The farming industry is under attack.
Behind the scenes of Veganuary – an initiative encouraging consumers to adopt a vegan diet for the month of January – lies a misguided and well-orchestrated attack on the UK livestock sector.
The move, which preys on people wishing to be healthier or shed a few pounds after Christmas, has angered farm leaders, and rightly so.
Their frustration at what they believe to be a “misguided” and “misleading” campaign is completely justified.
Nobody is questioning the choice to become vegan. After all, Scottish farmers produce plenty tasty local products that vegans can eat and enjoy.
The problem lies with the Veganuary movement and its claims about animal welfare in particular.
The Veganuary website claims that by going vegan, people will “reduce the suffering of billions of animals”.
It states: “The mass production of animals harms them in more ways than we will often acknowledge.
“There is, of course, the physical pain, of teeth and tails being clipped, horns burned off and ear tags puncturing flesh, but there is also the overwhelming suffering of life spent in a cage, or standing on broken bones, or having milk taken through infected teats.
“And all of this is routine on British farms.”
As an industry, we cannot allow these sensationalist and inaccurate claims to go unchecked.
Farmers and crofters operate under strict guidelines and none of these claims of routine mistreatment are true.
Is a farmer working round the clock to rear calves and lambs mistreatment? Is giving an animal an ear tag – exactly the same as you or I having earrings – mistreatment?
And would a dairy farmer really allow mastitis to wreak havoc on his herd and continue to draw milk from sick cows? No.
And while these Veganuary activists use claims like these to discourage people from eating animal-derived products, they have forgotten one simple fact.
Farmers are the same people who produce all the alternatives they love and need to eat to survive – fruit, vegetables, nuts, cereals, pulses and so on.
They are also the people who maintain the rural landscape by cultivating the land, often with livestock, creating thriving habitats for wildlife.
We can only hope that like most New Year’s resolutions, Veganuary will soon be forgotten.
And while we must be supportive of people’s right to choose their own diets, the vegan movement must not be allowed to denigrate hard-working farmers.