In a recent conversation with a representative from an animal rights group, I asked if he’d ever been on a modern livestock farm. No, he had not, which surprised me because he frequently shares his professed knowledge of gestation stalls and open housing. “But,” he added, “I would love to.”

I seriously considered his request. I even had a producer who was willing to welcome him with open arms. Surely if we could show him how much producers care, how animals are really treated and why certain practices and housing systems are used, we could change his mind. We could convert him!

Then, I stepped back and looked at the situation objectively. It was naïve of me to think he would even consider our point of view. After all, this organization’s website proclaims it “promotes eating with conscience and embracing the Three Rs—reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods; refining the diet by avoiding products from the worst production systems (e.g., switching to cage-free eggs); and replacing meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods. Does that sound like a group that wants to work hand-in-hand with animal agriculture?

Creating obstacles for the livestock industry and passing laws that add cost without proven benefits is this man’s profession and livelihood, and is one of his group’s primary goals.

Did I think that after he met a farm family, witnessed their sincerity and saw how they raised animals that he would hand in his resignation and say, “I’m so sorry; I’m wrong! These people really do care about their animals and modern livestock production is not the nightmare we’ve been telling everyone it is”?

Not on your life.

Any relationship – whether professional or personal – must be built on trust, and members of these groups have proven on multiple occasions that they cannot be trusted. Oh, they’re engaging all right, and they’ll lead you to believe that we’re all “in this together.” But beware: They’ll just as easily stab you in the back as give you a friendly smile. They routinely take information out of context, manipulate it to support their point of view and opportunely make themselves appear much more powerful and influential than they are. I’ll have a follow-up blog with some illuminating examples.

Give me a first-hand, on-farm account any day of the week, and I’ll show you someone who is passionate about what he/she does; someone who takes pride in feeding a growing population while doing it efficiently and responsibly; someone like Amanda Eben (whom I’ll spotlight tomorrow), Katie Olthoff, Erin Brenneman, Paul Meers, Linden Olson and countless others. These people walk the talk, day in and day out.

The others are just paid to talk.