Middlesex dairy farmer bombarded by animal activists on Twitter
By Brandy Harrison
STRATHROY When Strathroy dairy farmer Andrew Campbell decided to take photos of his farm and post them on Twitter every day of 2015, he didnt expect to be getting it from all sides both farmers and animal activists only two weeks in.
“Who knew how many people were interested in pictures from a farm?” says Campbell, who runs Bellson Farms with his wife, Jess, and his parents, Wayne and Phyllis.
The idea was to turn a 365-day photo challenge into a vehicle to show consumers what it takes to put food on the table. It fits well with his other consumer education projects, such as Dinner Starts Here, where a dozen young farmers share their experiences through a website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Campbell first tweeted photos of the farms new years calf, the alarm clock at 4:45 a.m., the bulk tank, and milking equipment. He created the #farm365 hashtag basically, a key phrase using the pound symbol to categorize and make tweets on the same topic easily searchable on Twitter.
Interest exploded. In a few days, farmers around the world were using it, keen to show off their own farms. His followers the people who have added his tweets to their personalized Twitter feed more than doubled in two weeks, at more than 15,100 and climbing by Jan. 29.
But it didnt take long for animal activists to notice either.
“One of the things that came about within the first couple of days was this hijack of the hashtag,” says Campbell.
Animal activists and vegan groups began using the hashtag, tweeting a steady stream of photos of dead livestock, launching hostile personal attacks, and calling farmers murderers. The debate-by-tweet had even spread to #ontag, a hashtag to share information within Ontarios agricultural community.
Its a small group of vocal people, says Campbell, and there is an upside: Farmers are getting a firsthand look at what activists say to consumers.
“We as farmers have come face-to-face with our biggest opponents,” he says, in awe of the groundswell of support as farmers took to Twitter to respond. “They thought they could take down a couple of farmers. Were a united group and a proud group and were happy to open our barn doors. Maybe that caught them off guard.”
He advises farmers not to get too wound up and to ignore the extremists, keeping the debate positive and factual when theres room for conversation.
“This isnt about hiding behind Photoshop, misconceptions, and consumer emotions. This is about being open and talking about this stuff.”