Canadian Poultry Magazine

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Cyberbullying by vegan activists a source of stress for farmers


September 16, 2019
By Canadian Poultry Staff

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Cyberbullying by vegan activists is a growing source of stress for farmers and agricultural producers who already face significant mental health challenges linked to the job, a farmer and a psychologist working in the agriculture sector say.

Farmer Mylene Begin, who co-owns Princy farm in Quebec’s Abitibi-Temiscamingue region, created an Instagram account a few years ago to both document daily life on the farm and combat what she calls “disinformation and the negative image,’’ of agriculture.

Today, she describes herself as the target of bullying from vegan activists.

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Begin recently changed the settings on her account after having to get up an hour early to delete more than 100 negative messages a day – some of which made her fear for her safety, she says.

“There was one that took screenshots of my photos, he shared them on his feed after adding knives to my face and writing the word ‘psychopath’ on my forehead,’’ the 26-year-old says. “It made me so scared.’’

She says some of the messages compared artificial insemination of cows to rape, while others used the words “kidnapping’’ and “murder’’ to describe the work of cattle breeders.

The problem, she says, is that many city people don’t understand agriculture but become severe critics nonetheless.

“It affects you psychologically. It’s very heavy even if we try not to read (the comments),’’ she says. “The population has become disconnected from agriculture. We all have a grandfather who did it, but today in the eyes of many people we’re rapists and poisoners, and that’s what hurts me the most.’’

Pierrette Desrosiers, a psychologist who works in the agricultural sector, says bullying on the part of hardcore vegan activists on social media is a new source of stress for a growing number of farmers.

“At school, the children of farmers start to be bullied and treated as the children of polluters, or else the kids repeat what they see on social media and say breeders rape the cows (when artificially inseminating),’’ she says.

“It’s now a significant source of stress for producers, and it didn’t exist a year or two ago.’’

Desrosiers, a farmer’s daughter and wife, is critical of the communications strategy used by certain animals rights groups and vegan associations.

“They use words like ‘rape’ and ‘murder’ to strike the imagination,’’ she says. “It’s anthropomorphism,’’ she added, referring to the attribution of human traits and emotions to animals and objects.

Beginning last year, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food spent several months studying the mental health challenges facing farmers, ranchers and agricultural producers.

The report, completed in May, found that farmers are vulnerable to mental health problems due to “uncertainties that put them under significant pressure,’’ including weather and environmental challenges, market fluctuations, debt, and paperwork.