It’s that time of year again – time to show off a year of hard work at fairs and livestock shows while making friendships and memories to last a lifetime. Some fairs are looking a little different this year being held with empty bleachers or even virtually, but they remain highly valuable opportunities for youth to showcase their efforts.
Unfortunately, animal rights extremist organizations see fairs and events as something entirely different – an opportunity to disrupt and protest to bring attention to their cause of eliminating animal agriculture and promoting animal rights. Protestors have disrupted everything from the Royal Winter Fair and World Dairy Expo to county fairs and junior livestock shows. In one incident, an activist from Direct Action Everywhere wandered around a junior show while livestreaming on Facebook and inaccurately depicting what they were seeing. The activists specifically attacked 4-H and FFA, saying that youth livestock programs turn “innocent young children into murderers.” The Alliance has seen negative social media conversation from activists about 4-H and FFA increase over the past few months as restrictions on public events have pushed more activists online.
If you will be involved in a fair or expo this year, regardless of how it takes shape, we strongly encourage you to prepare for activist protests and disruptions. The Animal Agriculture Alliance offers these tips:
- Currently, some activist groups are trying to encourage youth to give them their project animals in order to spare them from being sold in auctions. It’s important to understand (and especially help younger members understand) that considering doing this will give them credibility and more content they can try to use against 4-H, FFA and fairs. Help spread awareness among clubs and chapters about who activist groups are and how their true intentions are to end animal agriculture.
- All events should have a crisis plan outlining who should do what in various scenarios – protests, disruptions, or even natural disasters or accidents. Even if your fair is being held virtually, you still need a plan as activists can try to infiltrate or harass participants on social media.
- If your event is proceeding in-person, consult local law enforcement about how to handle activist activity at fairs.
- Monitor online conversation to see if you may be a target. Protests or campaigns are frequently organized on websites or social media. While you should definitely keep an eye on online conversations, try to resist the urge to engage in debates. Every time we engage with activist content online – even if we are expressing our disagreement – we are helping it get more attention. Let the activists remain in their echo chamber and resist the impulse to comment or share. You will not change their minds and your energy is much more wisely invested in sharing positive stories about your experiences and what you’ve learned from showing livestock.
- Keep an eye out for suspicious activity at in-person events: people carrying signs or other protest materials, someone taking a strange amount of photos/videos or talking into a phone or camera or individuals asking very direct questions. Report any concerns immediately to fair management. If your event is virtual, be cautious about who is allowed to register and participate. Be wary of any comments during the event that seem out of the ordinary.
- Avoid confrontation. Keep in mind they are likely live-streaming or recording the interaction. If it is an online interaction, screenshots can be taken and shared broadly.
- Some activists have been focusing on animal transport so be aware of potential for activist activity as you are taking your animals to the show or sale.
Category: Alliance Outreach and Projects