In Arizona, as with most other states, we participate in a fair or livestock show nearly every month of the year. Plus, we are host to a double (often quadruple) dose of county fairs in the fall with September and October two of the most popular months. And, if your children have a 4-H or FFA animal, county fairs serve as the most exciting time and culminating period highlighting their earnest efforts at animal care and husbandry.
So many of our stories in agriculture circle around our experiences in raising and showing our animals.
As parents, we celebrate how much our youth learn about animal agriculture and business finances. We even share personal stories of how our own 4-H beef, swine or lamb project launched our agriculture career. And, it all began at our county fair or livestock show.
Unfortunately, animal rights extremist organizations see fairs and events as something entirely different – an opportunity to disrupt and protest to bring attention to their cause of eliminating animal agriculture and promoting animal rights. Protestors have disrupted everything from the Royal Winter Fair and World Dairy Expo to county fairs and junior livestock shows. In one incident, an activist from Direct Action Everywhere wandered around a junior show while live streaming on Facebook and inaccurately depicting what they were seeing. The activists specifically attacked 4-H and FFA, saying that youth livestock programs turn “innocent young children into murderers.”
If you will be involved in a fair or expo this year, we strongly encourage you to prepare for activist protests and disruptions. The Animal Agriculture Alliance offers these tips:
- All events should have a crisis plan outlining who should do what in various scenarios – protests, disruptions, or even natural disasters or accidents.
- Consult local law enforcement about how to handle activist activity at fairs.
- Monitor online conversation to see if you may be a target. Protests are frequently organized on websites or social media.
- Keep an eye out for suspicious activity: people carrying signs or other protest materials, someone taking a strange number of photos/videos or talking into a phone or camera or individuals asking very direct questions. Report any concerns immediately to fair management.
- Avoid confrontation. Keep in mind they are likely to live stream or record the interaction.
- Some activists have been focusing on animal transport so be aware of the potential for activist activity as you are taking your animals to the show.
While you prepare for the worst, you should also hope and plan for the best – meaningful engagement with curious fairgoers. Encourage all exhibitors in your group take the time to engage consumers and respectfully answer genuine questions. Brush up on your industry’s talking points and animal welfare guidelines. Consider displaying educational signs. Have an animal welfare policy for your farm or club and make sure all exhibitors are committed to animal care.
At the Animal Agriculture Alliance, we work to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. We have outreach and security resources available at www.animalagalliance.org. You can contact us at 703-562-5160 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
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