A leading UCD professor has reported a drop in popularity in his Food Safety Masters students attending curriculum farm visits as they are "mortified" by everyday farm practices such as cows calving.
Professor of Public Health at UCD Dr Paddy Wall told farmers at the IFA Smart Farming Seminar that he brings his Masters in Food Safety students on visits to every level of the supply chain such as abattoirs, feed mills and farms as part of the curriculum but in recent years has noticed a decline in popularity in farm visits.
“The farm visits used to be really popular but I’ve noticed a trend that the students don’t like them anymore. We went to a dairy farm where they saw a farmer calving a cow and they saw the calf getting jacked out.
"On the following Monday they wanted me to ring up the Department of Agriculture and report the farmer for cruelty but this is something we as farmers we see all the time. We have to be aware that there’s a big disconnect between consumers and us.
“Last year we went to a beef farm and there was a massive Belgian Blue bull there and I thought this was some bull, really good. The farmer was explaining that he had seven cows and they all had to have Caesarean sections. They all had three to five sections,” said Dr Wall.
“On the Monday the students gave feedback and they were mortified and asking me why are the farmers creating cows that can’t have a calf normally. They said that that shouldn’t be allowed.
Dr Wall said he wasn’t “losing sleep” over the fact future food safety professionals weren’t finding the farm visits as enjoyable and instead he said it’s up to the farmers to find ways to connect with detached consumers and combat “aggressive” vegan advertising campaigns.
“Consumers believe small is good and big is evil. When you buy half a dozen eggs they don’t show you chickens in a big house, they show you them running around outside,” he added.
“The aggressive campaigns out there that say ‘clean up your arteries and go vegan’ is what the public is being bombarded with and those signs are on every bus shelter in Dublin. We need to counteract that message.
“If we didn’t have any customers we wouldn’t have any businesses. There’s a disconnect between customers and how our food is produced and that is getting wider and wider.”