Why we must work in harmony with farmers on environmental issues instead of bashing them - Sarah Todd

IN OUR crazy world, it was a relief to hear the University of Edinburgh’s decision to reject a proposal to ban beef in cafes and restaurants on campus.

Do you agree that farmers are getting a bashing?
Do you agree that farmers are getting a bashing?

Six thousand students voted on a motion titled “Cease of sale of beef from Students’ Association cafes and restaurants”, with 58 per cent voting against the move, which would have seen beef removed from the menu.

At this rate, 2020 ought to be renamed the Year of Farmer Bashing and it’s upsetting to think of how quickly it has become something of a national sport.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Students in Edinburgh voted on a motion to cease the sale of beef on campus.

Edinburgh’s vote followed a decision by the University of Cambridge to remove beef and lamb from student menus as part of a so-called sustainable food policy. Goldsmiths, University of London, has also banned the sale of beef in campus food outlets.

No more student staples such as beef burgers and spaghetti bolognese.

To be fair, this could also be the Year of BBC Bashing, but in this writer’s opinion the corporation deserves pretty much all that’s thrown at it.

In my mind, the broadcaster arrogantly dismissed Brexit leave voters and Boris backers as ignorant northern oiks.

In addition, it has certainly hammered more than a few nails into the coffin of Britain’s farmers with the disproportionate amount of airtime it has given vegans and the kind of climate change protestor who lays the blame militantly at the door of farmers.

It’s the pandering to minority groups that sits uneasily. Our daughter is a student at the Royal Agricultural University and when she telephoned home for the first time, we were horrified to discover that the oldest agricultural college in the land follows the trend of Meat Free Monday.

There’s nothing wrong with offering a wide menu choice, but it should stick to what it’s good at – championing all things British and locally-produced. Sing from the hymn sheet of the industry it represents, rather than dancing to a tune launched by millionaire vegetarian Sir Paul McCartney and his family.

In fairness, The Daughter would probably have chosen to skip the cooked breakfast one day of the week anyway. It stops being a treat when it becomes the norm.

Same one teatime – she’d maybe ditch the meat and veg for some pasta and cheese on the odd day.

Treat people with the intelligence to decide what they want to eat for themselves. It’s all a bit nanny state for this parent’s tastebuds.

As an aside, it’s said that eating meat every day for over 70 years equates to the same carbon footprint as flying out once to the Canary Islands on holiday, but that’s not the sort of fact we’re likely to hear on the likes of the BBC.

There are much more concerning meat-based issues than the environmental damage of cattle that have minded their own business grazing the same pastures for hundreds of years.

What about halal meat? Are our students too scared of offending Muslims to dare debate this one? All credit to Lancashire council for taking the bull by the horns and voting to stop supplying schools with halal meat from animals killed without being stunned.

It’s a brave move, but credit where it’s due for becoming the first local authority in the UK to rule that meat supplied to pupils in its schools must be from animals that have been stunned before slaughter.

It’s shocking to notice how much halal meat we are unwittingly consuming. There needs to be tighter laws on labelling.

Brought up on the don’t-get-too-attached farming notions of ‘where there’s livestock there’s deadstock’ and ‘better the beast than yourself’, it still sits uneasily animals having their throats cut in such a way.

That’s my personal welfare-minded opinion rather than an attack on the religious beliefs behind the slaughter.

Beware that almost all New Zealand lamb is halal slaughtered. I believe fast food chains and trendy restaurants – the sort who would kick up a fuss about the carbon footprint of an ant – also serve the ritually slaughtered meat because it’s more cost effective; there’s no need to offer a halal-alternative.

Sorry, sidetracked into the slaughter house. It just seems sad though – that with the exception of Edinburgh where common sense has prevailed – that Britain’s brightest young brains are under pressure to tow the anti-farmer line.

Farmers were out on their tractors this week, voluntarily removing storm and flood damage and shifting snow.

Are people really all that bothered about the agricultural carbon footprint when there is a fallen tree standing between them and their busy lives?

There is an old saying about living like you are going to die tomorrow, but farming like you are going to live forever.

Very few things a farmer does are for this year or even next; it’s about the next ten, 20 or often 50 years.

There isn’t a group of people more aware of the environment and how you have to work in harmony with it than farmers.

If they weren’t they would all have been bankrupt years ago.