COLUMNISTS

Radke Report: Animal rights radicals pinning farm locations on a map

Amanda Radke
Radke Report
Radke

Four years ago, we had a drone flying over our cattle yards.

I didn’t think much about it at the time. We had just purchased a drone for my dad for Christmas, and I assumed it was him using it to check cattle.

At evening chores, I asked Dad how he liked the drone we got him.

His response was, “It was a nice gift, but I’ve never even taken that thing out of the box.”

My wheels were immediately turning.

You see, just a few days before I saw the drone, I had received an interesting call. It was from a vegan, animal rights activist going to college at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and he wanted to interview me for a paper he was writing.

He had read my columns and thought I might be willing to answer some questions about “ag gag” laws — the protections that were set in place in many areas to safeguard livestock operations from undercover videos being taken by employees gaining access under false pretenses.

I never turn down an opportunity to share my perspective as a beef cattle producer. Although I knew nothing I said would ever change this young man’s mind about who we are as livestock producers, I wanted him to hear our side of the story just the same.

So after a two-hour interview, he told me that he was also getting information from animal rights activist groups, including Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). If you aren’t familiar with these guys, you need to be. They are a radical extremist organization that frequently uses terrorist tactics, such as breaking into hog barns, stealing animals, and taking drone footage for use in dramatized fundraising videos. They believe in “animal liberation,” and their members have actively participated in what they call “open rescues,” where they steal pigs, goats, turkeys, and chickens.

At the time of this phone call from the college kid and the drone flying overhead, I had my own run-in with the DxE crowd. They didn’t like what I was posting on social media, and — in what can only be described as a malicious and coordinated attack — their members collectively gathered on my Facebook page to post graphic images and direct vile threats at myself and my young children.

Starting to connect the dots but unsure how to prove it, I called all the neighbors to see if anyone else had been flying a drone in the area that week. Nobody owned one, and as I realized I would not be able to prove who was flying over our cattle yards and for what purpose, I realized just how truly vulnerable we are in agriculture with these extremists at work.

This led me to research drone laws and our rights to privacy on our own land, but that’s a column for another day.

Today, I want to share with you a project of DxE’s that I think every livestock producer should be aware of. It’s called Project Counterglow, and its aim is to identify the exact locations of livestock operations across the country. The interactive map currently has 27,500+ pinned locations, and you can see if you or your neighbors made the map by visiting counterglow.org.

I don’t share this information to scare or to deter anybody from being transparent, authentic, and willing to share your agricultural story online and with the general public. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I share to encourage you that if we don’t start sharing our positive stories with the general public, then it is likely consumers will fall prey to the predatory and sensational messaging of radical groups like this one.

Awareness gives us power, and the future of animal agriculture rests in our willingness to connect with the people we aim to serve.

Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.