Some farmers in the Maritimes say they’re frustrated with Facebook’s decision to crack down on the sale of livestock — and some are considering leaving the platform in response.
Stephanie Doiron, from Kent County, N.B., is a homesteader, trapper and tanner who is the administrator of six farming Facebook groups.
“We get a lot of criticism,” said Doiron.
Doiron estimates one of her private groups, Farming in the Maritimes, lost nearly 500 members in the last three months “because they are not able to sell their animals or animal products.” On Tuesday, the group had 16,949 members.
Animals cannot be sold on Facebook, with the website’s rules stating: “Selling animals isn’t allowed on Marketplace or buy and sell groups. This includes posting about animals for adoption.”
Facebook has the restriction in an attempt to protect the welfare of animals against illicit trade.
A spokesperson for the company said Facebook cannot always ensure animal safety in peer-to-peer transactions.
Facebook does allow sales if posted by certain businesses, adoption agencies, shelters and rehoming groups.
The company said it has no plans to review the restrictions.
Doiron said if someone were to try to sell something like chickens on one of her groups, the group would be sent a warning and would then get flagged for 30 days.
“If we don’t comply with it, Facebook has threatened the administration and moderators that they will shut down our personal pages as well,” she said.
How farmers were using Facebook
Doiron said Facebook had been a useful tool for farmers until the recent crackdown. She said when she contacted Facebook to ask about the policy, she was sent to the community standards page without further explanation.
“Here in Atlantic Canada, there’s not very many resources working for farmers. It’s still very small and isolated,” said Doiron.
“So with Facebook, we used to use that as a way of diversifying our livestock that we have, of selling goods, of just keeping things open and being able to communicate.”
Moving on to other social media platforms
Randy Neily, a farmer in South Williamston, N.S., said he disagrees with the policy because it suppresses a culture and a way of life.
“And my feeling is, why should we allow some group to pressure us to not carry on our tradition and livelihood?” Neily said.
Some Maritime farmers are moving to other social media platforms to sell livestock, but Neily said they tend not to be as user-friendly as Facebook.
“It’s not the only market out there, but in my opinion if you get blocked and then get banned you’re taking away from networking with a whole group of people that can benefit from different knowledge and advice from other people,” he said.
Doiron said she has a farming group on the social media platform Mewe, and said her numbers there have been growing steadily, but it’s not as active as Facebook.