Farmers told to stop fighting animal welfare activists and offer PETA an olive branch: risk communication expert
Australian agriculture needs to stop fighting animal activist groups like the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and instead, publicly validate some of their concerns.
That is the view of Professor Peter Sandman, a leading New York based, risk-communication consultant who has worked with governments and consulted on the recent Ebola outbreak.
"Probably the single most common mistake is to talk too much and listen too little," said Mr Sandman.
"When it's your turn to talk, acknowledge some of the ways in which they are right. Photo: Australian agriculture is getting it wrong when responding to animal welfare issues. (Jeremy Story Carter)
"You find things to validate in their complaints."
A number of agricultural industries have recently become engaged in combative public debate with activist groups such as PETA.
Mr Sandman says too often, those industries allow their own emotions and sense of outrage to colour their response.
"The single biggest barrier to my persuading the client to be responsive is the client's own outrage," he said.
"If the company can think calmly, it will manage its stakeholders' outrage instead of expressing its own."
In the recent example of welfare abuse claims against the wool industry
, social media was central in inflaming the issue and pushing it into broader mainstream consciousness.
While Mr Sandman suggests that social media is an ideal forum for exacerbating outrage, that only makes it a more crucial avenue for industries to respond through.
"One of the problems my corporate clients have is they don't want to respond on social media, and they don't want to let their middle-managers respond on social media.
"They are letting activist groups with an agenda dominate the social media presence," he said.
People donít trust the idea that your industry is going to do the right thing on its own, because youíre saints. Risk communication expert Peter Sandman.
"When PETA puts a video on Youtube, millions of people are going to watch that video.
"They are not senior PETA people, they're just people and they're watching to see how you're going to respond to the fanatics."
In addition to continually working toward achieving better animal welfare records, Mr Sandman says Australian agriculture needs to work closer with animal rights groups.
"Think about working with PETA.
"Ask PETA to sit on your advisory board. If they say no, let it be on their head," he said.
"People don't trust the idea that your industry is going to do the right thing on its own, because you're saints."
"We are looking for evidence that you have noticed that you can't get away with the things you used to get away with."
ABC Rural By Jeremy Story Carter
Updated 9 Sep 2014, 10:55amTue 9 Sep 2014, 10:55am http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-09/aus-ag-needs-to-stop-fighting-activist-groups/5728410