Animal rights report offers insights into anti-animal farming strategies

Beef Central, 25/09/2017

A report from a recent Animal Rights National Conference provides several insights into methods vegans and vegetarians are adopting in their ongoing efforts to try to turn the public against animal farming, and how they rate their success to date.

The conference, hosted by the Farm Animal Rights Movement near Washington DC in August, had a vision is to end “all forms of human exploitation of animals”. Nearly 2000 individuals reportedly attended the four-day event, representing 90 organisations and 12 countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Mexico, and the United States.

Also in the audience were members of the Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA), a non-profit, united livestock-industries group with the stated aims of bridging the communication gap between farm and fork and “exposing those who threaten our nation’s food security with damaging misinformation”.

In AAA’s post conference wrap, Alliance President CEO Kay Johnson Smith said the speakers at the 2017 Animal Rights National Conference made their goals clear: “ending all forms of animal agriculture, regardless of how well animals are cared for”.

“Their persistent focus on pressure campaigns targeting restaurant, retail and foodservice brands is of great concern to the Alliance and our members.

“We encourage anyone with a vested interest in producing, processing or selling meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, to read this year’s report and hear how determined these groups are to eliminate food choices and make our society vegan.”

Be as extreme as necessary

Activists in attendance were encouraged to be as extreme as necessary to advance their goals.

“Breaking the law can often be a good thing to do,” said Zach Groff, Animal Liberation Collective. Groff spoke about the ‘nature of confrontational activism’ such as “protests, open rescues from farms without permission, vigils…” According to Groff, “this is a type of activism that can often upset people, it can rile people up.”

Some speakers described how undercover groups are using drones to record videos and gain an aerial view of a facilities before infiltrating the property in-person. Audience members were advised on how to disguise cameras on a target property to aid with undercover investigations. Some groups, the conference was told, are also using trackers on livestock trucks to monitor where animals move to and from.

Harass retailers to stop selling animal products

A major focus of this year’s conference was on pressuring restaurant, retail and foodservice brands to adopt certain policies, with the end goal of forcing them to stop selling animal products.

In one session on “Engaging Institutions,” a speaker from The Humane League said the group had “basically harassed” one national sandwich chain with a campaign. When an audience member commented about ‘humane’ policies not being as good as complete liberation, Krista Hiddema, Mercy for Animals (Canada), hinted at no animal products being sold as the end goal, stating “we’re never going away.” Hiddema also stated that “we [the animal rights movement] are winning against the largest organizations in the world,” and “they are terrified of us.”

“It’s the beginning of the end of animal welfare and the beginning of civil rights for animals,”one activist told the conference.

“I recommend putting blood drips on their logo”

Other speakers shared Hiddema’s confidence in the movement’s success, with Jon Camp, The Humane League, stating “they [food companies] don’t make policies due to altruism, they do it because of the pressure.” David Coman-Hidy, also with The Humane League, told attendees to research companies before launching a campaign, asking “what can we use to make them look like hypocrites?” Coman-Hidy emphasized “we are not here to negotiate,” and activists “are essentially a pain in the neck for companies.” He suggested that attendees should attempt to damage companies’ brand reputations, stating “I recommend putting blood drips on their logo.”

Attention turning to small farms

Consistent with previous years, another key message from conference speakers was for attendees to focus efforts on eliminating farms of all types and sizes, not only the large-scale, modern operations (declared to be “factory farms”) that have historically been targeted. “Please, stop saying “factory farming” – it’s done its job,” said Hope Bohanec, projects manager, United Poultry Concerns as she emphasized that farms of all sizes are equally cruel. Bohanec continued to accuse the food industry of “humane washing” and trying to “dupe the public.” Bonahec touched on recent movements to go ‘cage-free,’ stating that all animal agriculture is bad, regardless of what labels say.

Vegans also attack ‘reducetarians’

One speaker was ridiculed by the audience for his ‘Reducetarian’ approach, which encourages people to reduce, but not necessarily eliminate, meat consumption. An audience member stated that veganism is a lifestyle, not a diet, and that “’reducetarianism’ is the animal rights version of greenwashing” (trying to make an organization seem more environmentally responsible than it actually is).

Several speakers and panels also discussed animal agriculture’s impact on the environment, a talking point the Alliance has seen animal rights activist groups relying on more heavily in recent years. Jeffrey Cohan, Jewish Veg, stated that “we know animal agriculture is the leading cause of pollution on our planet.” Lisa Kemmerer, author, Sister Species and Eating Earth, said “eating hamburgers is like driving a bulldozer over the rainforest” and “being an environmentalist who is not vegan is nonsense on stilts.”

