Shadow Defra secretary Kerry McCarthy insists she can work with farmers – despite being an animal rights campaigner who refuses to eat meat, dairy products or eggs.
The Bristol East MP, who is a vegan and a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports, took up her new role on Monday (14 September).
Writing on her website, Ms McCarthy said food and farming was a “hugely important area” but her veganism would not influence Labour’s farming policy.
“Food and farming policy is a hugely important area of public policy, currently facing major challenges,” she said.
Issues included “the prevalence of low-pay and insecure employment” and the difficulties faced farmers trying to make a living in the current climate.
Other challenges included the decline in biodiversity and wildlife, soil erosion, land management and flooding and the need for long-term food security.
Reducing the greenhouse gas footprint of agriculture, CAP reform, international trade agreements, rising food poverty and the growth of diet-related ill-health also needed to be addressed.
But Ms McCarthy pledged: “Although I have been vegan for many years, this will not affect Labour policy in relation to the farming industry.”
Ms McCarthy said she was keen to see farmers adopt the highest welfare standards, and keen to develop policies which promoted a move away from intensive, industrialised farming.
“The dairy industry – Britain’s largest agricultural sector – has been facing considerable pressures,” she added, saying she would “no doubt” be meeting farmers’ representatives soon.
“When the new shadow minister for farming and food is confirmed in post, this will be one of his or her first tasks – to look into the urgent need for farmers to get a fair deal for their milk.”
Animal welfare would be an important priority.
“I am a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports, and will continue with the long-established Labour policy of opposing any attempts to overturn the ban on fox-hunting.
“It is also Labour policy to oppose the badger culls, as both ineffective and inhumane, and I will continue with that policy, particularly in opposing the government’s attempts to roll out the culls in Dorset.”