Written by David Castellon
Dairy industry officials are warning that a vegan activist group could protest dairies in the Valley on Saturday as well as retail stores selling milk and dairy products.
“It hasn’t happened yet,” noted Anja Raudabaugh, chief executive officer of Western United Dairymen, a Modesto-based lobbying groups that issued earlier this week — with the California Milk Advisory Board — recommendations for Valley dairies on how owners and employees should respond if protestors show up.
“We want to make our members aware that the vegan activist group, Direct Action Everywhere, is planning to protest in the Valley this Saturday, Feb. 24,” the notice states. “Although we do not have specific locations of the planned protests, we’re asking our members to notify us if you are the target of a protest or witness one. If you find yourself the target of a protest, please do not engage the protestor, as that would likely draw additional media coverage. Below are some tips for handling trespassers or activists should you find yourself being targeted.”
Those tips include:
– Having employees notify dairy managers of trespassers.
– Put up “No Trespassing” signs at specified intervals around dairies “in order for law enforcement to make charges,” against anyone who trespasses.
– Report trespassing to local law enforcement immediately.
– Learn who the protestors are and what their concerns are in a respectful manner, as the group could be videotaping the encounter.
The notice also warns against using force and notes the protestors may attempt to incite angry or violent reactions that could be posted on social media.
“Animal rights activists have a strategy to reach their goals. They want to gain attention for their cause, gain supporters and receive funding through donations from the supporters to whom they appeal,” and attention-getting outbursts and confrontations are free publicity for these groups, the notice warns.
Dairies also are warned against shooting down or taking other actions to bring down drones, as the Federal Aviation Administration classifies unmanned aircraft systems — drones — as aircraft, and in some jurisdictions, willfully shooting at an aircraft is punishable by up to 20 years in jail.
“The FAA has jurisdiction above ground, and local authorities can only take action if the drone is peeking into your house,” according to the notice.
Attempts to contact Berkeley-based Direct Action Everywhere weren’t immediately successful.
If the group comes to the Valley, it’s not the first time. In November, a group of about 40 people claiming to be involved with DAE protested outside Zonneveld Dairy near Laton, claiming animal abuse in the operation.
Ahead of that, the group claims to have stolen a calf from the dairy and posted a video on Facebook of the nighttime theft, along with images of the calf being treated for medical problems. DAE claimed the animal suffered as the result of how it was cared for at the dairy.
Operators of Zonneveld Dairy couldn’t immediately be reached to comment for this story, but in November they denied abusing their livestock.
Officials with the group National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management had veterinarians assess the video and dairy records on the stolen calf and they concluded she had been properly cared for, though more bedding could have been put in her pen.
As for how Western United Dairymen learned about the DAE protests on Saturday, Raudabaugh said, “We monitor their social medial communications very intently, and they monitor ours.”
A Facebook posting lists “Disrupt Februdairy in Fresno!” as an event set for 3 p.m. on Saturday hosted by DAE, but no other details are disclosed on the Facebook page that appears to have been set up just to promote the event.
A second Facebook page announces, “Protest PBR at the Save Mart Center,” starting at 6 p.m. on March 17, when a Professional Bull Riding event is scheduled at the Fresno venue.
“Professional Bull Riding is coming to Fresno. Please join us in speaking out against this event and making the public aware of the violence taking place at these events,” the posting states. “As always we are looking for volunteers to take on roles such as filming, passing out leaflets and delivering speak outs.”
While that site doesn’t state that the DAE is organizing the protest, it does have several posts from DAE, including one urging people to contact the makers of Monster Energy drinks and urge them to “stop sponsoring animal abuse!”
As for Saturday, Raudabaugh said that since her group got the word out on the dairy protests, the social media chatter has indicated that “this particular group has shifted focus since that memo earlier this week to target retailers.”
On the other hand, she said, “They are capable of misleading us.”