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Farmers in Scotland who feel under “attack” as interest in the Veganuary trend grows have said both sides can exist side-by-side.
Veganuary – the campaign highlighting avoiding animal products in the first month of the year – has risen in popularity since it began in 2014.
Campaigners claim thousands of people are swapping meat and dairy for plant-based diets.
However, Scottish farming groups are trying to change the conversation.
Gwen Chalmers has farmed near New Deer in Aberdeenshire for 20 years.
She has a small herd of pedigree short-horn cattle.
Like many farmers, she feels she increasingly has to defend her way of life – particularly during campaigns such as Veganuary.
Environment Google searches for ‘veganism’ reach all-time high
Search term popularity in January each year
Google Trends suggests there has been increased interest in veganism this year, with Google searches for “veganism” reaching an all-time high this January.
Mrs Chalmers said: ”We do feel under attack. It’s a small minority of the population, but they’ve got a loud voice.
“So we have to get out there and put our message across and show people what we’re doing.”
Environment ‘Balanced diet’
She explained: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I am not against vegetarians, but I believe in a balanced diet, we need meat in our diet, we need vegetables, we need cereals, and it all works in a cycle together.
“Soil, I say, is the poor man’s tropical rain forest. If we look after the soil, the soil looks after us.”
The farmer argued the industry was doing its best to reduce its carbon footprint, but that other industries had to do likewise.
“We are doing our best to help climate change,” she said. “We recycle everything that we can.
“Farmers are needed to produce food and we want to do that in a sustainable manner.
“We can co-exist side by side.”
Last year, a major UN report examined the impact of diet on the planet. It said reducing meat consumption could have a major impact in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Rebecca Knowles, from Vegan Outreach Scotland, said environmental concern was believed to be the biggest reason that people were choosing to go vegan.
“Coming from a farming background, having worked on farms, I feel a connection there,” she said.
“Farmers are always going to be the people who produce our food, We’re always going to need farmers.
“People have said things to me like ‘you vegans, you’re trying to put farmers out of business’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“What we’re looking at is shifting from what we produce and producing things that have a better outcome for the environment, and a better outcome for ourselves as well as the animals.”
Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) said 94% of UK households still buy meat, fish and poultry on a weekly basis.
It wants to change the Veganuary conversation by promoting what it believes are the benefits of beef.
Jennifer Robertson from QMS said: “Our farmers are working very very hard at producing sustainable product and they’re working hard at increasing biodiversity throughout the farmland as well.
“I think a lot of people are looking at how much meat they’re eating and that’s absolutely fine but if they want to try and choose meat maybe two or three times a week that’s still perfectly acceptable.
“We’re encouraged that we can eat up to 70g (2.47oz) of red meat per day, so if we’re going to choose to eat it maybe a little less often we would encourage eat the best.”