson-Weeman said.

The most important thing the agricultural community can do in these times, Thompson-Weeman said is to be beyond reproach.

“Making sure that we are crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s when it comes to animal agriculture welfare, sustainability, being good neighbors, and not having any vulnerabilities that these groups can try to exploit,” Thompson-Weeman said. “Doing the right thing, every single time no matter who is watching.”

At the end of the day, if animals are being used for any purpose, Thompson-Weeman said these animal rights organizations do not believe there is any way for that to be done ethically or responsibly.

Thompson-Weeman urges producers to take steps to make their farms or facility a harder target for these organizations. Motion sensor lighting, gates, locks, and being very vigilant in hiring processes can be critical for preventing an attack from one of these organizations.

The Supreme Court’s decision on California’s Proposition 12 could determine what may be ahead for animal agriculture in the years to come.

“Legislation has been a massive strategy for certain activist groups,” Thompson-Weeman said. “They want to pass laws that will restrict the production methods that producers are able to use and it’s under the guise of animal welfare, but what it is about is banning widespread practices that are used across the industry in order to use efficiency and drive-up cost.”

When Proposition 12 was voted on in California- citizens voting ”yes” put in place a state law that could restrict pork, egg, and veal producers, both in California and outside the state, in how they may produce products for sale inside California.

“The entire industry, I think, should be watching for the result of that Supreme Court case,” Thompson-Weeman said. “Their decision, I believe, is anticipated in early 2023, and the decision they make definitely will have an influence on additional pieces of legislation.”

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