Wool’d you believe it?

Today I saw on Facebook that the programme This Morning were running a poll on whether we should consider wearing wool the same as wearing fur, asking their viewers if wool is ‘cruel’ and whether we should follow PETA’s stance and go wool free.

It was quite refreshing to see that the majority of comments were overwhelmingly positive, berating This Morning for trying to make a story out of nothing, and – quite rightly – quoting welfare as the leading reason behind shearing (it certainly isn’t the profit margin!).

But for me it is just another example of how these massive organisations, with a clear bias, can influence so many people who just don’t even think to consider that what the organisation is saying may not be the truth. Organisations such as PETA and other animal rights groups obviously have one aim: To ‘expose’ cruelty to animals, and that is fine. Of course cruelty to animals is not acceptable under ANY circumstances, and as a member of the agricultural industry, I am just as upset and outraged when I see cases of abuse as any animal rights activist.

My issue is with people that see what these organisations post and believe that what they are portraying is the truth across the industry. It so often is not. I see videos used to attack agriculture and farmers on social media all the time, of animal abuse that hasn’t happened in this country, or cases where the abuser has already been prosecuted. I have no issue with people that choose not to eat meat, or follow a vegan diet, or simply just promote animal rights issues. That is your choice. But people see these videos, these photos, this propaganda, and often believe that this is common practice. Sometimes maybe it is common practice, but not in the UK.

If you are concerned about animal welfare on farms, then the single most helpful thing you can do is buy British produce. We have the highest welfare standards in the world. Standards for things that you may not even have thought needed regulating – but they are – because it is important to farmers in this country that our animals are handled correctly, looked after well, and treated with respect.

I think as humans we’ve become lazy. We no longer seem to want to educate ourselves and form an opinion based on research and unbiased information. The first impression we get of something is taken as gospel, we believe the first thing we read or see about something we have no experience in. People that call dairy farmers ‘abusers’, ‘rapists’ and ‘child snatchers’. Calling dairy farming ‘slavery’ and branding it a ‘slaughter industry’. These people may not have even been on a farm, but they’ve formed their opinion based on biased propaganda that has been funded by organisations with an anti-farming agenda.

If you want to educate yourself on animal welfare and farming practices in the UK, be my guest. There are plenty of opportunities out there to go and see farms and see what farming is really like, not what it is like through the eyes of an organisation whose sole aim is to ‘expose’ the industry. Of course, there are going to be people who abuse farm animals, just as there are people who abuse their pets, and their children. You don’t then start to say that all pet owners are abusers, all parents are cruel. The important point to realise is that other farmers are just as disgusted as you when cases of abuse, neglect and cruelty come out. I think some people believe we support the abuser just because they’re also a farmer.

It always astounds me that people who claim to care so much about animals, can be so utterly hateful towards another human. And I know that animal welfare, and the right to life and the exploitation of animals is a passionate subject, I feel passionately about it too, but that never gives you the right to attack others in the way that I have seen farmers attacked on social media. It’s verbal abuse and targeted harassment of an industry that contributes so much to this country, whether you agree with it or not. Farmers don’t take the time out of their day to individually harass people that choose not to eat meat, calling them disgusting names and trying to shame them for their choices. I’ve seen farmers told that their children should be taken away from them, and raised by people who don’t abuse and rape animals.

I’m not sure what more farmers can do. It’s disheartening to see the constant stream of abuse and negative press we get across all platforms. We’ve got Twitter, we’ve got Instagram, we go to shows and supermarkets and have tv programmes aimed at promoting the industry and all the fantastic work we do for our animals and the industry. But do people want to see a thousand videos of sheep being sheared comfortably and without pain, or do they want to see one video of sheep being cut and stamped on and chucked around? Which is more believable as a true representation of the industry, and which makes better viewing?

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