This spring has brought us many unexpected challenges as the U.S. and the rest of the world reacts to the spread of COVID-19 and the coronavirus. Conferences are canceled, schools are closed, and travel has come to a screeching halt. In addition to all of these adjustments to our daily lives, animal agriculture also has to prepare for an additional challenge: a rise in online animal rights activism.
Many activist groups such as Direct Action Everywhere, Anonymous for the Voiceless and The Save Movement rely on in-person events to spread their anti-animal agriculture messaging. They are known for large-scale protests involving hundreds of people or disrupting the type of mass gatherings that are being banned by state governments for weeks such as sporting events or political rallies. We may be hoping that bans on public gatherings will put a stop to activism for the foreseeable future, but we can’t forget that online avenues still allow activist groups to try and spread their viewpoints and they will likely be more active than ever on those channels.
We’re already seeing some groups attempt to exploit the current public health crisis for their own gain, with groups trying to make an inaccurate connection between eating meat and risks of the disease in order to take advantage of the public’s fears. If the many pictures I’ve seen floating around of empty meat counters and dairy aisles in grocery stores are any indication, their tactics aren’t exactly working. Regardless, there are some common-sense steps we should all take to protect our farms and industry from online activism.
1. Claim your web presence. Make sure you have claimed your farm’s name on every web and social media channel available, even if you do not plan on using them. If you don’t own these properties, someone can easily come along and pretend to be you, either to mock you or mislead any followers who are trying to connect with your farm.
2. Have a comment policy. If you have a blog or social media platform that allows comments, make sure you have a published policy for what types of comments are encouraged and which will be deleted (threats, harassment, inappropriate language). If you start to receive unacceptable comments, don’t hesitate to delete, block or ban and move on. Your online space is yours and you should feel empowered to keep it positive.
3. Find some back-up moderators. If your page does go crazy with activist comments, you might need some help managing the situation. Ask a few trusted friends to serve as moderators on your page so you have some extra sets of eyes to help out.
4. Vet any requests for information carefully. You may receive an uptick in social media messages or emails asking for information about your farm. Be very cautious in responding to these – do a thorough online and social media search of whoever is asking for information and don’t hesitate to ask them to verify their identify and credentials. Don’t share any information that you aren’t comfortable having out in the public.
As always, the Animal Ag Alliance is here to help you manage any difficult situations you may encounter. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help.
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