Opinion: Farmers are off the pace in vegan propaganda battle

Quite how the vegan propaganda that has been spewing forth from that erstwhile investor in plant-based meat alternatives, Channel 4, is consistent with their remit to make “a significant contribution to meeting the need for public service channels to include programmes of an educational nature” is beyond me.

For those of you too busy, or sensible, to have subjected yourselves to it, please allow me to summarise.

See also: Channel 4 vegan series is irresponsible and dangerous

As an entrée, we were treated to a cynical exercise in emotional blackmail Meat the Family, where cute baby farm animals are given to suburban families to rear as pets for a couple of weeks and then taken away, before they get too big, smelly and destructive.

The foster family is then given the option of either going vegan or having their erstwhile family members returned to them, oven-ready. No agenda there then…

This was followed by the dismally dystopian anti-farming polemic Apocalypse Cow.

The Guardian’s resident eco-fantasist, George Monbiot, was provided with a televisual platform to push his misanthropic rewilding agenda, while offering “electric flour” and synthetic meat – a kind of Soylent Green meets Dr Frankenstein – as the solution to feeding the world while averting an otherwise inevitable environmental armageddon.

Finally, the crowning turd sat atop this midden of journalistic irresponsibility was How to Steal Pigs and Influence People – a documentary that followed Wes, a self-styled and disturbingly narcissistic “vegan-influencer”, as he urged his online following of moronic millennials to join him in breaking into and “liberating” piglets from commercial pig farms.

Leaving aside the obvious legal questions around incitement to commit both trespass and theft, or the serious personal safety risk that these uninformed idiots seemed oblivious to, did the producers not consider the animal welfare and biosecurity threats posed by promoting such actions in the pursuit of ratings?

Given that the current epidemic of African swine fever in China has now resulted in the emergency slaughter of almost one-quarter of the world’s pigs, it’s not hard to see just how morally reprehensible this kind of programming is.

While viewing figures will probably be blessedly low, the fact that such programmes are considered either entertaining or educational demonstrates just how disconnected we are from consumers, and how woefully off the pace we are when it comes to educating schoolchildren about our role in society and how we fulfil it.

Our historical success in providing a plentiful, affordable and safe food supply is ironically the root cause of this dilemma.

Such is the paradox of first world problems. The race to the bottom in food retailing has at best devalued food production and at worst cast the farmer as the principal villain of an exaggerated “climate emergency”.

As we enter a new era of agricultural support, focused on rewarding the provision of public goods, we urgently need to rethink our branding and how we position ourselves in the public consciousness, both as food producers and as stewards of much of the natural environment.

While communicating this should be the responsibility of the wider food supply chain, it is a challenge that we as farmers need to take ownership of too, or risk the kind of “brave new world” envisaged by Channel 4.

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