Why has everyone got it in for our farmers? Last week Gillian Mackay, a Scottish Green Party MSP, urged ministers to persuade the public to eat less meat and dairy products, blaming livestock farmers for increased climate change emissions. The BBC also joined the chorus last week, claiming livestock farming has polluted 300 British rivers in the past year.  Pointing their finger at the UK dairy industry, the BBC’s rural affairs team claimed that the waste from Britain’s 2.6 million dairy cows, amounting to around 50 billion litres of manure a year, could fill Wembley Stadium 12 times over. In November, Stirling University’s Student’s Union voted to ban all meat and dairy products from its campus outlets by 2025, becoming the UK’s first entirely vegan uni. The ban has not gone down well with the university’s 17,000 students, the vast majority of whom are not vegan or even vegetarian. Earlier this year a number of GPs in Scotland signed a joint letter calling on NHS Scotland to replace meat, eggs and dairy products in hospitals with “vibrant vegan foods”, to protect the health of Scottish people and the planet.

Our farmers are understandably outraged. Headline-grabbing, alarmist stories aimed at puncturing the sale of meat, egg and dairy products, have come as a body blow to farmers who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, providing the nation with good, nutritious food, produced to the highest welfare and hygiene standards in Europe. Farming is never easy and rarely profitable. Modern family farms are a full-time, twenty-four-seven job. The self-isolation which we all endured during the pandemic, is an everyday occurrence for many farmers, in what can be a lonely and challenging profession. Now, with rising food costs, spiralling inflation, soaring energy and fuel bills and increased SNP/Green coalition government taxes, farmers are struggling to make ends meet. With interest rates being hiked to 3.5%, our farmers, most of whom have hefty bank loans, are facing grim times. Median farm incomes in Scotland are only around £39,300. The average farm in Scotland would have suffered a loss of around £3,300 without government subsidy. 

Scotland’s farmers are amongst the lowest paid people in the country and yet they are being forced to fight for nothing less than the survival of modern agriculture against a constant barrage of ill-founded criticism and questionable environmental data. They are pulling out all the stops to reduce carbon emissions and to hit government net zero targets. They deserve our support rather than our constant condemnation.