Animal rights activists are completely committed to putting you out of business, says Kay Johnson, and they are working on many fronts to achieve their goal.

Johnson, with the Animal Agriculture Alliance, says animal rights activists use four battlegrounds to advance their agenda -- public perception, farms and businesses, the legal system, and the legislative and regulatory world.

"Some farmers and ranchers are being drug into court on false accusations," she says. "Not only does that create legal fees, but it creates doubt in your community about how you care for your animals."

Here are her suggestions on what cattle producers can do to fight back:

  • Talk to your customers, legislators, employees, neighbors -- get involved in your community.

  • Develop training programs for employees on animal-welfare handling and company policies.

  • Develop and implement a security plan, including strict hiring procedures.

  • Develop crisis management procedures -- become media trained and develop a company communications plan.

  • Strengthen state and local laws and penalties against animal rights violence, vandalism, intimidation and extortion.

  • Lobby for laws to require activist groups to pay legal expenses of producers/processors if charges are proven false.

  • Review state laws, ballot initiatives or referendums. Think outside the box -- do these restrictions on business/trade qualify as "a taking?"

  • Strengthen right-to-farm laws in your state.

  • Be proactive -- seek innovative solutions to the major issues raised, e.g., renewable energy from manure.

  • Lobby against initiatives to replace animal owner with "guardian."

  • Develop or join an industry-wide coalition in your state and community; Join state and national groups that represent the cattle industry in animal-welfare issues.
"Consumers want to know how much you incorporate morals and ethics into how you care for your animals," Johnson says. "The groups that challenge us don't want to improve animal welfare. They want to create a vegetarian society."