Climate friendly farms in the UK are being recognised with a new award.
Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
A 2020 University of Oxford study found that current agricultural systems make it impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°C - even if all other sources of greenhouse gas emissions were eliminated.
Animals kept as livestock are particularly problematic. According to the UN, industrialised animal farming accounts for at least 14.5 per cent of human-made global greenhouse gas emissions and 32 per cent of methane emissions, one of the biggest drivers of global warming.
In the race to reach net-zero emissions, shifting to plant based foods could prove essential.
To help UK consumers in their search for climate and animal-friendly foods, rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has launched its first ever Farming Awards.
Focusing on ethical, animal-free farming, the awards spotlight producers for their eco-friendly practices and products.
“Every winner of this brand-new award is showing excellence in their field,” says PETA Director of Vegan Corporate Projects Dawn Carr.
From a seaweed farm in Scotland to a beef farmer who recently moved all his cows to a sanctuary, here are some of the standout winners.
This former beef and dairy farm has gone ‘veganic’
Former beef and dairy farmer Laurence Candy made the bold decision to retire his herd of cows and transition to cereal production.
Initially, Laurence had planned to turn his farm organic. But the associated costs and environmental impact - coupled with a drop in demand for organic milk and a heavy conscience - led him to look for other options.
He made it his mission to develop a ‘veganic’ farm.
“It’s not a niche, hippy system; veganics does tick all the boxes,” Laurence told Biocyclic Vegan at the time. “The more I look into it, the more I learn; it does solve all the problems.”
Biocyclic vegan agriculture is a purely plant-based form of organic farming. It excludes all commercial livestock farming and slaughtering of animals and does not use any inputs of animal origin.
Mulching, composting and natural fertilisers are used to promote healthy soil, and biodiversity is encouraged to ensure a healthy balance of predators feeding on pests.
Laurence now grows vegan and organic beans and grains on the 134-hectare Northwood Farm in Dorset, England. His cows live peacefully at Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk.
Northwood has since become the first former animal farm to obtain the Biocyclic Vegan Standard accreditation in Europe.
“This system of farming aims to do the least harm possible to animals and the environment and embraces vegan principles,” says Laurence.
“There’s no way of saying ‘business as usual’. It’s about telling the truth at the end of the day and facing the facts.”.
“We’ve got to get to net-zero as soon as possible and that will mean a reduction in global livestock numbers; there’s no other way of doing it in the timescale.”
This company harvests seaweed responsibly in Scotland
Scottish business SHORE Seaweed grows 10 species of organic, responsibly harvested seaweed. They turn this harvest into pestos, crisps and other products packed with protein, fibre, magnesium, calcium, iron and iodine.
“Seaweed is highly nutritious and grown in harmony with nature without using land, freshwater or chemical inputs,” says the company’s managing director, Peter Elbourne.
Located in Wick, in the far northeast of Scotland - one of the UK’s most remote communities - SHORE hand cuts seaweed to allow for natural regrowth of the plants.
The company carefully manages the local plant diversity of its harvesting sites to ensure its techniques are sustainable.
The UK’s largest organic vegan farm helps others go plant-based
Tolhurst Organic in Oxfordshire is the UK’s largest vegan and organic farm. It has had organic certification for over 30 years, making it one of the longest running organic vegetable farms in England.
The farm has been free from grazing animals and animal inputs for the last 10 years. This ‘stockfree’ system uses less land than livestock dependent systems and has lower energy requirements, resulting in a much lower carbon footprint.
Biodiversity and habitat management are at the heart of Tolhurt’s operations. Its owners regenerate the soil and support wildlife by planting hedgerows and trees. Increased biodiversity has ensured a healthy balance of predators feeding on pests, allowing the farm to avoid crop spraying altogether.
Not only do they offer fresh veg box deliveries to Oxfordshire locals, they also give advice on organic vegetable farming to other farmers and anyone else interested.
“As a farmer, protecting food production systems means adapting to change,” says Iain Tolhurst of Tolhurst Organic.
“I am proud to run the UK’s oldest organic vegan farm and encourage other farmers to transition away from animal agriculture.”
The farm’s total carbon footprint comes to around eight tonnes - the same as an average house in the UK. Compared with conventional supermarket produce, Tolhurst’s veg is 90 per cent more carbon efficient.
You can find information on the other winners of the Farming Awards on PETA’s website.