Goodbye Veganuary, hello Februdairy: how the dairy industry is taking the fight to its vegan critics

Madeleine Howell
Is dairy scary - or should we be celebrating #Februdairy? - Cultura RF

If you have a Twitter account, #Februdairy might well already be on your radar. In the wake of Veganuary 2018, farmers have come together this week on social media to defend the dairy industry.

It's perhaps not surprising that the reports of cruel farming practices paired with the growing popularity of dairy-free alternatives to products such as milk. yogurt, ice-cream and cheese has prompted farmers to speak out and defend their territory. 

For example, last year a controversial animal rights advertising campaign that claimed drinking milk is inhumane was given the thumbs up by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA). The move was met with outrage by farmers, who claimed the advert wrongly suggested that dairy farmers have scant regard for animal welfare.

Now, the pro-dairy month long campaign #Februdairy will run counter to the vegan movement, aiming to showcase the dairy industry in a positive, factual way. 

Some of the key issues up for debate include the nutritional benefits of dairy, the environmental impact of dairy farming, and global economic challenges to the farming industry. Of course, the most emotive topic of all is that of animal welfare. 

Dr Jude Capper, an independent livestock sustainability consultant, animal scientist and winner of the Dairy Industry Woman of the Year 2017, is a a self-proclaimed "myth-buster" at the forefront of the campaign, urging social media to celebrate #Februdairy by sharing pictures, videos and posts. 

"Two weeks ago, I sat in the audience for the Semex International Dairy Conference 2018 and heard two different presenters talking about the increasing market for plant-based foods and the myths, mistruths and misconceptions that abound about dairy farming," she says.

"As a scientist, I know that we need five pieces of positive information to negate every piece of negative information. Lo and behold, #Februdairy was born."

The campaign has already proliferated widely. As the Farmers Guardian reports: "With numerous tweets circulating surrounding the treatment of livestock, the fire in farming’s belly has most definitely been lit, leading many to take to Twitter themselves to right what industry figures have branded as misleading information."

High-profile supporters include In The Country blogger Hollie-Ella, who seeks to dispel the myths surrounding dairy. 

Capper accepts that not everyone will agree with her initiative. She warns: "Please remember that we all need to support each other and that you can disengage from social media at any time."

Hot on the heels of Veganuary, #Februdairy may appear to some to be a direct retaliation to mainstream veganism, and it has already come up against a considerable backlash from the vegan community online.

Websites such as Plant Based News see the fightback from farmers as further evidence that "dairy is scary - and scared."

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But according to Capper, one of the best ways for those who are concerned about the dairy industry to find out more is simply to talk to a farmer.

She recommends that people with questions attend Open Farm Sunday, the farming industry's annual open day on 10th June, which offers the opportunity for people to discover real farming  and see for themselves how their food is produced. 

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