Meat-eaters should be treated like smokers, says the vegan shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy

Labour's spokeswoman for the farming industry wants meat eaters to be targeted with public ad campaigns encouraging them to go vegetarian

Matt Dathan@matt_dathan
Friday 25 September 2015 11:43
Kerry McCarthy, shadow  Environment Secretary (BBC)
Kerry McCarthy, shadow Environment Secretary (BBC)

Meat eaters should be treated in the same way as smokers and targeted with ad campaigns urging them to become vegetarians, according to Labour's new spokeswoman for the farming industry.

Kerry McCarthy, who has admitted she is a "militant" vegan, was appointed shadow environment secretary in Jeremy Corbyn's front-bench team, alarming countryside campaigners who warned that her veganism and strong opposition to hunting and the badger cull would harm Britain's farming industry.

She said that although progress had been made to improve animal welfare, ultimately people needed to give up meat or dairy if they really wanted to protect animals.

A graphic image from the 2007 Department of Health anti-smoking campaign. Kerry McCarthy wants similar ads directed at meat-eaters to warn of the impact to animal welfare

Public campaigns, such as those warning of the dangers of smoking, should be used to encourage people to give up meat, Ms McCarthy said.

But her views were dismissed as "verging on the cranky" by the Countryside Alliance, who have warned Mr Corbyn that Ms McCarthy's appointment has made distanced farmers even further from the Labour party.

Corbyn on McDonnell

Ms McCarthy has been a vegan for the last 20 years and was a vegetarian for 10 years before that. She has also campaigned against the Government's badger cull and fox hunting in her role as vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports.

In an interview with vegan magazine Viva!life, she said: "I really believe that meat should be treated in exactly the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it.

"Progress on animal welfare is being made at EU level … but in the end it comes down to not eating meat or dairy."

Jeremy Corbyn's decision to appoint a vegan in charge of Labour's dealings with farmers disappointed some in the industry

In another move that is likely to anger farmers, she said the low price of milk in the UK was "a supply and demand thing", adding: "Too much milk is being produced and if you live by the market you have to risk dying by the market."

Ms McCarthy said the use of EU farming subsidies to fund shooting and forestry had turned her into an even more radical vegan.

"The constant challenging of the environmental impact of livestock farming is making me more and more militant, not least that CAP payments are available for grouse shooting, controlling buzzards and forestry," she said.

She added: "There will be different viewpoints, there will be violent disagreements, but it’s about trying to listen to the evidence, approach things with an open mind – and I am very much prepared to do that."

Tim Bonner, from the Countryside Alliance, said: "Kerry McCarthy’s views on meat eating and livestock farming are completely out of step with the vast majority of people.

"Her ideas are verging on the cranky. This appointment is only going to make it more difficult for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party to reconnect with rural Britain."

Ms McCarthy later sought to reassure the farming industry by clarifying her comments. She told Radio 4's Farming Today: The world is not going to turn vegan because I am in post.

"I have my own personal views on what I choose to eat, but I accept that we have a livestock industry in this country. What I want is for the industry to have the best welfare standards possible, to be sustainable as well as economically viable."

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