Nip rumors in the bud

Cyndi’s Two Cents

Nip rumors in the bud


As someone who has been in the field of journalism for 37 years, it breaks my heart to see that there are those in this modern media culture who lack integrity in their work and are willing to toss out wild assertions simply because they “heard it” somewhere.

How many consumers believe that something is reasonable and true because they googled it or read it on a friend’s wall on a social media platform? Too many. For the most part, the misinformation that spreads like wildfire is harmless gossip. But that is not always the case.

It felt as though the earth had tipped slightly off its axis in the early morning hours of February 24 as the bully at the helm of Russia launched a large-scale invasion against Ukraine. The rumors and misinformation that ran rampant across social media platforms prior to the invasion and since, is appalling.

Rumors and misinformation about food and farming is nothing new. I doubt that we, farmers, ranchers and those involved in the agriculture industry in general, will ever be able to completely silence those who are determined to spread false information about agriculture, food, and our practices. But, if every one of us would make an effort to stop spreading unsubstantiated rumors and use proper terminology, we could gain some ground.

We are encouraged to say stall instead of crate; harvest instead of slaughter and train instead of break, but there are words and terms that I believe have a much greater impact.

Some radical anti-animal agriculture group dubbed any modern farm that produces meat, milk or eggs a factory farm. Today, many consumers believe any farm they perceive as big, where animals are raised mostly indoors, is a factory farm.

Remember when several countries, including Russia and China closed their markets to U.S. pork in the wake of an outbreak in humans of H1N1 influenza, which the media misnamed swine flu? I wonder how many people stopped eating pork loin, bacon and ham for fear they would get sick, as though the meat was contaminated with swine flu.

Remember the cow who stole Christmas almost 20 years ago? On December 23, 2003, USDA announced the first presumptive positive case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in this country. Instead of using the proper name for the disease, most news outlets simply used the name dreamed up by those all-knowing scientific intellectuals who write for British tabloids: mad cow disease. The impact was evident almost immediately as several key customer nations closed their borders to U.S. beef.

In recent weeks, Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Avian Influenza has been diagnosed in poultry flocks in several states. A few short years ago this virus swept across the Midwest and southeastern United States, forcing many farms to depopulate large flocks. Avian influenza does not present a food safety risk. Poultry and eggs are safe to eat when handled and cooked properly. No human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. Yet, the nickname bird flu led many consumers to believe they could contract the disease or get sick by eating poultry. Please do your part to stop the spread of misinformation and half-truths