"I want to be like Paul Revere and sound the alarm," Representative David Scott told a group of agriculture industry leaders on April 28. "You must understand the urgency of this issue. Banning non-therapeutic antibiotics takes away the most effective means of keeping animals healthy."
Scott was the first of a 20-speaker line up called on to explore some of the greatest challenges facing food production at the Ninth Annual Stakeholders Summit, titled "Truth, Lies, and Videotape: Is Activism Jeopardizing Our Food Supply?" The meeting was held April 28–29, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia.
Speakers addressed topics including antibiotic resistance, maintaining animal welfare, responding to activists and sharing agriculture's story with the public. While the issues discussed were diverse, a common theme connected many of the presentations. Agriculture groups must be proactive and work together to provide a united response to detractors bent on eliminating the industry.
"You need to start being proud of what you do. There are millions of mouths to feed in this country and you can't do that with 'Old McDonald's Farm'" said Wesley J. Smith, a renowned ethicist who spoke on the human cost of the animal rights movement.
Smith was joined by David Martosko, Center for Consumer Freedom Research Director and editor of the popular HumaneWatch.org website, to discuss the true agenda of activists.
"Animal activists are in the business of creating conflict. It's critical to fight back," Martosko explained. "Ask yourself: do you believe in farming, or do you not? Are you willing to defend it, or not?"
More than 170 leaders representing the food and agriculture industries attended the meeting. A full 100 percent of attendees rated the Summit's content as "excellent" or "good."
"Your team did an excellent job of orchestrating good speakers who delivered topical and thoughtful information," one participant noted. "It was definitely the place to be to connect with the movers."
The threat of terrorism against the food supply and the need for heightened security was also addressed at the Summit. Former Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson delivered a keynote address that highlighted the very real risk of attacks against food producers.
"Anyone who comes in to your plant under false pretenses and in an undercover capacity poses a risk to your safety and security," Hutchinson said.
Farm and processing plant operators should implement heightened biosecurity measures, Hutchinson said. He emphasized the need for a three-part strategy that included knowing the workplace, knowing employee history, and staging an increased public relations and congressional relations effort so that the public understands the industry's commitment to food safety and animal welfare.
Full coverage of the event, including podcasts and video of presentations, is accessible at the Truffle Media Networks website. The Alliance also incorporated social media into the conference to help share information with those who were unable to attend. An archive of Twitter updates from the Summit is available online. A live blog was updated throughout the event and is available on the Alliance's website. For more information about the Summit, contact the Sarah Hubbart, the Alliance's Communications Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance, a 501c (3) non-profit organization, is a broad-based coalition of individual farmers, ranchers, producer organizations, suppliers, packer-processors, private industry scientists, veterinarians and retailers. The Alliance's mission is to communicate the important role of animal agriculture to our nation's economy, productivity, vitality and security and that animal well-being is central to producing safe, high-quality, affordable food and other products essential to our daily lives.