Monday, February 15, 2010

Farmers & Ranchers Being Heard Online

Social Media: The New Battleground For American Agriculture
By Gary Truitt

There is a new battleground in the fight against the anti-animal forces that are bent on destroying the American livestock industry. What makes this significant is that is battleground is not controlled by the mass media, special interest groups, PR companies, HSUS, or PETA. This new battleground is controlled by consumers, individuals from a variety of backgrounds taking on the radical fringe and their efforts to control what we eat. This new battleground is the world of social media: Facebook, Twitter, and the myriad of other web-based networks that link people together in cyberspace and transmit information around the world at the speed of light. Unlike the wacko-friendly mass media, this social media has a decidedly anti-nutcase slant, and these social networkers do not suffer fools for more than a few milliseconds. HSUS, PETA, and some large US corporations are learning some painful lessons in this new social world.

Yellow Tail wine is a brand owned by Casella Wines, a family owned and operated winery with winemaking links going back six generations. Until last week, they were the Cinderella story of the wine world having gone from a small family owned winery to international distributor of Yellow Tail wine. Then they made a mistake that has certainly cost them their reputation and could end up costing them their business. The Australian-based winery climbed into bed with the Humane Society of the United States. The effort included an agreement for the winery to contribute $100,000 to HSUS. This was not totally out of character for the company which has had strong ties with the vegan community. But the backlash from US consumers was quick and vehement. Within hours of the announcement, Yellow Tail was hit with a blizzard of e-mails and the Yellow Tail fan page on Facebook quickly filled with strong statements of condemnation. Hundreds of Yellow Tail drinkers said they were pouring the wine down the drain and would never buy the product again.

The social media atmosphere lets individuals express their thoughts without reservation. The dislike and disgust for HSUS was overwhelming. Those few who expressed sympathy for HSUS were quickly shouted down by a chorus of cynical barbs and insults. A special anti-Yellow Tail page quickly appeared on Facebook called “Yellow Fail.” Numerous blogs took up the chant decrying Yellow Tail’s decision to give money to an organization where less than one-half of 1% of the funds raised actually went to helping animals. Several national animal organizations condemned the wine company, and even some farmers and ranchers posted You Tube videos on the topic. Read More

For the last several years, we have traveled across the country sharing with farmers and ranchers on how effective they can be when they work together to make themselves heard. I was astounded when I had a “so-called” friend of agriculture attack my message of working together in front of 500 cattlemen. If all aspects of agriculture, along with pet owners and outdoorsmen, hadn’t worked together to spread the message that Yellow Tail was donating to HSUS, it wouldn’t have worked out like it did. I get a lot of people that thank me for my work in advocating for agriculture and I appreciate it very much. But the biggest thank you I got was when people responded when I encouraged everyone to make their voices heard on this project.

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