PROTECTING OUR LIFESTYLE AND LIVELIHOOD - PART 1
We work tirelessly to be an important resource for information regarding issues that impact animal ownership and property rights. Keeping the public up-to-date on the activities of animal and environmental extremist groups is the first part of our organization’s mission statement. This includes zoning and land use rules; and regulations that are infringing on farms, ranches, and animal owners. We strive to do all we can to keep stakeholders informed and to alert our supporters of issues that require attention and action.
With that in mind, we have created a resource pages on our website, found under our “Get Involved” tab, titled, “Protecting our Lifestyle and Livelihood – What You Can Do” that can make taking action even easier. When you are finished reading this, go to Part 2 for more information and steps to take action. We hope you will find the following resources and suggestions useful.
Pressure from Animal and Environmental Extremists is Typically Out of Area
Most of the outcry against animal enterprise and land use comes from Washington, D.C. based non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Some of these organizations are very clever about “community organizing.” They come in from out of the area, spread misinformation, and then offer to help to set up opposition using a locally named organization. The Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) is especially known for utilizing these types of tactics.
When combating animal and environmental extremists it is key that the people in your community understand that opposition efforts are being organized from groups outside the area. They need to know that the misinformation is not coming from local citizens and stakeholders. Instead, it is coming from a global ideology and agenda followed by a worldwide animal rights and environmental extremism network who philosophically do not want animals or the land to be in human care.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense – Change the Narrative
For far too long our communities of farmers, ranchers, outdoorsmen, and animal owners have been on the defense when dealing with the activities of animal and environmental extremist groups as they push their ideology and agenda. While in many ways we are still on the defense, as a community we are making strides to learn more and to educate our supporters about the groups that are working to destroy our American Traditions and lifestyle.
Our resources are utilized to combat misinformation and made-up stories. The best approach is to get out in front of these adversarial groups by being visible in our communities and telling our story.
As caretakers of animals and stewards of the land we need to start identifying ourselves in that way. We are animal welfare advocates. We are stewards of the land.
Confusion About Definitions
Extremist groups have carefully worked to change the lexicon to confuse the public. They call themselves animal welfare advocates when nothing could be further from the truth. These groups use names like, “animal advocates,” “animal protection group,” and “animal welfare group” when they actually oppose animal welfare. Their end goal is rooted in ending animals in human care no matter the cost to our society.
Animal and environmental extremist groups broadly use other words or phrases to paint an ugly and inaccurate picture of their targets. They claim that farmers and ranchers do not take care of the land or their animals and they make other horrible claims about pet owners. Farmers and ranchers would not be able to pass down their family legacy from one generation to the next if they were not good stewards of the land. If animals are not taken care of and are stressed, they will not produce. This is why responsible farmers, ranchers, and animal breeders stay up to date with animal research to know how to reduce animal stressors, which increases the health and wellbeing of their animals.
Know How to Identify Confusion and Explain What is Really Going on
Addressing the confusion and being able to clearly articulate the differences to the public is key. People need to understand why certain terms are being used by animal and environmental extremists. They also need to know how they are being manipulated by the extremist narrative. We have several articles on our website under the “What You Need to Know” tab that explain these issues in detail and they can be referred to when people have additional questions. If you cannot find an answer to a question, feel free to reach out to us by phone or email.
Facts vs. Emotion
Tactics utilized by animal and environmental extremist groups include stirring up strong negative emotions, pushing a philosophy or ideology via changing the narrative or lexicon by using rhetoric, mistruths, and even lies. When combatting their misinformation or attempting to get out in front of a situation, a better approach would be to utilize facts, data, statistics, and expertise. Industry trade associations and watch dog organizations have done the heavy lifting on this front and have compiled a wealth of information that is easily available.
While the animal and environmental extremist community is very effective with the media, they are NOT animal welfare experts. Most often the ordinances and legislation they are pushing cause more harm to animals and are detrimental to their overall survival. A current example of this is the campaign to only adopt dogs from shelters. While providing a home for every animal that needs one is a warm fuzzy ideal, the reality is that this is putting more pets in harm’s way as shelters import dogs from other countries. With the increases in dog importation, we now see diseases not known to pets in the USA becoming more prevalent. The National Animal Interest Alliance has a wealth of information and data to confirm this.
Get Involved, Get Visible
People are much more likely to listen to those they know and trust. This is why it is very important to get involved with your community and to become a trusted resource. Keep in mind that the animal and environmental extremist movement has had a twenty-year head start with their misinformation campaign. When your business or lifestyle is threatened by animal and environmental extremists, or by detrimental regulations that have been introduced, it is time for you to use your voice. Being a credible and trusted source offers the best opportunity to shed light on the ideology and agenda of animal and environmental extremism.
