If the past year has taught me anything, it’s the importance of having options in the grocery store. In 2022, my mom was bitten by a tick that left her with alpha-gal syndrome, a food allergy that forced a change in her eating habits overnight. She had to cut dairy and beef (and other foods made from products involving cattle) out of her diet completely. Make no mistake, it was not by choice. However, it opened my eyes to the fact that there are people out there who might have similar reasons why they can’t enjoy their favorite animal proteins and must opt for an alternative instead.
Consumer choice and buying decisions are deeply personal, and we’re all entitled to make our own — no matter the reason. With that being said, it’s not acceptable when a small minority of consumers (like the animal rights extremists and vegan activists) are campaigning to force their purchasing opinions on the majority. This is exactly what they are doing as they buckle down on pressure campaigns targeting restaurant, retail, and food service brands.
These pressure campaigns are increasingly being used by animal rights extremists as a quicker way to exert influence on animal agriculture that cuts out the patchwork of state-level regulations on animal care dictated by legislative and ballot initiative campaigns. By pressuring nationwide restaurant, retail, and food service brands to adopt certain policies, these organizations are attempting to force the implementation of supplier requirements under the guise of animal welfare concerns — even if the policy does not truly benefit animals. The underlying motive of their requested changes or demands, which are almost always very costly for farmers to implement, is to make food production less efficient and raise food costs, forcing consumers to make tough choices about what they can afford.
Primary tactics used in these pressure campaigns include the release of “scorecards” and incremental changes. “Scorecards” rank or grade various companies and food brands against each other based on public policies and commitments on various issues, including sow housing and cage-free eggs. Extremist groups are using these “scorecards” to move the goalpost further.
The first step in their incremental approach was to change specific production practices. Now, these groups are demanding more “plant-based” menu options as part of their rankings. Unfortunately, it won’t stop there. The demands and the tactics used will only get more extreme in their quest to make only vegan options available on the menu or store shelf. Here are some quotes from animal rights extremists in their own words:
- “We don’t want to set unrealistic goals. We don’t have to have a campaign to “end speciesism” because that is not achievable right now. We don’t want to start a campaign to get a steakhouse in Lincoln, Neb., to go vegan. First, we want to maybe have them introduce some vegan options and work toward it that way . . . make measurable progress and then escalate.”
- “Ending speciesism is our ultimate goal. One strategy to end speciesism would be to end the use of animals as food. One strategy to end the use of animals as food would be to make vegan food more accessible. Three strategies to make vegan food more accessible — we can increase availability, we can lower the cost, and we can increase the price of animal products.”
- “An incremental approach is used to gradually switch companies over to veganism.”
- “You want to put direct pressure on the decision makers in the company; know how the business functions and what will frustrate the decision makers the most.”
- “You don’t want to give your target time to catch its breath.”
- “When it is time to launch the campaign, find a vulnerable target, prepare everything for at least a few weeks, and then assemble an overwhelming force to utilize from day one. ‘The crueler it is, the quicker the fight is over.’ [Quoting William Tecumseh Sherman]”
This ruthlessness and extremism are what suppliers and customers are dealing with every single day. It’s certainly not the majority of consumers leading these campaigns but a small minority that know how to make a lot of noise. It’s time for the animal agriculture community to rally together to support these members of the food supply chain and reiterate the importance of consumer choice — choices that include meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, and seafood.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance has an in-depth report on this topic. Readers interested in the report can contact the Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Solis is the manager of communications and content at the Animal Agriculture Alliance. In her role, she works to execute the Alliance’s issues management and communications strategy.