NFU practical farm advice for dealing with activists

This month has seen an unparalleled step up in activist activity on farm and online, coinciding with the dairy industry’s #Februdairy promotional campaign.

Reports of trespassing, threats of violence and barrages of false reports of animal cruelty against farmers of all types has led the NFU to redistribute its farm guide on dealing with activists and extremists.

The guide provides farmers with tips and step-by-step advice on managing situations, from criminal activity to false job applications, drone flying and social media tips.

See also: Death threat vegans bombard award-winning dairy farmers

How to minimise the risk of being targeted by animal right extremists/activists

  • Leave your farm as you wish it to be found – don’t give the activists anything they can use against you.
  • Consider how someone might access the farm – vulnerable points of entry which could provide easy access such as public footpaths or gates hidden from view.
  • Look into the use of CCTV or time-lapse cameras positioned at the vulnerable points in your farm. If you have CCTV ensure it is working.
  • Consider contacting the crime reduction officer at your local police force who can advise on lighting, CCTV and physical barriers to entry.
  • Talk to your neighbours and local rural community, keep an eye out for each other. Also consider speaking to your local neighbourhood watch.
  • If the public are regularly on your premises because of a farm diversification (for example due to a campsite or farm shop) make clear the areas which are not accessible to the public are clearly signposted.

Useful phone numbers

  • Police emergency line 999
  • Police non-emergency line 101
  • NFU CallFirst 0370 845 8458
  • BT malicious calls bureau 0800 661 441

The key points of the guide are:

Standard police reporting procedure

Most of the following incidents require farmers to undertake the following procedure for reporting crimes to the police. If harassment is directed to you or your family you should dial 999 immediately.

  1. Dial the police non-emergency number (101) and tell the operator you want to report a crime.
  2. Give your location and  postcode and describe the incident.
  3. Gather as much evidence as possible, including descriptions of perpetrators and vehicle registrations. Only take photos and videos if it is safe to do so.
  4. Keep a copy of your witness statement, crime number and photos of the activity or damage.

More information can be found at www.police.co.uk

The NFU document describes how best producers can react to the following scenarios.

A crime is taking place OR there is a suspicious person or vehicle on farm?

  • Producers should call 999 immediately if activists are harassing your family or causing you alarm or distress or if a crime is taking place.
  • As well as calling the police, follow the standard police reporting procedure (above).
  • If you do catch activists on farm remain calm and ask them to leave.

There is a suspicious person or vehicle near the farm?

  • Do not wait until the next day – report the vehicle to police the same day it is spotted.
  • Then follow the standard police reporting procedure.
  • Any photos or videos of the incident or vehicle should be kept safe.

I suspect someone has been on the farm, what should I do?

  • If you believe you have been the victim of an incursion, follow the police reporting procedure, remembering to preserve and protect evidence.
  • Be vigilant, particularly for hidden surveillance cameras or devices. If found, the standard police reporting procedure.
  • It is illegal to fit spy cameras to a business or residential property that you do not own or in which you do not have legal occupancy.

I have been contacted by the media concerning animal welfare allegations?

  • Do not make immediate comment and instruct staff to do likewise.
  • Take the details of the media contact and the allegations they are making. You are entitled to see photos and footage and to know when the incident is alleged to have taken place.
  • Contact your processor and farm assurance body and pass the above details over immediately.
  • Also consider contacting your vet or retailer if member of an aligned milk pool.
  • If you have any media enquiries contact NFU CallFirst 0370 845 8458 who can transfer you to the relevant team to advise whether the call is genuine and can provide advice on communicating with the media.

I have received a suspicious, threatening or malicious telephone call?

  • If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
  • Remain calm on the phone and try to collect as much useful information as possible, including their name and reason for call without giving away any of your details.
  • Follow the standard police reporting procedure.
  • Never delete any voicemail messages and if possible record any phonecalls.
  • If activity persists contact BT malicious calls bureau (0800 661 441) and follow their advice.

I am concerned prospective employees, vet students or work experience applicants may not be genuine

  • Ensure you have a vetting process for prospective workers.
  • Anybody genuinely applying for a role should be willing to provide certain basic information and references.
  • Always refer to the schools, colleges or university with students.
  • If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

I have a drone flying around my farm, I think it could be carrying out surveillance.

  • An operator should be within sight of their drone. If you can locate them, approach and ask them to desist in a civil manner – they may be a genuine hobbyist. Never attempt to forcibly take the controls.
  • If the operator cannot be located, record photo or video evidence if safe to do so.
  • Report incident to the Police using 101, unless there is an imminent danger to people or livestock in which case call 999.
  • Never shoot down the drone. This is criminal damage and could lead to prosecution. For further guidance visit NFU Online or call NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458.

Social media best practise advice

  • Engage with members of the public and make the case for farming.
  • Be balanced, positive and polite.
  • Avoid giving details that identify or locate your farm on social media.
  • Remove any personal details including phone numbers, and email addresses.
  • Google yourself and your business to see how much of your personal information is readily available the public.
  • Avoid engaging directly with animal rights activists.
  • Take screenshots of or print any evidence of abuse/harassment as post can be and often are deleted.
  • If using Facebook for your business, ensure any public comments on your page have to be approved by you first.

Getting started

  • Ensure yourself and staff are all familiarised with the above procedures.
  • Develop a key contact sheet with the numbers and details of individuals or organisations referenced above.
  • Include the key information required by police: main contact, business name, address including postcode and the grid reference if possible.
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