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Tim Bonner: Rural businesses prove the virtue signallers wrong

The stupidity, and in some cases vindictiveness, of councils, universities and other institutions which try to ban meat, particularly beef and sheep products, was highlighted at yesterday’s Countryside Alliance Awards Champions' Reception in the House of Lords. In all categories there was a clear focus on local produce, but particularly in the local food and drink, and butcher categories, where our regional and national winners were consistent in their extraordinary dedication to the environment and animal welfare.

If you wanted a model of what the countryside should be then you need look no further than our local food and drink champions, Gazegill Organics in Lancashire, where the Robinson family has been farming for nearly 500 years. They produce the highest possible quality milk and meat from pastures which boast over 60 species of grasses, plants, herbs and wild flowers. Gazegill rears traditional breeds which are suited to their organic low intensity systems and produce wonderful meat and milk which they sell through their farm shop and increasingly online. 

The judges were also in awe of the range of projects being carried out on the farm from an education centre, to wind and solar energy, but at the heart of the whole operation is an absolute commitment to the environment and to sustaining a family farm and the community it is part of. The contrast between Gazegill and the hypocrisy of the Cambridge University professor who promoted a ban on red meat products on campus whilst flying back and forth to Australia on sabbatical, or the Green and Lib Dem councillors in Oxford who banned meat products from council and civic events and then served up vegetables and fruit flown in from around the world, is all too stark. The lesson is very simple. If you want to tackle biodiversity decline and global warming, worry about where your food comes from and how it is produced, not simply whether it is animal, vegetable or mineral. 

Far too often the challenges of climate change and biodiversity decline are used as cover for attacks on farming and livestock production which are actually motivated by a politicised animal rights agenda. If people want to make the case against rearing and eating meat on ethical grounds then they should argue that case, but the fact that they would rather hide behind other spurious justifications suggests that the ethical argument is not an argument that they think they can win. The truth is that if you want to find the answer to higher standards of animal welfare, more biodiversity or less global warming, they were on display at the Countryside Alliance Awards Champions' Reception yesterday. The solutions to the problems of our age will come through listening to our communities, especially our rural communities, not through attacking them.

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