Take notice: Animal welfare activists want to scare and shock people to force action, and they are willing to break onto your farm to do it.

At the recent 2018 Animal Rights National Conference in Los Angeles, California, seminars were held on how the groups can best broadcast their message to more people and potentially win more adherents to their cause.

Thanks to the efforts of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, there is a comprehensive report on the proceedings of the annual conference available for the group’s members.

Viral video         

One tactic the activist groups are using and will continue to use to great effect are images and videos. Sessions at the conference focused on the power of video in conveying a message to a mass audience.

Via social media, mainstream media coverage or documentaries streamed online, activists are able to “expose” industry practices to an uninformed audience using engaging video and still images. The sessions showed the activists know how to work with reporters and editors to win some press, and they are savvy on social media. Moreover, the activists know that’s becoming more important as the way people consume information changes. If the public is ignorant of farming practices, it makes it easier for the activists to sensationalize out-of-context images.

The report also reviewed a speech given by Julianne Perry, a member of animal liberation group Direct Action Everywhere. Perry recounted her experience and rescue missions, saying she was often described as either a hero or a criminal. She identified her organization as radical “because their actions force people to see the issue, especially through media coverage.”

Seeking conflict 

Perry said something that I think is critically important: Direct Action Everywhere looks for confrontation. The group, like others in its movement, is willing to do whatever it takes to get their message out there. She spoke about her arrest and encouraged others to keep up the smash-and-grab rescue operations in spite of legal risks.

To these groups: There is no such thing as bad publicity. Even if someone has to get arrested, conflict fuels the media attention and the buzz. It forces the issue and fosters a conversation surrounding the latest guerilla video.

The industry must respond by denying the activists the attention they crave. The best defense against their approach is operational excellence. If the facilities on the farm are clean, the animals are healthy and the workers are humane, then the activists won’t have anything to shock people.

Beyond keeping a tight ship, it’s important to know how to respond to a break-in attempt. The Animal Agriculture Alliance offers advice for farmers to help spot and catch potential undercover activists, keeps track of recent activist activities and provides other useful information on handling aggressive groups.