MACGREGOR, Man. —The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association plans to spend more money to manage controversies and fight back against critics of beef production.
Now, the CCA has a couple employees who work part time in a department the organization calls Issues Management. They co-ordinate the beef industry’s response when issues pop up, such as Greenpeace claims that cattle are the main cause of climate change, or a reality TV star urging Canadians to become vegetarians.
The CCA plans to increase its funding for Issues Management, possibly in 2019, so Canada’s beef sector is better prepared to respond.
“I’ve already created a strategy with an increased budget,” said Tom Lynch-Staunton, manager of public and stakeholder engagement with the CCA.
“We’ll be able to have dedicated staff, two or three full-time people working on this.”
Currently, Lynch-Staunton spends half of his time on Issues Management. Having a few dedicated employees will allow the CCA to deal with nagging controversies, such as use of antibiotics and growth hormones in cattle production.
Lynch-Staunton explained the role of the Issues Management team at a December meeting of beef producers in MacGregor, Man.
He mentioned the example of James Cameron, the Hollywood director of blockbusters like Avatar and Titantic.
In September, Cameron and his wife appeared in Vanscoy, Sask., to announce an investment in a pea processing plant.
At that event Cameron, a vegan, had a few things to say about eating meat.
“What medical science and environmental science is showing us now, that collectively, globally, we’ve got to eat a lot less meat and consume a lot less dairy simply because of the efficiency of getting protein off of an acre of land,” Cameron said, as reported in the National Post. “It’s very important for us … as a civilization (to) shift our focus to that expanding wedge of plant-based proteins.”
The Hollywood director went on to say that livestock pollute the world’s water and the atmosphere.
Cameron’s comments about meat appeared in dozens of publications.
Lynch-Staunton helped craft an article responding to Cameron’s criticism. It also appeared in the National Post.
Lynch-Staunton said Issues Management needs more money and resources because the beef sector is constantly responding to celebrities or activist groups spreading misinformation about cattle production and beef.
“We have to be persistent on this. This is not going away,” he said. “How do we get people, first, to listen … and then to believe what we actually say is true? It’s a huge challenge.”
The CCA probably won’t hire new staff for the Issues Management team until 2019, but Lynch-Staunton has been planning for the future.
He wants to develop an online repository of information for provincial beef associations. The database will feature key messages, a list of spokespeople and scientific information to support the arguments.
“Say the Manitoba Beef Producers has a concern from a consumer about antibiotic use,” he said.
They go in there themselves and see what’s there … and (take away) three or four really key messages (they) can use.”
He also plans to create a social media training module.
The Manitoba Beef Producers hosted the meeting in MacGregor to explain the new national checkoff on cattle sales.
Most of the provincial cattle organizations in Canada have passed a resolution in support of raising the national checkoff to $2.50, said Melinda German, general manager of the Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency.
“By July (or) August of next year, eight of nine provinces will be at $2.50,” she said.
The current checkoff of $1 generates about $7.5 million, which supports beef marketing and research into beef production.
The additional revenue is expected to bolster those activities and help Canada’s beef industry compete in domestic and international markets.