Opinion

Jack Russell: Synthetic foodies and vegan vigilantes – a grisly marriage of convenience

Regular readers (and God bless both of ye) will recall Jack Russell’s article of a few weeks back, entitled “Irish farmers are facing the ‘axis of eejits’“.

In it, the Terrier for the Truth set forth his theory that farmers are now confronting a range of threats from an array of groups that have, quite literally, nothing in common except a determination to end traditional, animal-based agriculture and animal-derived food production.

Not alone have the partners to this grisly marriage of convenience nothing in common; on the face of it, they should hate each other much more than they hate traditional farming.

Doubtless at some stage in the future they will turn on each other – the corporate synthetic food manufacturers and the vegan vigilantes – but in the meantime they join forces to attack traditional farming.

The vegans out of a misguided sense of the values they imagine us to share with animals; and the synthetic food corporations out of a practically animal sense of what they’d like their shares to be valued at.

(Just on that, one of the new vegan burger companies saw its share price rise by 160% in the week it made its market debut. Be afraid).

Chocolate shakes and burritos

In the same article Jack highlighted the disconnect now evident between the young generations’ understanding of how we farm and produce food and the older – more rural-orientated – people who had first or second-hand experience of a family farm.

Looking at it afterwards, the Terrier for the Truth wondered if he hadn’t been a bit hard on the youngsters; a bit dismissive of their ignorance, a bit condescending about their concerns.

Shure once it was explained to them, they’d be capable of understanding the practicalities of producing milk or beef?

All we had to do, thought Jack, was show the kids the natural sequence that farmers followed or imitated to produce the food that finds its way into those chocolate shakes or burritos they seem to survive on.

Knowledge is the best cure for ignorance, right?

Wrong.

Jack of all trades – master of none

Dr. Paddy Wall, professor of public health at UCD, has noted the drop in the popularity of farm visits among his food safety masters’ students.

Dr. Wall told a recent IFA seminar that after witnessing a farmer using a calf-jack, his students had urged him to report the individual for cruelty.

Expanding on his theme, the professor pointed out that there’s a “disconnect” between the consumers and the reality of how their food is produced that was “getting wider and wider”.

Displaying an equanimity that is not shared by Jack Russell, Dr. Wall said he was not “losing sleep” over the fact that these future food safety professionals were not visiting farms and, when they did, seemed to have no idea what they were looking at.

Farmers should be “losing sleep” because if this disconnect continues much longer, they’ll be the ones losing money. Not tenured academics.

If we can’t explain to postgraduate students – or, more likely, they don’t want to understand – then we’re in a hole that no jack ever invented will be able to widen enough to get us out of.

My un-Dalkey nephew

Postscript: Jack has a teenage nephew in Dublin who prides himself on a most un-Dalkey like knowledge of farming-related terminology.

Did he know what a calf-jack was?

“Come again, Uncle Terrier?”

A calf-jack? A jack for a calving cow? Had he any idea?

“Cowjack? Was he not a TV detective in the 1970s?”