The arrival of a new year is often a time of optimism, of making plans for the year ahead, but increasingly for livestock farmers, January is now the time producers find themselves arguing a torrent of false claims of crimes against animal welfare, the environment and human health that the media are so quick to promote as part of ‘Veganuary’.
And this year, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is ready to fight back too against the misguided and misleading campaign.
NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “Make no doubt about it, behind the positive messages about Veganuary lies a well co-ordinated campaign against livestock farming. Our concern is that our unique grass based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics.
“We are seeing criticisms from welfare campaigners, rewilders, climate change campaigners, and health campaigners – but all these are connected and ignore the fact that UK sheep farming works very much in harmony with our environment, our landscapes, and our human ecology – creating a countryside the majority of the public love and producing a food product that is healthy and nutritious within a balanced diet.
“The climate change arguments that have been buoyed by the recent Paris Climate Change Summit ignore the fact that red meat from livestock that is part of a grass based system is different from that raised in feedlots and in intensive situations.
Even more misleading is that the carbon footprinting tools we use do not take account of whole life cycles and ignore the role of grasslands and grazing animals in storing carbon and organic matter in our soils and even in the wool they produce. I would go as far to suggest that ‘organic greenhouse gas cycling’ from grazed livestock should be treated separately from gas emissions derived from fossil fuels.”
NSA says the UK should be seeking to maintain or even increase sheep numbers here in the UK, related to market demand, but further encourage the distribution into areas that are devoid of livestock in order to provide the multi-functional outcomes that people are interested in today.
Mr Stocker concludes: “In the UK sheep are a form of positive and regenerative agriculture which keep our uplands and permanent pastures in good condition and improve our cropping lands in terms of soil quality and the ecological benefits of a return to mixed farming.
“Some people seem hell bent on portraying sheep as a global enemy, but in fact they are the ultimate in renewable technology and are an efficient form of productive land management that is planet friendly.”