In the business of generating click worthy content and following the latest trend, we often fail to notice the issues most deserving of our attention.
In February, a video depicting the questionable living conditions of three beagles ignited an avalanche of criticism and outlandish claims that widespread animal abuse was rampant in our community.
The extent of the video’s reach can’t be questioned. Hundreds of thousands of YouTubers -many of whom have presumably never even heard of Ashe County – shared the video to their Facebook walls and Twitter feeds in a self righteous attempt to electrify like-minded sympathizers and arouse support for three animals they have never seen and would most likely would forget about upon the arrival of the next social media craze.
County officials became inundated with calls from self-proclaimed animal rights activists demanding a complete overhaul of the county’s animal abuse ordinances and termination of our animal control director.
Outside the symbolic swipe of a pen on some emblematic petition that is aimed at either saving or tossing aside the powers at be in this situation, many of these so called supporters have fallen to the wayside.
The “aww” reaction of viewers undoubtedly played a heavy hand in evoking basic and raw human emotion on an issue that, while important, must take a backseat to the a growing epidemic in this county: child hunger.
Every night in our county, three of ten children will go to bed not knowing where their next meal is coming from.
To better illustrate the point, 63 percent of Ashe County schoolchildren standing in line in the lunchroom Monday afternoon will receive a free or reduced meal. Often times, school meals are the only source of sustenance these students receive on a daily basis.
We don’t have to tell you what some of these children endure during the weekend when they leave school Friday afternoon.
Food insecurity in Ashe County is real and can no longer be downplayed in the light of lesser issues that are blown out of proportion by supporters not because these problems are easier to fix but because child hunger is an inconvenient truth that many people are uncomfortable addressing.
It’s easier to show pity for a supposed downtrodden or neglected animal than it is to have a sobering conversation about child hunger in Ashe County, which now contains three communities that are considered “pockets of poverty” by Feed America.
This has to stop.
We have to change how we react and respond to issues that simply pale in comparison to larger overarching epidemics that if not corrected now, could have a lasting and far reaching impact on our community because poverty is a vicious cycle and Appalachia has been running through this gauntlet for centuries.
Animal rights are important, but they should not trump those of humans or take away valuable resources and attention of relief organizations as long as there is even one child in this county that is going to bed hungry tonight.
There is a finite amount of money, resources and even attention available to helping worthy causes in our community. We need to choose our causes wisely.
Maybe if someone posted a viral video of a hungry child in our community more concerned citizens would care.
Too bad Facebook likes don’t translate into dollars for needed relief.