Posted on May 14 2020
‘What’s your beef?!’
Lockdown really has me looking forward to Fridays. Not because they mean much anymore (ain’t no weekend plans these days anyway!), but because, MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE PODCAST “Shagged, Married, Annoyed”, by Chris and Rosie Ramsey, is released onto Spotify on a Friday. I genuinely look forward to getting my headphones on for the morning milking, zoning out and howling with laughter for a solid hour (whilst receiving some VERY funny looks from the herd 🐄).
Anyway, if you’ve listened, you’ll know they have a section called “What’s your beef?!”, where they tell each other what’s been annoying them about one another for the past week (hilarious, I promise!). This gave me an idea…
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve also been the recipient of a few messages on Instagram regarding veganism. The tone of these messages differs. Some are genuinely intrigued about farming practices, asking engaging questions about the how’s and why’s in agriculture – whilst others are extremely contemptuous towards farmers, and the work that we do.
There seems to be an attitude whereby, if you love one (one being agriculture), you must hate the other (the other being veganism) and vice versa.
So in this months blog post, I thought I’d answer...
“What’s your beef with Vegans?!”
Now let me preface this (and I will continue to repeat it!) with one of my favourite one-liners, “you do you.”
I hope nobody reading this finds that offensive, it’s not me being rude, or passive, that’s me telling you that your life, what you do with it and what you eat during it, is yours and yours only.
You see, I don’t have an issue with veganism.
It’s an incredibly contentious subject. There’s a minority on both sides that can often feel very strongly that they are right and that the other is wrong. But the truth is, the brunt of those following a vegan lifestyle are pretty passive - and the majority of farmers genuinely care about their animals and are legitimately just trying their best to feed the nation.
So here’s the truth. We breed animals, we kill animals, and we eat them. We use their hides, we use their bones. We’ve used animals in medicine, in clothing, we’ve even used them in our cars – and it’s allowed us to get to where we are today.
There’s a belief amongst evolutionary biologists that a diet rich in red meat was one of the reasons why our brain size (and intellect) increased compared to our plant-eating cousins – the primates. Without getting too caught up in the science of eating meat, Omega 3’s and Vitamin B12 are both essential for brain development and function and are both vastly available in red meat.
“But I do it for the environment”
Often, people decide to change to a Vegan diet because of environmental concerns around farming practices. Mainstream media loves to use farming as a scapegoat for a plethora of environmental issues. I’ll be careful here, as we all (farmers and non-farmers alike) need to get better at looking after our environment, but British and Irish agriculture is some of the most environmentally-friendly farming in the world. Our livestock systems are often grass-based, making use of ground that couldn’t otherwise be used in a food-producing capacity. Farmers adhere to strict guidelines and are subject to regular inspections to make sure we are taking all the necessary steps to produce food with as minimal effect on our surroundings as possible.
Nonetheless, you do you.
“But its healthier for me”
Meat and dairy have long been recognised as an important part of a balanced diet. A glass of milk contains 41% of your iodine requirement, 31% of your calcium, 14% of your protein and 74% of your Vitamin B12. Whilst meat contributes to your protein, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iron and Zinc. Although alternatives to meat and dairy have become more popular, it’s important that consumers maintain their intake of essential nutrients (of which both meat and dairy can provide). Again, I’m not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat – merely pointing out the benefits of a balanced diet in which they are included. Professor Geoff Simm (University of Edinburgh) says, “even small amounts of animal-sourced food have a really important effect on the development of children, in the developing world, on their cognitive and physical development.”
Nonetheless, you do you.
“Because I care about animal welfare”
Trust me, so do I. And I’m not alone. Farmers are stewards, we’re custodians of the land and we’re caretakers of our livestock. We take great pride in the food that we produce and the way that we produce it. British and Irish farmers are held to some of the highest welfare standards in the world and that’s why we’re always encouraging people to buy local. As a farmer, it’s so frustrating to see evidence of poor welfare. We’re all a big team and personally, I can’t help but feel let down by the extremely small minority who perhaps don’t stick to the rules. I’m a big softie really (I think a lot of farmers are!), but when it comes to it, I’m happy that I’ve treated my animals with the respect that they deserve in life as well as in death.
Nonetheless, you do you.
So that’s (a fairly shortened version) of my beef.
Your choices are yours. Your menu doesn’t have to match mine and we’re perfectly capable of existing together. Just remember, you do you… and I’ll do me.