Like many of us, I try not to be too engaged in social media. However, it turns out I am a sucker for farming posts, and the comments section of farming stories in our national media. I sometimes waste a good hour or so if a farming article has resulted in a slurry of anti-farming rants – I am fascinated by who comments, and what they have to say. Farmers and non-farmers all have pretty much the same DNA, so I do see rude and disrespectful comments from both on occasion. But by far, the most angry, seething, hateful comments seem to come from people who I can only describe as angry vegans. I hope this doesn’t sound disrespectful, I just can’t come up with another term to describe people who’s hatred of farming means they have no worries putting complete fabrications in their comments, or making comments with no thought as to the impact their statements may have on others.
If you are Vegan, and you choose not to eat, wear or have anything to do with animal products, that’s ok. I understand veganism when it is lived in accordance with a low consumption, low impact, low stress and intentional life philosophy. A philosophy where the impact is considered at all levels of consumption: you buy a cellphone, tv or appliance, choose to drive or fly, eat out, or buy a t-shirt. And a philosophy where your impact on others is also considered.
I also get from a health perspective that a diet that is predominantly vegetables and some fruit is so much better for you than the standard processed diet of many westernised communities. However, the inclusion of meat and dairy certainly makes it a whole lot easier to obtain all the essential vitamins, minerals and amino-acids to perform at your best. And that’s without considering how much better a big green salad tastes with some hot off the grill grass-fed beef and a few slices of haloumi on top.
Eating quality grass-fed meat and dairy will always be a part of my life, even as I consciously reduce my consumption habits (a lifetime of work). But I’m ok if its not part of your life. I also get it if you genuinely are healthier and ‘run better’ when you exclude meat and dairy products, although I feel that most people probably do better with at least some red meat in their diet.
But from another health perspective, I don’t get how someone, anyone, who lives in New Zealand, a country where we strive for tolerance and understanding; and celebrate our bi-parsitanism and the benefits of our low population, can be so blimmin angry to fellow New Zealanders, who differ only from you in that they produce and/or eat meat and dairy for a living. Surely the anger and viterol must be incredibly unhealthy for people who I’m sure rate their inner healthfulness pretty highly. I worry for their hateful (and mostly inaccurate) posts and feel genuinely sorry for the effect that the adrenalin and cortisol dumping must be having on their bodies.
Go ahead, ask the questions about the state of our environment – how are we going with water quality, what direction are we heading? How long will it take to get our waterways where we want them? Are we measuring the carbon we are building in our soils? How are farmers helping control pests?
Go ahead, question the treatment of animals on farm – when do farmers use antibiotics? How is a cattle beast slaughtered? What are we thinking about when we shift animals from one paddock into another, when we make fertiliser decisions? How do we feel when we need to treat an animal who is sick or dying?
Go ahead, question what we do as farmers, whether we produce meat, wool, milk, fruit or veges. Ask about why we do that organically, biologically, conventionally.
But why not question in a way that may lead to a conversation that is respectful, increases understanding both ways, and is potentially enlightening for everybody? And keep those stress hormones nice and low.
The most interesting conversations are the ones where you cast aside your assumptions and attitude, and quietly listen to what someone else is saying. There are some passionate vegans out there that could really increase their understanding of primary production by doing this.
My hope for 2017? Question away, leave your assumptions on the floor and enjoy engaging with diverse perspectives!