Animal rights activist groups are increasingly using undercover videos as a tactic to support legislation that regulates dehorning and other common animal-care practices. While this legislation can appear well-meaning to general consumers, it often is not based on science, and can threaten to drive food production overseas. The videos often are heavily edited and the undercover activists pose as individuals in need, but are in fact trained to provoke comments from other employees and capture inflammatory images.
In the most recent issue of Cornell University"s PRO-DAIRY e-Leader newsletter, New York dairy producers who have dealt with these undercover videos offer the following advice:
- Identify a spokesperson for the farm before the media arrives. Anyone not comfortable with assuming this role should attend media training. The reality is it can happen to any farm for a lot of different reasons, including manure spills, immigration issues, and farm accidents, and you need to be prepared.
- Maintain industry connections and identify who is your contact in a crisis. If your farm became the target of an undercover video, who would you reach out to?
- Be proactive in your community. Participation in quality and health assurance programs can build goodwill in the community and bring positive attention to your farm that you can draw upon in a time of crisis. By being an active member of your community, you will find that you may have support that you didn"t realize.
- Review your hiring practices. Work with your attorney to implement background checks on new farm hires and to update your employee handbook. The handbook should be signed by all employees and include a nondisclosure agreement specifying that information and imagery obtained while working on the farm is property of the farm.
- Open the farm to the community. Evaluate ways to become more involved in the community, including tours, a Web site and an informational brochure. You need to be confident enough in your farm and practices that you can open your farm to the public both before and after a crisis.