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Fake News

mikehartleyEven farmers suffer from the modern phenomenon of fake news. The latest advisory booklet to drop through my letterbox was a guide to protect against anti-farming extremists who employ a range of tactics to discredit individual farms and farming as a whole. This can take the form of sneaking into livestock farms at night and taking footage/photos which can be edited or portrayed to make a sensational impact. I understand on social media some vegans are constantly making the case that livestock farming necessarily involves cruelty to animals.

I remember P.R. issues in the past but they were normally of the ‘feather bedded farmers’ and ‘you never see a farmer on a bike’ variety. Now we have to face up to our customers’ worries about animal welfare and food health scares. I am of the view that becoming a vegan will not necessarily make you live longer, it will just feel like it. But joking aside, I do understand people want to eat more healthily and we have to show how meat can be part of a healthy diet and that our animals have been kept in good conditions.

As keen as I am that we make a strong defence of livestock farming, I do respect the views of people who refuse to eat meat on moral grounds. My wife’s sister and brother-in-law are vegans and they were frequent visitors to the farm. One time Rob accompanied me to check on the batch of sows due to give birth that week. We found a grim sight in one pen with what looked like two feet of a sow’s insides lying on the floor behind her. She had a prolapsed uterus. With Rob’s help we managed to push the prolapse back in and, leaving Rob to hold it in place, I rushed to phone the vet. It all ended well and the sow was back on her feet and eating the next day as if she had just had a normal birth. Once she had reared her piglets, she was sold. Lovely sausages though. The vet later told me he had never successfully replaced a prolapsed uterus in a sow. (By the time he had been called it was normally too late). I know I am not the first pig farmer to do this but I bet Rob is the only vegan to have.

On our farm here we are replacing a fattening shed with a new straw-based building that is more extensive. Although Rob might prefer us to give up pigs altogether, this seems to be the direction that the British consumer would like us to follow – and how boring to have no animals on a farm!

Mike Hartley

August – September 2018