The state’s leading dairy industry group is warning farmers to be extra vigilant these days for possible activity from animal rights activists.
Modesto-based Western United Dairymen in its recent newsletter said it has received information that “days of action” may be happening in December. It also provided dairy operators with a list of do’s and don’ts on how to deal with activists.
“As the domestic terrorist threat of animal rights activists continue to increase throughout the state, it’s important to make you aware that multiple county sheriff’s departments have begun to adopt a Zero Tolerance Policy for these triggered terrorists,” the newsletter says.
Among the organization’s suggestions: post no-trespassing signs, reduce unnecessary right of way access, designate a point person to call law enforcement if there is suspicious activity, tell trespassers they are on private property and record the activists, since they will likely be recording you.
Don’t be combative, use force, or try and shoot down their drone. Also, don’t engage the activists on social media.
“It only creates more internet traffic for them and never helps us,” the newsletter states.
The San Joaquin Valley’s vast livestock operations make it an easy target for activists. Tulare County is the largest dairy producer in the state and west Fresno County is home to one of the West’s largest feed lots.
Action on the farm
But over the years, activists have slipped onto ranches and dairy farms to try and expose cases of animal cruelty.
Last month, three women were arrested at a ranch north of Oakdale after trying to take an apparently dying calf from the property. About 60 people gathered outside the dairy to protest the treatment of dairy cows. The action was led by the Berkeley-based Direct Action Everywhere, an animal rights network.
Last year, Direct Action Everywhere was involved in a protest outside a Laton dairy. About 40 protesters gathered, alleging animal abuse, a charge the dairy operator denied.
Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere, said the arrest of the three women last month was an overreaction and a waste of taxpayer money.
“Women who are desperately trying to save a dying baby cow, thrown away like a piece of garbage, are not ‘triggered terrorists,’ Hsiung said. “They are ordinary citizens who are hurting, because they see a baby animal being mistreated.”
‘Have a conversation’
Anja Raudabaugh, chief executive officer of Western United Dairymen, said Hsiung is welcome to come to her office to discuss animal practices and policy any time.
“If Wayne wants to have a conversation he can do it without stealing cows and harassing people,” Raudabaugh said. “His people are committing crimes, that is not a discourse.”
Raudabaugh said California’s dairy industry has made significant strides in reducing its carbon footprint, conserving water and improving its animal welfare practices.
“We work with consumers and retailers to make sure we discuss our production practices,” she said. “Our dairy cows are raised in a way that is humane and takes into account the health and well-being of the animal.”