Activists are using religion and children as two powerful tools to wage war against the livestock industry, and producers and their industry need to recapture the moral high ground in raising livestock, says Dr. Nelson Kloosterman.
To do that they need to think stewardship, he told the 2014 Banff Pork Seminar.
Kloosterman is executive director and ethics consultant for Worldview Resources International, a service organization with a mission to provide resources designed to assist in understanding and applying a religious worldview to responsible living.
First step, says Kloosterman, is to understand what he calls the ideology of food tyranny, the "political groupthink" characterized by manipulation, coercion and violence.
Religion is a powerful tool of propaganda, he says. There is a tremendous ignorance in the public about religion and a tremendous ignorance about animal stewardship. Anti-livestock groups deliberately use religious terms to their advantage.
For example, a bumper sticker "Thou shalt not kill. Go vegetarian" uses the sixth commandment to make a point about livestock production. Another says "He died for your sins. Go vegetarian." referring to Jesus Christ showing an image of him on the cross.
"If you think these slogans are innocuous or benign you need to realize that many people are coming under the influence of this use of religion in service to animal rights, in service to what they call animal welfare, in direct opposition to the very vocation you are practicing," says Kloosterman.
The use of children to sell the message is another tactic. Targeting children to identify farm animals as pets, or to portray young people as having the solutions and older generations to be set in their ways is a deliberate tactic.
Language is another tool. Bumper stickers such as "Eating meat stops a beating heart" makes a direct connection with the practice of legalized abortion. That effort goes well beyond the boundaries of moral discourse, says Kloosterman.
Kloosterman has three recommendations for the livestock industry all based around recalling a position of stewardship.
First, practice comprehensive transparency. "Be confident enough about what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are doing it to let other people in the barn to watch you work."
Second, move beyond advocacy to public service. Advocacy is important but organizations should move beyond simply serving producers to serving the public, he says.
Third, partner with animal science educators. Part of the advantage the other side enjoys is that with their terms, language, manipulation and coercion they've been able to capture the moral high ground because they are assisted by academics and others who know how to craft the message.
The livestock industry needs message-makers and communicators who meet the opposition on their turf, he says.
"This will cost money. I'm suggesting if the animal industry in North America wishes to survive, it will have to allocate a significant part of its budget to precisely this kind of thing."