Normally, I would hold my tongue.
Normally, I would cut them some slack, laugh it off, and go on with life pretending that whoever it was had not just made some ridiculous agriculture illiterate mistake.
This is an exception.
When I walked into the Tower Food Court at Western Kentucky University last night, I was greeted by a cartoon pig sporting a band-aid. This jovial porker was on a large sign at the door of the food court to encourage me to wash my hands and take other steps to prevent getting the flu.
Taken with my blackberry and touched up on Photoshop. I'll try to get a better picture soon.
Did it say “swine flu?” No.
Did it imply “swine flu?” Yes.
At a time when the agriculture industry is suffering from the unnecessary hysteria that is the H1N1 influenza, you would expect that our institutions of higher education would be promoting the truth about the situation.
Sadly, the folks at Western didn’t take the time to watch the news, check the facts, or (heaven forbid) talk to anyone in the agriculture department before designing these ridiculous signs.
Since this start of the ongoing drama that is H1N1, I have heard more intelligent people sound like idiots.
For example, sitting behind student journalists (who I previously perceived to be well informed) in my Media and Society class, I learned this:
“You can only get swine flu if you are around pigs or farms.” – Student 1
“That’s good, there’s only like 30 farmers in Kentucky.” – Student 2
“No, there’s more than 30 farmers, you have to count racehorses, they have farmers.” – Student 1
“That’s true, so like 100 people. So why is it a big deal? Are there more farmers other places?” – Student 2
And we wonder why the American people aren’t eating pork?
If the students at one of the most celebrated public journalism schools in the country don’t care enough to get the facts then how can we expect the average consumer to?
The fact is that we can’t. As agriculturalists, it is our responsibility to publicize the truth about agriculture so often that the general public can’t help but get a dose of reality.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has done a stellar job of this since the outbreak of H1N1.
The NPPC has continuously released information to consumers and the media explaining the safety of American pork products. Pork producers across the country are appearing on news broadcasts, being interviewed in newspapers, and speaking to health conscious audiences.
Even more kudos to the NPPC for utilizing social media to publicize the truth. Every time I saw @NPPC tweet a new press release I immediately retweeted it. Each time I viewed the #swineflu trending topic on Twitter, I saw at least one tweet quoting an NPPC release.
They’ve even built an entirely seperate website to spread H1N1 facts and advertised this site in full page ad in today’s issue of USA Today.
While they are doing a stellar job, we cannot expect the NPPC to combat these misconceptions alone. The entire agriculture industry must do their job to spread the truth about H1N1.
You don’t have to write an article, blog or tweet about it. Just explaining the truth to confused classmates, sharing information with school administrators, writing letters to the editor in newspapers that are still using the thrill seeking word “swine flu” can make a major impact.
Or, you can take a more creative approach: write a song about it and post it on YouTube.
Whatever your method of choice, it is up to the agriculture industry to spread the truth about H1N1. Obviously, our institutions of higher education are not.