by Alan Davies, FUW managing director
OVER the last few months I’ve found myself getting more and more irritated with more and more people. People from outside the union, people often from outside the world of agriculture and rural Wales, people who think they have an opinion that is worth sharing. The digital world doesn’t help and by digital world what I really mean is the endemic spread of social media. These new platforms for sharing thoughts, views and opinions make it all too easy for people to spout their views, not always based on facts, and for those views to be amplified as they are circulated virally by others, who equally don’t know the facts. An example recently that really got under my skin: there was someone on Facebook with the kind of name that suggested that he didn’t like recent democratic decisions. He was talking about the extreme impact that Brexit will have on Welsh farmers. Whilst I could agree with some of his sentiments – because there are big challenges ahead – the thing that really angered me was the casual, ignorant and frankly totally untrue statements he was making. So, to use the new way of talking “I called him out for it” and gave him some facts. The correct numbers, the accurate percentages. Sadly though, these figures didn’t meet his narrow agenda, so he only used a few of the correct numbers, therefore still leaving a gloomy picture. And then things got worse. By now the original message had been read by his “followers” and was being shared – it was spreading. And people were commenting: “How could farmers be so daft to have voted for Brexit?” or “Why should we worry about what these people have brought on themselves?”. This was clearly an online group of people who were antifarming. If this was totally an online story, I wouldn’t worry quite so much, but it happens in other media and even in conversations. The one question that now really gets my hackles up is “Why did so many farmers vote for Brexit?” My answer is quite simple: “Nobody knows, in fact nobody knows how many farmers voted in or out. In fact, we don’t know how many nurses or doctors or plumbers or electricians voted in or out. It was a secret ballot. But the chances are that some did and some didn’t! The reason I reply like this is that I’m concerned that farming is an easy target for many and that we are seen as having caused Brexit. It’s a bit of a reversal of the “nursing angels,” where all nurses are wonderful, just because that is what they do. We face being painted with a brush that we caused Brexit, we didn’t, and people must be reminded of that. All that said: farming will be impacted by Brexit. Whether that is for the good or bad only time will tell. Our mission is to ensure that it is for the better, but to get to a better place we must all ensure that we are not being dragged down by others with a narrow agenda who can use our industry to their own ends. So if you see incorrect facts, please challenge them, if you see or hear people playing a blame game – challenge them. The future has to be faced with positivity and truth.