How Does the Farming and Meat Industry Really Work?
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been the recipient of a few messages on Instagram regarding both meat eating and veganism and our consumption of meat. Many people are really intrigued about farming practices, asking engaging questions about the how’s and why’s in agriculture. I also think some people have misconceptions about the farming industry having a negative impact on the planet and our health, but I want to challenge this.
This can be quite a contentious topic, but the idea of this isn’t to create a divide or argue one is right or wrong, it’s just to offer a different perspective from someone on the agricultural side.
The Truth about British and Irish Farming
So here’s the truth. We (as humans) 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.
The Health Benefits of Eating Meat
Meat and dairy have long been recognised as an important part of a balanced diet and 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.”
Farming and Meat Consumption and its Effects on the Environment
Often, people decide to quit meat and 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.
Farmers Care About Their Livestock
Trust me, I do. 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.
Bridging the Gap Between Vegans and the Farming Industry
I hope you’ve found this post helpful, no matter what your beliefs are. We all know that the meat industry isn’t going away. Having said that, we should all work hard to fight against bad practices, like the mass production of meat. We can all agree that it’s both cruel and harmful to the environment.
If you want to talk about farming practices, veganism, or anything else farm related, feel free to connect with me on social media - I love hearing from different people with a range of different views!