A host of leading Scottish food and farming organisations have collectively written to City of Edinburgh Council to highlight grave concern about its apparent lack of awareness of the positive credentials of Scottish red meat production.
The organisations have also asked the Council to reconsider the rationale behind its move, announced this week, to introduce Meat Free Mondays to council-run primary schools.
The reasons given by the council for its decision to proactively endorse the Meat Free Monday campaign are, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and other organisations, very misleading and display a very serious lack of understanding of the Scottish red meat industry and what sets it apart.
“There is, of course, no problem with schools including meat-free meals as part of their regular range of meal choices. Our disappointment is that an organisation, particularly one linked with education, should position their decision to support a campaign with a clear anti-meat agenda.
“The council appears to have based their decision on misinformation which completely misrepresents the reality of Scottish red meat production with its high standards of animal welfare and exceptional and widely-acknowledged environmental credentials,” said Jim McLaren, Chairman of QMS.
“An opportunity to educate and inform our urban based young people about local food production systems in Scotland has been missed by an ill informed and ill-judged decision which risks completely misleading pupils and parents.”
Among the organisations supporting the call for better understanding of the positive credentials of the Scottish red meat industry – which contributes around £2 billion to Scotland’s economy each year – are Scotland Food & Drink, NFU Scotland, the National Sheep Association, the Scottish Beef Association, the Royal Highland Education Trust, the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Associations and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers.
“The explanation given in a press release issued by the council shows a very worrying lack of understanding of the reality of Scottish red meat production and it is this we are seeking to urgently redress,” added Mr McLaren. “Scottish livestock farmers are rightly very proud of their role in producing top quality beef, lamb and pork in a manner which makes animal welfare a priority.
“Livestock farming in Scotland also has enviable environmental credentials. The reality is around 80% of Scotland’s agricultural land is grass and rough grazing - unsuitable for growing cereals, vegetables or fruit but ideal for producing top quality beef and lamb. Leading environmentalists recognise the importance of livestock farming, particularly to Scotland’s hills and uplands, and the industry also supports around 50,000 Scottish jobs, many of which are in fragile rural locations.”
Mr McLaren also observed that Scotland’s livestock farmers were global pioneers in quality assurance, which brings with it guarantees on traceability and production methods which are the envy of the world.
“QMS has a health and education team, led by a qualified nutritionist, whose remit includes encouraging young people to understand the importance of a healthy diet and red meat’s role in that.
“It is vital that officials in an organisation such as City of Edinburgh Council, with such an important role in Scottish education, have a much better understanding of the facts behind red meat production to avoid the sort of confusion and misunderstanding we are seeing this week.”
QMS has extended an invitation to Council officials to visit livestock farms and speak direct with producers to gain a better understanding of the important role of red meat at the cornerstone of Scottish food production and red meat’s role in a healthy, balanced diet.