An amazing thing happened last week while you were busy milking, feeding, repairing, resting or doing whatever other chores keep farmers busy in bleak midwinter.
An army of “agvocates” — farm advocates — were on their computers creating a ruckus on your behalf. And it was an online vocal maelstrom that spread like wildlife, finding allies, and it triggered a major company to rethink a recent decision.
It all started with a bottle of wine.
The U.S. arm of a Australian wine company that bottles Yellow Tail wine — whose bottle label and company logo features a wallaby — created a catchy “Tails for Tails” campaign in mid-January. Through the campaign, the wine company plans to donate $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States. Special Yellow Tail displays bearing the HSUS name and logo in stores nationwide are promoting the campaign.
In late January, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance expressed its dismay about the donation in a letter to the wine’s American distributor, alerting the company to the real focus of the HSUS — “reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods” (in their own words). The HSUS is not about pet shelters, unwanted animal rescues or adopting a cat. It is not affiliated with local humane societies.
At some point on Feb. 3, the Alliance “tweeted” about it (Twitter is an online instant message kind of network), and ag folks also picked up on the news of the Yellow Tail donation, sent the news racing through the Twitterverse, and started complaining on the wine company’s Facebook page.
It was kind of like the old commercial for Faberge shampoo: “I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on …”
By late afternoon Feb. 3, agvocates had created a “Yellow Fail” Facebook page, which now has 1,686 fans as of Tuesday morning (Feb. 9). Pictures were posted of the wine being poured into a toilet, and fifth generation rancher in South Dakota, Troy Hadrick, videotaped himself in front of his cattle, expressing his disgust at the donation and poured a bottle of Yellow Tail wine onto the snow. So far, the 53-second video has been watched 3,095 times on YouTube. (Scroll down to watch this video)
Then Yellow Tail USA posted this Tweet: “Lots of conversation here today; we’re listening. Check back soon, we’ll be announcing news shortly on our [tails] for Tails program.”
And by 4:08 p .m. Feb. 4, the wine company offered this update: “We’ve decided to use our $100K gift to aid animal rescue.”
In direct comments to individuals who e-mailed the company, Yellow Tail Wines USA said the recent feedback “was very helpful to us — in fact, it prompted us to specifically choose the areas where we’d most like to celebrate animals. …We hope that you will understand that this allocation of money is a direct result of hearing your concerns.”
Reading between the lines, you get the feeling that Yellow Tail felt it had to honor its stated donation commitment or face the legal wrath of HSUS. “We may not always agree 100 percent of what an organization represents, but rescuing animals displaced from natural disasters is a cause we support.”
So the money still goes to HSUS, only now it’s earmarked for its Animal Rescue Team.
The Yellow Tail/Yellow Fail information has spread across the Internet faster than last Friday’s snow piled up. In the computer world, citizen activism gets kicked up a notch, and this viral blitz goes to show you that the farm world is part of the loop.
Think social media is a fad, or the Internet isn’t worth exploring? Think again, as you consider the ag folks who swept the nation with their messages on your behalf last week.
Now it’s your turn to tell two friends.
(Note, if you’re on Twitter, you can follow the hashtag #yellowfail to monitor the conversation.)