Green MEP backs mixed agriculture – not ‘enforced veganism’ – after visit to Suffolk farm
- Credit: Archant
There is a role for animals within mixed farms, a Green MEP said after visiting a Suffolk farm.
Catherine Rowett, who became the Green Party's first MEP elected to the European Parliament in the East of England, said she was against "enforced veganism" and felt there was a place for sustainable meat production.
She said she felt "inspired" after visiting Shimpling Hall Farm near Bury St Edmunds, an organic farm in Suffolk, which had effectively made itself carbon neutral, helping to store carbon in the soil.
MORE - Top farmers defend red meat production as vegan trend gains momentumThe farm is run by organic farmer John Pawsey, who is also chairman of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) organic forum, and includes 1,000 breeding ewes, which help the soil and supply meat.
"I'm against enforced veganism - I think we should have mixed farming," she said, as she called for lower consumption of high quality meat, better conditions for animals and for the feed to be home-grown, and not to include imported soya.
"I don't think factory farming of animals is at all acceptable," she added.
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Ms Rowett - whose party advocates environmentally-friendly farming and wants to discourage industrial scale farming which it believes contributes to climate change - was on a tour of farms in the region. She also visited Fir Grove Farm in Norfolk, which has been restoring its wildlife.
Mr Pawsey, who was once a purely arable farmer, decided to return to mixed farming five years ago to help his soils.
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"I thought it was absolutely fantastic - I loved to see the sheep doing their bit by nibbling away at the blackgrass so that he (the farmer) doesn't have to spray," the MEP said.
One of her motives in visiting the farms was to find out how Brexit might affect East Anglian farming and also to see what more the European Union (EU) could do to support sustainable agriculture in the region, if we do stay in it.
"I'm really trying to find out what the best practice in farming is and what's possible," she said.
"Sometimes the farmers will say we don't know how we could make a profit or do our business if we had restrictions."
It was important for the UK not to leave the EU without a deal, she added.
"I think it would be a good idea, whether we leave or not, that we have smaller more environmentally friendly farms, that animal welfare goes up the agenda, that we should not be importing soya from South America, that we insist on having local abattoirs, ensure that the soils are maintained with organic matter. We could do that within the EU or when we leave," she said.