I did it to myself. I clicked a link for an article bad-mouthing agriculture authored by a publication that has never been friendly to farmers But as a livestock owner, mother and concerned citizen, I wanted and needed to see what this group was saying about antibiotic use in livestock.
Turns out it was nothing new. The same old finger-pointing and miss-representation of the issue and the fact. And I could have stopped there. Opting to move on and keep my opinions to myself. But I did it. I kept scrolling . . . right down to the comment section.
I hadn’t commented on an article in a while. And I quickly remembered why. The section should come with a warning: “Enter at your own risk. Reading comments can lead to high blood pressure, headaches and anxiety.”
In today’s digital world, the comment section of any online article has become a digital playground dominated by a pack of demeaning and malicious activists with no intentions of learning from the other side.
As a agriculture advocate, it is my job and passion to work with others to explain the other side of the issue and exchange thoughts, ideas and concerns. I aim for a dialogue and honest, respectable conversation focused on the issue, not the person.
It didn’t take long for the hate to find me. After commenting on a few errors in the article, I found myself bombarded by two brash and vile readers with no limits and no filter.
A self-described 51-year-old vegan triathlete expressed her delight in the idea of my drinking myself to death. “We would all be happier,” she wrote. What?!? Hiding behind a screen name and avatar, she asked no questions and quickly moved to name calling and insulting. Apparently she’s not a fan of meat-eaters and livestock producers. It was spectacular how childish an adult could act when protected by a computer screen and anonymity.
A second gentleman asked if he could eat my child if he got hungry – because that was akin to me raising cattle for beef. I simply had not words. It was obvious they were looking for a fight – not a conversation.
So with elevated blood pressure and a new opinion of humanity, I shut my computer and crawled into bed wondering how we got to this.
When did it become acceptable for adults to name call and belittle people with opposing views? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I follow politics and sports. But I never realized the level of hatred, immaturity and loathsome behavior some people are willing to stoop to over a simple disagreement in dietary choices.
There are many things in this world I don’t agree with but I would never and could never use the language I witnessed in the comment section. This world is dealing with major, complex issues. Wars are raging in the Middle East, displacing millions. African nations are killing their own people and human trafficking is rampant around the globe. Ask a victim of any of those situations and they’ll tell you they don’t care what they eat – they just hope to live to see their next meal.
The growth and efficiency of American agriculture has allowed for a huge diversity in products available to consumers. The ability to choose should be heralded as a benefit of living in America, the land of the free. But choice is instead the catalyst for online, verbal warfare. Americans have the freedom to consume a plant-only or gluten-free diet. They can opt for grass-fed over grain-finished beef and choose locally sourced over imported produce. It’s the result of farmers and ranchers working hard to meet growing consumer demands. Most countries and people have only one choice and sometimes that choice is whether to eat or allow someone else to have the meal. We are blessed beyond belief and we should be thankful.
So to the lady who wishes death upon me and to the gentleman who thinks I’m an idiot a**hole, I hope you enjoy your next meal and I hope you give thanks for the ability to eat three meals a day. It something we should never take for granted. And if you ever have questions or concerns about your food. Ask a farmer or come visit. I’ll be happy to show you around. And I pray you find a more constructive use of your time, energy and passion.