Words cannot change reality but they can change how we think and see this reality. They can alter how we see people and create filters through which we view the world.
Moreover, a single word can have the power to make us like or dislike a person. If you’re told someone is friendly before you meet them, you almost can’t help but see them that way. And it works the other way around; if your friend tells you that your new acquaintance is unreliable, it will be very hard to change your perception.1
As international best-selling author Yehuda Berg noted: “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity … words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.”2
The risk in our hectic world – in which busy people typically consult select and narrow news sources – is that we’re not always aware of the biases in the media we consume (particularly social media).3
We see the same principle at work in the public perception on the role animals play in our lives. While the general population is physically more distant from agricultural practices, they’re also less informed about where their food comes from and animal rights extremists influence this perception by encouraging consumers to see farm animals more like pets.4
They use emotionally-laden words to make the concept of processing and consuming a familiar animal very uncomfortable. It seems to damage an unspoken social contract between human and animal in which the human is obligated at all costs to prolong the life of an animal considered a “pet.”5
Nevertheless, even words that are not necessarily emotionally-laden can – when placed in front of another word – change the meaning. Consider the word ‘big’, which in front of ‘meat’, ‘dairy’ or ‘ag’ (agriculture) no longer means ‘large’, ‘global’ or ‘successful’ – it simply means ‘bad’.6
The livestock community – including farmers, veterinarians, nutritionists and industry associations – understands that animal welfare is a topic of interest, and sometimes deep concern for various consumers.
And so its members have been communicating more actively on the story behind sustainable livestock farming in order to correct some of the misconceptions. And by becoming increasingly transparent so that consumers can make the right decisions.
Just remember – if you have never visited a farm, you may not be sure how animals are raised. Some of the things you read on social media or see in the news might make you question the standards of animal welfare throughout an animal’s life.
Try asking a farmer to help you understand, if only to offer a balanced alternative to what you may have read online. There are many social media channels related to ‘ask a farmer’ you can check out.
Keep in mind that words have power. So please use them wisely – in any situation in life.
6Clare Carlisle, Animal Health Europe, Sustainable Livestock Production in Europe & Consumer Communication Myths challenges & a way forward: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GLkSMUCnOc&t=1s
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