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Word ‘milk’ banned for use in branding of plant-based products

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Niall Blair: 'My response to a vegan advert got me a barrage of abuse'

After what has seemed like a particularly damp few months, we are finally enjoying a few days of dry, albeit colder weather.

In an attempt to reduce winter housing costs I have moved the cows on to an area of hill ground, so hopefully they can remain outside for a month or two yet.

 

Watching cattle grazing the natural vegetation made me wonder how a food production system could be any more sustainable.

 

With that in mind, I posted a photograph of them on social media to counter Tesco latest advert.

 

My social media post proposed that some vegan food is highly processed and has travelled thousands of miles from the countries in which it originated, countries where it is grown to the detriment of ecosystems and communities.

 

Perhaps if people are concerned about the environment it is better to concentrate on food produced on their ‘doorstep’, for example beef reared naturally on a hill.

 

Of course, writing the above in a farming magazine is largely preaching to the choir. But, what surprised me was the backlash from the vegan community.

 

I wrote the post when I was in a slightly flippant mood, so constructive criticism of it did not bother me.

 

The barrage of abuse I received and the volumes of misinformation sent to me did.

 

However, with well over 10,000 positive comments and likes I think the message was well received. I would like to think certain supermarkets would reconsider their irregular advertising tactics.

 

That said, I am sure vegan sausages have seen unprecedented demand on the back of the uproar.

 

Another reason for putting cattle up onto the hill is to help with wildlife management.

 

We have numerous habitats on our farm but it does appear that lack of grazing pressure is allowing heather to dominate certain areas to the detriment of biodiversity.


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Buzzards

 

I am quite proud of our black grouse population, so hopefully grazing at this time of year will help maintain breeding numbers.

 

I recently read an interesting column written by an ageing farmer who stated he had never seen as much wildlife on his farm during his lifetime.

 

For example, deer were rare during his childhood and badgers and buzzards did not exist in his part of the country.

 

So it was interesting to see headlines regarding the The State of Nature Report 2019.

 

The headlines are worrying and I am sure there is much to be concerned about, but anecdotally, at least, one of the joys for me of farming in the uplands is the abundance of wildlife.

 

The usual figures jumped on headlines of the report. One particular Defra board member commented words to the effect that sheep were largely to blame for an ‘ecological desert’ in the uplands of the UK.

 

Not my experience, and worrying that someone in a position of influence has this view bearing in mind the reduction of sheep numbers in the uplands since subsidy payments were decoupled.

 

While I do think it is important that Defra sources consultants from a wide variety of backgrounds, when was the last time the department advertised for staff in the farming press?

 

It seems to favour left wing media outlets, those same outlets which repeatedly publish articles demonising agriculture.

 

Surely advertising in this way can only result in one type of candidate. Perhaps that is the plan.

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