The other night, I decided to watch a Netflix original film, “The Stand at Paxton County.” With the help of Protect the Harvest, the movie was produced by Forrest Films. The film is about a US military veteran, Janna Connelly, that gets called back to the United States from Afghanistan to return to the ranch to help her father who had just had a heart attack. When she returns, she finds that her father is facing serious harassment from animal activists. A new government policy, called title 23, threatens their ranching lifestyle. Animal activists in North Dakota have taken advantage of this law, and they influenced their way into the state’s government to get livestock seized from their owners.
Based on a true story, this 2020 thriller sheds light on the tactics that activists are using. A prime example would be a case that happened in 2018. In Gladstone, North Dakota the Dassinger Ranch became a victim of this deception when one of their hired hands would stage photos of animal neglect and abuse to release it to the public. Though his actions were unethical, under North Dakota law, he was protected, and he did not have to face any form of repercussions. This complaint from the disgruntled employee resulted in a person that did not live in the state to file the complaint against the Dassinger Ranch, allowing the state to launch an investigation.
With the help of his daughter, community members, and Protect the Harvest, an organization that works to protect farmer’s rights, the courts dismissed the case due to the lack of concrete and scientific evidence that would prove that the animals were being abused and neglected. However, North Dakota’s policy, 36-01-13 states,
“Any person who discovers, suspects, or has reason to believe that any domestic animal or nontraditional livestock belonging to that person or belonging to any other person, is affected by any reportable contagious disease as defined by the board, shall report that knowledge, suspicion, or belief to the state veterinarian or any other agent or representative of the commissioner,”
making it easy for anyone that has a grudge against a producer to stain the name of a farm or ranch and not experience any legal consequences. While the accused producers have to spend a pile of cash they may not even have on legal expenses, the accuser never has to spend a dime.The example the movie provides is an extreme of the more common problem farmers face with animal activists. However, the infiltration of farms by activists is nothing new.
The tactic of activists making outside accusations that could ruin a farmer’s livelihood poses a threat to the agricultural industry, and this should be an eyeopener for animal owners. The best way to prevent this issue from happening to yourself is to review your state’s laws and ensure you are following every guideline down to a tee because you may never know if someone is closely watching your operation.
I encourage you to watch this movie yourself. I found it to be a nail-biting film, and I really have to give credit to Netflix with creating a film that perfectly highlights an issue that farmers and ranchers face today!