There's a very famous quote that says 'first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win'.
I overuse it in both life and writing, but it just seems so pertinent to the place in which veganism currently finds itself.
Experts are calling veganism mainstream, and not a day goes by without a related story appearing in the popular press. In just a few short years it has gone from being extremely niche to being more widely recognized.
And some people really don't like that.
It's SO UNFAIR
Farming media outlet Agriland recently published an article quoting Patrick Kent - the president of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers' Association (ICSA). According to Agriland, Kent believes debates between the farming community and vegans are 'conflating misconceptions of agriculture'.
He said: "In my view, vegan and animal rights groups shouldn’t get an equal amount of airplay as farmers on television or radio debates. They are selling false ideologies and that is very unfair to farmers and farmers are hurting from that sort of misrepresentation."
How very Millenial snowflake of him: he wants to censor vegans because they don't share his views - throw them out of his safe space, if you will.
Censorship or free speech?
This is quite frightening: what is Kent actually calling for? Is he asking media organizations - including State-run media like RTE (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) to actually favor the voices of businessmen like farmers over activists? Should their bottom line influence the ideas that are shown to the public?
You can't just censor ideas you don't like, or call for media organizations to no-platform your critics.
What Kent seems so upset by, is that different people have different ideas - and a change in consumer habits is likely to hit him where it hurts - in the wallet.
Animal activists from Viva! uncover horrific suffering on a pig farm
But that doesn't mean he can stamp his foot and demand that larger forces silence 'unfair' criticism from nasty vegans, with their awful agenda of ending animal exploitation.
If Kent doesn't like the image that's being shared of farming, he should promote better practice within his own industry.
In addition, if the debates are conflating misconceptions, his community isn't offering sufficient clarity in how it interacts. Alternatively, maybe it's not people conflating or misrepresenting farming, maybe long-hidden unpleasant 'standard management practices' are simply coming to light.
Because despite what farmers like to claim, animal farming is grim. By its nature, it relies on the exploitation, use, and killing of animals. Farmers - who are extremely easily offended by criticism - don't seem to be very sensitive when they knowingly send sentient animals to their frightening, painful deaths.
Suffering beyond the imagination of most people takes place behind the closed doors of many farms and slaughterhouses. For too long animal agriculture has been allowed to get away with the horrors of modern animal farming.
If Kent thinks people saying something he doesn't agree with is 'unfair', maybe he could spare a thought of the billions of animals who are brought into life to simply to suffer before ending up on someone's dinner plate. Is that 'fair'?
For years vegans have been speaking up - and now they are finally being taken more seriously. But the merest hint of critism and animal ag bosses start calling for more powerful forces to restrict their 'airplay'. This is wrong. And it's sinister.
Maybe what Kent doesn't realize, is that there's something very dangerous about demanding that views are silenced.
Freedom of speech is an amazing thing - and businesses like the animal ag lobby - should not have the power to dictate what people are allowed to say, and how much airtime they have to say it in.
The conversation is changing, and like it or not, animal farmers have to deal with it.