Also speaking at the conference were Nick Cooney (founder of The Humane League) and Vandhana Bala, Mercy for Animals; Ingrid Newkirk, PETA; Erica Meier, Compassion Over Killing; Steven Wise, Nonhuman Rights Project; Anita Krajnc, Toronto Pig Save; Bruce Friedrich, Good Food Institute; and Paul Shapiro, Josh Balk and Kristie Middleton, all with the Humane Society of the United States.

The conference clearly underlined that the movement’s “end game” is not animal welfare, but animal rights and complete animal liberation. Speakers compared the fight for animals rights with the social justice movements of the past, such as ending human slavery and the struggle for racial and gender equality.

Actively targeting millennials

Celebrated wins included claims of a generational shift, with one speaker suggesting that one in 10 millennials (those born in the 1980s-1990s) are either vegetarian or vegan. “How to engage with millennial and Gen Xers should be our number one question,” one speaker commented. Another speaker, a doctor, told the audience that “Veganism is the only way to save the planet and ourselves”, adding “the younger generation is going to make eating meat look as uncool as smoking cigarettes and wearing fur.”

The conference heard estimates that “clean meat” (artificially-produced or plant-based ‘meat’) – will comprise one third of the meat industry by 2050. The conference also heard that the release of recent anti-animal farming movies such as ‘Okja’ and ‘What the Health’ had caused a spike in the number of Google searches for “go vegan”.

Challenges included how to recruit more members into the movement, how to expand vegan options in the market place, and how to engage children in vegan advocacy.

One speaker noted how including pictures of baby animals on social media increased impressions by 20 percent and posts with companion animals increased impressions by 55 percent.

A PETA marketing spokesperson spoke of the importance of using videos on social media. A key aim was “to make people cry”, but the speaker also noted that censorship filters on platforms such as Facebook were hurting the animal rights movement’s attempts to share its message on social media.

Various workshops offered guidance on a range of topics including using meditation and training in mindfulness to ‘calm and direct the mind’ (each conference day started with a meditation session and yoga training).

Individual sessions focused on the power of individual advocacy and stories to evoke an emotional response, and theories and techniques to win the hearts and minds of the public. Workshop session topics included “Surviving our activism (dealing with despair, disillusionment and burnout)”, The need for courageous deviance from social norms to achieve social reform; “Getting to know our adversaries” – who is driving animal exploitation and how they are likely to stop”; and “The power of inclusivity and compassion (living with the knowledge that even vegans die)”.


Lawyers reminded the audience of their rights to free speech and assembly and advised them on the use encryption when communicating with each other. They were also told to look for three signs that can help them identify infiltrators who may not be on the animal rights movement’s side: for example if the suspect appears to be using a fake social media profile, using aggressive activist behaviour as cover and are being nosey and trying to collect information.

The Humane Society of the US described how it has started a culinary campaign with food service providers in university campuses, hospitals and schools to help them to “move away from animal abuse” by teaching their chefs how to prepared plant-based meals.

Developing cheaper alternatives to meat was also a priority: “Want it to be based on ethics, but for many it has to be based on price,” one speaker noted.


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  1. Hugh Winwood-Smith, 04/10/2017

    So to address some of the arguments people have made in response to what I said:

    @Eion, actually none of the points you raise are valid counter arguments to my position. You invoke the “natural order” argument. You say that we cannot stop a wild predator from eating their prey. So? Since when do you model your personal ethics on the behaviour of wild animals? Wild animals fight for mates, do you encourage fist fights over women down the local pub? Some wild species often engage in cannibalism, does this affect your view on human cannibalism? Some wild species frequently rape each other, how does this change your view on rape of humans or non-humans? The point being, we are responsible for our own actions, and we can choose actions that cause more or less harm. On any other ethical issue you would not use the behaviour of wild animals as a guide, so why on this one topic do you use it? Because it suits your purposes? A similar argument would be for me to point at the war torn parts of our world and say “look, those people are committing genocide, so why should I respect the property rights of my neighbour?”

    You also talk about insects and bacteria. Well insects have brains that are vastly simplistic compared to the brain of a vertebrate. There is no evidence that they experience suffering, or pain, and no reason to believe they are even sentient. They lack the neurological structure necessary to produce thoughts and feelings in the way that we and other vertebrates with complex brains do. Bacteria don’t even have brains, in fact they are structurally more simplistic than every cell in your body. Do you worry about the welfare of every cell in your body? I’m sorry, but this is a ludicrous line of thinking. It is not about never killing a living thing, life is just another arrangement of molecules. If that life is not sentient, then it has no more ethical significance than a rock.

