“You only get so many opportunities to bring up the issue of factory farming with friends and family.” These are the words of Vegan Activist, Erik Marcus. Mr. Marcus was describing the “Coffee Table” version of the book, CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories, to which he was a contributing author (you can see the video here).
The large book with high quality photographs is meant to be displayed and serve as a conversation piece. Mr. Marcus goes on to say in promoting the book, “when you approach someone, you need the best, most persuasive and impactful material you can possibly have…” He then holds up for display the very large coffee table book.
Make no mistake, many vegans are very passionate about their cause and they view large-scale livestock producers (Producers) as a focal point to perhaps further their cause. If they can point to animal abuse or mistreatment, poor environmental management, or other negative issues at farms, they may be able to help persuade others to join their cause. The activists are also spending time and money in promoting their ideas and ideals. The coffee table book, for example, is no small undertaking.
Again, this is their cause, which they have every right to pursue. But as they continue to spend time, money, and effort in furthering their cause and convincing others that modern Producers are “not to be trusted,” they drive another wedge of distrust between the consumer and the farmer.
Looking at this through the lens of environmental and risk communication; the environmental communicators speak in terms of “social trust.” They will tell you that consumers place trust in companies, institutions, and I’ll add, producers of food, who share the same values they do. This is precisely why books such as this pose a threat to livestock agriculture. It raises the question of whether consumer trust has been well placed with Producers. You may question the validity of their point of view, but they are spending time and money to convince others to “join their camp.” Remember, when one farm is out of compliance with environmental regulations or has made news because of animal cruelty issues, it affects (rightly or wrongly) every other Producer.
The Dragun Corporation has been, and will continue to be, passionate about the need for Producers to be proactive when it comes to environmental compliance. Our role, if you will, is to help fulfill the environmental social contract Producers have with the community and consumers. As Producers demonstrate they are meeting their obligation to be good stewards of the environment, and are in compliance with applicable regulations, they demonstrate that we as consumers have correctly placed our trust in Producers.
Over the summer, I was asked by Manure Manager Magazine to write an article regarding the recent Clean Water Act ruling. In this article, I mention that consumers are demanding more transparency of all industries, including environmental transparency. As we know, this does apply to Producers. These demands of consumers are not negotiable; it is a condition of the marketplace – it is what it is.
If it’s true that there is an environmental compliance social contract, the tough question each farmer may want to ask of their own operation is, “how am I doing?” With good planning and commitment of time and resources, the environmental challenges can be managed and you can focus on what you do best; manage your farm.