Communications Director, Farm Sanctuary; Former Communications Director, Farm Animal Reform Movement; Former Senior Vice President, Lee & Associates real estate (Newport Beach, CA); Former trainee, Orange County People for AnimalsFormally trained in animal-rights activism and direct-action techniques by Orange County People for Animals, former real estate agent Laurelee Blanchard now serves as Communications Director and part-time lobbying consultant for Farm Sanctuary.
In her previous position as chief media flack for the Farm Animal Reform Movement,Blanchard operated the “Letters From FARM” program. She wrote letters to major newspapers and faxed them to the appropriate editors, along with a local FARM activist’s name and address as “proof” that he or she actually wrote it. Blanchard then followed up with an e-mail instructing supporters about how to respond when an editor called “confirming that your [sic] wrote/sent the letter.”
FARM has been utilizing various forms of this flim-flam since before Blanchard arrived, and it continues unabated. When the group’s practices were first exposed in 1996, FARM president Alex Hershaft conceded that “it was embarrassing.” Still, the organization continues to pull the wool over the eyes of countless newspaper editors: in one case, 25 daily papers printed the same exact “letter to the editor,” each signed by a different deceptive activist.
Blanchard now runs a similar program for Farm Sanctuary. She sends pre-written letters to Farm Sanctuary activists each month, along with instructions to submit them “to your assigned newspaper(s).” A typical set of instructions reads:
Dear Farm Sanctuary letter writer, The following is a letter to the editor for you to submit to your assigned newspaper(s). Please include your name, address and telephone number on your letter.
It is important to submit the letter to each individual newspaper separately, rather than to multiple recipients. Please include a blind copy to [email protected]
If you need the email address(es) of your newspaper(s),let me know and I’ll be happy to provide them to you.
Farm Sanctuary’s “astroturf” letters are regularly published by U.S. newspaper editors who believe that the activists submitting them are the actual authors. Examples from 2004 and 2005 promoted the animal-rights position on mad cow disease, lambasted the Atkins diet, savaged the reuptation of the relief charity Heifer Project International, complained about “Got Milk?” advertisements, flung mud at pork farmers and veal producers, and promoted strict vegetarian diets.