Farmer Focus: Why are farmers being labelled villains?

It looks as if we have had the biggest flood since 2001 and the River Severn continues to rise. The only positive is the weather forecasting seems to be more accurate.

Farming-wise, with the weather like it is, we are in a fairly routine period. Cow fertility has really picked up, which is a big positive, and we are just making a few tweaks to the diet to try to push yield.

Away from farming, there has been a lot of discussion around our kitchen table on the industry’s negative portrayal in the media and online.

We are being written as the story villains – cow raping, planet-destroying monsters.

See also: 13 milk myths and misconceptions debunked

Fundamentally, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are simply trying to provide food – a basic human requirement – as well as be custodians for our environment and wildlife.

We frequently say we should be trying to educate the public.

At 4.30am on Sunday morning, I asked myself if it is even worth trying, after I went to our neighbours’ property – which was about to flood – only to receive a barrage of abuse about how the flooding was farmers’ fault.

Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact their lovely barn conversion only had a drain the size of a down pipe or was built below the road level.

There was also no acknowledgment that both farms on our lane were half under water.

I bit my tongue and thought “this is for the greater good”.

It’s little wonder we have negative attitudes when we have muppets like Joaquin Phoenix using his Oscars speech as a platform to slate dairy farming, or environmentalist George Monbiot blaming us for flooding.

Everyone really needs to realise the effect their words have on others. Us farmers set out to produce everything to the best of our abilities, while often battling turbulent weather, prices and politics.

We can manage that, but these personal attacks I find pretty tough to stomach. We are under enough pressure.

I wonder how these people would feel if we criticised the very reason they get out of bed in the morning. As an industry, we must be united and make sure we look out for one another.    

Read more about Shropshire farmer Henry Wilson.