New Documents Reveal How Animal Agriculture Industry Surveils and Punishes Critics

https://theintercept.com/2020/10/10/new-documents-reveal-how-the-animal-agriculture-industry-surveils-and-punishes-critics/

A respected Bay Area veterinarian endures widespread attacks following an industry “alert” about her criticisms of factory farms

Animal agriculture industry groups defending factory farms engage in campaigns of surveillance, reputation-destruction and other forms of retaliation against industry critics and animal rights activists, documents obtained through a FOIA request from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveal. That the USDA possesses these emails and other documents demonstrates the federal government’s knowledge of, if not participation in, these industry campaigns.

These documents detail ongoing monitoring of the social media of news outlets, including The Intercept, which report critically on factory farms. They reveal private surveillance activities aimed at animal rights groups and their members. They include discussions of how to create a climate of intimidation for activists who work against industry abuses, including by photographing the activists and publishing the photos online. And they describe a coordinated ostracization campaign that specifically targets veterinarians who criticize industry practices, out of concern that veterinarians are uniquely well-positioned to persuasively and powerfully denounce industry abuses.

One of the industry groups central to these activities is the Animal Agriculture Alliance, which represents factory farms and other animal agriculture companies — or, as they playfully put it, they work for corporations “involved in getting food from the farm to our forks!” The group boasts that one of its prime functions is “Monitoring Activism,” by which they mean: “We identify emerging threats and provide insightful resources on animal rights and other activist groups by attending their events, monitoring traditional and social media and engaging our national network.”

Indeed, the Alliance frequently monitors and infiltrates conferences of industry critics and activists, then provides reports to their corporate members on what was discussed. As The Intercept previously noted when reporting on felony charges brought against animal rights activists with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) for peaceful filming and symbolic animal rescues inside one Utah farm that supplies Whole Foods and another owned by Smithfield — an action that showed how wildly at odds with reality is the bucolic branding of those farms — the Animal Agriculture Alliance issued a statement denouncing the activists for (ironically) harming their animals and urging law enforcement and “policymakers” to intervene on behalf of the industry against the activists.

In the emails obtained by the FOIA request, the Alliance and its allies frequently encourage their members to alert the FBI and Department of Homeland Security regarding actions by activists. In response to a project by DxE to create a map tracking factory farms, Lyle Orwig — Chairman of the agricultural company Charleston/Orwig, Inc. and a member of the Alliance board — proposed the retaliatory step of “taking photos of every DXE [sic] member” and posting them to the internet while accusing them of being “opposed to feeding the hungry.”

[…]

Via New Documents Reveal How the Animal Agriculture Industry Surveils and Punishes Critics — Just Sayin’

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