Recent columns here have explored the contours of industry messaging as a counterpoint to the exaggerations, half-truths and outright deceptions propagated by activists opposed to all of animal agriculture.
We’re not talking about farm reform groups, nor pro-organic foodies, nor advocates for local agriculture, no matter what their motivation or how provocative their messaging.
The discussion was in reference to how best to defeat the well-funded, tightly scripted coalition of NGOs that demonizes animal agriculture and blames producers and ranchers and feeders for some of the world’s worst problems.
The problem is not only the scope and scale of anti-industry campaigns but the unseemly willingness of major media to blindly repeat the activist talking points without a whole lot of critical evaluation.
As can be documented ad nauseam, for every dozen reputable, credentialed scientists who speak out on animal welfare or food safety, as examples, the typical media treatment of the story almost ritualistically includes a mouthpiece from some activist group spouting a raft of factoids that can charitably called, at best, controversial.
Too often, industry sources try to fight the emotionally charged arguments of activists with dry, sober data, and too often the tactic falls flat.
Richard Berman, the Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and lobbyist who is the founder and driving force behind such pro-industry groups as the Center for Consumer Freedom, made the point in a recent email to CattleNetwork.com that, “The industry needs both emotional and factual arguments when it comes to fighting the efforts of activists bent on the elimination of animal agriculture.”
No question about that.
Berman further noted that, “While it is appropriate for trade associations and companies to lead with emotional and factual arguments, [our] main role is to reduce the credibility of activist groups by pointing out their hypocrisy, junk science and twisted economic theories.”
His point was that groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals typically receive favorable, often fawning, treatment in the media and thus the need for an industry “attack dog” to force reporters and news producers to stop providing activists a free ride on such controversial issues as climate change, environmental impact and health and nutrition.
Bad news from a good source
Here’s a great example. McClatchy-Tribune News Service, one of the most respected news organizations out there, recently let a PETA person spout off for some 700 words on why this summer’s drought could be mitigated by Americans going vegan.
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