The intolerance we face is an outrage

Annie Davis has worked at the George Veterinary Group for 19 years. She is one of a team of seven pig vets, based in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

Imagine someone going to work. Their job is legal, they break no laws, yet they know, almost as soon as they leave the house they will be met with hostility, protest and verbal abuse.

Their job makes them unpopular with a small minority of the population who are opposed de facto to what they do. This minority is vocal, organised and persistent. Each day they trespass in workplaces, with confrontation and threatening or aggressive behaviour, often carefully filmed on smartphones by those who have made it their mission to torment.

There is damage to property and online abuse as well as rallying calls via social media to ‘like’ their activity and to encourage others to join their mission.

We should be outraged that our unfortunate someone cannot pursue their livelihood without this constant interference, obstruction and unpleasantness. The attitude and actions of the minority cannot be acceptable in a civilised society, surely? They are intolerant, unable or unwilling to accept the existence of opinions or behaviour that they do not agree with. It seems that intolerance is ‘the new black’ in many areas of life – what happened to common decency?

If the person I described was a Muslim and his job was that of the local Imam, suffering harassment and abuse from a group of right wing activists, they would be classed as hate incidents, arising from prejudice based on religion, on beliefs that were not understood.

There would be outcry, politicians leaping to condemn the actions of the minority. The reaction is somewhat different if the person is a livestock farmer and those persecuting him are part of the militant, frequently described as ‘vegan’, groups, campaigning for animal rights. The law, and those who enforce it, are hamstrung, with few powers to intervene – as there is currently no law against ethical intolerance.

In my frustration at a situation many livestock farmers have found themselves in, I am constantly reminded that it is a small minority of people who behave in this appalling way under the banner of vegan activism, not the mainstream, and that I am in real danger of becoming prejudiced and intolerant myself by tarring all with the same brush.

I hope, perhaps naïvely, in this coming year, that the increasing culture of ‘I do not agree with you – therefore you are wrong and must be stopped’ faced by our producers can be replaced with a recognition and acceptance that we do not all have the same opinions or beliefs.

Allowing us to carry on the business of farming without hindrance or abuse will do more to encourage discussion and debate in the year ahead.

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