In the latest Farmers Weekly a 'Cotswold farmer' argues that the vegan movement can be defeated by a lack of publicity. 'I would suggest that we as farmers stop trying to justify our industry and ignore the vegan militia. The press will become disinterested with no televised arguments or public squabbles, and the issue will fade from the public eye.'
I think that the issue is more fundamental as it involves moral or lifestyle choices, changing conceptions of personal identity and what constitutes a well lived life. That moral choice is in my view undermined if people are pressured to eat only particular types of food, rather than making a choice based on an assessment of the issues.
The number of vegans (people who consume no animal products, including dairy or eggs, has trebled in the last decade according to the Vegan Society but still only make up about one per cent of the population). About five per cent of people are vegetarian, but 55 per cent of meal alternatives are eaten by non-vegetarians. I prepare vegetarian food for vegetarian friends or a vegan picnic for a vegan friend.
The AHDB states that 'flexitarianism' is a bigger issue than vegans or vegetarians. 'There are more people looking to limit the amount of meat they eat.' They are concerned about health issues and the contribution of livestock farming to climate change. There is an effort to go without meat on at least one day a week (which, of course, used to be Catholic practice). Concern about animal welfare is also on the rise, particularly among younger people.
The decline in per capita meat consumption has been masked by population growth. But there should be more marketing opportunities for fruit, vegetables and pulses - if farmers can get the staff to harvest them.