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Livestock

Ranchers told to speak up to fend off the growing animal rights movement

Written by Jennifer Womack
Gillette — “If you want to ranch the way you did in 1930, God bless you, because that’s what you’re going to get if you don’t open your mouth,” says Steve Kopperud.
    “We must start marketing you and what you do as well as we market beef,” says Kopperud, Senior Vice President of Policy Directions, Inc., a company that, among other services, guides businesses in defending themselves from attacks by animal rights groups. “We spend not one red cent selling you. We do not sell the producer and that’s our biggest mistake. The public must relate to you.”
    Kopperud called for an alliance between processors, retailers and producers. “Processors must be our allies; they’re not just the people who buy the beef,” says Kopperud, who also calls for alliances with retailers. Amidst attacks from animal rights groups, Kopperud says producers must step to the forefront to tell the true-to-life stories, based on experience, that processors and retailers aren’t able to relate to the public.
    “They don’t want to know about castrating and dehorning, but they want you to look them in the eye and tell them, ‘I’m doing the best I can and it’s the best for the animal,’” says Kopperud of consumers. “We must sell the producer and sell the process, the professionalism and dedication. That has to be part of the message.”
    “Open up and start talking to the media,” he suggests, also noting the importance of relating concerns to politicians.
    Opponents in this fight, who Kopperud says base their work on emotion rather than facts, are formidable. “Reality about the Humane Society of the United States is that they have no local affiliation with any state or local Humane Society, they run no shelter, they sponsor no adoption or neutering clinic,” he says. “They are, in fact, a $137 million political organization.”
    Kopperud equates mainstream retailers’ willingness to bow to animal rights demands to blood in the water to a shark. Advising one client facing threats of attacks on their brand-name hamburger, he asked them, “Do you want to be the largest salad bar chain in the world or the largest chain of hamburger joints?”
    Wayne Pacelle, the HSUS President, is a vegan. Since his arrival, Kopperud says the HSUS message has evolved from do the best you can to a goal of ending animal agriculture.
    “Without response from people like you they will prevail,” says Kopperud. “You are the only major industry in the United States of America being told to abandon your technology, abandon your expertise and go backwards and we’ll all be happy folk.” He cites efforts ranging from state-level referendums to the European Union’s push before GATT (General Assembly on Trade and Tariffs) for an ability to erect trade barriers based on consumer concerns.
    “Production policies in this county pivot on the 10-15 percent of people who can afford to shop at Whole Foods,” says Kopperud. He says policy written for the three percent of Americans who are vegetarians will cripple the nation’s ability to feed itself if allowed to progress unchecked.
    “Joe Six Pack and his family, who in this economy on a week-to-week basis isn’t deciding between burgers or steak, but whether there will be beef in their diet at all, they’re locked out of the discussion,” says Kopperud.
    Vegetarianism isn’t a viable option, he says, if the agricultural community is going to feed 307 million Americans not to mention the billions around the world. “Two-thirds of America can’t raise crops,” he says. “That’s a reality we have to deal with.”
    Despite that he says, “There is a piece of legislation to be introduced shortly by the HSUS that basically says the federal government may not purchase for any food program a meat, milk or egg product that does not come from animals raised under animal welfare standards.” The Department of Defense, the school lunch program and Women Infants and Children (WIC) would be among the affected.
     “You can’t feed 300 plus million Americans and the seven billion plus around the planet by dropping back to 1930s agriculture,” says Kopperud. “When someone’s goal is to put you out of business, there’s no such thing as reasonable debate and discussion. Everyone in this room has to get off their duff and start talking to people about what they do.”
    Steve Kopperud was the keynote speaker at the early June Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention & Trade Show in Gillette. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..