API event sites ...


API's topic library ...
The topic sites in our library offer gateways to information on body condition scoring, beef cow efficiency, country-of-origin labeling, targeting the Certified Angus Beef® brand and more.


Sign up for ...































Angus Productions Inc.
Copyright © 2009
Angus Productions Inc.

Tell Your Story, or Someone Else Will


PHOENIX, Ariz. (Jan. 28, 2009) — “We need to tell our side of the agriculture story,” Dave Sjeklocha of the Academy of Veterinary Consultants declared in opening the Joint Animal Welfare Committee meeting during the 2009 Cattle Industry Annual Convention in Phoenix. “Up till now, the animal rightists have been telling our story, and they haven’t been getting it right.”

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) quickly emerged as the animal rights group whose tall tales about animal agriculture alarmed meeting speakers the most. While People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) remains active, many suspect that HSUS utilizes PETA’s often radical tactics to leverage themselves as the more rational group.


“HSUS ends up coming off as moderate, reasonable and sympathetic,” explained Mike Siemens, Cargill director of animal welfare and husbandry.


Not in it alone
Others share this concern with the livestock industry. Patti Strand, a breeder of purebred Dalmatians and director of the National Animal Interest Alliance, spoke to the group about her struggles with the HSUS. She explained the HSUS campaign in the late 80s and early 90s to “make the public think of breeding dogs and cats like drunk driving and smoking.”


Darren LaSorte, manager of hunting policy for the National Rifle Association (NRA), shared similar experiences about run-ins with the HSUS holding much more radical positions than the seemingly moderate face they try to portray to the public. The NRA has fought this by trying to expose the ultimate goals of the HSUS.


“On a consistent basis we go to policymakers and talk about their end game and real underlying agenda,” LaSorte said.


Another area in which NRA has experienced great success, LaSorte said, is in motivating and mobilizing their grassroots members. The livestock industry has room to grow in this area, especially in terms of becoming active spokespeople for the industry.


Industry advocates
Troy and Stacy Hadrick, fifth-generation ranchers from western South Dakota, shared their experiences telling the agriculture story. In 2002, The New York Times published “Power Steer,” a Michael Pollan article attacking modern animal agriculture while relating his experience following a single steer through its life.


“That steer was raised on our ranch,” Troy shared. That experience motivated the Hadricks to create Advocates for Agriculture to promote agriculture one story at a time. Now, they travel the country speaking to both urban and agriculture groups.


Their first advice is for everyone in the industry to develop an “elevator pitch,” introducing themselves and how they’re related to agriculture. The Hadricks have found that by using this pitch, they often are met with questions and opportunity to share some messages about American agriculture.


This is the part where advocates need to have a few talking points prepared. The Hadricks said the key is telling someone what they need to know, explaining it quickly and keeping it simple.


“If we can’t fit it on a bumper sticker, it probably won’t resonate with a consumer,” Stacy said.


Once these messages are developed, get them out as much as possible. In addition to using the elevator pitch, seek out groups to talk to, like elementary school classrooms and civic groups. The Hadricks stress the importance of getting in front of audiences that may be a couple generations removed from the farm.


“We know we’re preaching to the choir here today,” Stacy said. “The reason for that is because the choir isn’t singing loud enough right now.”


The Hadricks got into the advocacy business to share their ranching experiences with others instead of submitting to Pollan’s version. They press others to speak up to tell the agriculture story from their own perspective instead of letting groups like the HSUS do it for them.


For more information about Advocates for Agriculture visit www.advocatesforag.com.

Editor’s Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API), which claims copyright to this article. It may not be published or distributed without the express permission of Angus Productions Inc. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at (816) 383-5270.