    Medicine is a tricky one, as someone who does research I can confidently say that a huge amount of the experimentation on animals is unnecessary and has more to do with the industry of science and universities than it does about providing a genuine benefit to anyone. I think we should avoid cruel experimentation at all costs. Where it is justified, it is justified because it will save vastly more lives than it will end. That is not true of farming animals for food. It’s not a necessity for survival, and that was part of my original point.

    Where did I indicate that I cannot accept that people disagree with my position? To not accept this would be to deny reality. You say they have a right to conduct their lives as they please, well who has what rights is an arbitrary affair really isn’t it. We used to deny rights to people of difference races and to women. As it stands we deny rights to anyone that is not a human. Just as people argued that should change, I argue that this should change. I’m simply making the argument for what I think is right, whether society as a whole can ultimately be persuaded that my(our) position is correct, remains to be seen. So I’m really not sure what you’re trying to say, I accept reality as it is, and do what I can to try and push it the direction that I think it should go. You do the same every time you cast a vote or debate any topic that affects society. What we have is a disagreement, and it will always be thus, that people disagree on things, but if debates don’t happen then things stay the same, and unless you think the world is perfect and nothing should even change, then that is a bad thing.

    @Paul we need to eat to survive and we cannot exist on this earth without negatively impacting other species, it’s impossible, it’s the reality of multiple species and individuals competing for the same resources. But we can have an unnecessarily large impact, causing an unnecessarily large amount of harm, or we can do what we can to minimise the harm. Animal agriculture greatly increases the amount of harm we cause. It harms not only the animals that are farmed, it harms the animals that are displaced, through land use. If we abandoned animal agriculture we would greatly reduce the amount of harm we cause. That’s the whole point. Is it your position that causing a small amount of harm is ethically equivalent to causing a large amount of harm? That killing one person is equal to killing one hundred people? I doubt it.

    @Ross I agree that some causes can be pursued in an unethical manner. But to simply say that breaking the law is wrong, is something that is said by those who can’t think for themselves. If you take your ethics from the law, then you are confused about the purpose of the law. Many of our most valuable advances ethically throughout history has involved breaking the law. The difference here is simply that you disagree with the cause. I also would bet that there are laws you disagree with and laws that you break (ever jay walked, sped, run a red light, pirated a movie, etc, etc.) we all break laws we disagree with. So the “breaking the law is wrong” mantra is simplistic thinking. Breaking the law is illegal, whether it’s wrong or not is up for debate, depending on the law broken.

    @al extinction? A great many more extinctions are caused because we farm animals because it greatly increases our environmental impact. So I really have no idea what you’re talking about. If you are talking about the extinction of farmed animals, then wow, it’s amazing that suddenly your a conservationist. I don’t think that extinction is an ethical issue. Species have always gone extinct. What matters is the welfare and wellbeing and continued existence of lives that already exist. If I create a new hybrid breed of dog or cow tomorrow, is there suddenly an ethical imperative to conserve that breed for all eternity? No, of course not, that would be ludicrous. Farm animals don’t stress over the extinction of their breed or species, what they stress about is how they are treated. They care about their own lives and the lives of their immediate companions, their offspring, their mates, and their continued existence. Claiming that the breeding and killing of animals is about conservation is laughable. Pull the other one mate.

    As for my own work, I’m not going to talk in detail about myself, but if you’re fishing for some reason to accuse me of being a hypocrite, you won’t find it there, and it’s certainly nothing like you have suggested. The point was, I understand animals, and I’ve worked with them previously in ways I would not be willing to now since changing my views.
    I am not some delusional hippy that has no idea, as the comment I was responding to would like to suggest about anyone who opposes animal agriculture.

  2. andy rickel, 27/09/2017

    @Ross, I agree that disgraceful behaviour is wrong. what are your thoughts on needless animal cruelty?

  3. andy rickel, 27/09/2017

    @al veganism is avoiding animal products and all the negativity involved with it when it’s viable to do so. there’s a difference between living in the extreme north and living in the suburbs.

  4. andy rickel, 27/09/2017

    @Paul way more animals are hurt for animal products than for vegan foods. and less negativity is better!

  5. Glenn Vassallo, 27/09/2017

    Ty Savoy, the same was said about synthetic fibers replacing wool and cotton, yet here we are many decades later with the wool and cotton industries still extremely important to supplying our fiber needs.

    There is nothing to suggest it will be any different with synthetic meat, especially when you consider that if we are going to have a chance of feeding the planet and its growing population, we are going to have to throw everything we have at it. Hence meat obtained from grazing animals will most definitely remain an important source of food, even more so when you begin to discuss the quality of synthetics verse what nature provides.

