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Animal Ag Alliance chief advises vigilance during meeting
By DORTHY NOBLE
ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. (Sept. 9, 2014)— At the special Dairy PROS meeting at Ag Progress Days, Kay Johnson Smith, president and chief executive officer for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, explained the organization’s mission.
This national coalition promotes the animal agriculture industry by connecting with and educating the public.
Headquartered in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area, the organization was established in 1987.
“Agriculture must have a voice,” Smith said.
Smith related how the organization brings the industry together to correct and counteract erroneous and inflammatory publicity regarding animal agriculture.
A recent example includes the Panera advertising campaign using a pill bottle staged to portray irresponsible use of antibiotics.
The alliance responded with a successful letter to the Panera company executives signed by 1,500 people in the animal agriculture industry.
Regarding animal rights activists, Smith said the groups raise funds by campaigning for cats and dogs but their focus is on agriculture.
Groups spend about $400 million a year in public relations campaigns. She said their aim is to keep people from eating meat.
“Ninety-seven percent of the public eats meat, milk and eggs,” Smith reported. She noted that the “Meatless Monday” campaign is actually decreasing but the activists keep it going.
Unfortunately, their activities matter. Smith pointed out that activists can directly impact an animal agriculture company’s bottom line and reputation.
“Undercover videos,” Smith said, “have nothing to do with animal care.”
For instance, the alliance posts on its website that the Humane Society of the United States contributed only 1 percent of its $131 million 2013 donations to local animal shelters.
In addition, the activist groups own stock in fast food companies. HSUS’s food policy director, Matt Prescott — who has a history of animal welfare activism, attends stockholder meetings, Smith said.
Press reports of Prescott interviews reveal his goal of abolishing animal products in human food.
The activists connect with social media also through the cats and dogs message. “And everyone is a journalist today,” Smith said.
Also, they conduct surveillance through drones to expose “factory farms.” Smith pointed out that drones are not regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Also, “If you shoot them down,” she stressed, “you are illegal.”
The Animal Agriculture Alliance also monitors welfare initiatives. Smith noted that the hodgepodge of regulations is problematic.
The Alliance also has a vote in the World Organization for Animal Health, the OIE, plus the International Organization for Standards.
These are important to the industry because of potential impacts to the industry in trade relations.
Smith urged stakeholder responsibility to invest in critical measures upfront to maintain consumer confidence.
“It must be part of your business plan,” she said.
She pointed out that to protect its farms, the animal industry must control the message.
The Alliance helps consumers and others understand animal agriculture with social media postings, blogs, press releases, informational brochures, and quick responses to the issues. Their materials, for example, describe ethically and scientifically sound modern farming and ranching practices in their animal care guidelines for livestock and poultry.
The Alliance’s website, www.animalagalliance.org, has a resource library, links to related data and up-to-date information on events that influence animal agriculture issues.