Animal rights activism is Big Business; Hiding behind the facade of improving animal welfare, these groups really want to end all animal agicultureOntario Farmer Tue Apr 23 2019 Page: A19 Section: News Byline: Harry Siemens Source: Ontario Farmer Animal rights activism is a huge money-maker and it should be prompting us to ask, “show me the money.”Hannah Thompson-Weeman, Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) vice president of communications in Arlington, VA said animal rights activism is big business, with prominent groups in the United States bringing in more than $500 million annually.These groups aren’t raising this money and spending it on promoting animal agriculture but to put farmers and ranchers out of business, said Thompson-Weeman.”We are a non-profit organization, and our mission is to bridge the communication gap between farm and fork,” Thompson-Weeman. “So an essential part of that is paying attention to the groups out there who are spreading a lot of myths and misinformation about animal agriculture.”The AAA dedicates a lot of their time and resources to monitoring animal rights activist organizations and has done so since 1987.One of the most common questions she hears is ‘where does the money come from?'”We know they are very strategic, very savvy, and often very well funded. Animal rights groups in the U.S. are bringing in to the tune of $500 million (USD) annually,” she said. “And as we know, they’re using those funds most of the time for lobbying efforts, and campaigns, and negative work against animal agriculture rather than any efforts on the ground to help animals.”In many cases, it would shock the public which organizations are working against animal agriculture. There are groups out there which people might think focus on pets and doing the right thing for dogs and cats instead they dedicate a lot of their resources to attacking animal agriculture and encouraging people not to eat meat because they are an animal rights organization, not an animal welfare one.”That’s a fundamental distinction. These organizations believe that animals should be afforded the same rights as people, and that means we can’t use them for food, for transportation, or for really any purpose,” Thompson-Weeman n said. “They believe that’s unacceptable.”She added groups like the Humane Society in the United States (HSUS), Mercy For Animals, who are very active in the US and Canada and even the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a farm animal division that promotes veganism and is very negative towards modern animal agriculture.She said the AAA has profiles on over 100 of these organizations and groups of all different sizes, using all different tactics working together and their goal is to put farmers and ranchers out of business.”They’re intentionally very misleading realizing that just telling people, ‘We want you to go vegan,’doesn’t work for them, because people like eating our products,” said Thompson-Weeman. “The products of animal agriculture are nutritious; they’re delicious. People want to support farmers and ranchers and want to eat milk, meat, poultry and eggs.”These groups are intentionally being misleading about what they want, she said, adding they intentionally target certain production practices because they want people to think their goal is animal welfare, but it’s not.When you look at some of these organizations through their websites and the staff they have, it’s clear what their goal is -to end animal agriculture, and everything they do they view as a step towards that mission, said Thompson-Weeman.”A lot of these groups are attacking farmers on different platforms. So it’s not just animal welfare or animal rights that they’re promoting,” said Thompson-Weeman. “We’re seeing these same groups look at the environmental impact of animal agriculture and trying to target either individual farms or eating meat as a whole, saying that it’s detrimental to the environment and the best thing people can do to reduce their footprint is to stop eating meat.”She said the fact is livestock in the U.S. produces less than 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.A lot of other things would be much more impactful, but the level of conversation about animal agriculture is outsized because of activist groups intentionally trying to drive the conversation, she said.Antibiotic use is another example of the angles animal activists are using to sway public opinion.Some groups are attacking farmers’ability to use antibiotics to manage animal health and animal welfare because it’s a valuable tool that farmers need.She said these groups attack efficiency. Any production practice which allows farmers to be more efficient is going to come under fire by these groups because that’s what they want. They want to find any way to make production less efficient, drive up costs, and try to put farmers out of business as well.
Thompson-Weeman said it’s not just consumers giving money to these groups. While activists might attempt to position themselves, again, as speaking for the end consumer, they’re getting a lot of funding from private foundations.
“One, in particular, the Open Philanthropy Project, has a lot of funding from one of the founders of Facebook,” she said. “Obviously there’s a lot of money there shown by hiring several former HSUS employees to run their Farm Animal Welfare division giving millions and millions of dollars to activist groups, including HSUS, the Humane League, Mercy For Animals, to fund their campaigns, specifically pressure campaigns on restaurant and retail brands, to adopt certain policies.