Dairy groups should recognise need for debate

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From: Simon Pope, WSPA UK Head of External Affairs.

THE World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) is disappointed by DairyCo’s comments in your article “Massive farms for dairy cows ‘bad business’” (Yorkshire Post, September 9).

Their unconsidered response to our briefing, Weighing up the Economics of Dairy Farms, is frustrating.

The exodus of dairy farmers has not slowed. The NFU and Defra must do more to support small to medium size family farms, and desist in perpetuating the myth that farmers must scale up, produce more milk or go bust.

It is vital that bodies such as DairyCo recognise that groups like WSPA, and indeed the public at large, are key stakeholders in the provenance of our food and entitled to push the debate forward, without fear of being stifled or dismissed.

However, we must address a particular point raised by DairyCo that our conclusion is “based on false assumptions regarding the relative production costs of the two systems”. We ask them to read the report again with a less cynical eye.

We are baffled by their suggestion that pasture-based production is as costly as mega-dairy production. The inputs required are far greater and more expensive; even more so in the EU.

If UK farmers are expected to have any chance in the world market, they need to be empowered to be as cost effective as possible.

Finally, our briefing was put together by farmers, one of whom is also a Nuffield Scholar, as well as specialist rural and dairy economists.