9/3 UPDATE: Though the original, graphic commercial attacking Christsensen Farms was blocked by Comcast, Last Chance for Animals resubmitted an edited verson that was approved to run on CNN, FoxNews and other major network channels in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
You could say last week was a bad week for the animal rights extremist group, Last Chance for Animals.
The group had prepared to wage battle against Christensen Farms, which included parking a van outside the Minnesota State Fairgrounds with an interactive display for fairgoers and airing “graphic television commercials” on major television networks.
Christensen Farms, the target of the group’s recent undercover investigation, took the brunt of the media blitz, but the group expanded to attack gestation stalls, already a hot topic both in and outside of the pork industry.
Shortly after announcing their media blitz though, the group was dealt a one-two punch on nearly all fronts. Comcast Cable pulled their commercial spots, set to play on CNN, FoxNews, MTV, Bravo and other networks in the area, and the Minnesota State Fair tossed the van from the premises.
Though the group says both the Minnesota State Fair and Comcast acted to "hide" the facts, in reality, the fault lies with the tactics Last Chance for Animals tried to use. Comcast found their commercial too graphic to air, and a spokeperson for the Minnesota State fair explained to PORK Network that "any kind of promotional, sales, exhibit or concession presence must be confined to a licensed commercial space" per their regulations.
It's safe to say that Last Chance for Animals won’t be stopping anytime soon. They have already re-submitted a less-graphic version of their commercial to Comcast, which still could be aired over the next week.
Regardless of their efforts, it’s clear this storm isn’t just going to blow over. Planting our feet in the ground and bracing for it to pass won’t be enough. For gestation stalls in particular, the war is ongoing.
For activists, gestation stalls are a prime target, and footage of sows in stalls is an easy method to reach consumers now at least four generations removed from the farm. While producers can preach the animal care or safety reasons for using individual stalls, the public only hears, “the sows can’t even turn around.”
But this is also a catch-22. By responding with scientific facts, the public stops listening. By assuming no one is listening, activists steal our messaging and our future.
Instead, it’s time to increase transparency and bring consumers to your farm, whether that is digitally or physically. Last year, Erin Brenneman posted an excellent example of the power of opening your barn doors with this “shocking” video of a large gestation barn on her family’s pork operation.
Here is another example of transparency that worked as “mommy bloggers” followed pork production from gestation to slaughter. Read more about that here.
Don’t wait for this storm to blow over. If it’s not Last Chance for Animals, it will be the Humane Society of the United States or Mercy for Animals. Weed out the bad apples in the industry, connect with consumers on new levels and regain your voice. As Winston Churchill once said, "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is."