I was asked so many questions after yesterday’s She.Can.She.Did Midweek Mingle event in London and unfortunately, to avoid missing the last train home I did have to run off before I could talk with everyone. So what I decided to do was to write down the answers to some of the questions I was asked, in case you were also wondering about them or perhaps you couldn’t attend.
If you have any further questions just pop them below in the comments section or send them across to me!
The one that I wanted to start with, mainly because I was asked so many times was.. my thoughts on veganism. Buckle in, it may be a bumpy ride.
I was asked the veganism question so many times on Thursday night and my answer was always the same. I think many were shocked that I didn’t start shouting ‘I hate vegans‘ or tell the ever popular joke, ‘how do you know if someone is a vegan..? Don’t worry they will tell you!’. And that is because I really do not hate vegans…
Even though veganism is on the rise, it is still only a very small percentage of the population, so I can’t say I have noticed an impact on business personally. Veganism gets a huge amount of press and from the Veganuary campaign you would have believed that half of the UK was now a non-meat-eater. But that simply is not the case, only 3% of UK citizens label themselves as vegan and only 1% are fully vegan, 365 days a year. So not a huge percentage but still a good number of people out there. However this does not disgust or anger me, I am grateful that more people are making the connection between the food on the plate and the animal behind it. If you cannot deal with the fact that meat comes from an animal and that upsets you, then yes you should definitely not eat meat. I think we need to think more about where our food originates.
Personally, even though I do produce meat for a living, I think we should all be eating less meat. SHOCK HORROR. This is simply because the huge demand for meat in the UK means we are importing meat and keeping livestock in unnatural conditions to produce huge quantities and as quickly as possible. I would prefer it, if as a nation we ate less meat but the meat we chose to buy was of better quality and local. Yes, usually local, small producers are going to be more expensive, but if perhaps we just ate meat less often this wouldn’t be an issue. I would rather spend a little more on the meat that I do eat and know that it has come from an animal that has been treated well and has lived locally, than eat tonnes of meat from unidentifiable farms abroad, with no connection to or information about the livestock that produced it.
Now don’t worry I haven’t turned into a vegan half way through this blog and I do have strong disagreements with some of the vegan campaigns, particularly the environmental attitude towards agriculture. Firstly because I farm grass-fed beef cattle that conservation graze for the National Trust and are grown, slaughtered and eaten all within one county of England. We do not use any imported inputs and our cattle graze on land that is of no use to anyone else. Their presence is actually encouraging wildlife and wild flowers to return to the Downs. So I really disagree that this meat is more environmentally damaging than importing fruit and vegetable from exotic countries, with links to deforestation and unfair trade deals for foreign farmers. If you buy meat that is local and farmed with the environment in mind (Pasture for Life, Organic etc.) it can be as good, and in some cases better for the planet, than a plant-based diet so please do not use this justification without research.
Also with regards to activists that think it is ok to call us farmers ‘murderers’ and ‘rapists’, newsflash, this is completely unnecessary. In 2017 I had a very over zealous vegan that only stopped harassing me (face to face, online and by calling me) when I threatened to call the police. And there are many farmers out there that have it much, much worse. This isn’t something anyone should have to deal with! The biggest shock for me, was that I was their target. A small, high welfare farm that educates children on where their food comes from. You just have to see my website http://www.paddlesworthproduce.co.uk to realise that I too am against factory farms and only want the best for livestock. However I do not believe the way to stop factory farming or mistreatment is by trespassing and criminal damage. The best way to stop these places existing is to educate meat eaters in where their food comes from and how to source better meat. Once the public wise up to where their food originates and they show concern over how the animals they eat live, they can put pressure on large retailers and supermarkets not to supply such produce, or at least offer a better option. There needs to be consumer demand before change occurs, but I think we are getting there!
Last point, vegans and farmers can get along. We are not two gangs in a bitter rivalry. There’s room for all of us on this planet. Two of my best friends are vegans and although I would never expect them to watch me butchering a carcass or eat my produce, they fully support the idea behind offering produce from a farm that focuses on high animal welfare. We do not need extreme views on either side; I am not going to force them to eat meat and they wouldn’t ask me to turn vegan. Simple.
So to summarise, there is no bad blood. I can see exactly why vegans are concerned about animal welfare and I wish more people made the connection between meat-based meals and livestock. That being said, environmental and health concerns when it comes to eating meat need to be fully analysed because there is environmentally-friendly meat out there and environmentally damaging plants. It’s not black and white. Also meat is so nutritious as part of a balanced diet, so we cannot plaster a blanket message saying ‘plant-based diets are the best’ when there are many different scenarios to consider. Shopping locally is always going to be a mantra of mine and buying the best treated meat you can afford (free-range, organic etc.) I think is the best thing for meat-eaters to do.