FARMING MATTERS: Livestock farmers tired of claims

National Sheep Association
National Sheep Association

January seems to have become established as the month when vegans and veganism is discussed at length in the media. It’s all over the place, in the press and on television. Just recently I watched a documentary about it, and over the festive period I was invited to a vegan supper.

I’m interested to hear what is said as long as it doesn’t become inflammatory and militant.

The truth is, some of what is said does makes sense. I have lived on a farm all my adult life and I do appreciate that animals are just like us in many ways. They have feelings, they have habits, they have social orders, they have familial bonds and develop attachments to people, places and things.

You can make a pet out of a cow or sheep or goat just as easily as you can a cat or a dog. It just has to live in the field not in the house.

But I also recognise that man’s evolution has included eating raw and cooked meat for survival, and although I enjoy vegetarian food I do not want to give up eating meat.

Vegans of course are not just vegetarian, they also reject dairy produce. No cheese, milk, cream, butter or ice cream.

But whether we personally feel it is right or wrong to eat meat and dairy produce, some of the claims made about animal welfare, the environment and human health during Veganuary have angered the National Sheep Association.

Chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Our concern is that our unique grass based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics.”

He said UK sheep farming works in harmony with the environment, landscape and human ecology, creating a countryside the majority of the public love and producing a food that is healthy and nutritious within a balanced diet. He added that red meat from livestock that is part of a grass based system is different from that raised in feedlots and in intensive situations. And it is important to take account of whole life cycles and recognise the role of grasslands and grazing animals in storing carbon and organic matter in our soils and even in the wool they produce.

He believes sheep are the ultimate in renewable technology and an efficient form of productive land management that is planet friendly.