  6. Kevin OConnor, 27/09/2017

    You are right Marcvs Cicero, It is crazy to let those meat industry zealots impose their world view on the rest of us. Breeding superbugs through the overuse of antibiotics, wiping out rain forests to grow crops to feed cattle, driving species to extinction in order to have cheap grazing land for their animals, all the while, sucking up federal subsidies to make this happen …. out of control

  7. Marcvs Cicero, 27/09/2017

    So to cut to the chase here. There is a group of zealots who believe that they have the right to dictate to the rest of us. The right to impose their world view and approach to right and wrong.

  8. Ty Savoy, 27/09/2017

    The Vegan change is well underway. It’s massive, unprecedented, and shows no signs of slowing down. Strategizing about how to try and stop the inevitable is one thing to do.

    Another would be to think ahead, embrace the change, roll with it. People still gotta eat. Lab grown Meat will be cheaper than the normal stuff sooner than any of us probably think – with some very big financial names putting their money into it, and even Tyson Foods investing in it.

    China just signed a huge $300 million dollar lab-grown meat deal with Israel.

    The-times-they-are -Changin.

  9. Ross Pastega, 26/09/2017

    Nice to see the vegans showing up and conflating the issue of encouraging illegal and hypocritical action within their community with their personal sagas of vegan transition. Learn to speak to the specific topic at hand instead of blowing out each mention of your movement in to a self centered evangelist tome of your own very special evolution.

    Encouraging illegal activity is wrong. Regardless of dietary choices. Harrassment is wrong. Regardless of dietary choices. This is a form of extremism. Animal rights movements have and will evolve in to forms of domestic terrorism (the ALF being the most notable example). The amount of rationalising that this movement does to justify absolutely disgraceful behaviour is mainstream thought within these communities and this conference proves that it’s not simply a “loony fringe” that should be criticised.

  10. al smith, 26/09/2017

    Hugh Smith extinction is what you are creating..and craving the extinction of many species of animals is exactly what vegans want to see happen.. you say you work “with” animals? doing what ?exploiting them so you can earn a living? because if you are “enslaving ” any animal to put vegan food on your table you are using animals for your own benefit. many people eat animals not for “transient pleasure” but to stay alive i.e. those natives that live in intemperate climates where growing crops is not an option delusional hippies ?/ yes at least the delusional part.

  11. Paul Franks, 26/09/2017

    Hugh, many animals die to bring vegans their food. There is a video on youtube of helicopter shooting feral pigs in cereal crops. Those pigs are only dying to bring grain food to people.

  12. Eion John McAllister, 26/09/2017

    Taking Mr Winwood – Smith’s line of argument regarding the value of a creature’s life and the arbitary loss of that life for food, he stands in opposition to the basic processes of the natural world. All predators and parasites prey on other creatures and life forms. What is the difference between a predator killing for a meal and an omnivore such as a pig or a human doing so. Bears eat vegetable matter, fish , mammals, insects , and anything else that takes their fancy. Good luck with imposing your philosophy upon these creatures because if you argue that humans should be somehow disconnected from such behaviours then you should also be willing to expect that all other species which have an impact upon taking the lives of other creatures should also be subject to such behavioural change. To somehow interpret the natural world in a manner that selectively isolates some behaviours and elevates them to a position of superior ethical or moral dimension is truly a distorted view of natural world processes. The view that the killing of creatures for food is against the order of natural processes and something that humans should not do defies understanding. If humans should not take the lives of other creatures then they should not kill insects, bacteria and viruses as well. There should be no human discipline of medicine because the treatment of disease involves the killing of creatures in order that humans can continue to live. You are entitled to view the world in the way you do, but you need to also accept that many people do not agree with your philosophical position and they to have a right to conduct their lives and affairs in a manner that is contrary to the one you propose.

  13. Hugh Winwood-Smith, 26/09/2017

    EDIT: should read “that kind of meat production is less that 10% of the meat produced worldwide”. About 90% of the global meat production is fed crops suitable for human consumption or grazed on land suitable for cropping.

  14. Hugh Winwood-Smith, 26/09/2017

    Well I wasn’t raised in isolation or segregated from the real world. My grandfather had a farm, I’ve worked on a farm, milking cows, cleaning pig pens, etc, etc. I’ve visited numerous farms. I work with animals. I have an education in science, specifically animal biology. I ate meat, eggs, dairy for 30+ years. But I came to realise that I don’t need animal products in order to be perfectly healthy, that cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, are not fundamentally different to any other animal, or us, in their desire to live, their ability to feel pain, suffering, joy, their desire for freedom, and their desire to be free from harm. So I had to ask myself. If I do not need to kill these animals to be healthy, then why am I doing it? Because I like the taste. I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to take the life of another. And while I still hold human life in higher regard than any other, there’s a difference between thinking human life has more value, and thinking that the life of another species has so little value that it can be snuffed out in an instant just for the transient pleasure of a meal.