If you hold expertise in specific areas, this is not the time to be shy. Here are some ways in which you can provide your expertise:
• Write an article or column for your local paper, or trade magazine
• Write an op ed to a story your local paper published that you disagree with or want to set straight
• Become a blogger
• Identify yourself as an expert and include your credentials when speaking at hearings or events
• Serve on a related advisory board
The Importance of City and County Meetings
Protect The Harvest’s founder has always said that the most powerful people in the country are your County Commissioners, and he is absolutely correct. They have power to change ordinances and regulations without a vote from the people.
Attend the local city and/or county commission meetings to learn about what is going on in your area. When it comes to land use and property rights, zoning meetings are highly informative. Attending city and county commission meetings are the best way to learn about rezoning plans, land use projects, and regulations.
Another option is to serve on a committee so that you can stay more informed. The other aspect to this is that you will be representing your farm, hobby, community, etc. Your attending meetings can encourage people who are more removed from interactions with animals and land stewardship to consider a broader point of view.
Serve on a local board of directors. A county or state fair is a great place to have an impact as well. County and state fairs help keep the tradition of agriculture alive. These board meetings are a great place to strengthen your relationships with other board members or event sponsors. These members and sponsors are often local businesses, legislators, and community leaders that impact community perceptions.
Know Your Community Leaders
Watch your community leaders in action. Do some homework on the people who are serving in leadership roles in your community. Make an effort to reach out to them and let them know about your business, family, and community ties.
The Value of Partners and Associations
While we certainly hope you see the value in supporting Protect the Harvest, we also encourage you to get involved with appropriate trade associations and organizations that exist to keep you in business and tell the collective positive story about the industries they represent. These organizations represent a wide variety of businesses including agriculture, animal exhibitors, carriage drivers, fairs, amusement parks, reptile keepers, restaurants, pet breeders, guide dogs, and more.
While your business may not be big enough to support a lobbyist or staff attorney, trade organizations and associations generally do engage attorneys and lobbyists to watch over their member’s interests, as well as compiling industry facts and statistics. This is why it is so important to support them. Support can be given in a variety of ways, from donations and becoming a member if applicable, to volunteering on a board or committee.
Lend your expertise where appropriate. During the recent pandemic, many trade associations lobbied hard to get a share of the CARE money for their member’s industries including relief for family farms. Some of the wonderful associations and organizations that Protect the Harvest partners with, and/or shares information and resources can be found on our website at https://protecttheharvest.com/get-involved/recommended-resources/.
Establish good relationships with the local media. Do not wait to tell your story until you are put in a defensive position. Reaching out to media sources ahead of time can position you as a subject matter expert and one that people will turn to if they have questions. If something does come up in the future, you already have a relationship of trust established and have a better opportunity to share your side of the story.
Whether it is your family or business, creating a media plan involves gathering the team and creating 3-5 talking points – positive aspects about your business and industry. If you are a business, make sure you have a trained spokesperson. If that person has not been involved with animals, choose a second person who can be media trained that can speak regarding the animal aspect of the issue.
Anticipate the tough questions and create solid answers. Avoiding difficult questions will only put you further on the defensive. Decide upon the three to five most important topics and for each topic, create one to three sentences with succinct statements.
Participate in the Online Community
If you have followed many of the suggestions above, you have already compiled a great deal of information, and may be looking at the situation more proactively. This is a great time to create or update your online presence and put a positive face on our business. The basic aspects of being involved in the online community would include having a website and/or social media presence. Depending on the size of your business, you may be fine with just a Facebook page. If your business is a bit larger, you will likely also need a website. These do not have to cost a fortune and can be created with minimal technological knowledge. These are amazing tools to tell your story. You can also link to related associations and organizations and they can link to your sites providing more credibility.
While you may not be comfortable online, this is a great opportunity for an older teen or young adult family member to utilize their technology skills and contribute to the business. You might also consider a local college intern or a 4H or FFA student to assist with these projects.
Posting images of your family interacting with animals puts a very human and emotional face on your business. Often, that is what is missing from our stories. Animal and environmental extremist groups have become experts at making those of us who work with animals and the land as uncaring and less than human.
It is also worth noting that you can manage comments on Facebook through settings that allow you to disable outside comments, or at least moderate them. This will alleviate extremists from infiltrating your social media.
Make sure that you are subscribing to alerts and updates from your Governor’s office, along with receiving email newsletters from your legislators. A great example of why this is so important happened just recently. During the recent pandemic states were provided with funds from the CARES act. These funds were distributed in various ways, including funding for small businesses and even family farms that were struggling. The announcements that there would be funding available were made primarily through press releases put out through the state Governor’s press releases, and/or municipality email networks.
We have a resource for being most effective on social media that can be downloaded from our website. Click HERE
We hope you find this a useful resource, and we will also be including a printable checklist that you can use to assist you in becoming involved in your local political and community issues. As always, please alert us here at Protect The Harvest so that we can alert others and engage our resources and networks to address the issue.
To read Part 2 Click HERE
To download the checklist Click HERE