he Issues Management Monthly column highlights the work being done to address beef industry issues by Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) staff, featuring Manager, Public and Stakeholder Engagement Tom Lynch-Staunton. This is Tom’s final installment in this series.
A recent opinion piece in the Globe and Mail “With veganism on the rise, is meat cooked?” by Peter Singer caused quite a stir in the industry, and rightly so. We were concerned about this piece because it had a prominent place in the weekend edition of a national newspaper, was clearly biased, and many of the statements were false, based on old information, or irrelevant to the Canadian context. Consequently, the Public and Stakeholder Engagement team wrote our own opinion piece and a Letter to the Editor to express our side of the story.
The reason I mention this is I am always amazed at the work required to put together these responses, and how many people are involved. Although our piece was submitted by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), it was put together with the involvement of many individuals, either providing information or through editing versions of the article. Much of the factual, scientific, or statistical information we already had on hand, and was contributed previously with the help of many other internal and external organizations.
Although there are only two full time Public and Stakeholder Engagement staff dedicated to addressing consumer questions and concerns, there are so many more in the industry who are part of the team and have made significant contributions to helping advance consumer confidence. I am proud of how we have come together as national and provincial organizations to share information and contribute to issues management and public engagement. As we have addressed issues throughout the last two years, I can’t express enough my gratitude for the help across the country from our beef organizations who have provided content, information, editing, regional perspectives and keeping us all up to date on consumer concerns as they arise. It has certainly become a team approach for the benefit of the industry, and I am excited to see these relationships grow even stronger as the Public and Stakeholder Engagement program moves into its next phase. Of course, we aren’t always perfect, but the internal connectivity will continue to strengthen.
Within industry, we have our differences of opinion yet we all share the ultimate goal of maintaining a viable and sustainable beef industry. Knowing this shared goal exists should help us support one another for the benefit of the industry as a whole. Respectful dialogue and debate, patience, and empathy for each other’s positions will keep our relationships strong and focused on those shared goals. Add transparency to the mix and undoubtedly, we will build a strong relationship with our consumers and the public.
It is great to see external partnerships strengthen as well. As an example, we recently had a series of very good meetings with the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to hopefully work on some educational content regarding beef producers’ contributions to native grassland conservation, including enhancements to biodiversity and wildlife habitat. These types of partnerships will help us tell some of the good stories we have to the public, to improve the image of our industry, and also help the public become more engaged in helping us preserve natural habitat – which is a shared value between us and the ROM. Again, this meeting was not just with the CCA Public and Stakeholder Engagement staff, but included other CCA staff and directors, CRSB staff, Beef Farmers of Ontario and World Wildlife Fund US. We were able to present information, including additional facts contributed by academic partners such as the Universities of Alberta and Saskatchewan. As well the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association provided information about their work with Grasslands National Park where cattle are used as a tool to improve range health in the park. So, just in this discussion we had contributions of seven organizations working on mutual goals.
It all reminds me of the saying – “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Much like that concept, that improvements in the general economy will benefit all participants in that economy, having industry come together to fulfill the objectives of the Connectivity pillar of the National Beef Strategy will benefit all our organizations and build a stronger connection to consumers and the public, the media, and other external organizations.
On a personal note, this will be my final column as I pass the reins to Jill Harvie, who is taking over from me as the Public and Stakeholder Engagement Manager. It has been a great pleasure working with all the beef organizations across Canada and thank you to everyone who helped build the program with us.