There have been many horrifying, disturbing and alarming headlines in the news to process since the pandemic hit and shutdowns began in March 2020.
As Americans grappled with worry about the virus, financial strain due to loss of work, emotional heartaches due to isolation, loneliness, marital stress and the list goes on, we also must be keenly aware of how activist groups are capitalizing on this crisis.
Just like the old saying, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” it appears that some animal welfare and environmental extremists are putting that metaphor to work in real life, and it should all give us reason for concern.
In recent months, I’ve blogged about some of the activities and actions taken by these activists. In case you missed it, you can catch up on some of their jaw-dropping moves by reading these blog posts:
- Anti-meat agenda ramps up during COVID-19 crisis
- Cancelled rodeos & livestock shows raise alarm bells
- “Climate fires” a good excuse to target beef cattle, again
- An update on activists, politicians & fakes meats
- What’s up in Washington, D.C.? 6 issues that may impact your ranch
- Activists working to pinpoint your ranch on an aerial map
- Dear Jonathan Safran Foer: Meat is here to stay!
- 8 activist strategies to dismantle animal ag during COVID-19
- Activists at it again — blaming coronavirus on meat eaters
- Activists take aim at livestock producers’ aid package
- Are your elected officials working for you or animal rights activists?
With a mission of stripping farmers and ranchers off the land and replacing meat, dairy and eggs with faux versions of the real deal, we can see exactly how they plan to do just that with some of these initiatives. And unfortunately, while our eyes are focused on the day-to-day stresses and pressures that 2020 has ushered in, we are failing to see the wolves circling our operations.
In a recent move, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) — a group with ties to PETA — has placed billboards in Lincoln, Neb., asking Governor Pete Rickets to help the state transition to plant-based proteins for health reasons.
The billboards read, “Governor Ricketts: Can Nebraska switch to a safer food supply like beans over beef? PromotePlantProtein.org! Paid for by PCRM.”
According to the Norfolk Daily News, “PCRM is launching a campaign in Nebraska, asking the state Department of Health and Human Services in a request filed last week, to help the state transition to what the doctors believe is cleaner, safer food, and to have meatpacking facilities produce plant-based proteins.
“It is also sponsoring two billboards in Lincoln that address Gov. Pete Ricketts. One at 25th and Randolph streets and the other at 1501 South St. will be installed this week. They are positioned close to both the Governor's Mansion and the state Capitol and will remain until Dec. 20.
“The organization said protein sources go beyond beef, pork and poultry. It would like to see the state consider offering grants, tax credits and other incentives to companies producing plant-based protein products such as veggie dogs and veggie deli slices.”
Also in the article, Melissa Sherlock, a certified Food for Life instructor in Omaha, said people can convert to meatless eating gradually. "I know in Nebraska we are big beef eaters. ... It's our livelihood," she said in the interview. "But we definitely need to look at our future, because what's a future if we're not alive for it or healthy enough to enjoy it?”
Additionally billboards have been placed in other states, as well, including South Dakota, where three billboards set up in Pierre read, “Can South Dakota close the slaughterhouses and produce plant-based protein?”
Obviously, this campaign proves we have our work cut out for us to reach the public and highlight the nutritional benefits of beef. And while it’s very frustrating to see activists gaining media headlines and beef being the target of misinformation campaigns, yet again, I’m even more concerned that folks will fall for this type of messaging without even questioning what PCRM really is.
As a society, we are often told to “follow the science,” but aren’t encouraged to follow up and see who is behind the science in the first place. In this pandemic, if we question the narrative or try to counter it with studies that contradict the perfectly cohesive narrative being presented on the mainstream media news, we are called “conspiracy theorists.”
But here, we have a perfect example of how an activist group is being propped up to appear like they are responsible, well-intentioned physicians simply trying to help us stay healthy during this pandemic and beyond, yet who is asking the most important question of all — Who are the members of PCRM?
Protect the Harvest helps us answer that question in a roundup of evidence that showcases what PCRM has been up to in recent years.
Protect the Harvest reports, “On April 7, 2020, the group filed a legal petition for rulemaking with the U.S. Surgeon General to demand that all live animal markets in the United States be shut down immediately. Due to the role played by the Wuhan, China Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in spreading the virus, PCRM makes the false claim that any type of animal market has the potential to spread COVID-19 from animals to humans.
“In addition, the group is petitioning President Trump to rescind his order for United States meat processing plants to remain open. PCRM’s shameless maneuvering during a time when Americans are already suffering from loss of income and shortages of essential goods demonstrates the group’s incredible disconnect from reality, disregard for the true well-being of the population, and degree of extremist zealotry.
“With numerous meat packing plants closed or greatly limited due to a shortage of workers caused by COVID-19, America is getting a painful glimpse of what even a partial shutdown of the meat industry means for the public—sparsely stocked meat cases at the grocery store.
“Meanwhile, for some sectors of the animal agriculture industry, even a limited number of closed plants have forced the euphemistically phrased “depopulation” of surplus animals—thousands of healthy, finished meat animals wastefully destroyed for lack of somewhere to send them to be processed into meat and byproducts, and no other options to house them.
“If PCRM had its way, this situation would overtake all of animal agriculture in the name of COVID-19, and result in the entirely wasteful deaths of literally millions of animals that would otherwise become part of the nation’s food and product supply chain.
“The effects of such a grim and needless scenario would spread far beyond the direct ruin of producers. The food industry would be far from the only one affected, since byproducts of meat production are essential components in countless everyday items used by virtually every person in the United States.”
To close, social media is full of many statements, some fact and some fiction. And while I’m told there are fact checkers to help us wade through the falsehoods, we must do our own due diligence, ask the tough questions and present factual, useful information that the public needs during a time of crisis.
There’s plenty of beef nutrition information out there, but it’s up to us to share it. Let’s get to work.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.