Initiative prepares students to be ag advocates as animal rights activists spread misinformation

Eliminating animal agriculture farms of all types and sizes was a key message shared at the 2017 National Animal Rights Conference last month. Spreading misinformation and wedging themselves between consumers and the animal agriculture community is common for animal rights groups to reach their goals, and college students are a key target. “How to engage with millennials and gen X-ers should be our number one question,” said one activist speaking at the conference, with another urging the audience to look to land-grant universities to bring future animal rights activists into the movement.

Seeing this trend, the Animal Agriculture Alliance launched the College Aggies Online (CAO) scholarship program in 2009 as one way to help bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. This year’s competition begins Sept. 10, 2017, with the goal of developing life-long advocates for agriculture. Registration for the competition is open to individuals and clubs through Oct. 1 at https://collegeaggies.animalagalliance.org/.

“Animal rights groups are prevalent on college campuses spreading misinformation about America’s farmers and ranchers using ‘undercover’ video footage, Meatless Mondays petitions, and other tactics,” said Kay Johnson Smith, president and CEO at the Alliance. “CAO is a way to ensure agriculture students have the tools they need to share factual, science-based information with their peers about how our food is produced.”

Each week students competing in CAO will complete assignments and participate in webinars to help enhance their communication and advocacy skills. Assignments include: writing a blog post, designing an infographic, surveying fellow students about agriculture issues and much more. Students will also create social media content to share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CAO17.

“College Aggies gives students the skills and confidence to speak up against misinformation and set the record straight,” said Casey Whitaker, communications manager at the Alliance. “The clubs and students involved will not only learn how to communicate about animal agriculture, but have the opportunity to network with college students and industry leaders from across the country.”

The Alliance has a put together a strong lineup of industry professionals to offer advice and answer questions throughout the competition. Mentors will also judge assignments and social media posts and give tips and feedback on how students can improve their strategies.

 

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