Livestock farming appears to be the favoured scapegoat for all problems at the moment… I’m sure you’ve noticed that everything from the weather, to world hunger, seems to be deposited at our doorstep.
I can almost hear the collective eye-rolls, from all sides of the table, but don’t worry, today is not the day for that debate. All I will say is, despite what the propaganda might portray, those who abuse their animals are in the minority and will never represent an entire industry (or even deserve to be a part of it). Nor will global statistics, or footage from countries with looser regulations and vastly different systems, speak for livestock production on our home-turf.
Everybody has the right to eat in the way that’s right for them, free from judgement or harassment, and farmers all over the world help to make those many dietary options available. But, personal views and diets aside, whether you choose to consume them or not, it appears to be being forgotten that the UK as we know it needs farmed livestock…
BRITAIN WITHOUT LIVESTOCK FARMING ISN’T AS GREEN AND PLEASANT AS SOME MIGHT THINK
Without a thriving livestock industry, the arable sector, which relies on the manure from the chickens, cattle and pigs, has to lean more on artificial fertilisers. The soil health of that arable land also suffers, as it loses grass leys and grazing as useful tools for weed control and boosting all important organic matter (a massive store of carbon and a reservoir of nutrients for the growing crop).
The 65% of UK farmland which is only suitable for growing grass, grows wild until the optimum growth stage has past, then starts to slow down or decompose, releasing the carbon it contains back into the atmosphere. As opposed to being eaten and utilised by cattle, sheep, therefore, enabled to carry on growing steadily, removing carbon at a constant rate, (England’s uplands store 200 million tonnes of carbon in their soils).
Without livestock farming, the British landscape we know and love, and the wildlife habitats it provides, would change beyond recognition. The patchwork quilt of shades of green across the lowlands, so visible from above, would mostly be replaced by varying tones of brown and yellow, depending on the time of year. And the heather and wildflowers on the moors? They’d be lost without careful attention, due to being smothered by uncontrolled grass.
The many people whose lives depend on livestock farming would face unemployment- the dairy industry alone provides jobs for around 80,000 people.
There’s not just the farmers and farm workers, but the feed mills, nutritionists, hauliers, livestock equipment dealers, shearers, AI technicians, pregnancy scanners, farm vets, and many more; which all deal with thousands of farms every year. Plus, everyone involved with the end product, including the abattoirs, butchers, bottling plants, and cheesemakers.
Not forgetting, all the auction markets, the central hubs for rural communities and important connections to our history; which would be redundant, along with everyone employed there, from the drovers, to the café staff.
There’s also the far-reaching effects on all the allied industries, like textiles, cosmetics, and medical supplies manufacturers, to name just a few; which all make use of the valuable parts of the animals which don’t end up on our dinner tables.
There’s a lot hinged on British livestock farming, and without it, wouldn’t more be lost than gained? Our soils, landscapes, ecosystems, and economy would be irrevocably changed, and as an island, we’d be even less self-sufficient, food-wise. I know there’s always room for improvement, especially with reducing our impact on the environment we help protect, but is losing a part of the fabric of our countryside really the answer it’s being heralded as?