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Dairy sector next likely target of animal activists

Animal rights activists have already taken on the veal, pork, egg and broiler chicken industries, and it could be only a matter of time before the dairy industry becomes their next target, a poultry veterinarian said.

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Animal rights activists have already taken on the veal, pork, egg and broiler chicken industries, and it could be only a matter of time before the dairy industry becomes their next target, a poultry veterinarian said.

Kate Barger-Weathers, DVM, director of world animal welfare for Cobb-Vantress, was at the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit to discuss the activists’ push for slower-growing broiler breeds, and near the conclusion of her session, she was asked what animal agriculture sector was likely to become the activists’ next target.

She answered the question with a question: “How many of you all work with black and white cows?”

“In my crystal ball, I think you all are the next targets,” she said.

Barger Weathers Kate Cobb

Kate Barger-Weathers, DVM, Cobb-Vantress says the dairy industry could become the next target of the animal rights movement. | Roy Graber

Dairy industry has a ‘great story’ to tell

Barger-Weathers said she is well aware of how well the industry as a whole takes care of its cattle, and that is a story that needs to be told before activists begin an attack.

“You people in the dairy industry have a great story with how many gallons you’re getting off your cows,” she said, praising the things dairy farmers are doing “from a technology standpoint, from a care standpoint, from a genetic standpoint to improve cow milk, to improve cow welfare, to improve cow performance and productivity.”

Tactics targeting broiler industry could be reused

But the activists are apt to ignore that and instead take a similar tactic they are taking with their push for slower-growing broilers. They have taken a picture of a broiler from 1957 and compared it with the larger broiler of 2015. Similar comparisons could be made by activists with pictures of dairy cattle from different eras.

She referred to an earlier session during the summit, where someone hosting a farm tour had to explain that contrary to a public perception, the cows are not milked all day. Activists will choose to not include that detail, she said, which is one story she and others at the summit are encouraging industry professionals to tell.

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