Here’s a question I get asked all the time about my journey into farming and I don’t think people ever get the response they initially thought.
The question is: “What were the biggest concerns of your friends and families about you forging a career in agriculture?”
Now I can tell you point blank that no one was ever under the impression that I wouldn’t make it in the industry – anybody that knows me well enough will know that when I set my mind to something, you can bet I see that through and make these little sparks and dreams a full on reality.
It’s part of my determination and stubbornness that my parents have probably both nurtured and at times despised!
The biggest question I was and am still asked all the time is as an animal lover, how on earth will you send your animals to the abattoir?”
To be honest, it isn’t a silly question. Every single day, thousands of people see how much love and care I give to every individual animal on my farm, so of course it raises this ultimate question of why.
As a farmer, I breed animals for food, and I understand that, no matter what, the death of an animal for human consumption can be upsetting for some.
I would be lying if I said I don’t feel a sense of sadness when my animals leave the farm.
However, I also believe that if I – or any farmer – was to ever lose this compassion, then it’s time to leave this career behind. Your animals should never be anything but your priority.
From the minute my animals enter this world or come into my care right through to the moment they leave my farm they are treated with all the care in the world, not because I’m thinking of their price tags, or their cost to my business, and not even because I think the meat will taste nicer.
I do it because I love my animals, and they deserve all the respect and dignity that I can possibly give them.
I have always had a very strong sense of the circle of life and I strongly believe we all live in a delicate balance.
As cheesy as it sounds, I genuinely have Disney’s The Lion King to thank for instilling this in me from such a young age.
I see our existence in a very matter-of-fact way – we are part of the animal kingdom whereby animals eat other animals.
I passionately believe that meat is a central part of a healthy and balanced diet.
I know that by giving my animals the best possible life I can (and by that I mean letting a sheep be a sheep and live in the most natural way and in the most stress free environment possible), then I can produce nutritious, healthy and top quality food that I am incredibly proud of.
It is also why I ensure any meat I eat that isn’t born on this farm is reared and raised in the same way – ethically, sustainably and naturally, even if that means paying more, travelling further than the local supermarket, or just eating less of it in general.
This I believe is a shift that we need to make as a society.
We must stop shopping on price and efficiency, and start being more values-led, where engagement can be had with the individuals who grow our food, so we can understand the life that animal has had.
To answer the question, I firmly believe I can love my job, adore my animals and love the meat they produce.
I believe you can have all three without contradiction – we all can.