Posted: 11/03/2019

Vegan activists up the ante with Project Calf farm observation plan…

Dairy farmers and cheesemakers have expressed alarm at a perceived step-change in targeting by vegan activists chiefly a new campaign called Project Calf.

The campaign has published the names and addresses of 9,200 dairy farms in England and Wales on its website and is encouraging activists to photograph and video farmers’ treatment of their herds.

One award-winning cheesemaker told FFD: “I don’t have a problem with vegans. What I have a problem with is they are trying to destroy the producers and the livelihoods of high welfare, high quality, every-day normal food.”

Project Calf said it aims to expose the “atrocities of the dairy industry” in a peaceful manner. Its concerns include the daily slaughter of male calves and unchecked infections in herds.

It advises activists gathering information to study Ordnance Survey maps and make sure they stay on footpaths, rather than stepping onto farm land.

“It seems to be a step up from what they have done before – a mild form of terrorism,” said one dairy herd manager on a diversified estate.

Matthew Rymer, a Gloucester dairy farmer and co-founder of the Happerley food traceability scheme, said: “I certainly wouldn’t agree with the approach this section of more militant vegans are taking but it’s indicative of a sizeable and growing problem. 

“This is a step up from what we’ve seen previously. It’s not helpful and it’s working towards alienating both sides of the food equation.” 

James Hordern, of law firm Mills & Reeve, said there was probably little farmers could do.

“Use of a public footpath to take photographs would not give grounds for complaint, unless it could amount to harassment, which would only happen in rare and extreme cases.

“While Project Calf does not condone trespass, its initiative may give rise to legitimate fears about activists trespassing on farms in order to justify what they may view as a greater good.” 

He added that any intimidation of workers or disruption of farming activity could be interpreted as aggravated trespass.

Hordern warned against electric or barbed wire, which could be viewed as a public nuisance and subject to regulation.

Project Calf, which sourced its farm data from the January 2019 Food Standards Agency Registered Dairy Establishments list, said on its Facebook page that its campaign is “totally compliant with legislation”.

This story appeared in the March issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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