NSA hits back against ‘misguided and misleading’ ‘Veganuary’

Sheep on grass on the Cooley Peninsula.
Sheep on grass on the Cooley Peninsula.

The National Sheep Association has hit out at the ‘Veganuary’ campaign which the organisation has branded as ‘misguided and misleading’.

The NSA said that January is now the time producers find themselves arguing a torrent of false claims of crimes against animal welfare, the environment and human health that the media are so quick to promote as part of ‘Veganuary’.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “Make no doubt about it, behind the positive messages about Veganuary lies a well co-ordinated campaign against livestock farming. Our concern is that our unique grass based method of sheep production in Britain is hidden within more global and general statistics.

“We are seeing criticisms from welfare campaigners, rewilders, climate change campaigners, and health campaigners – but all these are connected and ignore the fact that UK sheep farming works very much in harmony with our environment, our landscapes, and our human ecology – creating a countryside the majority of the public love and producing a food product that is healthy and nutritious within a balanced diet,” he added.

“The climate change arguments that have been buoyed by the recent Paris Climate Change Summit ignore the fact that red meat from livestock that is part of a grass based system is different from that raised in feedlots and in intensive situations. Even more misleading is that the carbon footprinting tools we use do not take account of whole life cycles and ignore the role of grasslands and grazing animals in storing carbon and organic matter in our soils and even in the wool they produce. I would go as far to suggest that ‘organic greenhouse gas cycling’ from grazed livestock should be treated separately from gas emissions derived from fossil fuels.”

NSA says the UK should be seeking to maintain or even increase sheep numbers here in the UK, related to market demand, but further encourage the distribution into areas that are devoid of livestock in order to provide the multi-functional outcomes that people are interested in today.

Mr Stocker concluded: “In the UK sheep are a form of positive and regenerative agriculture which keep our uplands and permanent pastures in good condition and improve our cropping lands in terms of soil quality and the ecological benefits of a return to mixed farming.

“Some people seem hell bent on portraying sheep as a global enemy, but in fact they are the ultimate in renewable technology and are an efficient form of productive land management that is planet friendly.”

It has been reported that record numbers have signed up to “Veganuary” and will try living on a plant-based diet, at least for a few weeks. With vegan options becoming cheaper, and more widespread and convenient, organisers of the initiative believe 2019 will be the year of the vegan.

Since the movement started five years ago, participant numbers have more than doubled each year and a total of more than 250,000 people in 193 countries have signed up. Rich Hardy, head of campaigns at Veganuary, said that last Sunday alone 14,000 people pledged to go vegan for the first month of 2019 – a rate of one every six seconds.