The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) has accused ex-Defra adviser Professor Sir Ian Boyd of lying, after he claimed livestock farmers were being paid by the Government to damage the environment.
It is not the first time Sir Ian, who was the department’s chief scientific adviser from 2012 to 2019, has caused controversy in the farming community.
In 2018, he shocked attendees of the IAFRI Metaldehyde Conference by saying the UK’s agriculture system was designed in the 19th century and ‘has not changed much since’.
And in November last year, farm groups criticised his call for people to cut down on eating red meat in order to meet the 2050 net zero emissions target.
Now Sir Ian has said to The Guardian: “Most of the livestock production in the UK is unprofitable without public subsidy.
“The public are subsidising the production of livestock to produce environmental damage, all the way from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution.
“Why should we continue to do that? It is not sensible.”
TFA chief executive George Dunn told Farmers Guardian he was ‘immensely frustrated to see these spurious arguments being thoughtlessly regurgitated again’.
“UK livestock farmers are holding at least one third of the below ground store of carbon, providing a massive service to wider society,” he said.
“It is simply a lie to say the public is subsidising livestock farmers to damage the environment. In fact, livestock farmers are delivering great food to high standards at reasonable prices and a whole suite of environmental, animal welfare and wider societal benefits.
“Switching our retail and food service purchases of meat from imported to domestic sources is what we should be doing If we want to raise our carbon and environmental efficiency.”
Stuart Roberts, vice president of the NFU, echoed these remarks.
He said: “A country with some of the most sustainable systems in the world and with a world-leading aspiration for net zero, alongside some of the highest animal welfare, food safety and environmental standards is somewhere we should be looking to produce a greater proportion of food, not less.”