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Reasons to Support Consumer Protection Programs that Encourage Farm Animal Contact

Contamination from E. coli and other enteric pathogens has potentially become the greatest risk to those who support programs that bring humans and farm animals into close proximity, including state and county fairs, animal expositions, petting zoos, agri-tourism and agriculture in the classroom programs.  Recent litigation against fairs and fair operators has signaled an increasing and disturbing new trend in liability.  Whether contamination comes from animal, food, human or water sources, the liability remains high and the stakes critical for anybody involved in bringing humans and animals together in efforts to educate children and provide enhanced rural-to-urban interaction for stronger agricultural interest and understanding.

Recent improvements in the ability to detect E. coli contamination, along with the recent rash of E. coli litigation associated with fairs (Lane County Fair, Oregon in 2002; North Carolina State Fair in 2004; Fort Bend County Fair, Texas in 2004; Central Florida Fair in 2005; Florida Strawberry Festival in 2005; Florida State Fair in 2005), has put the agriculture industry on the defensive, with presumably critical stakes in the game.  By nature, farm animal and human contact areas at fairs, animal expositions, petting zoos and in classrooms present a high potential for contamination, resulting in potential litigation, financial loss and liability if organizers fail to reduce risk and protect their visitors in a “reasonable” manner. 

The International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) has designed and launched a series of State and regional workshops for the purpose of enhancing consumer protection at public events such as fairs, animal expositions, petting zoos and “Ag in the Classroom” settings.  We encourage you to consider the following reasons for funding these important and informative consumer protection workshop programs in your state:

1.       Broad-Based Training Initiative ~ The IAFE Consumer Protection Workshops are designed to appeal to a broad-base of leaders within the agriculture industry.  The two-day session will focus on core principles associated with pathogen reduction, site planning, operational control, contamination control and sanitation.  Those in the agricultural industry who bring farm animals into close contact with humans, including but not limited to the areas of education, tourism, youth programs and commerce will find benefits associated with the program.  Teachers, FFA & 4H Leaders, Fair Leadership and Ag Tourism Leaders are all prime candidates for exposure to the workshop message and principles.

2.     Image Enhancement ~ Media scrutiny and negative consumer perceptions of animal agriculture have increased in the wake of continued outbreaks associated with petting zoos and fair events.  Animal agriculture represents a considerable and significant source of revenue and jobs, and any and all efforts to enhance the consumer perception of farm animals, farm programs and animal agriculture will pay dividends.  In addition to the visible impact of prevention programs such as hand washing stations, promoting proper hygiene and health at animal events is a strong image enhancing opportunity for animal agriculture.

3.     Protecting a “Slice of Americana” ~ County fairs, petting zoos and animal agriculture in the United States represents the heart of the American Culture.  Without enhanced protection programs for those who visit these types of events and interact with farm animals, we stand at risk to lose an important piece of our history and culture.  Strengthening consumer protection programs will support a broad spectrum of industries that rely on this image of “Americana” to lure guests to events that feature or contain farm animals.

4.     Supporting Youth Programs ~ County fairs, state fairs and animal exhibitions serve as the stage for the youth of America who participate in 4H and FFA programs, and provide the network for promoting and teaching our future agricultural leadership about the core principles of business and science.  Without animal exhibitions and farm animals at fairs, an entire generation of youth will be without a mechanism to grow, learn and love the industry that supports them.

5.     Protect Commercial Interests ~ Fairs, expositions and petting zoos support many businesses and families.  Farm animals at these events are shown, sold and/or displayed for commercial purposes, and the loss of this industry would represent a significant potential loss in revenue and business opportunity for those companies and families who rely on animal agriculture as a source of income.

6.     Expanded Interest in Agriculture ~ As America becomes more urbanized the number of people who choose animal agriculture as a vocation is declining.  Agriculture tourism, animal exhibits and teaching programs are effective and useful means to create interest in animal agriculture, and help to create a new generation of veterinarians, farmers and producers.

7.     Insurance Coverage ~ Insurance coverage is a critical component of any commercial business, and fairs, expositions and petting zoos are no exception.  However, insurance carriers are feeling the pressure of recent claims and litigation pertaining to outbreaks associated with petting zoos and fair events.  As a result, there is talk in the industry that insurance carriers may be forced to place riders, exclusions or exemptions on pathogenic contamination or drop coverage altogether.  An event of this magnitude would leave fair organizers, boards of directors and management fully exposed to claims and litigation, and would result in a significant loss in human resources from an important industry.  The insurance industry has lent its support to the IAFE programs and is encouraging training and education efforts as a way to prevent any loss or restriction in coverage.

8.     Cost Effective Training ~ The IAFE workshops are a cost effective way to reach a large group of people associated with animal agriculture.  Participants in the workshops will in turn reach out to an even larger group of exhibitors, vendors, youth leaders and consumers through effective education and information programs.

9.     Provides a “Starter Kit” for Protection ~ The IAFE workshops will assist participants in developing the necessary resources and tools for enhancing consumer protection at fairs, animal expositions, petting zoos and classroom events.  These tools, which include language for signs, procedures and protocols are designed to be customized to each unique facility and will give participants a “running start” at improving consumer protection programs.

10.  Agri-Terrorism Initiative ~ The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for protecting American consumers at public gathering areas, such as fairs and expositions.  Animals, animal agriculture and bio-hazards such as pathogens are realistic sources for agri-terrorism efforts or tampering.  Food, air, water and animals associated with large meeting areas could be compromised by terrorist efforts, placing large numbers of consumers at risk.  Currently, the IAFE workshops are being expanded to address this potential risk, and may be eligible for DHS funding through agri-terrorism prevention programs.


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Last modified: August 25, 2005