The Rise of Vegan Activists.
As promised, here's an extended version of my article featured in the April issue of Aspire Magazine...
Veganism. Defined by the Vegan Society as a way of living which seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Veganism has rocketed in recent years, with an estimated 3.5 million people in the UK now following a vegan diet - that’s 5% of our population. Perhaps I should preface this article by reminding you that I am from a farming family, raised on a working farm, rearing sheep, dairy and beef cattle (and occasionally some pigs too). That said, I respect a person’s choice to live a vegan lifestyle. What I don’t respect however is the ever increasing group of vegan activists intent on forcing their beliefs upon others and badmouthing an industry they know nothing about.
Here in the UK, we have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Being a nation of primarily small to medium independent farms, we pride ourselves on sustainable practices – slurry and other manure is an organic form of fertiliser and correctly managed pastures and grasslands can act as a carbon sink, taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Yet, with claims of unethical treatment of animals and accusations that animal farming is the biggest threat to the planet, it’s impossible to go online or open a paper these days without seeing the industry being slammed.
Australian vegan activist and influencer, Joey Carbstrong insists his movement is about peace and compassion. He uses emotive language and seems to have no problem with simply making up facts along the way. In an interview on BBC Radio Kent, he claimed he’s never known of any acts of violence from his followers or any vegans. Is it not an act of violence and disruption to storm on to farmland in an effort to ‘protect’ or ‘release’ livestock?  To protest outside restaurants and supermarkets, blocking the path for members of public simply trying to do their shopping?  To deface farm shops and make threats to the owners and staff? 
Unfortunately, I have never seen an ounce of respect, understanding or willingness to listen and learn from this man in his interviews. All I see is an arrogant, uneducated individual, intent on forcing his ideology on others by any means possible.
Farmer Frank Langrish phoned in to inform Joey that many of his followers storm the grounds of a small, rural abattoir on a monthly basis; hurling abuse at farmers bringing animals through and even threatening their families. When told the police had knowledge of this, and are now required on the grounds regularly, he said “your claims must be false if the police haven’t filed charges”. Mr Langrish went on to ask Joey what he suggests he should do with his land instead of farming animals. To which Joey replied “I’m not here to come up with a solutions for you. I’m just here to speak up for innocent animals”. Surely, if Mr Carbstrong believes in his cause so strongly, he should have ideas for an alternative solution? 
I’m not suggesting all vegans are like Mr. Carbstrong. Though I do fear many of those with public platforms are.
Take PETA for example. With their resources, they could make a real difference where it’s needed, but instead they focus on the wrong topics, and often release blatant propaganda. Recently, PETA have called for the fashion industry to ban the use of wool, as they claim it’s cruel to sheer sheep.  Another classic example of mis-education. They fail to understand that sheep must be sheared yearly to avoid Blowfly Strike, which can quickly lead to a horrific death. In asking for wool products to be banned, they’re suggesting un-sustainable, plastic alternatives, sure to end up in the oceans and become a threat to marine life. 
Instead of attacking an industry they don’t understand, why aren’t this international group of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals putting their resources in to cleaning up the oceans, tackling illegal fur trades, whaling, dolphin slaughter, trophy hunting, and concentrating on those few farmers who may not be keeping up with welfare standards.
In September 2018, in a debate on BBC’s Sunday Morning Live, co-founder of Veganuary, Matthew Glover stated that eating meat was uncivilised and equated animal farming to the slave trade! To compare the enslavement of hundreds of thousands of people, based upon their skin colour, to animal farming is outrageous! 
I can say, without any hesitation, no one in this world cares more about farm animals than farmers themselves. It’s more than just money to these men and women. Farming is one of the toughest jobs in the world and not one you can do without passion. There’s no days off, no giving it a miss because the weather’s nasty, it’s a 365 days a year (often 24/7) labour of love.
I wonder if Matthew, Joey or their followers have ever questioned what would happen to these animals if farming were to come to an end? Do they believe herds of domesticated cows and flocks of sheep would live happily ever after and thrive in a country full of arable crops reserved for human consumption, or that ‘sanctuaries’ would be able to afford to keep them all?
When discussing the environmental impacts of farming, Liz Bowles of the Soil Association explained to the Sunday Morning Live panel “if we weren’t to have grazing livestock we would have to rely much more on in-organic sources of fertiliser in order to grow the necessary crops, which would have far more of an environmental impact”. Further to Liz’s point here, studies have shown that if everyone in Great Britain turned vegan, around 6 million acres of prime grass farmland would lie dormant. Deforestation would dramatically increase, along with Carbon Dioxide pollution due to cargo ships bringing crops and substitutes from overseas. Arable farmers would be under huge amounts of pressure, unable to keep up with demand, and an estimated 150,000 (mainly family run) animal farms would be out of business.
It’s estimated that by 2050, we’ll need to produce 60% more food. Surely, this cannot be achieved on a plant based diet alone? In order to feed the world without destroying the planet, we must make the most of what we have, locally. We need to use the land we have in the best way possible – crops will never grow on our fellsides, but sheep thrive up there! Cut down on food miles by buying British products where you can, as locally as you can. Support your local farmers, consider your plastic waste, give composting a go if you can. If you want to know more about where your food comes from, ask a farmer and visit a working farm. Education is key, so campaign for agriculture to be taught across the country. There are many ways you can do your part to save our world.
Visit www.farmsunday.org to find out more about
Open Farm Sunday – 9th June 2019.
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