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Veganism vs meat: The future of the planet is in our hands

The debate between vegans and livestock farmers has at times become heated.

"We are going to become a vegan world."

To some, it's a bold claim and one that might seem a long way off, if it ever comes.

However for vegan campaigner, Barbara Bolton, she has no doubt that change will happen.

"There's just no question about that - if we don't we're going to destroy the planet," she said.

Both vegans and livestock farmers have spent the past two months promoting their differing views. First there was Veganuary and now we are approaching the end of Februdairy.

The debate between the two sides has at times become heated.

Some farmers say they've been subjected to abuse and targeted by vegan activists, although that claim is refuted by others.

Debate: Both vegans and livestock farmers have spent the past two months promoting their differing views.
Debate: Both vegans and livestock farmers have spent the past two months promoting their differing views.

Ms Bolton, from Go Vegan Scotland, said: "I haven't seen the evidence. There have been reports in the past that have then turned out not to be accurate.

"If threats are taking place from any angle then I certainly don't support that."

Steven Wylie, a beef farmer from Orkney, said he received online abuse when he posted on social media last month backing his beef industry.

He said: "The level of abuse and constant private messages, it was a bit disappointing to be honest.

"There are still a lot of lies being told about our industry, it's not being backed up by science. The science is out there for nutrition, the impact our product has.

"I mean each to their own, but you can't just try and destroy another industry by trying to promote your own."

The Vegan Society estimates there are around 60,000 vegans in Scotland. For them it's all about animal rights.

It means as well as not eating meat they don't consume dairy, eggs or even honey. They also don't use products like leather or anything tested on animals.

Ms Bolton said: "Veganism has always been about animal rights, it's always been a social justice movement and it still is today."

However, farmers feel claims made against them about poor animal welfare standards are unfair and untrue.

Farm: Kenny Groat owns a dairy herd in Aberdeenshire.
Farm: Kenny Groat owns a dairy herd in Aberdeenshire. STV

Kenny Groat owns a dairy herd in Aberdeenshire.

He also has a restaurant and store where people can go and watch his dairy herd being milked, while they eat and buy cheese on the way out the door.

For him, welfare standards are the most important thing.

Mr Groat said: "Welfare is definitely number one for us. A happy, healthy cow produces a better quality product so then we can have a better quality product to sell to customers.

"We require good quality milk to give us a good quality cheese and without that we just don't have that good quality product that we need."

Mr Groat's business has been going for 12 years, but his family have been farming for generations.

He said he wants people to able to see where the produce they are eating is coming from.

He added: "We want to show them what actually happens here. We're not hiding what we do.

"We want people to come out, have a look, see the cows getting milked and see the cows out in the fields."

Debate: A happy, healthy cow produces better milk.
Debate: A happy, healthy cow produces better milk. STV

For Ms Bolton though, she said the debate isn't between vegans and farmers.

Instead, she wants to encourage them to switch from livestock to growing more plant-based products.

She said: "We're always going to have to eat.

"As we transition away from using and killing other animals, eating their bodies and the other things we take from them, we will need to eat more plant-based food.

"We will always need farmers; we're not looking to put anyone out of business. What we're looking to do is change the agricultural industry for the sake of animals, the planet, our health - we have to."

Craig Tannock believes change is coming too.

He owns several vegan outlets in Scotland and since he opened his first in 1994, he says demand has grown.

He said: "This decade that we're in just now, the change has been unbelievable, particularly in the last five years, particularly in the last two years.

"Even five or six years ago there was maybe a handful of vegan businesses in Scotland, there's now over 100.

"The speed of change is increasing so the next decade, never mind the next 20 years, is going to be a major change and we need that major change."

Healthy: There are now over 100 vegan businesses in Scotland.
Healthy: There are now over 100 vegan businesses in Scotland. Pixabay

The Vegan Society claims that the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled since 2014 to around 600,000.

This is also an environmental, economical as well as ethical debate and then there are health factors to consider too.

But ultimately it will be consumers in supermarkets, farmers markets and local stores that will decide the future of either in the long-term.

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