Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Barclay Bell, says he sympathises with the many farmers across Northern Ireland who have criticised an anti-farming campaign being run by Go Vegan World.
The UFU president says he believes the campaign is dishonest in its message and seeks to mislead consumers. He has also questioned how a product made from plants can be fairly described as milk.
He added: “This campaign seeks to denigrate farmers to advance the cause of a tiny minority opposed to livestock farming. This is a small special interest group that seeks publicity. Less than one per cent of the UK population is vegan – but those supporting this lifestyle choice are well funded and adept at attracting media attention,” said Mr Bell.
With vegans accounting for less than one per cent of the UK population he said this contrasts with the record attendance at the Balmoral Show as a celebration of farming.
“Those that attended represented almost seven per cent of the Northern Ireland population. They enjoyed a day out celebrating all that is best in local agriculture. This is also the picture for our Open Farm weekend in June, so despite spending a lot on big posters and courting media attention I think the Go Vegan World will change few hearts and minds here or elsewhere in the UK,” said Mr Bell.
The UFU says it would never criticise those who for ethical reasons have adopted a vegan lifestyle, but Mr Bell says it is unacceptable to seek fresh recruits by attacking farming.
“This time the campaign is about dairy farming, but past campaigns and their publicity has focussed on other aspects of livestock farming.
“This is one-sided and unfair. Farmers supply the needs of the 99 per cent of the population happy to eat eggs, meat and dairy products. It is unfair to denigrate farming families who do a great job producing affordable food on high welfare, environmentally friendly livestock farms across Northern Ireland,” said Mr Bell.
The UFU has challenged retailers to explain how products like soya and almond blends can be described as milk.
“Milk is defined as a product secreted by female mammals. That cannot include plant extracts. Such a misleading approach is unfair to farmers and consumers, and I believe it needs to be challenged, as it has been in the United States,” said the UFU president.