By Dr. Michael Payne, UC Davis, School of Vet. Medicine; Director, CDQAP

While anti-livestock activists commonly misrepresent animal care practices, to exploit farmers wrestling with natural disasters seems particularly manipulative. Following a levee breech a Merced calf-raising area was inundated with flood waters.

While producers were organizing evacuation of the calves, activists posted video stating that the calves had been abandoned to the floodwaters.

All the calves were successfully relocated, thanks to the efforts of dozens of farmers, neighbors and other volunteers in the industry. In apparently unrelated incidents other activists in Merced, Lodi and Petaluma were also out in flooded areas collecting video.

With the relaxation of COVID travel restrictions, livestock and poultry operations have seen an uptick in activist activity. Previously activists have impersonated government employees, allied industry and job applicants. More recently producers have received requests for educational farm tours.

What Can You Do About Trespass?

While options for activists who remain on public right-of-way are limited, there are still a number of actions producers can take to protect themselves and their property.

Post Your Property – No Trespassing signs, posted at least 3 per mile and at all entrances allow D.A.s to prosecute trespass as a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up $1,000 and/or 6 months in jail.

Immediately Call the Sheriff – When alerted to the presence of trespassers, employees should immediately contact the local sheriff or police department. If employees are uncomfortable contacting law enforcement themselves, they should be empowered to contact the farm owner and manager.

Don’t Engage – Activists cherish video footage of angry farmers to use for publicity and fund raising, so resist the urge to confront or debate trespassers. Photos of trespassers, vehicles and license plates however can be useful later in court or to alert the dairy community.

Share with Trade Groups – It’s also useful to report incidents to your processor and/or trade organization. This information is widely distributed in the industry as well as with county Sherriff ’s offices. This alerts producers and law enforcement throughout the state of developing threats.

Check Credentials – Almost all legitimate government agencies will arrange farm visits in advance. The identification credentials of any unfamiliar or unexpected government employee should be scrutinized, photographed, and confirmed by phone call to the agency’s main office.

Employ Vigilance in Hiring – Activists making false inquiries about employment is a growing problem. A CDQAP newsletter article, Vigilance in Your Hiring Process, highlights important precautions to identify an activist intent on collecting undercover video recordings.

CDQAP’s webpage, Dealing with Trespass and Drones on California Dairies provides comprehensive information on how to most effectively assist law enforcement.