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'It is totally, totally wrong' - Furious dairy farmers respond to animal rights activism campaign

Bungay dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore, whose family suffered vicious online abuse from vegan groups in 2018. Picture: Nick Butcher

Bungay dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore, whose family suffered vicious online abuse from vegan groups in 2018. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

Dairy farmers in East Anglia have reacted angrily to a new animal rights campaign which has published the location of hundreds of farms and urged activists to film them.

The Project Calf website includes an interactive map allowing users to find the names and locations of more than 9,000 dairy farms, using public data published by the government.

It encourages activists to approach dairy farms using legal public footpaths to record footage of the cows, talk to farmers about dairy practices and share their findings to inform the public.

The organisers behind Project Calf said it as a “lawful and peaceful animal rights campaign”, whose goal is “direct action exposing the atrocities of the dairy industry through citizen journalism, peaceful protesting and outreach”.

But the campaign has angered farmers including Jonny Crickmore of Fen Farm Dairy near Bungay, whose family became a target for online abuse from vegan activists last year.

He said: “I think it is totally, totally wrong. The problem with stuff like this is it is so easy to make somebody look bad by videoing something and making it into something it is not.

“As a dairy farmer it makes me feel quite angry and guilty – even though I don’t have anything to be guilty about. Our cows are really happy and healthy, and 99.99pc of dairy farmers really care about their animals, so it is very hurtful to say they are cruel.

“They are saying they are doing everything by the law and by the rules, but they know very well that people who read this won’t stay to the rules.

You cannot get good footage of a dairy from a footpath unless the path runs right through a farm. So people are going to trespass.”

READ MORE: Farming family donates This Morning TV fee after online abuse

As the agricultural industry’s “Februdairy” campaign swings into action this month, Mr Crickmore said the onus was on farmers to engage in an open debate and promote positive messages about the industry.

“As farmers we still need to go about things in the right way,” he said. “We are always defensive and always on the back foot. What we should be doing is trying to share positive messages about all the good things dairy farmers do for their animals and for the environment.”

John Torrance, the East Anglia dairy board chairman for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), added: “The NFU has no issue with lawful peaceful protesting but such protests should never turn into the harassment and intimidation of our farmer members, or their families. We would encourage all members to report any suspicious activity or incidents of harassment to the police.”

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