Livestock farmers have suffered huge mental and occasionally physical abuse at livestock markets and abattoirs and on social media in recent years from staunch vegetarians and animal rights campaigners, but Scotland's red meat industry, Quality Meat Scotland is fighting back with the development of a new department within the promotional body.

The department, which will be headed up by Douglas Bell, who has been appointed director of strategic engagement, will include one other person, and will look to find out the scientific facts behind the industry regarding animal welfare, nutrition, the amount of emissions produced, alongside increasing promotional work on the benefits of red meat.

"There is huge frustration right through the industry on the often inaccurate publication by animal rights organisations and anti-red meat lobbyists about our industry," said Kate Rowell, new QMS chairwoman, a press briefing in Ingliston.

"As a farmer and a vet, I am well aware of the issues faced by all those in the livestock industry and having travelled all over Scotland with Allan (Clarke, chief executive of QMS), in recent weeks we have heard the problems people are facing. We need everyone in the industry to raise awareness of the benefits of red meat and of the livestock in our countryside and the this new role, will provide a new voice to strengthen and protect our industry," said Ms Rowell.

Douglas Bell, who was formerly director of industry development at QMS, was also keen to highlight the growing issues affecting the meat industry and how QMS aims to tackle them.

"We want to bring our industry together to protect and enhance the intregity of our entire industry against such negativity with one voice for the red meat industry

"We need to get the facts out there so that we have some accurate defence to fight back against the often inaccurate messages being put out against the industry. We also have to raise the awareness of the facts behind Scotland's red meat industry and highlight the natural protein produced by Scottish farmers whose animals are kept in the highest welfare standards," said Mr Bell.

On a more positive note chief executive Allan Clarke said 19 out of 20 people in Scotland continue to eat meat, therefore the industry is in a good place to move forward.

However, with a 3% reduction in levy income due to fall in livestock numbers in Scotland and the number of pigs and sheep being slaughtered south of the Border, QMS has less money in the kitty to fight back.

Total income for the Scottish red meat promotional body to the year to March 31, 2018 was £5.8m, a fall of £600,000 compared to the previous year, with income from the statutory red meat levy for the year of £3.79m – down from £3.97m in 2017.

Despite these figures, he pointed out that there will be no increase in the levy to meet the deficit. Furthermore, he said that retailers are still looking to increase the amount of Scotch-labelled meat on their shelves, despite the constant squeeze on ex-farm prices by an ever increasing number of Irish processors.

What he was concerned about however, was the continued uncertainty relating to Brexit and future exports.

"Given the sustained lack of clarity, maintaining confidence in the industry is a major issue, not least for livestock producers trying to plan a way forward.

"Many of Scotland's processors are already facing a real challenge in terms of staffing particularly skilled butchery staff who play a vital role in the workforce for our industry."

Stuart Ashworth, head of economics at QMS also admitted the confused state of the industry, but he said there are positive and negative signals out there.

"It's a tough market and its not going to get any easier in the next 12 months when you see the way Brexit is going, the mixed messages out there about meat, Veganary and the lack of consumer confidence, but you can also look at the positives and the growing interest in UK products outside of Europe in the Philipines, USA, North Africa and Japan."

And, while he accepted exports of sheepmeat from the UK into European markets, which normally account for 33%, could prove challenging without a Brexit deal, imports from New Zealand are unlikely to be aggressive when more of their product been exported to Asia over the past year.