Over the last few days, the media has been overwhelmingly filled with information regarding the Coronavirus. Shocking facts and figures have circulated through mainstream media outlets as well as social media streams. This information has created fear, anxiety, confusion and so many more emotions across the board. The unknown is a terrifying thought for us as humans, we seek knowledge anywhere we can find it, however this can be dangerous at times when information that is being provided is false, harmful or fear provoking.

Firstly, as a vegan, I have followed the popular opinion posts and discussions regarding the coronavirus. So far, I am not impressed. It is not our job as vegans to “teach” others into abstaining from animal products in this horrific time. It is not our job as vegans to pursue our agenda when our grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends and others are dying. It is our job as small business owners, influencers, and good friends to healthily and correctly inform our non vegan counterparts of the (substantiated and evidence based) dangers of consuming animal products. I have seen too many posts this week saying “meat eaters are the cause of this” “go vegan or stay home” – where are we getting with these messages? How do we guide our friends like this? Let us tell our friends to wash their hands, seek medical advice, eat sufficiently and STAY HOME!

It is understandable to want to use this horrible situation we are in right now in order to make a point to our friends or the people who follow us on social media, however, we risk pushing people who would’ve gone vegan away by doing so. Especially to those who are suffering with anxiety and fear in this time, more information about how they are contributing to the suffering of others at the same time may be overwhelming and potentially damaging – it can be difficult to process this information all at once. That is not to say we should not continue being activists, we can do so in other ways, such as “easy vegan recipes during quarantine” or “documentaries to watch while in isolation”.

Secondly, I have seen too many posts this week saying “earth is finally thriving now that we are all dying” “all it took was a virus” and so on. It is in my whole hearted opinion, that this is toxic. Humanity did not ask for this. The earth is thriving right now at the expense of human suffering. Again, our grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends and others are dying. In times of crisis, it is normal to demand changes or answers, but it is insensitive to say that this virus is a blessing to the earth and humankind as we know it. System change can be made in other ways, there are so many ways of achieving this without losing hundreds of thousands of lives in the matter of weeks. Take this as lesson to do YOUR part to live less wastefully, produce less carbon emissions, eat more mindfully and ethically. We can achieve this by guiding our friends to the vegan lifestyle, through challenges, fun recipes, Netflix parties – there are so many ways of comforting our friends through this time and showing them the lifestyle we believe in so strongly whilst considering the suffering and loss that we are facing right now.

As a political science student, I learned that factual information is imperative to constructing valuable claims. Therefore, you can imagine my horror as I witnessed a multitude of unsubstantiated medical advice, poorly constructed conspiracy theories and old re-used photographs to prove points on social media. The spread of false information is harmful! Not only can it be harmful medically, in a time where careful attention must be made in this area, but it can also be harmful psychologically. Please, please do not claim anything (especially to a wider audience) if you do not have any evidence to support your claims. Even if it is just a link you saw on google, let the people judge this information for themselves after seeing your source. Feeding false information or unsupported claims to a population who is filled with fear and stress due to the economic and social repercussions of this virus is incredibly harmful. There are people who will do anything out of desperation right now, and it is unethical to be misleading people in this way – especially if you have a large following.

Lastly, this pandemic has made me realize more than ever that our physical well-being as individuals as well as our collective well-being has major impacts on our psychological well being. Individuals who have not suffered with health anxiety may now develop health anxiety. Those with OCD and phobias may be significantly suffering with the influx of fear adding to the list of pre existing anxieties they might have had. This is a hard time for everyone, even if you cannot see it directly. Look out of one another, be considerate and avoid inducing fear. Humanity needs our kindness more than ever right now.

Disclaimer: This opinion piece reflects the views of the author, not VSA Amsterdam.