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A few bad apples: Stop telling farmers to commit suicide

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If you’re seeking out a way NOT to do animal activism, some vegan advocates out of New Zealand have some hot tips for you! Simply start telling folks to kill themselves, and congrats, you’re officially That Asshole Vegan.

In all seriousness, when those of us in the vegan community use attacks encouraging suicide as a means to punish farmers, it usually just results in news organizations cherry picking those nasty individuals out and making an entire movement look bad. Not a single organization condones this kind of violent rhetoric, so it’s unfair to say that “vegans encourage people they disagree with to die.” That’s a very broad statement, and is entirely the fault of pissy Facebook commenters who refuse to think before they speak.

“The level of vitriol against farmers has risen “dramatically,” say two women dairy workers who started up Facebook pages supporting farmers after abuse of bobby calves was made public late last year. Some of the posts to the pages have urged farmers to take their own lives. The women fear such verbal attacks may lead to an actual increase in farmer suicides, which are higher than for the urban population.

This is a fairly large statement to be making, so let’s take a step back from it for a moment and really think it over. There are some layers worth examining. Criticizing farmers and expressing disdain for their abusive and exploitive practices? Let’s chalk that up to just a part of being on the internet. Trust me, I know a thing or two about bullying. I was viciously harassed on the internet after posting an essay yesterday on the topic, and there’s a difference between abusive language and critique. Also, it’s true that farmers are committing suicides in large numbers, but that’s not because of harassment, it’s because farming whether it’s animals or plants, is a high stress job whether or not the farmer logs on to the internet. Climate change, drought, and fluctuating prices are to blame, not internet anger.

That all being said, don’t tell people to take their own lives. Take a deep breath before typing out a death threat, because it reflects poorly on the movement, and more importantly, it’s a shitty, shitty thing to do.

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