It has to be quite galling when it gets to the point when you are a much loved BBC presenter of Countryfile and farmer of 1,600 acres in the Cotswolds, and your partner Charlotte and daughter Ella both refuse to eat meat reared on your farm. This is the predicament of Adam Henson.
Opening up about this dilemma, Mr Henson has called for the introduction of a GCSE in agriculture. The 53-year-old presenter who is probably one of Britain’s best-known farmers said:
“You can get a GCSE in religious studies and business, so why not in agriculture?”
His thinking? Well, it is to help people “make informed choices” around food, by which he means that people need should understand more about the actual process of farming meat.
“What drives me mad are the vegan vigilantes who post horrendous things on social media that aren’t true,” as reported in the Daily Telegraph.
“Are you better off eating a lamb that’s been bred on my farm, grazed on beautiful Cotswolds pasture and is full of wildflowers, or something that’s been shipped halfway around the world and may have contributed to deforestation? There has to be a balance.
“But let people eat what they want. I don’t have a problem with it.”
His farm was originally set up by his father and TV presenter Joe Henson who had a slot on Johnny Morris’s iconic Animal Magic show. It has been expanded to included rare breeds.
Farming remains Mr Henson’s primary passion despite the success of Countryfile which has an audience of millions. His gratitude to the show is evident – he is mobbed by fans in and around his farm, and it was a welcome relief to have this sideline in 2001 when the foot-and-mouth problem was at its height and the farm had to be closed.
Eating off the land
He does favour living off the land as much as possible and so eats the meat bred on his farm when he can, and perhaps in response to his partner and daughter being vegetarian, he plans to grow more vegetables.
According to a recent interview with the Daily Mirror, he tells children visiting the farm that the cuddly pigs will one day be used for pork and bacon in a very matter of fact way. There is no moral issue there for him. “Farmers working closely with the RSPCA is crucial” he adds.
It has always struck me as a strange concept to bring in the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to justify the killing of animals in a humane way. Still, at least the animals are treated humanely before being killed.
I do believe that it would be welcome for more people to be aware of where their food comes from, how the animals are reared and butchered. Some farming practices really do need to be made public so that people can make an informed choice.
His call for a GCSE in agriculture was backed by the editor of Country Life magazine, Mark Hedges.
So many farmers are feeling the heat when there is so much vegan militancy, and abuse both online on social media and in person.
The National Pig Association even claimed last year that many members “cannot sleep” for fear of attacks on their farms.
Adam Henson is currently promoting his new book. A Breed Apart: My Adventures with Britain’s Rare Breeds.