This summer, the dairy industry was dealt a hard hand with animal rights groups releasing multiple videos taken by “undercover” animal-rights activists employed on farms in Indiana, Nebraska and Texas. These videos not only raise questions from shoppers perusing the dairy aisle, but also from grocery stores that shelve milk, cheese and ice cream and the restaurants offering them on their menus. Animal-rights activist groups may have targeted the dairy industry this summer, but other animal agriculture industries are also at risk along with restaurants and retailers as activists fight to create a vegan world. 

At the 2019 Animal Rights National Conference, held July 25-28 in Alexandria, Virginia, speakers made it clear their vision is animal liberation, not promoting animal welfare. “There is no such thing as humane slaughter and anyone who tells you differently is simply lying,” said Michael Budkie of Stop Animal Exploitation Now. “We need to say that all animal agriculture is cruel and wrong,” said Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns. 

Attendees at the conference were encouraged to pressure restaurants and retailers and make it seem as though a lot of people are asking for vegan meals by blitzing companies on social media, by mail and in-person. “Make sure you tag [brands] in the photo so that all they see is consumer demand for vegan [products],” said Laura Cascada of Compassion Over Killing. Cascada also urged conference attendees to write postcards so they could have “several hundred postcards to dump on the front step of [one restaurant chain] at some point.” In a workshop at the conference, The Humane League asked attendees to write birthday cards to the CEO of a major restaurant chain saying, “This will be the meanest card you’ll ever write.” While talking about corporate campaigns, Kelly Myer of The Humane League said, “We surround buildings so that employees have to see and feel guilt anytime they leave” and “An incremental approach is used to gradually switch companies over to veganism.”

The 2019 Animal Rights National Conference Report, which includes personal accounts of speaker presentations and general observations, is available to Animal Agriculture Alliance members in the Resource Center on the Alliance website. We also have reports from previous animal-rights conferences accessible to members on our website.

Processors have a vested interest in the success of farms and ranches — after all, without farms what would be processed? They are also rooting for the success of retailers. After an animal-rights campaign, retailers sometimes suspend shipments from the supplier or void contracts altogether. Centered between the farms and stores, processors are in a unique position in the supply chain to offer information to restaurants, retailers and foodservice companies that stock meat and poultry. It can also go the other way: Processors can help farms understand what questions restaurants and retailers have about animal welfare, environmental stewardship, antibiotic use and other hot topics. 

As the animal-rights movement becomes more aggressive, everyone in the supply chain needs to work together to remain focused on our goal: providing a safe and abundant food supply. Processors are an integral part if animal agriculture is to thrive into the future. Processors can start by having meaningful conversations with their partners in the supply chain. It’s easy to avoid getting involved with other industries when they’re in the limelight of an activist campaign, but if we are all working toward the same goal of getting nutritious animal protein to America’s tables, then we need to be willing to lend a helping hand when others are in crisis mode. NP