VEGANISM and its rise within society was on the agenda for NFU Scotland's president, Andrew McCornick, at the union's annual conference, held in Glasgow last week.

With negative press being targeted at the farming industry from supporters of a vegan diet in recent weeks, Mr McCornick was asked about his thoughts on the increase in popularity of the lifestyle.

"At the end of the day, it's a person's own choice if they want to be vegan, but what I don't like is that some vegans are forcing their opinions onto other people, and making our industry look bad."

And on whether the union would be supporting the #Februdairy campaign, McCornick claimed it was "counter productive".

He explained: "I don't think that doing #Februdairy is necessarily a good idea, to be honest, because I just feel it adds fuel to the fire, and opens dairy farmers, in particular, to more criticism, and it ends up being counter productive.

"I think what we really want to be doing is looking at the real figures of how many people are actually vegan, and how many people actually stick with it, that's what I really want to know, because it is not an easy choice," he said.

"Instead of a #Februdairy campaign, I think it would be more beneficial to instead promote the benefits of eating meat and dairy, and allow people to make that decision themselves, and that has already happened, because many sporting figures now drink milk, as opposed to orange juice, at half-time during sporting events.

"Overall, I think it's a bit of a fashion, and we should just let them get on with it. But, for me, I believe we were given our teeth for a reason – to consume and enjoy meat."

In response to last week's closure of Duncan Stevenson Ltd abattoir, in Dunblane, Mr McCornick added that is was unfortunate, and that he hoped it did not signal the end of more local abattoirs: "With regard to the Dunblane abattoir, there are other facilities available, but it is a shame to see it go, and there is hope the closure will only be temporary

"I think a big part of the problem with these small, local abattoirs is the cost of running them, due to the cost of inspections, and health and safety checks, etc, but I wouldn't say I want to see those standards drop, because we do not want the health and safety of our abattoirs to come into question.

"Another issue is that a lot of farmers only really use them for a couple of animals, not a huge amount, but I hope it's not the end of these abattoirs, as there are a lot of farmers who want to use them, and add value to their produce."

When asked about claims made by a Buccleuch Estate tenant that the estate had forced him out of his tenancy due to it wanting to use the land for forestry plantation, Mr McCornick explained that the opportunity to plant forestry will make landowners look at their land in a different way, but that tenant farmers are needed.

"We definitely need tenant farmers, and we need access to land," he explained. "There are plenty of farmers willing to bring people on, whether they are family members or not, and we need to make it possible for people to get into farming, and we need landowners who are willing to let, which some of them are.

"I would say that, at the moment, forestry does have the balance, but that will change and that balance will soon swing back to food production."