Check below for a hiring checklist from various organizations.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Hiring new employees can be a tedious process, no matter what kind of business you operate. You want people who will work hard, do the job right, be honest and represent your operation in a good way.
For livestock farmers, hiring has become increasingly complicated as they must consider whether an applicant is actually an undercover animal rights activist, destined to put them out of business.
All are vulnerable
Hiring an activist can spell disaster for your farm, as two Ohio operations found out this year. And it can happen at any farm, in any county.
“The activist tactic of obtaining illicit employment at a farm or processing plant in order to obtain video intended to malign the reputation of farmers and ranchers is becoming increasingly common,” reports Animal Agriculture Alliance — an advocacy group comprised of farmers and farm businesses.
“While animal abuse in any shape or form is never condoned by the agriculture industry, activists use highly edited images of violence and neglect to prey on the emotions of the public.”
But farmers have tools to help them avoid hiring someone who is opposed to what they do.
Organizations like Animal Agriculture Alliance, and Ohio Livestock Coalition, have compiled extensive checkpoints and measures all farmers should consider before, during and after their interview with an applicant. No list will fool-proof a farm, but each point could help.
Some of the advice is common sense — check all references, pay attention to how the employee looks and acts.
One of the most important steps is to require new employees to sign a strict animal care agreement, said Sarah Hubbart, communications coordinator for Animal Ag Alliance.
Not only does this help ensure care for the animals, it also ensures a timeline for employees to report any issues, a designated person to whom they should report, and a designated method.
F237A,Hubbart said one of the problems of not enforcing a timeline is that some animal rights groups delay reporting the mistreatment, sometimes for months.
“We’ve seen that these videos (produced) sometimes weeks and months before they’re released,” she said.
In Ohio, the group Mercy For Animals recorded video of dairy cattle being struck with metal bars and poked with a pitchfork at Conklin Dairy Farms in April and May, but did not report it until four weeks later.
MFA also sent an undercover filmer to Buckeye Veal in Wayne County in April and recorded what it called cruelty to calves. That footage was not released until September.
Animal Ag Alliance reports some farms also are becoming destinations for acts of terror. Producers, processors, feed companies, suppliers and others have become targets for vandalism, explosive devices and Internet security breaches.
“In the past few years, we’ve seen a significant increase in activity by Animal Liberation Front and the Environmental Liberation Front — both classified by the FBI as domestic terrorist organizations,” the organization reports.
Here are some of the most important considerations before, during and after hiring a farm worker. These measures protect the welfare of the animals, and the people who work on the farm:
• Ensure top quality animal care is provided at all times. Farmers should take extra precautions to prevent getting targeted by animal rights groups by ensuring a specific animal care standard is in place, including acceptable ways of reporting misconduct, and a time frame for making reports. Consider having your policy reviewed by an attorney, and require each employee to sign it.
• Contact all references, and any other background information. If you feel suspicious about an employee or a job applicant, there’s probably a reason.
• Network with other livestock producers and supply companies. Ask what kinds of issues they’ve experienced and share your own. Animal Ag Alliance has pictures of undercover activists on its website. Study these, hang them in your place of employment and share them with fellow farmers.
• Establish a relationship with local law enforcement. Assure them you want to do things right, but are concerned about illegal activity and anything that could put you, your farm or your animals at risk. Unauthorized farm visitors can cause biosecurity concerns for your operation.
• Evaluate every request for information about your operation, even the most routine. Don’t fall prey to false praise and never agree to a suspicious request until you have verified the validity of the request. Whenever possible, require requests for sensitive information or tours be in writing.
Here are some things that should cause concern when hiring, and with farm visitors:
• Unusual behavior by new employees or workers who have no reason to be in the facility past their hourly shift. Pay attention to workers who keep odd hours, who access files and information outside their area of responsibility, or ask questions about sensitive information.
• Workers who resist following your policies or who have issues with unannounced property checks while at work.
• Increased interest in on-farm tours, calls and letters questioning or criticizing your business or practices.
• Applicants who want to work for little or no pay, so they allegedly can gain experience.
• Employees who volunteer for jobs below their ability level, but would provide them more access to the animals. Volunteering for jobs before or after normal business hours.
• Befriending or mingling with upper management, and asking questions about security or time schedules.
• Any mismatches in information, including use of an out-of-state driver’s license.
For more information on forming and enforcing an animal care policy specific to your farm, and for safeguarding your operation from invasive animal rights activists, visit:
• www.animalagalliance.org/current/index.cfm, or