Yesterday the meat processing industry's trade magazine, Meatingplace, posted a new article for their "Activist Watch" column about a much needed communication plan for American farmers after a year of pink slime, gestation crates and slaughterhouse headlines. Certainly the industry has taken a punch. (It could be argued that it's thrown a few too).
The author of the article, Emily Meredith, who is the communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance (a separate entity), feels the "agriculture narrative" has been lost and sites "bush-league tactics" of activist groups and "carefully strategized social media campaigns." She encourages farmers to start their own campaigns by Tweeting pictures of their farms or making music videos, like the Peterson boys in Kansas.
All that sounds good. Because when stories break about bad farmers, well, it probably really does hurt them all. And that's not fair because it isn't the true, complete narrative. Even Matthew Prescott of the Humane Society said to me something along the lines of, "Most farmers want to farm, not raise widgets in a widget factory."
But then Meredith loses me and my frozen vegetable patties:
"And let's not discount the importance of face-to-face communication. I know that whenever one of my friends spouts off about animal cruelty, I make it my personal mission to correct them. So go up to that stranger in the grocery store that is about to buy a veggie burger and tell them how great our nation's beef is. You'll feel better, and believe me, so will they (who wants a burger made entirely of vegetables anyway?)!"
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I could argue that paragraph six ways to Sunday, particularly the prominence of strangers approaching me at grocery stores (why would someone encourage that?). But one commenter nailed it rather eloquently and his background lends his a solid amount of farm-cred.
"Glenn Mott" explained that due to a heredity issue he's vegan, despite working for a chicken company where he helped to "develop a verifiable live bird welfare program". Then, he went on:
We live in interesting and complicated times peopled by thoughtful individuals who for various reasons embrace or lean toward vegetable based diets while having no connection with animal activism.
The 'humane' industry needs to be regularly confronted and exposed. This can be accomplished, however, without implying that those who eat differently than the bulk of the population are somehow impaired or stupid.
There are many in the meat industry that can be proud of how their companies, or farms, are managed. There are some who need to clean up their acts. To reasonably stand against the fraudulent 'humane' industry we need the support of anyone who cherishes what is true; not just those who eat the same diet. Thank you for your article. I am looking forward to reading your future work.
I eat a good amount of protein everyday, but could easily go days without eating meat. Other sources of protein are just more appealing. But that doesn't mean I don't love our great American farmers. I grew up with many and know a few in the local area. Their salt-of-the-earth souls are inspiring. And I wish they would Tweet photos of their farms and animals. But Glenn Mott was right. Chastising others for not eating meat is the wrong way to go about promoting that farming narrative, because our vegetable farms are just as important in that story line.