• Sumo

In our day-to-day lives as vegetarians we typically encounter a handful of individuals who share our beliefs regarding diet. Every so often we also encounter something, a news story perhaps, that shows some pretty definite reasons why our diet is better than all the other diets out there. A photo from a meat processing plant, or a video of how chickens are raised perhaps? All it takes is a little nugget of the dramatic and suddenly we can’t help but lift this example over our heads as indisputable evidence that we were right. But should we be doing that? Chances are, we’re only getting half the story.

These days, with Web 2.0 being the standard means of gathering and sharing information, we tend to forget that a lot of the Internet is filled not with scientific fact but opinions, confusions, and downright fabrications. Sensationalism is alive and well, every so often churning out a not-so-delicious story blown entirely out of proportion to the point that it’s hard to know what is true and what’s been made up for the sake of telling a story. It’s out first instinct as humans to carry something on high if it matches our beliefs and leap upon it if it is in opposition to those very same beliefs. Although fun to be filled with righteous indignation or glowing superiority, it can really hurt when you fall from that high horse thanks to a particularly good lie swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

Take for example a fairly recent food-related story. Back in October, the story of how chicken nuggets are made began circulating the web as fast as, well, as fast as it takes to typically order chicken nuggets in a drive-thru. Emails shot across people’s computers with pictures of a strange pink goo, like a giant Play-doh presser made for chickens, claiming that this was indeed how chicken nuggets were made. The initial reaction was strongly against what seemed like a disgusting piece of food, but as of now we know that the story was only partly true. The picture, whatever it was, wasn’t of pre-chicken nugget paste.

While the truth isn’t as widely known as the original story’s unappetizing fabrication, all it takes is one intelligent individual to come back at you with the real facts when you begin using the false story as undeniable truth to support your beliefs. Humility is a good rule of thumb when it comes to these stories, as well as research. It takes more time to sit and think about a story than simply react and assume the best or worst, but in the long run it will benefit your cause much more. A good place to start is Snopes.com as it generally gets to the root of a story’s origin and the amount of truth to the key points. Knowledge breeds knowledge, but ignorance breeds ignorance, so be aware of all the details before you accidentally fall into the latter category rather than the former.

It my point doesn’t seem clear, it comes down to this: By reacting to fake stories, we look like morons when the truth is revealed. We look foolish, arrogant, and smug, and right now we don’t need to be giving ammunition to those opposed to our views. As hard as it may be, you must be above petty hooting and posting, “See, I was right the whole time!” on blogs and Facebook. Use these moments more as a jumping ground for discussion rather than an “Us vs Them” lambasting. Argumentation gets us nowhere, but conversation can move us forward.

So be careful when you find a story that seems just a bit too black & white. There’s a pretty high chance that something is missing, and if you get fooled, well then how credible will your opinions look in the future?