Today as I was reading an article online I came across the term FUD and it really hit home for me. FUD is an acronym for fear, uncertainty and doubt. This tactic has been around since the dawn of time and has been used extensively in sales, marketing, propaganda and politics. In general, FUD is a strategy to influence perception by the dissemination of negative, dubious or false information. Do you know of any organizations using FUD to discount animal agriculture? We all do and the examples are numerous.
So what do we do in the face of this onslaught? Americans as a whole have become more and more removed from farming. Even people who live in rural communities have very little knowledge of how modern farming is conducted. For many, their only connections to farming are corn mazes, pick-your-own strawberries and petting zoos. We in the livestock industry need to work together to initiate discussions that give our point of view and make what we do more transparent to the general public. We need to remind them that family farms come in all shapes and sizes. We’re all on the same side!
Telling our story is important! If we don’t tell our story, someone else will and it likely won’t be accurate! One of the problems is that the more we ourselves know, the more we assume that others know. This simply isn’t true. We can’t assume that the public knows even the most basic aspects of what we do or why we do what we do. For example, we need to explain why we dock tails on lambs and clip teeth on pigs and how it benefits both the animals and the farmer.
How do we tell our story? The opportunities for telling our story about animal agriculture are endless! Of course, there are bloggers (I encourage you to follow Dairy Carrie and Feedyard Foodie for some excellent examples of positive portrayals of agriculture. If others have suggestions for great blogs please share them in the comments section below this blog.) and those who produce wonderful video posted to YouTube. These are great! But don’t think that you can’t contribute if you aren’t an accomplished writer or don’t know a thing about video editing. There is always social media. You can post photos and commentary about your farming practices or even short, unedited video to a variety of social media (FaceBook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, etc). Sharing these with your non-farming friends, increases awareness. And then there are our interactions with strangers: the conversation with the person next to you on the airplane, chatting with the person in the grocery store check-out line, the good-natured discussion with the parent sitting next to you at football practice. It is important that the public is able put a face to agriculture, to see that we are people too that reside in the community with them with the same values and concerns. They are going to be a lot less likely to believe the negative propaganda if they can say, “Hey, I know a farmer and they are nothing like what is being described.” If you take away anything from this blog, just remember that we all have a part in telling our story to the world. So go out today; chat with the first person you see and tell your story!