This should come as no surprise — animal rights activists appear to be gearing up for attention as we head into the election year stretch.
Therefore, it’s important that livestock farmers keep their guard up when interviewing potential employees. Now would also be a good time for livestock farmers to review their operations policies and practices with their current employees to ensure they understand and adhere to good animal care and handling practices, and to be extra vigilant with regard to any person or persons trying to gain access to livestock farms.
Animal rights activists are constantly seeking ways to capture what they consider to be animal abuse and paint a negative picture of livestock, dairy and poultry farmers as bad actors to achieve their goal of shutting down animal agriculture. They like to use videos in an attempt to influence public policy and candidates’ positions on how animals should be raised.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance recommends that you train long-time trusted employees to be your “eyes and ears” for the kinds of behavior typically demonstrated by activists: “undercover” employee, computer system sabotage, website hacking, spray-painting, destruction of property, vandalism, “liberation” (unauthorized release) of animals and threats to poison food products.
Training long-time trusted employees to be on the lookout for these types of behavior and requiring that they report suspicious behavior or conversations to management can be your key to recognizing a “plant” and preventing your farm or company from being the next victim of an animal rights set-up.
According to the Alliance, vigilance is the key. There are many simple steps the Alliance recommends you consider developing and implementing to strengthen your livestock farm and/or facility’s security:
- Do the right thing. Implement scientifically-verified animal care programs. Conduct training, as well as in-house and third-party audits, to ensure all policies are being followed at all times and by all employees. Act swiftly to correct any problems.
- Be cautious. Conduct a background check on all new hires. Require that all employees, starting with new hires, sign an animal care code of conduct. Train long-time, trust-worthy employees to watch for suspicious behavior.
- Plan ahead. Build relationships with your neighbors, community, local law enforcement and the media. Create a crisis management plan in advance in the event you become a target of an activist group.
- Get involved and engaged. Invite neighbors and community leaders, as well as current office holders and candidates, to tour your farm or facility and inform them about what you do and why you do it.
- Be practical and use common sense.
- Monitor trucks parked at plants or behind offices overnight as they are potential favorite targets.
- Routinely back-up computer files. Add extra firewalls to your website and computer system. Store back-up files for your system in a fireproof area.
- During an interview with a prospective employee, ask the following questions:
Have you ever legally or otherwise changed your name?
Are your currently working for any group, company or individual that is paying/asking you to collect information related to our company and/or our proprietary procedures and/or processes?
Do you possess or use any equipment that you intend to have during work hours that can collect audio, video or still pictures?
Have you ever observed an animal being subjected to treatment that you thought was harmful?
Before implementing any employee recommendations, consult with an attorney.
- Operate under the philosophy that it’s better to be prepared for the worst while you expect only the best.
- Require all employees with access and responsibility for caring of animals to sign a letter of agreement that they understand and agree to carry out your animal care policies. If they refuse to sign the letter, they should not be hired or terminated.