Activism and misinformation about agriculture reported by the media is ‘number one’ on farmers’ lists of concerns and is contributing to mental health issues.
Using her podium at the NFU Conference to highlight the vitriol directed at farmers, union president Minette Batters called for people to remember ’at the heart of every business is a family’.
Later when addressing members of the press, she said: “When I attend member meetings the thing farmers want to talk about most is what they see as this feeling of worthlessness on the back of a sustained assault on meat as part of a diet.
“I have never seen farmers so upset and it is the deepest form of upset because they feel victimised and they have not got a voice. They want us to do more for them and they want it to stop and that is what the NFU is working on.
“We are all humans and we have to be kind and we have to be careful of the real-life consequences of our words.”
Ms Batters said the union was working to dispel myths around livestock farming, telling journalists UK beef production was 2.5 per cent more efficient than the rest of the world.
“Our diets might change here, but we are not going to deal with climate change if we just focus on our consumption of meat.
“It is about the sustainable production of plant-based food and meat,” she said, adding the UK should ‘take pride in its sustainable and high-quality livestock and dairy sectors’.
“There are a lot of challenges around processed, plant-based food, for example with palm oil and soya and we want to take people away from processed foods and towards a more natural, healthy balanced diet.”
CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn said while other sectors faced similar criticism, some of the comments fielded at farmers were ‘deeply unfair’.
“We need to recognise that we have people running businesses, running farms who are bringing up their families and are feeling this very keenly,” she said.
“You have such an extraordinarily strong story to tell in farming and it is how you get the good news accelerating past the bad news in terms of everything you are doing, for example good stories around the horticulture revolution.”