Opinion: Avoid ‘them against us’ when it comes to vegans

With the current “vegan crisis” so much in the news, it is sometimes hard being a young farmer trying to look positively to our future.

Fabricated figures bandied about the press, such as the alleged 3.5 million vegans now in the UK, make it extremely depressing for anyone involved in the livestock industries.

See also: Meat eaters or vegetarians – who has the better arguments?

Much like your average farmer, I was what you may call an “anti-vegan” – until I went to a “vegan versus farmer” debate.

I went along with a motive to find out why vegans are so intent on forcing their opinions and supposed “facts” about livestock farming down people’s throats. However, much to my surprise, I left with a sense of frustration over how this lifestyle choice has become such a war between farmers and vegans.

A statement made by one of the farmers attending the debate really resonated with me. He said that, ultimately, we all have the same objectives. “We all love and care for our animals and we all want to look after our environment”.

Of course, he is completely right. I started to think, “what if both groups just accepted the fact that not everyone wants to consume meat and dairy products, and not everyone wants to be vegan?”

Instead of carrying on this war which neither of us are going to win, what if we all put our personal beliefs and opinions aside and used this energy to help reach these common objectives?

It was established at the debate that the concerns over how the environment is affected by livestock farming was the most popular reason people decided to be vegan. It was put to them that, instead of harassing British farmers who, in the great scheme of things, have relatively little effect on the global environment, they should focus their anger on the foreign countries that do heavily affect the global environment through their farming practices.

Interestingly, they agreed this would be a better use of time. It was also interesting to see what a difference talking sensibly face-to-face made in achieving progress, with both groups admitting they were never going to convince each other of their opinions, and that waging wars was getting nowhere.

Although this is unlikely to be achievable with certain vegan activists, it is important that farmers rise above the provocative behaviour. There is nothing that sets our industry back more than riled farmers arguing a case that is never going to be heard by those sorts of activists.

Instead, we should carry on the good work we are doing with campaigns such as “Februdairy” and “Meaty March”, which do not exist to convince vegans to come back to our products, but rather to remind the general public that the best thing they can do is buy British.

It is the general public we need to appeal to and show we are not the people the minute population of vegan activists claim we are. If they really want to contribute to saving the environment, they need to support British farmers, who work tirelessly to ethically produce high-quality food.

So, I am no longer an anti-vegan arguing my case, but a promoter, supporter and producer of British food.

Bonnie Harvey is an ag student at the Royal Agricultural College.

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