A week ago I had to say goodbye to one of our cows.
It’s part of life on a farm I know, but it’s always difficult. This goodbye was made all the more harrowing because the reason for Primrose’s departure was so frustrating.
We bought her from market two years ago with a view to her being one of our breeding cows. Buying from market is always a bit of a gamble because you never really know the reason for sale.
Over the winter of 2016 she ran with a bull alongside another heifer Fuchsia. Fuchsia became pregnant and produced our glorious calf Freida, however, Primrose failed to get pregnant.
Since then she has run with three other bulls, both in our herd and with another herd on the local marshes.
When the herd was TB tested in December we also had the girls pregnancy tested. Once again, Fuchsia was pregnant but Primrose wasn’t.
So, a couple of weeks ago the difficult decision was made to say goodbye to the gentle girl. It was hard but when you’re running a farm you need to make the right decisions to allow the herd to grow.
Our cows are a happy bunch. They are grass-fed on pasture in the summer and in the winter they are fed on home-grown hay in the cattle sheds.
Primrose, who was four, was well past the age we would ordinarily send one of our beasts to slaughter for beef so, although we had to send her to the abbatoir, she’d had an enjoyable and stress-free life.
The thing is, life on a farm can often throw up difficult decisions and challenging situations, but this isn’t nessesarily any different to other ways of life.
We keep cows to continue the tradition of the farm, but more than anything else it is because we eat meat and want to know the provenance of the meat we eat. We want to breed grass-fed cattle that has a stress-free, content life and is well cared for.
For us, it is important that we know this about all of the meat we eat – our local butchers has a chalk board which tells us which local farm each type of meat has come from.
I’ve always been a meat eater and come from a line of farmers, humans have always been omnivores and meat helps to supply us with a rounded diet. If people choose not to eat meat then that’s their choice. We all have the ability to choose what we do or don’t eat. Now, I might not agree with some people’s choices but I would never criticise or pass judgement on them.
Saying goodbye to Primrose happened at a time when farmers local to us – and across the country – started receiving an inordinate amount of abuse from some members of the vegan community. I can only assume this sudden aggressive behaviour came from a push to encourage people to try ‘Veganuary’ – going vegan for January.
For me, the good thing about life is that we are all different, that’s what makes life so interesting and varied.
The very fact that a group of people who held similar views decided to make life hell for people who had varying views to them is simply mind-boggling.
From the accounts I’ve heard farms have been targeted both online and in person – receiving hate mail, online abuse, threats to life and torrents of inaccurate criticism – some farmers have even had to consult counter-terrorism police.
What I really don’t understand is why some vegans are spreading downright lies about the practice on certain farms across social media. Some vegans are being downright angry, aggressive and militant, casting blanket assumptions about farming practices based on their own misconceptions. There seems to be no space for conversation and this minority is giving vegans a bad name, which is unfair.
In Britain we have some of the highest standards of livestock husbandry and when vegans invade farms and stop livestock trailers from entering abbatoirs do they realise they are causing stress to the animals that they wouldn’t have otherwise encountered.
I believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but people with differing views shouldn’t be forced to put up with such aggressive behaviour.
For those of us who eat meat and consume dairy we shouldn’t be targeted for a choice we’ve consciously made.