About Farmers For Stock-Free Farming
It goes without saying that the world is changing. Farming, possibly, changes slower than other industries. The animals are the same and so, in many respects, is the land. The photos my cousin sent me today of lambing on their hill sheep farm where I worked in the early 80s could have been taken forty years ago – other than the fact that they came instantly via WhatsApp.
Undoubtedly, the biggest change in the last twenty years has been the explosion of knowledge. Thanks to information technology the answer to almost any question anyone has ever asked is literally at our fingertips. Through knowledge people make connections, and through those connections people make choices. Some of the areas of knowledge that have impacted the farming industry in recent years involve the environment and climate change; food and health; and the rights and wellbeing of both people and animals.
What I’m about to say is not going to be popular; but maybe better to say it now whilst we have the opportunity to do something about it, rather than at some point in the future when it might be too late:
The future of animal products is not looking like animal products.
As early as 2030 Plant based proteins will be five times cheaper than existing animal proteins.
I’m not just talking about plant-based diets here; I’m talking about advances in biotechnology that allow high quality protein to be created from micro-organisms (fungi, algae, protozoa), resulting in the biggest threat that modern agricultural has ever faced.
Independent think-tank, RethinkX, in their report entitled “Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030” report that these new proteins will be superior to animal proteins in every way – “more nutritious, healthier, better tasting, and more convenient, with almost unimaginable variety”. They also predict that as early as 2030 these proteins will be five times cheaper than existing animal proteins, causing a drop in demand for beef and dairy by 50% – with other livestock markets following suit.
The technology known as precision fermentation would mean that ‘anywhere you can brew beer, you can make food’, regardless of climate, geography or topography, making low price, high quality, nutritious food available even in developing countries with the potential to ameliorate world hunger and malnutrition.
It’s easy to dismiss these technological advances as a vegan fantasy or a passing trend, but the reality is that the number of vegans in Britain quadrupled from 2014-2019. A survey by supermarket giant, Waitrose, found that one in three Brits have stopped or reduced their meat consumption and the consumer research group, Finder, predict that 12 million people in the UK will be meat-free by the end of 2020.
Something Is Definitely Happening; And It’s Happening Fast.
In 2018, the UK launched more vegan products than any other nation and by 2019 almost one out of four new food products introduced in the UK were labelled vegan. Between August 2018 and April 2020, Waterstones went from having 944 to over 10,000 books with the word ‘vegan’ in the title. Superdrug saw sales of some of its own-brand vegan cosmetics explode with increases of up to 750% in the month of January, 2019.
Something is definitely happening; and it’s happening fast.
We can resist that, argue against it, dig our heels in but the reality is that this wave of change might be bigger than us. Do we want to ride its crest or drown in its wake?
I recently attended a conference hosted by the Scottish Farm Advisory Service (FAS). Throughout the day there was a big emphasis on diversification. One speaker reminded us of these famous words: “it’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change”. One farmer, with 45 acres of veg, was heard to say, “I love vegans!”.
Farmers For Stock-Free Farming (FFSFF) is a Scottish-based, grassroots group established to inspire and support farmers in the transition to animal-free agriculture. Whether through shifting to growing crops for human consumption, farming carbon capture through planting trees and restoring ecosystems, or by diversifying into a non-traditional agricultural enterprise, FFSFF presents the rationale, case-examples, and connections to support.
Possibly some of us are already noticing that within chaos and disruption lies opportunity.
That’s not all we do. Realising the lack of governmental support for the above initiatives, our lobbying group is hard at work talking to MSPs, Cabinet Ministers, committees, and policy advisors to ensure that farmers are supported in the endeavours that take our planet to a better place.
Disruption is something that not just the agricultural industry is going through right now but every single one of us. Brexit, the climate crisis, and now the Corona virus has propelled us all into the unknown. Possibly some of us are already noticing that within chaos and disruption lies opportunity.
I hope that Farmers For Stock-Free Farming will inspire and support you to seize the opportunity and run with it. The time to move is now.
Rebecca Knowles, MA, BSc (Agriculture)
Founding Director, Farmers For Stock-Free Farming