With opposition mounting against animal agriculture, it is increasingly important for livestock producers to tell their own story. Consumers are being bombarded with negative messages from groups such as the Humane Society of the United States while the true story of livestock production is being overlooked.
“The HSUS is sophisticated and relentless in their dedication to defeat animal agriculture practices,” says Wes Jamison, associate professor, Palm Beach Atlantic University. “In an effort to turn your customers against you, the effect of HSUS messaging is that those who consume animal protein should feel guilty.”
According to Jamison, HSUS is building coalitions with churches and targeting religion with their message. Their message for religious groups implies that high-intensity confinement livestock production is immoral and if you consume animal products from this type of system, it may be immoral.
“They use moral coalition building to sway consumers to feel guilty about meat consumption,” says Jamison. “They want to make livestock production a moral issue.”
“Our research shows that the message is working among consumers,” warns Jamison. HSUS wants consumers to believe that livestock producers should treat farm animals in similar ways to how consumers care for the beloved family pet. “HSUS wants consumers to believe that there is no moral difference between farm animals and your pet.”
Jamison’s research shows that HSUS messages motivate financial support for their group by amplifying guilt among those who consume animal products. The animal rights group then accepts donations, and the effect is to relieve the guilt some consumers of animal protein may feel.
“Farmers must tell the animal’s story,” says Jamison. “It’s simple - a cow is not a dog and a cat is not a pig.”
It is up to livestock producers to give the public permission to consume animal protein. “It is a winnable issue,” says Jamison. “Consumers are sick of feeling guilty. Producers need to enable consumers to feel good about their decision to consume animal products.”
Jamison adds that formation of a centralized policy group would benefit animal agriculture to counter the HSUS effort.