Livestock producers in a number of states face challenges from animal welfare groups over how farm animals are cared for. It's a particularly heated issue in
Foutz led a seminar Monday on the challenges facing livestock producers during the annual meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation in
"Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the
"Unfortunately, some of the ag groups in
Foutz said "this will be a long fight. Mr. Pacelle has said if he doesn't win this year, he'll be back next year. We need to be very cognizant of what the HSUS is doing."
"Our first target is the livestock sector," said AFBF president Bob Stallman. "We are working hard to preserve our social license to raise animals for food. But as we have painfully learned, conventional tactics, messages and strategies are just not effective.
"Animal activist groups want to undermine public trust in livestock producers. Battles are being fought. Battles have been lost in
The AFBF conducted a public opinion survey in August of last year to gauge public opinion on why voters go along with animal rights votes. "Seventy-five percent of those surveyed said they would vote for a law requiring farmers to raise animals a certain way," noted Don Lipton, AFBF director of public relations. "To most people, humane treatment of farm animals is an ethical and moral issue."
However, providing more information can help change the minds on non-farm consumers, Lipton added. "We are working with the folks in
"Nationwide, we are launching a grassroots program to train folks how to effectively communicate our message to consumers."
Charlie Arnot, CEO, Center for Food Integrity, said HSUS has more credibility with consumers because "they have a more rational approach than PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) who have marginalized themselves by their extreme tactics."
Arnot reported on a survey the Center conducted last summer. "Only 18% of respondents strongly agree with the statement that meat is derived from animals that are treated humanely."
Arnot suggested farmers need to start grassroots efforts to explain they are committed to doing the right thing before referendums or ballots come up. "The focus needs to be on what Walmart, Kroger, Target and others will mandate to producers as to how animals should be raised," said Arnot.
"Our strategy over the last five years has been to attack our attackers. We need to look at a new strategy. Farmers need to go to the HSUS web site and see what they are up to."
The issue is more important in some states more than others, noted Arnot. "But eventually it will affect everyone."