By Scott Donaldson

IT is now beyond denial that the world is gripped by a climate crisis and that there is a collective need for everyone to take action to tackle it.

But to lay the burden of this emergency at the doors of farmers – and predicting that “farming will more or less come to an end within a few decades” – is, frankly, irresponsible and an affront to the vital role they play in tackling problems. Yet that is exactly what writer and activist George Monbiot did with his latest attack on the agriculture industry in his Channel 4 documentary Apocalypse Cow: How Meat Killed the Planet, aired this week.

For those of us in agriculture, the title alone was offensive. The rhetoric behind it was galling, to say the least.The fact of the matter is that if farming practices around the world were as efficient and clean as Scotland’s, the planet would be in a far better place.

In a tweet ahead of the documentary, Monbiot shared his belief that all food except fruit and veg would be produced by different means in future. He admitted that farmers would lose out, but that they should be supported “as their livelihoods disappear”.

That is disrespectful to those who work tirelessly to produce food in a sustainable way – and to the highest welfare standards.

Our farmers do not work at the same intensity of production as those in other parts of the world.

Government figures show that Scottish farmers are reducing emissions,while working to ensure we are not more reliant upon imports. WWF Scotland shared its view this week on how it believes agricultural emissions could continue to be reduced by working with farmers, while recognising the need for financial support from the Government for this to be achieved. NFU Scotland – along with other industry bodies –- has stressed that climate change is a critically important issue for Scottish farmers, warning also that policies must consider the long-term sustainability of farming and food production.

We should not forget that more than 80 per cent of Scottish farmland is unsuitable for growing cereals and vegetables. Its best use is for world-leading beef and lamb production.

Farming is a way of life where environmental responsibilities are taken seriously, more so now than ever. Moderate grazing plays a crucial part in conservation by supporting insects and plants and storing carbon in soils.

Produce from our farmers – livestock and arable – is part of a balanced diet and a strong rural economy, which is unfortunately being battered on many fronts at the moment. Quality Meat Scotland estimates that about 50,000 jobs are supported by the red meat industry alone.

The unfair treatment of farming in the UK over climate change needs to stop. We need balance in this debate. Scotland’s multi-billion-pound food industry would not be what it is without agriculture.

Yes, farming should play its part in tackling the emergency, but this is a collective challenge. Blaming agriculture and predicting the demise of farming is harmful on many fronts.Monbiot’s belief that we are “about to leave the agricultural age” and that this “might save us from catastrophe” is, in my view, wrong.

Buyers can play their part in helping climate change and the health of the nation by buying fresh, locally-produced, traceable Scottish meat, dairy and vegetables.

Farming is not the villain. It’s good for the nation and has a firm future. It needs our support.

Scott Donaldson is President of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland (IAAS)