How would plant-based farming impact the South West?

What would happen to livestock farming communities?

“… particularly now we are starting to see what can be achieved with regenerative farming.”

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There has been quite a debate over whether a plant-based diet is ‘better for the planet’:

Will meat-free save the planet? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Including in these parts:

The debate over meat… and ethical farming in Sidbury – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Traditionally, much of the West Country has been grassland – and the question is whether there should be more arable production, as reported this week:

Converting farms from livestock to arable would lead to regular crop failures, according to an analysis of one the UK’s largest beef and sheep rearing regions. The Rothamsted Research-led study focused on the South West of England in response to questions over what could happen to UK livestock farming communities as society shifts towards more plant-based diets.

Lead author, Dr Lianhai Wu, said: “Adapting to the changing climate and changes in consumer demands will force us to diversify land from its current uses. Livestock grazing is the main type of farming across the west of the British Isles and it has been suggested that grasslands in the region could be converted to other land uses, such as growing cereal crops.

“However, our simulations suggest that, for the South West of England and regions under a similar combination of soil types and climates, planting winter wheat between October and December would be impossible in some years because of constraints on soil ‘workability’.”

Converting livestock farms to arable is a ‘non-starter’ in South West, new study shows – Devon Live

Indeed, there has been debate about the ‘impact on the planet’ of a plant-based diet:

What are the impacts of plant-based meat alternatives? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And this debate has been happening of late in the West Country:

MP sticks up for meat in vegan debate | Somerset County Gazette

MP criticises Muller protesters – but Vegan Society says he’s got his facts and figures wrong – Somerset Apple

Here is Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger in today’s Western Morning News, where he writes an open letter to the newly appointed Defra Secretary Ranil Jayawardena

Dear Ranil,
Firstly, many congratulations on your appointment. You will, I am sure, find the environment brief an interesting and challenging one.
Secondly, a warning: you are going to find me bending your ear on a weekly basis because I shall continue the missives I regularly dispatched to your predecessor in an effort to keep you up to speed with the way things are outside the M25 – not always easy for a busy minister to perceive. I hope you will perhaps find them of use now and then.
At the moment I see too many clouds and too few silver linings but one bright ray of sun, at least, is peeping through and that’s the news from the vegan food sector.
From all accounts the market is shrinking. The bubble appears to have burst – as many of us forecast would be the case – and the bandwagon has come to a creaking halt with one of its wheels lying in the dust. The magic has most definitely worn off.
Vegan food sections in supermarkets are contracting almost daily and many of the newly-converted veganites are quietly slipping back into their old, carnivorous ways.
Now I am not decrying anyone who genuinely feels they would rather exclude meat from their diet. That’s fine with me as long as they are happy for me to continue including the normal quota of meat in mine. We can co-exist quite happily.
But what I have found most objectionable from the start of the vegan revolution has been the way it has been developed into some kind of religion – and one led by wild-eyed apostles who are prepared to go to any lengths, including wrecking butchers’ shops and brainwashing children, to prosecute their beliefs.
And when it comes to trying to prevent the public having access to milk – proper dairy milk rather than the foul, filthy and far less nutritious vegan alternatives – which remains incontestably one of the world’s finest foods and upon a daily supply of which millions of families rely, only a deluded imbecile would have reasoned that that was likely to engender any sympathy for the sadly misguided vegan cause.
That evangelical fervour has eroded any respect I might have had for the movement – that, and the way they were prepared to hijack the descriptions of carnivorous products such as ‘bacon’ and apply them to their awful plant-based substitutes.
As to the twisted logic of insisting that veganism was somehow better for the planet, that was a whopping inexactitude.
The degree of processing necessary to bring vegan products to the market – let alone the immense environmental impact of shipping raw materials such as soy beans here – far outweighs the footprint of naturally-raised meat.
When I hear of vegan pet food (inevitably more expensive, too, than the standard variety) I seriously begin to wonder whether the human race has lost all its marbles and when I see ‘vegan’ shoes being offered for sale that suspicion is only confirmed.
Much as the early stack of claims for organics was gradually demolished until only one or two remained, all the wild assertions about the benefits of veganism are also being swept away.
As I said, I have absolutely no objection to anyone espousing vegan principles if that’s what keeps them happy. But don’t lecture me if I don’t and don’t send me unpleasant letters or shout in my face.
And just let the rest – the vast majority, in fact – of us get on with enjoying a balanced diet with the inclusion of meat as the human race has been doing for at least the last 10,000 years, particularly now we are starting to see what can be achieved with regenerative farming.
Yours ever, Ian

(18) Western Morning News (@WMNNews) / Twitter

Ian Liddell-Grainger MP — MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset

Finally, some other perspectives of farming in the South West:

Climate change in the South West: Regenerative or regressive farming? | Good Energy

Food and drink technical paper – Dorset Council

Landuse_dilemmas_2012.pdf

The Future of Farming: Farmers ‘not the villain’ in climate change debate – Devon Live

   
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