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Animal Ag Alliance Summit Speakers Discuss Strategic Attack on Animal Agriculture

A recording pass to the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2023 Stakeholders Summit is available through May 19 to those who were not able to attend in person. Purchase your pass here! The event, themed “Partners in Progress: Building a Sustainable Future for Animal Ag,” was held in Arlington, Va. May 4-5 and attracted nearly 320 attendees. A highlights report with key quotes and takeaways will be available soon.

The 2023 Summit featured a dynamic group of speakers from across commodities and the food supply chain and included an opening keynote from Ray Starling, former agriculture advisor to the president and general counsel of the North Carolina Chamber. Starling emphasized the theme of this year’s event by highlighting the need to make connections and reach those outside of our silos.

The premise of Starling’s “Farmers Versus Foodies” concept and the idea behind his book of the same name is that those of us involved in food production are proud of the current state of our food system, while those who are not involved or connected think the system is “broken.” According to Starling, this belief stems from investor influence, policymakers that are increasingly removed from the farm, and legal schools promulgating the notion. “What we are seeing happen on the other side is a strategic, targeted, well-funded, and coordinated attack,” said Starling. He added that we need to be more strategic in influencing the influencers. He concluded with the thought, “Most people actually still like farmers. They are grateful for the system, and they don’t really think a lot about agriculture.”

Closing keynote speaker Jack Hubbard, Owner of D.C. public affairs firm Berman

Jack Hubbard, partner and owner of D.C.-area public affairs firm Berman, provided the closing keynote with an update on the current state of the animal rights movement and how extremist groups are exploiting animals and donors to bankroll their anti-animal agriculture campaigns. “They want this generation to be the last generation of people raising animals for food. And if they don’t do it this generation, they’re going to turn their focus to your children or your grandchildren,” said Hubbard. “The root of this movement is a very, very small group of people who have extreme, extreme radical points of view, trying to force it on the entire American public.”

According to Hubbard, animal rights groups have drastically increased funding for their campaigns over the last few years. Much of this increase in funding is attributed to the perceived connection of groups like the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to local shelters. Hubbard shared that the ASPCA was recently criticized for only sharing 2% of its budget to support pet shelters while providing its CEO a $1 million salary and keeping $11 million in offshore Caribbean accounts.

Hubbard also discussed pressure campaigns on restaurant, retail, and foodservice groups to adopt certain practices and sourcing policies. “They’re trying to essentially get the food service community to dictate changes to you that will drive up costs and decrease demand. That’s their game,” said Hubbard. “The minute you raise your hand and invite any of these people to the table you are making yourself a target for the next campaign. It’s a move the goal post strategy.” The keynote session concluded with a call-to-action to flip the narrative and put animal rights groups on the defensive.

Save the date for the 2024 Summit, set for May 8-9 in Kansas City, Mo. Follow the hashtag #AAA24 for periodic updates about the event. For general questions about Summit, please contact summit@animalagalliance.org or call (703) 562-5160.

About the Alliance:

The Animal Agriculture Alliance safeguards the future of animal agriculture and its value to society by bridging the communication gap between the farm and food communities. We connect key food industry stakeholders to arm them with responses to emerging issues. We engage food chain influencers and promote consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. We protect by exposing those who threaten our nation’s food security with damaging misinformation.

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