    I realise that for some of you it’s your livelihood, so you feel that it’s more than just the pleasure of a meal, you feel it’s a necessity, but anyone making their money from any practice will feel that way.

    If you assume that every person who is vegan is some delusion hippy who has no idea how the world works, then you are mistaken. But by all means continue with that attitude, it will only help the vegan movement grow.

    Veganism is about the ethics of animal exploitation, dismiss that as some “green left liberal” nonsense at your peril.

    It’s about environmentalism, the science is indisputable that our impact on this planet would be reduced if we did not farm animals. That’s basic science. Calorie conversion efficiency ensures that less calories are extracted from animal agriculture for the amount of energy that is put into the system. In Australia we have a lot of land that is not suitable for crops, this is true, but this kind of animal agriculture is less than 90% of the meat produced worldwide. Plant based agriculture can more easily meet the needs of the world.

    Veganism is also about health. I’d say the science on this is still developing, but what’s very clear is that veganism is no less healthy than an omnivorous diet, and there is mounting evidence that it is more healthy than an omnivorous diet.

    So again, dismiss us all as irrational hippies if you like.

    I’ll also comment on the laughable point made “who is going to supply the water and fodder for the millions of valueless perishing cattle, sheep and hogs?” This is a fantasy scenario where every member of the population goes vegan overnight. It will never happen. What would happen (potentially) is that over time, more people would go vegan and thus the market for animal products would gradually shrink. Farmers would breed less and less animals in response, some farms would close down, or transition to other forms of agriculture. This is how markets work. So there will not be millions upon millions of farm animals suddenly homeless wandering the countryside, that’s ridiculous.

    You should all also consider that the first lab based milk is about to hit the market. On a molecular level, the same as cow’s milk, but produced form genetically modified yeast and consuming a fraction of the resources. Cheaper, more efficient, can be used for cheese, cream, etc. Lab based meat is also coming along, and may hit the market in a decade. Again, it will be cheaper and use less resources.

  15. andy rickel, 26/09/2017

    @mark I encourage you to check out the youtube video called “what is veganic farming? is it viable?” by mic the vegan 🙂

  16. andy rickel, 26/09/2017

    @russell, animals are bred for human consumption. as more people go vegan, less animals are bred for consumption. As such, if everyone eventually goes vegan (which may not even happen, and if it did, would gradually take place over many years), then animals would no longer be farmed. so their population would not be an issue.

  17. Mark Killen, 25/09/2017

    As a beef and egg producer in Australia (and all free range), I thank Beef Central for providing this information. I agree that there are a great many young people that call themselves vegan – we have lots of back packers (or used to until the Coalition Federal Government destroyed the scheme) on our place, the sites we frequent to enlist said travelers are full of these youngsters. They are real people and they have been raised in isolation from the real world with video games and social media their reality as their parents have neglected their responsibilities to ensure their children have a balanced upbringing. We have hosted many of these young people. We have shown them the real world of food production. We have seen them embrace nature and realise they are part of it. We have smiled as they take their first steps as true citizens of the world and take responsibility for their actions. They leave here eating eggs and often meat. Why? Because they have been told about true sustainability, the fact that plants need animals to survive. A special thanks to Barnaby Joyce and Malcolm Turnbull for doing Labor’s job of taking away the chance our family has had to educate the leaders of the future all across the world in sustainable farming – if I wasn’t so nice I could be tempted to call those two “morons”, but it would be an insult to all other morons, so I won’t.
    It is just a matter of time until humans destroy themselves. Whether with North Korea and the USA doing the pissing contest, or with the isolation of city raised kids from the natural world, I believe our days are numbered. But really who cares? When unproductive humans outnumber the humans that nourish them it was always going to end badly.

  18. Russell Pearson, 25/09/2017

    Very interesting story, and if they win, who is going to supply the water and fodder for the millions of valueless ,perishing Cattle, sheep and Hogs ?

  19. John Cooper, 25/09/2017

    Well we would be made to believe there are fairies at the bottom of the garden if we believe that this radical movement can do what it states.I can see a stack of law suits in the States if there is illegal activities encountered and encouraged by these activists to achieve their goals.Our agricultural bodies will have to work together and be able to refute inaccurate information as we are now doing in the areas of cattle feeding in pastures.I am not taking this threat lightly but think we have more going for us in consumer numbers than they will ever have. .

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