Don't let facts get in the way of a good stirring
OPINION: I feel like a bug biting the bum of an elephant in the room but I am going in for a chew anyway. The pachyderm in this picture which I am provoked to take a poke at with my humble proboscis is the emotional untruthful propaganda which has now become common and is so disturbingly and divisively anti-farming.
Peace is defined as "the state existing during the absence of war; a state of harmony between people or groups". One very prominent outspoken movement is sadly and ironically labelled. I'm referring to Greenpeace. The group blazons this word "peace" in its name and yet its words are fighting talk and the activities of members create confusion, disharmony and discrimination.
A meeting invitation I received from the "eco Agriculture crew" uses loaded words like "extreme proposal," " toxic", "they are coming for...". One advertisement on television made and paid for by this "peace" organisation implied that all dairy farmers are vile polluters.
That rash, incorrect message is as bad as stereotyping all members of a certain religion to be radical and dangerous extremists as one well known politician is currently suggesting. President Donald Trump is receiving worldwide ridicule for this stand and rightly so. Groups who use labels and misconceptions to create misunderstanding and incite division among people in our own country are no less bullies. There is a saying "don't let the facts get in the way of a good story". These anti-agriculture communications are only opinions and they certainly don't let facts get in the way of a good stirring.
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If "dangerous" is the opposite of "safe" then there is another radical ill-informed group also contradictorily named. One campaign lobbying against wool showed a sheep nearly skinned and dead. The truth is that shorn sheep are alive, healthy and sustainably producing another fleece.
A recent campaign saw trespassers illegally skulking around on farms planting hidden cameras to record supposed mistreatment of calves. They were unable to find significant breaches. Undeterred, they shrewdly merged old footage to make dramatic images and didn't let facts get in the way of a good stirring. Disappointingly, this was publicised as "news" with media not checking how authentic, reliable and current the "news" was. The presumed aim of this group is protecting animals but there could be a hidden agenda with letters standing for "Send All Farmers Extinct".
On a local level we have gatherings of people who call themselves "Friends" of whatever, which has the unfortunate inference that those of us not subscribing must therefore be Enemies. Many of the activities of this group are not particularly friendly and neighbourly either such as when a farmer felled some trees to clear a paddock. "Friends" made an outcry with pages of letters in the local paper and graffiti on the road. The 100 trees were willow with a few totara, which iwi had been consulted about, but those facts were lost in the ensuing drama and emotion. Those 100 trees became 100 totara trees, and soon 100 100-year-old totara trees.
It is so easy for the public to get caught up in these sneaky ploys of disseminating false information, insinuations and allegations. It is called propaganda and it's damaging, dangerous and divisive. In a school yard it would be recognised as bullying and not tolerated because of the fear, disrespect, isolation and mistrust it builds up. This year being an election year will no doubt mean we endure more of these underhanded non-factual attacks taking up radio and television time and space in papers. Please be careful not to swallow too much of this stuff dressed up as truth. It is poisonous and causes severe cases of negativity and suspicion. Overdosing results in self-righteousness, a empathy deficiency and a tendency to forget that people who are set up as targets are not just objects with labels but are actually humans with minds and emotions who are a valuable part of our community and country.
It's much better to work more positively and cooperatively. If that peace group really was concerned about rivers then it would be better if they spent time and funds building fences and working with farmers and councils. If the animal group really was concerned about what is going on behind farm gates then a friendly approach to get to know a farmer and his/her family would be helpful. If the media really wanted news there is plenty of positives to report about progress on management of water and soils, environment, stock and farm practices and kilometres of fences.
One bug on its own can be ignored, or even squashed, but a cloud of bugs may make even an elephant change position, especially buzzing in the ears.
Joyce Wyllie is a sheep farmer at Kaihoka in Golden Bay.