British dairy farmers deserve more protection from animal rights and vegan activists who undermine their work, Michael Gove has said.
During his speech to delegates at the NFU Conference on Tuesday (19 February), the Defra Secretary said farmers play a 'critical role' in society.
He said the government and public should not 'shirk and shy' from defending every sector of British farming.
It comes as activists launch an online interactive map, accessible to anyone, showing the addresses and contact numbers of hundreds of dairy farms in the UK.
The website behind the map, ProjectCalf.com, shares tips on how to record footage on farms, and says there are “no format or no rules to follow” for activists who want to go to a farm.
Whilst the site states it is a 'lawful' and 'peaceful' activist group, the map will be seen as a threat to farm security in the face of increased vegan campaigning.
An animal rights charity based in Australia has launched a similar online interactive map showing farm addresses.
But Gove told delegates at the conference that he is an 'enthusiastic supporter' of initiatives designed to promote farming.
“Dairy farmers deserve protection from activists who would undermine their work, they - our dairy farmers, alongside sheep and beef farmers play a critical role in keeping pastures and other vital landscapes resilient and strengthening rural economies and rural society,” he said.
“That’s why I am an enthusiastic supporter of initiatives such as Febru-dairy which remind us how much we owe our dairy farmers and why, at the end of a hard day at Defra, I am always happy to raise a pint - of full cream milk - to thank them for what they do.”
According to NFU Cymru, farmers are becoming 'increasingly frustrated' at the attempts of activists using 'misinformation and inaccuracies' to tarnish the industry’s reputation.
Throughout January, the vegan campaign 'Veganuary' advocates a plant-based diet, free of meat, dairy and other animal products, for the public to commit to.
But farmers are concerned such initiatives encourages a torrent of false claims of crimes against animal welfare, the environment and human health.
However, Gove added that the increased public attention and scrutiny only 'strengthens the hand' of British farmers.
He said: “I welcome the increasing public attention paid to the circumstances in which food is produced and the need to make healthy choices in our daily diet.
“This scrutiny only strengthens the hand of British farmers. A demand for higher standards, for more sustainable production, for high standards in animal welfare and more nutritious choices can only mean a demand for more high quality British produce rather than the alternative.”