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Be on Guard

As our county fair and rodeo season winds down, we know the easy targets have lessened. Those in the animal rights movement will now look back to the feedlots, farms and ranches for examples to further their cause.
We in agriculture, and especially those in the livestock business, need to be always on guard, or keep animal rights groups in mind. They mean business, and if they’ve found Cheyenne Frontier Days, they’ve found Wyoming. 
I’m not trying to alarm you, or have you change your lives, but after reading about some in the animal rights movement – the radical vegans and those who will break laws, destroy private property and bankrupt businesses for their cause – we realize they stop at nothing. The problem is that some in the livestock business don’t pay attention and get nailed, which makes the whole industry look bad. Livestock is a huge industry, and we have to accept there are some who do not represent the industry in a positive way.
Recently I read an article on cattlenetwork.com, where a person had gone underground in the 1990s and attended two separate animal rights conferences in Washington, D.C. Close to 800 activists attended the two events. Today, with the “vegan” movement around the nation, the latest animal rights conferences in 2010 were attended by over 1,000.
The article’s author, Marlys Miller, editor of Pork magazine, had some great quotes, aside from her stories of attending the events. She said, “I heard some amazing things, some crazy things and some flat out scary things – things that would be hard to convince others that I was not simply making up.” She went on to say, “In some ways, more than 15 years later, the movement is the same, mostly, in terms of rhetoric. They align animal rights with the women’s movement, civil right or the holocaust. But the movement’s tactics, at least those exposed to the public, are quite different. All in all, the animal rights movement is more polished and focused today. Even back in the 1990s it was no longer a new movement and the public generally shrugged it off. The activists were increasingly organized, but they were grasping at topics. Their efforts were radical, they focused on laboratory animal testing, not eating meat and throwing paint on people who wore fur. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was in the driver’s seat.”
“Today, HSUS is the kingpin, as its more mainstream messages and tactics are more palatable to the public, which has helped get results such as Proposition 2 in California. You don’t hear much from PETA these days, but HSUS is a wolf in sheep’s clothing as PETA connections have built its foundation.”
“The movement ranks animal agriculture among its top focus. There is less reliance on shock value, and more on businesses (owning stocks to influence company decisions), legislation, regulation, public policy and public perception.” 
As their movement is more sophisticated these days, so must ours be. That’s what makes reaching the public with organizations like Wyoming Ag in the Classroom and our livestock organizations so important.
Dennis