New shadow environment secretary Kerry McCarthy has tackled concerns about her vegan lifestyle by stressing her support for British farmers at the Labour Party conference this week.
The Bristol East MP told delegates in Brighton on Tuesday that she did “support British farming”.
McCarthy came under fire last week after national newspapers discovered an interview given to animal welfare charity Viva! earlier this year in which she called for meat to be treated in the same way as tobacco, with public campaigns to stop people eating it. But in her maiden conference speech as a frontbencher, she said: “Yes, I am a vegan; some people are worried by that,” but stressed she fully backed the farming sector and wanted it to be “economically viable, environmentally sustainable and to have the very best animal welfare standards”.
McCarthy also talked about the need for clear provenance information and said she would “much rather see people buy British lamb, British apples, than imports from halfway round the world”. She called for better labelling “so we can choose to buy British, or to buy local”.
McCarthy said while environment secretary Liz Truss was right to promote British food overseas, more needed to be done to safeguard Britain’s food security, and ensure it could “become a country that can feed itself”.
NFU president Meurig Raymond said he was “pleased” McCarthy would back UK farming, and would meet her “at the earliest opportunity”.
But he added now was the time for Labour “to show their support for a national food plan which was a key manifesto pledge ahead of the election in May”. “It is more important now than ever to see widespread political support for British farming at a time when our industry is in crisis,” he added.