JoAnn Alumbaugh
JoAnn Alumbaugh

A news release about invasive species came across my desk this morning and for some reason, it just struck me as funny. The livestock industry has its own “invasive species” in the form of animal rights activists.

I receive regular emails from the folks at HSUS, updating me on their latest conquests – captured almost exclusively through fear of retaliation in the form of well-funded pr campaigns. Although National Invasive Species Week (Feb. 23-28) is meant to spotlight non-native plants, animals and pathogens that can harm humans and the environment, and impact our nation’s economy, the analogy was just too enticing to resist.

“Though the impact of invasive species is profound, there are important steps we can take to manage infestations and prevent their spread,” says Lee Van Wychen, Ph.D., director of science policy for the WSSA.   “It all begins with awareness.”

So true of the activist invasive species as well! There are steps we can take to manage infestations and prevent their spread, and yes, it does begin with awareness. We must have meaningful dialogue with consumers, retailers, foodservice companies and wholesalers. We need to explain how we take care of animals and tell them why production practices are used.

And like invasive plants, we need to ensure we’re doing everything we can through good management to make sure activists have no “foot-in-the-door” as a result of someone who isn’t using best practices.

As with invasive plant species, here are five steps we can take against invasive human-activist species:

  1. Learn about invasive (activist) species, especially those found in your region. I always read the correspondence I get from activist groups, because I want to know what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. I usually go to the original source of information so I can see how the information is almost always taken out of context to support HSUS’s agenda. Follow Erin Brenneman’s blog for ideas on how you can welcome people to your farm through social media, and contact the National Pork Producers Council, the National Pork Board and your state pork association for more ideas on how to reach consumers.
  2. Do all you can to ensure your production practices are the best they can be, and that your employees are well-trained in animal-welfare guidelines.
  3. “Stop invasive species from hitching a ride to a new location” – in other words, identify and form relationships with the restaurants and food companies in your region to make sure they have the facts from people who understand animal husbandry.
  4. Report new or expanded “invasive species outbreaks” to authorities. Don’t let them gain a foothold in schools and local businesses – take the initiative and form relationships with key opinion leaders in your area, so you become the expert resource when issues arise.
  5. Ask your political representatives at the state, local and national level to support invasive species control efforts. Help them consider their decisions based on input from producers – the true animal husbandry experts – so they have a full picture of the industry, not the one-sided, carefully concealed agenda of the HSUS “invasive species.”