Anyone who has been involved with agriculture, animal breeding, or any other animal-related activity has dealt with animal rights activists at one point or another. But new members in the self-sufficiency/sustainable meat production movement are often surprised by just how vicious some people can be. Unfortunately, if you make yourself known to the public (and oftentimes even if you don’t) you will encounter a few radical animal rights activists sooner or later. It is essential that you respond to them appropriately to protect your reputation, your animals, and your family. Exactly how you can do that is what we will be talking about today.
Know the Difference Between Animal Welfare and Animal Rights
If you are currently trying to raise your own meat animals or get involved in local agriculture, I have no doubt that you care about animal welfare. Most of us got the motivation to cut the cord from the industrial food system after watching just how destructive and abusive it was to animals, people, and the planet. An animal welfare advocate (like you and me) cares deeply about their animals. They recognize that these animals are performing a noble purpose and that we should be grateful for what they do for us. We work extremely hard to make sure they lead good lives and have all their needs taken care of. Most importantly, when it comes time to process them, we use human practices and ensure they experience no pain or fear. We recognize that as humans, we are unique from other animals. But we also recognize that this uniqueness means we have a responsibility to our animals to ensure that they do not suffer in any way when they are in our care.
The animal rights movement is different because it is a fundamentalist ideology, remarkably similar to a religion. You are either a believer and thus “good” or you are against them and thus “evil”. To an animal rights activist, ALL animals have the same unalienable rights that humans have. If you kill and eat rabbits, no matter how good the rabbit's life is, no matter how quickly and humanely it was killed, you are committing a murder similar to walking up to a stranger and killing them. Similarly, if you breed your animals, you are allowing rape to happen as if you stood by while a person was being raped. This kind of extreme and narrow thinking is precisely why animal rights activists are so vicious and will not listen to anything you say no matter how much data and evidence you provide them.
Bottom line: Animal welfare advocates are people who care deeply about animals and recognize their responsibility to provide good care and prevent suffering. Animal rights activists are more similar to religious zealots who see the world in black and white, for or against them.
Don’t Get Upset When You Are Attacked
Not all animal rights activists are completely radical, and most of them are perfectly nice people outside of animal rights. With that being said, the ferocity of their attacks can often surprise someone who is not used to it. This goes doubly so for “cute” animals like rabbits.
Typically, the attack will be unsolicited. Maybe you are trying to advertise your animals or products, you might be trying to network with other breeders, or post a video on YouTube. The point is you will usually have done nothing to provoke the attack. Most farmers and breeders are EXTREMELY respectful about putting images or videos up that are graphic or possibly offensive. When they do post these kinds of things there is almost always a long disclaimer warning people what is coming. While this is a good practice that I recommend you do, there will still be people seeking to harass you.
The most common attack is an extremely insulting post, comment, or message designed to get a reaction out of you. I have been called, disgusting, a monster, evil, a murder, etc. The best thing to do here is simply block the person and try to move on with your day. Remember: These people are blinded by ideology and don’t realize the full effect of their actions. Don’t take it personally.
The second most common thing you will see is people trying to “educate” you on why what you're doing is wrong. Personally, these kinds of posts don’t bother me although many people still choose to just block and ignore them. If you have a little extra time on your hands you can engage with them if you want. Try emphasizing the commonalities you share. Point out to them that you care deeply about your animals, but that you know they are not the same as a human. You could mention all the benefits for the planet that comes from producing your own meat or focus on the fact that you both view industrial factory farms and slaughterhouses as a problem. Unfortunately, this conversation is not likely to go anywhere. I don’t think anyone has been shaken out of their ideological beliefs over the internet, and you probably won't make an impact. The main goal here is to show people that animal breeders and farmers are PEOPLE just like everyone else. Always remain calm and respectful, and if you feel your temper rising, just stop the conversation.
If this was the only thing that happened with animal rights activists, I probably would not have to write this post. Unfortunately, there is a substantial minority of animal rights activists who take their beliefs to an even more extreme place. These people are comfortable using violence, threats of violence, slander, lies, and protests to try and ruin your life. This may only be an issue for you if you are really active online or your community is near an urban area where farming and self-sufficiency are not common (LA, NYC, etc.).
I have known many people who have experienced different types of harassment in one form or another. Common tactics include threatening you or your family, death threats or implied death threats, threats to steal your animals or destroy your property, and attempts to spam or hack your online presence. While this experience is not fun and can often be very scary, you do have a couple of options for dealing with it.
The first is to remember that most of the filth that will be spewed at you is just words and is very unlikely to result in any real action. Whatever you do, DO NOT RESPOND OR ENGAGE. These are often traps to get you to threaten or attack them and thus make the animal rights activist the victim and show just how cruel you meat-eaters (farmers, breeders, whatever) really are.
The best thing to do is to report them on whatever platform you are on, or if it is serious enough, make a report to the police. It's smart to make sure you don’t have your address or other sensitive personal information online and try to avoid letting strangers into your place unless you have thoroughly vetted them.
Get Informed and Remember, You Are Doing the Right Thing.
There is a mountain of evidence that shows how producing meat locally, (particularly rabbit) is good for the planet, your health, and your community. The fact is that we are all against the industrial agricultural system, and we work hard not to be a part of it.
There is also a growing body of evidence that veganism is not the most environmentally friendly diet. As a matter of fact, plants flown in from around the country, and the world are significantly worse for the planet than meat produced in your backyard. If you are seeking to minimize your impact on the planet then you have to eat local. Incidentally, it is impossible to eat a locally sourced, healthy, vegan diet in most of the world.
(I will be writing a separate article on all things wrong with veganism and other trendy diets and I will link to it here when it's up.)
I don’t really need to explain to you all the awesome things that result from producing your own food, you already know! The important thing is to not lose sight of this when you're attacked by angry animal rights activists.
At the end of the day, there will always be these types of people in the world. Humans blindly following an ideology and attacking the “others” who don't is as old as civilization. The most important thing is to not let it derail you and to keep yourself, your family, and your animals safe.
The best defense we have against ideologically driven radicals is the support of our communities! That's why it's so important to stand up and speak out for what we believe in. The more people who produce their own meat, and breed their own animals, the more power we will have. The more children who learn where meat comes from and how to butcher animals, the more educated our people will be. The more urban people we can educate and can sell to the more allies we will have. The solution for rabbit breeders, small farmers, and producers in general is to avoid giving in to the temptation to hide. That's what they want! We need to step out and fight for what we know is right, and the best way to do that is through education and understanding, not by getting into Facebook fights with radicals.
Throughout history, doing the right thing has usually been scary, unpopular, and even dangerous. But the local meat movement is gaining momentum, and you are helping to make it happen. Never forget that and never lose faith.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your rabbits!