Image credit: WSPA
Ever since a spokesperson for a planned mega-dairy in the UK declared that "cows do not belong in fields", it seemed to me like public opinion had turned decidedly against the introduction of massive, American-style factory farms to the UK. Sure enough, plans for the mega-dairy were later scrapped—but activists are keeping up the pressure to ensure that these gigantic confined-feedlot operations do not make their way into the UK farming industry. The only trouble is that they are using a decidedly romanticized notion of what the rest of UK farming looks like to do so. The question is, should that matter? Take the video below from the WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals). Sure, it does a relatively amusing tongue-in-cheek job of highlighting the impact that such megafarms have on smaller dairy farmers.yes, as I mentioned in my original post on the planned 8,100 cow super-dairy, many dairy farmers appeared more concerned about what such plans would do for the image of British farming, not the practice.
Given the fact that most dairy cows in the UK spend a large portion of their lives indoors already, when the weather is considered too wet for conventional grazing, they were worried that larger operations (which do admittedly confine cows for much longer periods than is normal now) would draw attention to the realities of their own methods. So isn't it a bit rich to be conjuring up images of the love sick dairy farmer and his beloved cow that misses her grazing?
Ultimately, though, I think it is being pragmatic here. Just because regular dairy farming is not as idyllic as many consumers think it to be does not mean that a move to even more industrialized methods doesn't matter. We can either choose to move toward more sustainable methods (and some organic pioneers in the UK have innovated year-round grazing), or we can choose to move away from them.
So I'm not going to begrudge a campaign that uses a implified narrative for strategic purposes—Eco-villains can be a useful campaign tool after all. But it is also worth noting that there is much more to be done than simply stopping the big players.
Our farming system needs a major overhaul all round. Stopping the creeping industrialization is just a start.