Farm security worries in the modern media age

A recent incident in British Columbia has to have farmers more concerned about both the security of their farms and just how quickly things can get out of hand when it comes to the perception of the public.

It was in April when a busload of animal activists invaded a hog operation in B.C., in response to video footage claiming to show questionable conditions for the pigs within.

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B.C. media reports indicate about 50 protestors from a group called Meat the Victims entered the barn at Excelsior Hog Farms and occupied it for a short period before being removed by police. More than 100 others protested on a nearby road.

One person was subsequently charged with breaking and entering and mischief.

Stepping back from the incident itself, what it does show is the power of social media to illicit certain responses to perceived situations.

Typically, if one were to have questions about the health and security of livestock you might expect calls to the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, or the local police, not piling onto a bus to undertake a level of civil disobedience.

That should be concerning to producers, because it could be something they face when they go to brand calves, apply herbicides, burn stubble or even plant GMO crops. A busload of people in the way could disrupt operations and lead to confrontation all too easily.

Such situations, of course, also get the press involved, leaving a perception that there is a significant backlash against whatever operation is being protested. But a busload of 50 people in a region of tens-of-thousands may be little more than a vocal few getting some face time in the media for what is a small group opposed to something.

At present we have a society that is perhaps too quickly ready to jump to appease the vocal few, regardless of the thing they are asking for.

There are times when the minority needs to have their voices listened to, in situations where they are seeking fairness and equality.

But that is not always the case, as we have witnessed by the removal of certain historic statues, that are there not because the person captured in bronze was perfect, but because they still had some significant role in our history.

Finding the balance of protests with merit and those that are simply noise, is an issue society must work to achieve.

In the meantime, farmers need to be aware they may face a new challenge, dealing with protestors whose agenda is not going to be friendly to the industry of agriculture.