Animal rights activists begin targeting 4-H

Members at the Global 4-H Network Summit were given advice on how to respond if confrontations occur

OTTAWA — Be prepared, have a plan and avoid strong reactions when dealing with animal rights activists, delegates heard at the Global 4-H Network Summit in Ottawa earlier this month.

“Calm is the key,” said Cory Gooch, chair of the Calgary Stampede’s 4-H on Parade.

He and Leah Jones, chief executive officer of the 4-H Foundation of Alberta, say activists have moved from targeting events to sponsors to 4-H.

“They are very organized, strategic, and now are starting to come to 4-H,” said Jones.

She cited the 42,800 online shares received when a 4-H alumni posted, “nine reasons why kids should never join 4-H.”

Delegates also learned of 4-H cases where activists have untied animals in barns or disrupted steer auctions.

When confronted with such incidents, Gooch and Jones said to call security services, do not confront or engage protesters, remove animals and young people if possible and assume the scene is being recorded.

“Thirty seconds are worth a million hits,” said Jones.

Jones said the momentum against livestock production is growing, fed by fewer people being raised on farms and a large group of millennials with easy access to information online and questions about how food is produced.


Giving human characteristics to animals further muddies the agricultural story and makes it emotional.

“When you see pictures of (animals) with sunglasses and cucumbers on their eyes, it’s hard to see them as protein on your plate,” said Jones.

Gooch said building the “social licence” to farm comes from building trust between producers and consumers.

“If we don’t do a good job, we get out of balance. That’s where the consumer has power,” he said.

“When looking for that social responsibility (to farm), if you’re not making genuine efforts, they can see right through that.”

4-Hers have a role to play as agriculture ambassadors, explaining the industry and food animal production and sharing positive images of animal husbandry via social media.

Jones said activists have a strong consolidated message, so groups representing agriculture need to counter with information about their programs, policies and codes of conduct for animal care.

“Agriculture has a voice, but they’re either not hearing it or understanding it,” said Jones.


Tarilyn Mikel, a 4-H member with the Denim N Dust Club in Wisconsin, said why animals are handled a certain way or what the 4-H program offers is often misinterpreted.

“We have to share with everybody, activists and fence sitters, what it is about and maybe it would change minds,” she said.

Joshua Goede, 4-H and youth agent with the University of Wisconsin extension department, said 4-Hers are on stage from the time they load their animals at the farm until they leave the fairgrounds.

“Any kid in a livestock project needs to understand they are in a position to teach and change minds, but more importantly they are there to take good care of their animal,” he said.

“You need to do the right thing every minute of every day.… This is where people are watching, this is where people are getting their information.”

Geode said 4-Hers can help the public understand that farmers want the best for their animals and have to take care of them for the business side to work.

Gooch and Jones advised bringing animals to shows in good condition, ensuring facilities, housing and handling facilities are prepared before bringing in stock and treating animals requiring care out of the public eye.

“Show the public we are conducting our business of agriculture and raising food responsibly,” said Jones.


  • David A .Hereaux
  • David A .Hereaux
    • Ty Savoy

      What ? Science ? It’s extremism dontyaknow. Them radical extremists think harming and killing nonhuman animals is wrong OMG how extreme. Let’s call them names and continue denying the truth of what they are saying.

  • Richelle Bee

    This violent industry is in the sunset years, thankfully. Time to move forward with healthy, environmentally friendlier, cruelty-free plant-based products.

    • Ty Savoy

      The end is nigh for this industry. They can feel it.

      It isn’t ’emotional’ to see suffering and needless death, and not want to be a part of it. In fact, it is common sense. People are more informed now than ever. Deal with it. Stop harming and killing animals. People still gotta eat.

  • Roger Foster

    Funny thing how these animal rights activists will spend all this energy and time for the rights of animals… but then totally ignore how society allows “doctors” to dismember babies in the womb.
    Sad state of affairs.

    • Happy Farmer

      Sad indeed. Euthanasia can also be added to the sadness. Or poverty. People should be far more important than anything else on earth.

      I don’t think conversations are working with these types of “activists”. If they want to engage in conversation, do so. But if they want to open fences or pens to release animals (which is a physical action), they better be prepared for a return of physical action.

    • Kissing optional

      That is a petty distraction and an attack on the rights of a woman to choose about her own body. Do you also think that an acorn is an oak tree?
      Proper animal husbandry, not the invocation of some quasi-Christian morality that it is okay to treat animals inhumanely because ‘animals have no souls’, is the order of the day.
      There is far too many cases of animal cruelty, mostly purpatrated on factory ‘farms’
      These massive corporate entities posing as ‘farms’ is by far more than half the problem causing a black eye on the livestock industry.

      • Harold

        It is true. Your mother had the right to abort you but she bore the burden of allowing the “acorn” to become a “tree” instead. In time the acorn is a oak tree.
        Corporate industry by its very own profit motivated nature cannot provide other than animal cruelty and they rely on the methods that soft sell or cover their cruelty. Our desire for the profits of world trade and cheap food only fans the flames of abuse. The suffrage of animals is the trade off for human and corporate profit gains. Eliminate money and the cruelty will cease.

    • Harold

      How do you know that animal rights activists are not also the same activists who oppose abortions. Is there some rule that says that you can be one, but not the other? Can a person have concerns for both and be activists in both? If you expect abortion shout outs to be heard at an animal rights rally one in a crowd may believe that animals are receiving abortions. Humor aside, I see a flaw in your assessment of the “sad state of affairs”.

    • Savvy?

      If it were possible to protest all atrocities at once, I’m sure they would. There are, however, a finite number of activists and a seemingly never-ending number of problems to solve. Ending animal agriculture would spare the lives of tens of billions of innocent animals every year. I doubt that the number of annual abortions comes anywhere near that number. Once people stop eating animals, I’m sure the activists will move on to the next highest priority.

      • Harold

        Perhaps we can convince animals to give up meat too and become vegetarians as well so they will quit their barbaric killing. Its so inhumane. Animals are so fortunate that god spared them from having the human intellect and now animals are mentally wiser, one-up from the wisdom of an ordinary house plant. Some how Walt Disney’s animal fiction became today’s sense of reality. What we are suffering and what the animals are suffering is corporate overreaching and corporate overproduction to meet a lunatic’s mind of feeding the world from such a small piece of property. Try to feed an entire City from your piece of property and you’ll see our current state of affairs. Everyone and every animal on your property will suffer for a good that should have never been taken on in the first place. Lets look at. and focus upon the real problem and not the Walt Disney fictional.

        • Savvy?

          Why would we have (or want) any authority over what nonhuman animals eat? I think you have the wrong idea about what a vegan is. We don’t need to kill/exploit animals. Therefore, we shouldn’t. It’s that simple.

  • dalamart

    Remove animals and kids?
    Record their actions.
    Acknowledge and yhank them for their concerns.
    and continue on with show!!!!!
    We teach our kids to stop bullying
    Which is exactly what the protesters are.
    Nothing but Bullys.

  • Kissing optional

    I was vegan, but then I realized that plants were living things too.
    Now I am fifth level… I eat nothing that casts a shadow.