Strategies to navigate pressure from animal activists

Animal advocates have recently ramped up their pressure on branded companies to influence how animal protein comes to market and to leverage the growing interest in farm animal care.

Our recent research for the Center for Food Integrity shows consumers and other stakeholders now expect sustainability and animal welfare to receive the same focus and priority as efficiency and productivity. Organizations that can simultaneously be efficient, sustainable and attuned to social issues will be rewarded by investors, consumers and media alike.

As pressure mounts, food system stakeholders may feel powerless to respond. But that is not the case.

Here are four key strategies that can help you navigate this volatile new reality.

  1. Claim the ethical high ground and demonstrate it belongs to you. We know from consumer research that your customers and consumers want to know you believe animals should be treated appropriately during their life on the farm and in the processing plant. Your public position needs to lead with your ethical commitment to do “what’s right.”
  2. Focus on the rational majority, not the radical agitators. Your messages and strategy need to appeal to the rational majority – customers, consumers, employees, and other key stakeholders. You cannot appease radical activist groups, but you must acknowledge them.  Demonstrate you take the topic seriously and have policies and practices in place to assure responsible production and processing and build the trust of key stakeholders. Your policies and practices must be measurable to be credible. “Trust me, I’m a farmer” is not sufficient.
  3. Whoever defines the issue gets to control the debate. You need to define what constitutes appropriate animal care that results in positive animal well-being. A credible third-party animal well-being committee can help create or refine your policy and demonstrate your commitment to assuring a production system consistent with the values of your customers and consumers. Those values include consuming animal protein AND caring for animals appropriately while on the farm and in the processing plant. This is about giving customers and consumers permission to buy and enjoy animal protein.
  4. Demonstrate Continuous Improvement. You should have policy and practices in place that demonstrates that your organization has the issue well in hand. This evidence gives customers consumers interested in this issue “permission to believe” that consuming animal protein is the right thing to do. You need to demonstrate commitment and regular measurable progress, not instant solutions, to maintain the confidence of your key stakeholders.

At Look East, we help companies and associations put these strategies into action to build trust with their key stakeholders. Get in touch and we can start developing your strategy.