UK Politics

Kerry McCarthy has 'open mind' on farming

Kerry McCarthy Image copyright Labour Party

Labour's environment spokeswoman says she will approach her new job with an "open mind" despite her strong views on meat consumption and farming.

Kerry McCarthy, who is a vegan and has spoken out about the environmental impact of farming, said there would be "violent disagreements at times".

But in an interview with the BBC's Farming Today, she said she had a "real passion" for the subject.

Ms McCarthy was appointed by new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

She has spoken out against the environmental impact of meat production as well as saying the meat, dairy and egg industries "cause immense suffering to more than a billion animals every year in the UK alone".

The Bristol East MP is also vice president of the League against Cruel Sports and has been a fierce critic of the government's badger cull.

'Real passion'

Her appointment drew criticism from some in the farming community, with the Countryside Alliance saying it looked forward to seeing how the Vegan Society patron and critic of animal farming "intends to re-engage the Labour Party with the rural community".

"I do a lot of work on conservation issues so it's something I have got a real passion for," Ms McCarthy said.

"I think it's important to have someone in the role who doesn't see it as a stepping stone to a different post but actually is really keen to get engaged in the issues that there are in that portfolio."

Ms McCarthy, who campaigns on food waste, said she was concerned about the relationship between farms and supermarkets and the "push towards ever more intensive industrialised forms of farming".

'Different viewpoints'

Asked about her previous criticism of the farming industry, she said: "I have my own personal views on what I choose to eat, but I accept that we have a livestock industry in this country.

"What I want is for the industry to have the best welfare standards possible, to be sustainable as well as economically viable."

She said her urban constituency had "pretty close links" with surrounding countryside, and that "the world is not going to turn vegan because I am in post".

Her new job would be "very much about meeting with as many people as possible, visiting as many places as possible", she said.

"There will be different viewpoints, there will be violent disagreements at times, but it's about trying to listen to the evidence, approach things with an open mind and I am very much prepared to do that."

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