The Big Biodiversity Debate

Yet another newspaper with an article on the villainy of meat. How dare they indulge their favoured journalists, repeatedly giving them an influential platform to spread misconceptions and outrageous indiscriminate statements? The latest one to stick in my craw states that all consumption of beef and lamb destroys biodiversity. This is just plain nonsense.

Native cattle grazing among alder trees in meadow

I am a lover of good wholesome dishes whether they be vegetarian, vegan, fish, fowl or meat. We avoid ultra-processed and out-of-season “air-miled” foods; despair at the farmed salmon industry and abhor the indoor intensive production of pork and poultry. High welfare, farming with nature and fine flavours go hand in hand, be it a carrot or a cockerel. Culture, climate, beliefs and financial constraints also play a part in the accessibility of differing diets across our globe. 

I respect that not everyone wishes to eat meat and that’s fine by me. Industrial scale meat production is indeed a major pollutant but to say, as this particular article did, that all beef and lamb production diminishes biodiversity on a cataclysmic scale is just not true. You just have to read our book “Meadows: The Swedish Farmer & The Scottish Cook” and you will find 50 years of carefully chronicled evidence of a wealth of precious biodiversity multiplying year on year in nature-friendly farming. Bosse (my husband The Swedish Farmer for those who don’t yet know us) not only created stunning landscapes but simultaneously produced healthy delicious food.

Bosse raking hay in Sweden.

Rare birds nested, butterflies fluttered en masse and dung beetles thrived. Indeed scientists would visit, amazed at the biodiversity, to ask him how they could re-create it. Bosse took on barren land and brought it back to life – with a reasonable income and no subsidies. He restored meadows and won the Linnæus Award for his expertise and toils. His soils were never compacted and his ruminants never fed grain. All this is possible for anyone wishing to follow his path but we need small scale farming not big agri. We need a re-think not a demonising. We need to be listened to, not cancelled.

Pearl-Bordered Fritillary on marjoram

We also write about landscapes that have lost their biodiversity when animals were taken from the land: lakeside habitats for nesting birds destroyed; bushes throttling rare plants, and forests choked with no daylight for rare and diverse species to thrive. These damaged systems can all be carefully reversed with knowledge and patience and indeed we also record some of these success stories in our book. All is not lost but we need balanced not blanket statements, air to breathe, ears to listen and space for others to write. This is a democracy…isn’t it?

Some choose to avoid meat for reasons very valid to them and there are fabulous chefs and producers creating sustainable produce and dishes for such a diet but, lest we forget, whether we have them on our own plate or just live alongside them, animals – as long as they are the right breed in the right place, in correct density on a natural diet – are part of the solution and not the problem.

Blue Tit ©️ Dougal Barrie

In our Fife kitchen garden, birds are nesting and their activity is a joy to behold: blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits, wood pigeons and blackbirds, song thrush and goldcrest. Bosse ensures the feeders are filled, the long-tailed tits tidy up the spider webs and the wrens love the insects – no glyphosate here. Our Scottish Food Guide Charter extends to the way we live – indeed my Dad says the local avian society would recommend us in their bird food guide too!

There have been associated articles published this month so do take a look…International journalist, Claudia Flisi celebrating National Tartan Day & Katherine Price Caterer (paywalled) article

SF&D visit to Dunlop Dairy

Since my last newsletter SFG has been out and about visiting members; attending the Fife Tourism Conference; Tour Guide for the SF&D Dairy Press Trip; assisting members with staff training; contributing to Slow Food International zoom meetings; cooking at the lovely Kelso Farmers’ Market, attending a Cruise Forth event aimed at raising awareness of food tourism opportunities for cruise ship passengers, and attending the Scottish Food Heritage Symposium. Meanwhile Bosse has started sowing the heritage grain plots at the Ardross grain project and is enjoying his role as a Farm Advisory Service Mentor on an inspiring project in Perthshire.

Forthcoming events in SFG diary include The Kirking of the Deacons with the Incorporation of Baxters (Edinburgh) that is a historic medieval event; a Heritage Meat Experience at Scottish Food Studio; a press trip to The Borders, and the Scottish Craft Butchers Black Pudding Judging. Quite an eclectic mix!

For what’s happening around SFG Members, check out the Seasonal Offers – members are always welcome to send in more news.  Sending best wishes, Wendy

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