Farm Animal Rights Movement
Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) is on the outer fringes of the animal-rights universe. Its membership adheres to a strict vegan diet, and its leadership generally regards meat as an unnecessary evil. The group is best known for its sponsorship of the “Great American Meatout,” an annual event that encourages Americans to give up meat for one day.
FARM is a perfect example of an organization that’s guided by an animal “rights” outlook, rather than just looking out for animal “welfare.” Its philosophy is aligned with modern radicals like Princeton University’s Peter Singer, whose book Animal Liberation has achieved almost Biblical status in the animal rights movement. As with most other animal-rights zealots, the Farm Animal Rights Movement just loves animals: it’s people that they have a problem with.
In 2018, a Nonprofit Chronicles reporter alleged a “#MeToo Problem” with FARM’s founder and then president. The scandal reportedly contributed to the cancellation in 2020 of the Animal Rights National Conference, a longtime gathering of animal liberation activists. “I have lost any faith in the board doing what is right for FARM, for all past and future employees and most importantly for the animals,” said one longtime employee.
In recent years, FARM has made repeated efforts to manipulate the mass media, reaping untold free exposure by deceiving newspaper editors (and the general public) into thinking it has a huge “grassroots” activist network.
FARM’s communications director, Laurelee Blanchard, operates a program called Letters From FARM. It consists of orchestrated “Letters to the Editor,” sent en masse to hundreds of papers at once. Blanchard writes the letters herself and faxes the newspaper editors from her home in Hawaii, with each transmission bearing the name and address of an activist who lives in that paper’s delivery area. Blanchard then e-mails her network of “signers” with a copy of the letter sent on their behalf, instructing them what to say if an editor calls to verify the letter’s authorship.
It’s a slick campaign, resulting in identical letters being printed in as many as 25 different papers within a week’s time; it also calls into question the “grassroots” support that FARM claims.
One Letters Editor from a major Georgia daily wrote to the Center for Consumer Freedom in 2005 to share his experience with FARM’s operation:
I’ve received three similarly themed letters on not eating meat, etc. … the names, as near as I can tell, are fictitious.
The contact phone number they provide on letters is a toll-free number. When the number is called, a woman answers the phone. When you ask for the “writer” of the letter, she puts you on hold, and in a minute or two, the “writer” is on the line to speak with you. He cheerfully says that, yes, he did write the letter. When you ask why he has no local phone number, he says (and two of the people I spoke with used identical verbiage) that “I live and work in the same space,” and he finds the toll-free number more convenient …
The first “writer” I spoke with wasn’t available when I called his toll-free number, but the woman who answered (presumably some office worker for FARM) said the “writer” could call me back … So the guy called me back; glancing at my caller ID, I quickly jotted down the number he was calling from (it wasn’t the number on the letter). His signature bore the nickname “Ace,” so I asked him his first name because we don’t allow authors to use nicknames. Apparently, he wasn’t much on improv, because he insisted his first name was, in fact, Ace … After I hung up with him, I checked to see which phone he was calling from. The number was registered to Alex Hershaft, and his address was listed as the Bethesda, Md., mailing address for FARM.
The second letter I received bore the same address as [the first one] above, but with a different name. The toll-free phone number the “writer” provided was easily traced to Meatout, a part of FARM. I didn’t even bother calling.
What galls me is that FARM perpetuates this chain of lies as a standard business practice just to maintain this Potemkin village full of fictitious grass-roots supporters.
It is widely believed that FARM gets most of its financial support from the organic- and natural-foods industries. At the 2001 “Meatout” event on Capitol Hill, for instance, vegetarian and “fake meat” dishes were served along with glossy advertisements of products from Fantastic Foods, Veggie Patch, and LightLife. Visitors were handed cents-off coupons for these three name-brand products at the end of the buffet line. All three also advertise on FARM’s “Great American Meatout” web site, and FARM actively promotes a total of 19 similar brands.