Farmers vs Vegans

Cow in a field

Farmers seem to have a beef with vegans these days.

While this is nothing new, it seems the rise in plant-based products on supermarket shelves and the rising number of vegans is starting to get on their nerves.

The farming community has become more vocal in its opposition to any mention of the word “vegan” in the last few months, so as reports suggest more and more people are set to enjoy a meat-free Christmas I can only guess that pro-farming pressure groups such as the NFU and Countryside Alliance (a pro-blood sports group in the main) will increase their pressure on the now powerful vegan pound.

A recent article for the i newspaper not only highlighted the growing number of people intending to eat plant-based this Christmas but also pointed out that according to the Vegan Society, the number of vegans has quadrupled in the UK since 2014.

https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/food-and-drink/christmas-dinner-vegan-food-waitrose-1343981?fbclid=IwAR1b1bybyhIgNfi_ak0UiXrk56JVoSjf8HOMlIki4SsnoDBJ-iqevf1Ecbk

Of course, the seeds of discord were sown in response to both the 2019 and 2018 Vegan Campout events. Already controversial among vegans for the choice of venue, the Countryside Alliance spat out its dummy over a vegan event taking place on land usually reserved for agricultural shows. Maybe somebody should tell them that agriculture includes the growing of plants needed for a vegan diet?

In October, it was Tesco who faced the wrath of angry animal farmers when they dared to make an advert featuring a vegan sausage. This time, Piers Morgan wannabe Janet Street-Porter lambasted the humble plant-based cylinders in a Daily Mail tirade. Most vegans just laughed.

The NFU seems to be in competition with the Countryside Alliance as to who is the most vocal critic of veganism – and it was this Tesco campaign which saw the union throw its hat well and truly in the ring. Plant Based News also reported on the whole soap opera.

https://www.plantbasednews.org/culture/tesco-vegan-sausage-advert-branded-propaganda?fbclid=IwAR0Y7jVkbsHhZYhbNPDvrkWtSrZn580zpMBpaRvn0BY_JofuZY6io3t0WnY

The BBC provoked the red-faced fury of farmers not once, but twice in recent months. Firstly, a Christmas advert featured a turkey wearing an “I love vegans” sweater. They didn’t care that turkeys generally don’t wear sweaters, but how dare anyone promote vegans? Are we becoming too accepted for comfort?

“The NFU, which is concerned about the impact the ad will have on livestock producers, have now accused the BBC of being in breach of its impartiality rules by promoting veganism,” according to a piece in this article: https://www.farminguk.com/news/farmers-criticise-bbc-for-i-love-vegans-christmas-ad_54563.html?fbclid=IwAR3C0q9FU6b33wBf-okcwe4XuL2F7d3pCduEY7a_TMV3tiKeNNwYT4UWUwE

The numerous promotional items on livestock farming on the BBC’s Countryfile isn’t mentioned by the NFU.

Finally, the BBC actually produced a whole programme about the meat industry’s effect on the environment. Meat: A Threat To Our Planet? Was presented by Liz Bonnin and was also made available on the i-Player. It mainly centres around intensive American meat production. It is less concerned with animal welfare and focuses more on the environmental cost of eating meat.

The fact that going vegan is the best way an individual can reduce their carbon footprint seems lost on many of those who have complained. The most common attack seems to be that British livestock production is nowhere near as intensive as the American model. The individual lives of the animals involved seem irrelevant to all involved. This article in Farmers Weekly sums up the farming community’s anger: https://www.fwi.co.uk/news/farming-backlash-to-bbc-anti-meat-programme-continues

The Countryside Alliance has been responding to any anti-hunting story which appears over the last few years. The NFU seems to be taking a leaf out of their book and attacking anything that’s seen as “pro-vegan” recently. The notion of free speech doesn’t seem to register with either organisation.

Of course, this shows that veganism is now seen as a very real threat to the meat and dairy industries. The rise of the environmental movement has seen the industries come in for further criticism as prominent “green” figures ditch meat and dairy.

To be fair, such a backlash was to be expected. But the power of the vegan pound also cannot be underestimated. Supermarkets are filled with vegan products and even traditional meat and dairy companies (Greggs for example) are producing plant-based options.

The ethics of such moves is widely debated in vegan communities, but it does show that the demand is there. Instead of joining the diversification movement, many livestock and dairy producers instead choose to lash out at the competition.

This can be seen as a testament to the growing influence of veganism.

2020’s Veganuary is expected to be the biggest yet, so the growth in veganism shows no sign of abating. I’ll raise a vegan cider to that!

The great plant-based ‘milk’ debate

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The rise and rise of plant-based dairy alternatives seems to be getting the farming community hot under the collar.

I guess it proves those who say “going vegan won’t change anything” wrong.

In June, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that vegan alternatives cannot use words like milk in product descriptions.

The case was brought by the German Competition Authority against TofuTown (sounds like my kind of place).

The EU Court ruled plant-based alternatives cannot be described using the terms ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, as these are reserved by EU law for animal products. Finally, a reason for supporting Brexit (although there’s plenty of other reasons for being a ‘remoaner’).

Truth is, the dairy industry is panicking about the fact it’s losing sales to healthier, more ethical (not hard) to vegan-friendly alternatives. ( http://vegfestexpress.co.uk/tabs/blog/2017/02/dairy-free-plant-milks-market—the-future ).

In almond milk etc as “milk” on their websites – and to even stop stocking it next to dairy milks – maybe they’re scared dairy buyers will catch a conscience as they browse the shelves?

So, it seems as vegans up the ante in criticising the dairy industry, it is resorting to desperate measures to fight back. Remember, it is also pressure from the dairy industry that has led to the badger culls in the UK – despite the fact there is no evidence at all that badgers spread BOVINE TB ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/badger-cull-expansion-flies-in-face-of-scientific-evidence ). So, quite rightly, activists have drawn parallels with the dairy industry. Quite simply, buying dairy milk leads to dead badgers.

The furore follows last year’s great Gary Facebook debate, when Sainsbury’s launched their own brand of vegan cheese ( https://veganonadesertisland.com/2016/10/02/the-great-gary-review/ )

Sainsbury’s had some free marketing over that one – somebody thought that it was wrong to call the product “cheese”. It seems the desperation goes on and one…

So, why can’t market forces just accept that ethical living is on the rise? Big supermarkets are getting in on the act, major multi-nationals are making money out of veganism and the “middle class” vegan has a huge part to play in the economy? Or, are those of us who are anti-capitalist just too prominent in the vegan movement? Revolution cannot be allowed to happen – remember!

Personally, I think there are too many rich and powerful players in the animal agriculture industry for politicians to allow it to fail – despite the fact we could feed the world many times over if we all went vegan tomorrow. So, while veganism was “allowed” to exist as a niche product line, the fact the number of vegans has exploded beyond even our wildest hopes as kicked the meat and dairy industry (it is one combined industry if we’re honest) into attack mode.

I’ve read posts on Facebook in the past about reserving the words burgers and sausages for meat products – but they’re just shapes! You get different meat varieties of sausages and burgers, so why not meat-free versions?

I have noticed in the numerous stories about veganism on national news sites that non-vegans in society as a whole now feel it necessary to go into attack mode in the dreaded comment sections. Does this come from a sense of guilt or a fear that their cosy lifestyle (of pain and suffering) is under threat?