Minister’s comments about eating meat spark furious response from Welsh TV farmer
A minister’s comments about eating meat have sparked a furious response from one of Wales’ best-known farmers.
TV personality Gareth Wyn Jones from Llanfairfechan slammed the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change Julie James after she suggested people should only eat meat on “high days and holidays”.
In response, he said ministers who are “paid big salaries” should be “thinking about what they say publicly”.
He told James, a lifelong vegetarian, not to “kick” agriculture, saying that it is one of the “biggest and most environmentally friendly industries in Wales”.
James made the suggestion while discussing Welsh Government’s plan to tackle climate change and increase biodiversity by planting more trees.
Plans to encourage more trees to be planted in Wales have recently come under fire for “destroying communities” in rural areas.
Large-scale investment companies have been buying farms across the country for afforestation – planting trees to offset carbon emissions, and there are concerns that this could damage local culture, language and heritage.
The Welsh Government says it is going to launch a consultation on its National Forest plan.
According to Gareth Wyn Jones, “giving opportunities to big companies down in London to buy family farms to grow trees” is “totally wrong”.
In a video posted to Facebook, he said: “A Welsh minster has said we should only eat meat on holidays and high days. I’m not sure what a high day is to be honest with you.
“But we’re up here on Penmaenmawr on a wet, misty day, gathering sheep, and as you can see, surrounded by trees down the bottom there, up here there’s beautiful heather, some gorse, a little bit of bracken as well, very diverse habitat.
“This place will be storing loads and loads carbon and producing top quality protein which is lamb, Welsh lamb, and mutton, producing wool as well, and the ecosystem here will be holding so much flora and fauna, and so much wildlife, insects. The place is absolutely buzzing.
“So, I think these ministers, these people who are paid big salaries, and are guaranteed massive pensions, should really be thinking about what they say publicly, especially you know, about a certain type of food – meat.
“And even if this person is a vegetarian, that’s a personal choice, but why be pushing something like that and talking about the climate?
“And I definitely think what we do here in Wales is sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
He added: “What she should be talking about is growing more vegetables, putting up more polytunnles to get more salads and greens for our children, getting a balanced diet, getting less sugar in our diets.
“We’ve got so much more we can offer in this country. So don’t kick one of the biggest and most environmentally friendly industries in Wales.
“Thousands of people rely on meat in this country, and we have got some of the best producers in the world.
“The talk about growing trees everywhere, is not the solution. Trees aren’t bad. Trees are ok in the right places.
“But we have to get the balance right, and when you’re giving opportunities to big companies down in London to buy family farms to grow trees, by using Welsh taxpayers’ money to offset carbon, it’s totally wrong, and that needs to be addressed ASAP.”
Julie James told WalesOnline: “Not all of the uplands in Wales should be forested. Some of them should be but many are upland peat for example, they shouldn’t have trees on them and have other forms of biodiversity. We have to enhance each part of the landscape to its best possible biodiversity.
“That can absolutely be done but we have to move to a sustainable farming scheme as much as possible and people have to think about the way that they eat. They have to think about the way that they use the planet’s resources.
“Personally, I’m a lifelong vegetarian but there is nothing wrong with eating meat but we just have to be eating it as a high days and holidays type of thing.”
‘Lack of understanding’
Responding, Welsh Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Sam Kurtz MS said: “The Minister’s comments show a complete lack of understanding of the importance of meat as part of a balanced diet and how it underpins our agricultural and rural economy.
“Farming is the backbone of the Welsh economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs from the field through the supply chain to high street butchers, but these comments show the industry is expendable to the Labour Government.
“Tackling climate change needs public support and economic sense. Understanding this and working with the sector and not against, is the only way positive progress can be made.”