“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

We’ve all heard this saying and may have even used it as a small child when our peers teased us and said mean things about us. It’s a phrase that basically means that words cannot hurt a person physically and one that can help children cope with bullying.

Sometimes this phrase even helps adults. However, it is very difficult to let the positivity of this sing-songy phrase outweigh the negativity of a statement of bullying.

Occasionally, the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all” guidelines are broken; however, yesterday, bullying went farther than the average name calling, four-eyes references, and yo’ mama jokes of a typical child bully in Elk Grove, California.

Agriculture students at Elk Grove High School encountered quite a surprise over social media channels yesterday when vegan students began to bully them over social media sites, like Instagram, by posting pictures of dead livestock and animals being processed accompanied with not-so-nice words.

Some vegan students at Elk Grove High School pointed angry words toward agriculture students at their high school and said things like the agriculture program “leads to the slaughtering of animals.”

If you would like, you can read more about the incident yourself in these articles below:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-vegans-bullying-agriculture-students-20130507,0,1360162.story

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/05/07/vegan-students-at-calif-high-school-accused-bullying-agriculture-students/

After reading these articles, I feel myself being catapulted back into the immature stages of high school, where peer pressure got the best of some students. This type of teenage bullying can be classified as cyber bullying; however, when  outside vegan groups became quickly involved calling meat eaters “carcass crunchers” and reportedly passing out flyers on campus, the situation may have encompassed emotional and verbal bullying too.

In summary, I believe that it doesn’t matter whose side you are on in this situation.The freedom of choosing what to eat is a beautiful thing, but there is a hard line crossed when a person is bullied for making a certain choice another opposes.

The bottom line is that bullying is NOT the answer.

I am proud to note, however, that the agriculture students are standing up for themselves, taking this experience with a grain of salt. In an article from Fox40, an Elk Grove High School agriculture student said,

I don’t think it’s fair for people to be saying that, because they don’t understand the work we put into all these animals. And it’s something we voluntarily do.

Not so coincidentally, Elk Grove FFA’s mission statement is:  FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.

Speaking from personal experience as a former member of my high school FFA agricultural program, these agricultural students are actively practicing these points and more.

Herein lies the golden nugget of this story:  agriculture education and awareness is most important for the underlying reason of this story. These vegan bullies have chosen not to eat animal products–a decision derived on their own or because of the influence of another person, be it their parent, friend, or role model. Yet, they may, in fact, be practicing veganism for all the wrong reasons.

Here is an opportunity for the Elk Grove High School agriculture students, and agriculture students all over the country:  I challenge the agriculture students to stand up and be the bigger people, which they have begun doing already through their responses shown in the news coverage. To progress this in a positive direction, can you invite the vegan students onto the school farm to see and learn how the animals are cared for and what they are there for in the first place? Can you answer their questions about animal agriculture, and initiate meaningful conversation?

The answer is yes, and the time is now.

While I realize this may or may not produce success, I say this just for the sake of the chance that both the meat eater and vegan students may learn something, and it will be worth it in the end. If it is not, then hopefully the two parties can agree to disagree and go their separate ways. But, unfortunately in this case, that may never happen.

Again, we come to the familiar, and uncomfortable, situation of vegans versus meat eaters. Who drew the line? Who will cross it? Agriculture students at Elk Grove High School hold the eraser which has the potential to eliminate a small portion of the divide. Can they hold the pencil strongly and work to erase misconceptions and develop relationships instead of writing them and tearing them down?

These are thoughts to contemplate on your own plate.

Has the topic of non meat eater v. meat eater bullying come up at schools near you? If so, how was the problem resolved?

Respectfully,
~Mal the Beef Gal

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