Lakeland chief on veganism: ‘We must challenge misinformation’

The dairy industry must continue to protect its reputation and tackle misinformation arising from the “agenda” of veganism and anti-farming sentiment, according to the chief executive of Lakeland Dairies.

Michael Hanley was speaking at the NDC Kerrygold National Quality Milk Awards in Co. Monaghan today, when he took aim at the current trends threatening the agriculture sector.

Hanley warned that trends such as veganism “aren’t going away, and we must all be cognisant of consumer trends”.

However, we must also challenge stereotypes and misinformation wherever this arises.

“There is a great story around dairy that we need to continue to tell. We, as farmers and processors, produce top-quality, healthy and sustainable dairy products here in Ireland,” said Hanley.

“I want to commend the work of the NDC [National Dairy Council] as well as Ornua for promoting the benefits of Irish dairy at home and abroad. It is not a fight that will get any easier or one that will diminish as we go forward,” he added.

Environment

Hanley said that the environmental and sustainability challenges facing the dairy industry are “among the most challenging we have ever faced”.

“We cannot shirk these challenges – we must recognise them and embrace them,” he stressed.

“As a co-op and as an industry we must, and are, facing them head on and with a steely determination,” he added.

Hanley outlined some of the steps that Lakeland are taking to meet these challenges, including its ‘RumiSmart Sustain’ programme, which is aimed at increasing soil fertility and feed efficiency.

“Ireland produces food with a significantly lower environmental footprint than most of our international competitors. This must continue to be the case as it is a key competitive advantage,” he argued.

He insisted, though, that the “key” to sustainability was financial sustainability, and he outlined the role that dairy farming plays in the economy of rural Ireland.

Supplier prices

Hanley said that, following on from the merger between Lakeland and LacPatrick, the new entity “intends to realise the benefits of the merger to the maximum possible extent for our dairy farmers”.

This included, according to Hanley, paying a sustainable milk price, as well as returning a strong profit for the business and using those profits to reinvest.

“Lakeland will continue to build our business for the future of farming families,” he concluded.