Saturday, 26 September 2015
(Since writing this I have been taken to task over 'being unencumbered by research' therefore I apologise and must say that the Farmer has in fact made 35 gallons of cider!)
The farming industry has been full of comment lately regarding the appointment by Jeremy Corbyn, the new Labour leader, of a vegan Shadow Minister for the Environment, Kerry McCarthy. Her remark that meat eaters should be regarded in the same light as smokers is possibly a step too far and will certainly alienate the Labour party from many voters, rural or urban, and risks the Labour being seen as the party of cranks.
This appointment has caused a lot of discussion and but it should be remembered that it just the Shadow Cabinet and quite possibly Ms McCarthy (and Mr Corbyn) may never be in a position to implement these ideas.
That said it is a useful excercise to think seriously about what the implications of banning meat-eating could be.
Veganism & vegetarianism are personal lifestyle choices available to affluent Westerners. Meat & dairy-free diets are highly dependent on imported foodstuffs such as pulses, nuts etc. cannot be grown in this country thereby incresulting in many food-miles.(e.g. most soya (which cannot be guaranteed to be GM free!) comes from Brazil, US, Canada or China). How can this be sensible & ethical when we are all being encouraged to reduce food miles and 'eat local'? On the premise of eating local for 90% of our diet and at this latitude meat is an essential component of a healthy balanced diet. The joke would be if a population of 63 million people were to be dictated to by the 2% who are vegetarian or vegan? I am not anti-vegetarian/vegan, in fact I do a lot of meat-free cooking, and I do think we should eat less meat, but do not believe it should be removed from the diet by legislation...a scenario that is, of course, highly unlikely.
As food producers we are in the very fortunate and rare situation of being able to keep much of our diet very local and with very few food-miles...we use our own milk, meat, eggs and fruit & veg., though not exclusively.
Another question is how do we want our countryside to look? Here in west Wales the patchwork of fields and hedges is the result of livestock keeping because the crop that grows best here is grass and the only way for us to utilise grass is to turn it into meat. Take cattle & sheep away and a much-loved & productive landscape would have to be preserved by legislation or be lost.
(For more information on imported soya go to www.newenvironmentalist.co.uk)