David and Wilma Finlay of Rainton Fairm on the south-west of Scotland write an open letter to the farming industry ahead of their ‘ethical farming conference’ on 16 May
CONTRARY to powerful, vested interests who are demonising all beef and dairy, grass-based beef and dairy can deliver good health and positive environmental outcomes. The conference we’re hosting on our farm next week will explain the science behind this.
Scotland, with such natural advantages for grass-based livestock systems, has an opportunity to take a stand in countering this demonisation of our industry. Sticking our heads in the sand in the hope it all blows over is just not going to work.
We know that we’re a pain in the ass to those in the industry pushing an intensification agenda. We get it. But here’s the thing, the market is changing faster than policy can respond.
In the past few weeks we’ve seen a ‘climate emergency’ declared by political leaders across the UK. Livestock are easy to blame.
In Scotland, government and farmers like us should be natural allies in furthering a future approach to farming that works with our natural assets; pioneering a pasture-based, regenerative approach that is as sustainable as it is productive. If the industry’s policy representatives stick with their current agenda of intensification in a country that excels at natural, pasture based systems, it will place our whole industry in the frame as a health and climate liability.
This past year has been an interesting journey for us. We have been taken aback by the spontaneous support from members of the public and at the same time we have been badly bruised by the reaction of some, both from within our industry and from vegan fundamentalists.
Change has a funny way of happening very slowly until it reaches a tipping point, and then change happens all at once – just look at single use plastic. We believe our industry is approaching such a tipping point and we need to position ourselves to take advantage of this sea-change.
The conference next week isn’t about Rainton Farm or pushing a cow with calf agenda – we’re not even speaking within the main programme. The conference is the start of a conversation that invites our industry to meaningfully explore the very real concerns that the public has with current food producing systems and how we might address them.
For any farmer who has had enough of our industry being vilified and attacked by the media, who is weary of the race for volume and intensification, and who wants to understand and prepare for the challenges ahead, come along to our conference. It’s the day after Scotgrass, just 30 miles along the road.
David & Wilma Finlay