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‘I’ve met many a vegan who will explain the atrocities of the dairy industry having never seen a farm’

After battling with anorexia, Eve Simmons, Deputy Health Editor at the Mail On Sunday, and co-founder of website, Not Plant Based, is an advocate for a balanced diet.

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@EveSimmns tells us why she is against the rise of veganism

It was by following the rise of influential vegan and so-called ‘clean eating’ bloggers on social media that led her to develop an eating disorder, and has recently had her first book published, Eat It Anyway, to try and shed some light on the misconceptions that surrounds eating certain foods such as dairy, meat and sugar.

 

Eve also recently spoke at the 2019 National Farmers Union Conference about the detrimental effect of health trends on society.

 

Here, she tells Farmers Guardian how the public need to be properly informed on the benefits of including all food groups in your diet.


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  • Are you from a farming family?

 

No, but my partner is. His family used to own a dairy farm in County Durham, and now have a haulage business and breed lambs for shows and auction.

  • What are your views on ‘clean eating’ and the idea of cutting out large food groups such as meat and dairy?

 

Just one word: NO.

 

Just the term ‘clean eating’ fills me with disdain. It implies that some foods are dirty, which not only encourages a distorted relationship with food, but just isn’t factually or scientifically correct. I am a victim of the trend for cutting out entire food groups and my journey did not end well - I ended up admitted to an Anorexia ward, fighting for my life. I understand some may opt for omitting meat from their diet for environmental reasons, but any sort of dietary restriction concerns me, especially amongst young women, as I think it’s difficult to be really honest with yourself about whether the restriction is wrapped up in feelings you have about your body – which is a desire to keep it small. Of course, that’s not the case for the majority of vegetarians at all, but when people start to preach and rant about food choices, you start to wonder whether there’s something else at play.

  • Why do you think these diet trends have caught on so fiercely?

 

I think we live in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world, and people are desperately looking for something to control. Food is an obvious crutch and is so tied up in another ridiculous goal that rules so many lives - the way we look. It’s therefore a perfect source of control and power. In addition, the proliferation of pseudoscience about food has ramped up in recent years thanks to the immediacy of social media. It’s everywhere and inescapable.

  • Do you think the public are somewhat misinformed?

 

Definitely. How are you supposed to tell fact from fiction when even national newspapers are writing unscientific nonsense? Reporters don’t understand science, so they write conclusions that aren’t accurate which fuel the public’s distrust of certain foods. Add a helping of social media ‘influencers’ who I wouldn’t even trust to apply a plaster touting health advice, and you’ve got a very dangerous concoction of misinformation. The problem is anecdotal evidence is always going to be far more captivating and ‘sexy’ than a boring old statistical study, that reaches a sensible conclusion written in medical jargon.

  • You’ve spoken to many nutritionists about the best diet for your new book – what was the concluding advice? Was it to involve meat and dairy?

 

Yes and it’s mostly to ‘eat what you want, in moderation, and don’t worry about it.’ And that’s gluten, dairy, meat, sugar, salt included.

  • How can we promote a more ‘normal’ way of eating?

 

I think normal can be problematic as a term, because normal is different for everyone. I think it’s about encouraging people to eat in a way that feels natural and healthy for them, without them having to think about it too much. We need to teach people about food ‘neutrality’; we need to take the sting out of the association we have with certain foods. All foods are equally as valuable to a healthy balanced diet, it’s just that some should probably be eaten more than others. But most people aren’t stupid and do eat in a relatively ‘normal’ way, should they have the opportunity/mental health capacity/financial resources to do so.

  • What are your thoughts on vegan extremists?

 

The same as any example of cruel hate speech directed at another person: it’s unacceptable. Not only that, but most of the time it’s wildly misinformed. I’ve met many a militant vegan who will explain the atrocities of the dairy industry without even having stepped foot on a farm, or indeed outside of London. I find this extraordinary. And serious environmentalism is much more than diet changes; are these people also pledging never to get in an aeroplane again, or buy a leather handbag? And what about ethical processing of food? Are they sure their almond milk isn’t made from almonds shipped halfway across the world, with all the air emissions, and that their avocados aren’t hand-picked by a Mexican Street child for 10p an hour? Everyone does what they can for the causes they hold dear, but the dairy farmers working tirelessly and caring for their cows and acres of British countryside - for little money - are not the appropriate target for their anger. And studies show it’s unlikely that a global ban on dairy will, realistically, save the planet without causing a mass of human harm in the process.

  • Do you think farmers and food producers need to shout louder about their produce to compete against such strong food trends?

 

Yes, I think they need to use science to their advantage. There aren’t enough voices out there wholeheartedly celebrating food without the footnote about health, body image or diet. There’s a call for transparency, so don’t be afraid to open up your doors and show the scaremongers what farming is really about. Show them all the lies about hormones and antibiotics aren’t true. Celebrate the brilliance and health benefits of meat and don't be afraid to champion them. But, it's essential to stick to the facts and use qualified dietitians.

  • Do you think this is a fad diet trend, or do you believe this is becoming more of a lifestyle shift which will stick, as people claim they are becoming more aware of environmental issues?

 

I think people are becoming generally more interested in the environment and I do think it is a genuine shift. But I think at the same time, we have lots of people who are poor and with little resource who can't afford to prioritise the environment. The two are increasing in unison so it will be interesting to see if one trumps the other.

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