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In The Country Magazine
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Farming In The Country Lifestyle

Veganuary – a balanced approach.

I don’t really know where to start with this article but, I know I want to write it and I have done for a couple of weeks now. I don’t know what can of worms I will open up but, I feel passionate about airing my views and having created a platform that allows me to do so and to reach a large number of people in doing so, inspires me to sit down and write this.

Veganuary… a phrase you’ve heard dominating every form of media for the last few weeks.

What is it? Where did it come from? The movement began back in 2014, when husband and wife duo; Matthew Glover and Jane Land launched the non-profit organisation. The couple have since ‘stepped down’ from the charity…

Since 2014, Veganuary has rapidly escalated from a fun New Year’s challenge and has been transformed into an almost militant movement designed to inspire people to ditch meat for the duration of January (and beyond). In 2019, more than 250,000 people took part in the worldwide campaign, with ‘over 500 brands, restaurants and supermarkets’ promoting the campaign.

I recently had a meal in a London chain of one of my favourite restaurants who were offering a dish called; Vegan Suika Tuna however, it wasn’t tuna at all, although marketed as a fish product, it was in fact dehydrated watermelon ‘steak’.

In the words of the organisation, ‘Veganuary encourages and supports people and businesses alike to move to a plant-based diet as a way of protecting the environment, preventing animal suffering and improving the health of millions of people.’

But are they right? And this is where I am genuinely intrigued. I am passionate beyond belief about animals and I am becoming increasingly aware, as are millions of other people, about the current crisis our planet faces, and I am keen to make conscious changes to my own lifestyle which will (I hope) contribute minutely towards a global change and improvement in the state of the climate.

Vegans and vegetarians are often criticised for their double-standards and forceful attitude towards they dietary choice which doesn’t always transpire or stretch to their day-to-day lifestyle choices. In my own personal experience, I have found vegans to be hugely accommodating and not preachy at all, one of my best friends is a passionate vegan but respects the fact that I am not.

You’ll likely have seen the interview on This Morning recently between our very own Rachel Carrie, and vegan activist Joey Armstrong (if not, you can watch it here). This was a clear example of how close-minded some vegan activists can be. Behaviour which is damaging to the cause surely?

I believe in understanding before you speak and I believe in moderation and realism. In all honesty, Veganuary is never going to achieve a ‘fully vegan world’ as outlined in one of their aims but, it is possible that we can achieve a healthy and sustainable balance for the humanity, the world we live in but also for the animals.

Throughout this article, I am in no way claiming that this is the be all and end all to the vegan vs meat argument, this is purely my opinion on the subject. It’s a free world right? Last time I checked anyway…

In recent months, and years, British Agriculture has come under fire more times than I can list, it faces an unfair and bias media representation, worldwide which it cannot feasibly (and let’s be real – financially) compete with.

I recently complained to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about an advert which, I felt was extremely biased and contained information that wasn’t correct or backed up by facts. In truth it was scaremongering. I then received a reply from the agency days later, stating that they ‘wouldn’t be taking any specific action’ in relation to my complaint.

I then learnt that, a company called The Meatless Farm Co had received a substantial seven-figure sum from media giant – Channel 4 and in return they would air their TV advertisement throughout the Autumn and Winter months on the channel. This is in part, why British Agriculture gets such little air time. Money is being slipped into people’s pockets like dirty and dishonest back-street dealers.

In contrast, one of my favourite advertisements on TV is by McDonald’s, it is this with the following caption: ‘We really appreciate the hard work of over 23,000 British and Irish farmers who produce the quality ingredients that go into your McDonald’s. That’s why, in our latest ad we’ve used the real farmers from whom we source our ingredients and shown the journey from their hands to yours.

There should be more like this but, let’s face it, farming isn’t renowned for generating millions and with the vegan diet, being labelled a ‘trend’ it is no surprise it received such financial and media backing with big name individuals like Kim Kardashian, Ariana Grande and Ellie Goulding actively posting and promoting the fact they’re living the vegan lifestyle.

However, back to my earlier point. It is a free world, we’re all entitled to our own opinion and just as this is mine, I respect many others for theirs. If you choose to be vegan, that is fine, I respect that whole-heartedly and I would never try and change your mind but, respect my lifestyle choices in turn.

The argument of animal welfare is always drummed up when activists are trying to inspire others to convert to a plant-based diet, and my response to that is purely, you can’t tarnish everyone with the same brush. In any industry and in any walk of life, there will always be people who let the side down. But know your facts… know what is the truth and what is a misrepresentation. Of those there are many!

There will be bad schools, dodgy businessmen (and women), athletes who cheat, people who steal and bad farmers. All amongst a wider majority of fantastic schools, businesses, sports men, women and farmers. Just as there are livestock farmers who may let the side down, there will be arable farmers (the farmers who grow your plants) who cut corners, use cheap, harmful chemicals in order to keep costs down but yields up and so on, you get the idea.

Then there is the argument about how cattle produce a huge percentage of harmful greenhouse gasses and as such are contributing to the climate crisis, however in order to produce your kale, avocados, watermelon tuna or soya, almond or rice milk, huge amounts of water and electricity is needed.

What is worse? Maybe neither, but they’re equally as impactful.

The soya needed for your morning coffee with soya milk have been produced in the cleared forests that once flourished in Brazil and has been linked to soil erosion, or the avocados you have for lunch are being linked to deforestation, drug cartels and droughts in Mexico.

Balance is the answer in my opinion.

Rachel Carrie is doing wonders in raising the awareness for organic and sustainable meat consumption on the world stage, but we are each responsible for our own choices. For example, one thing I really want to start doing is to buy my meat from a local butcher. In doing so, I am buying local meat, supporting both my local butcher and farmer and cutting down my food’s miles.

Consider buying lamb, beef and pork boxes from locals, I have friends who produce lamb boxes each year from home-bred and reared stock. It won’t be tricky to find local farmers in your area offering the same.

As a society, we have become greedy. We want everything on demand and as a result, businesses and brands have strived to cater for this. I dread to think the amount of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables wasted each week at supermarkets.

I regularly eat meat-free meals, through choice (and sometimes laziness), as I am sure many of you do too. This can have a positive impact too, we don’t need meat with every single meal and by choosing to eat meat-free meals every now and again, we can reduce the demand ever so slightly. Which, will hopefully reduce the mass production round the world if enough people did the same.

I don’t think we’ll ever find the perfect answer, there will always be struggles on both sides but we can live peacefully side-by-side if we respect each other and shop consciously.

TV shows like; How to steal pigs and influence people aren’t helping, the portrayal is bias and in this case criminal. I strongly believe that if ANY of these pro-vegan documentaries are being produced and aired, the pro-agriculture side of the story should be given the equivalent air-time and investment.

A fabulous new series called: Born Mucky; Life on The Farm has started on Quest I believe. A great step in the right direction but, not on the major channels. It won’t have the same affect or reach as the above pro-vegan documentary which was advertised heavily and broadcasted on Channel 4.

BBC or ITV are you working on anything? I sure hope so.

Images within this article have been sourced from Royalty Free site Unsplash. I do not own any of these.

If you found this article interesting, as we approach the end of Veganuary and head towards Februdairy, you can read my article on this pro-dairy campaign here.

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