Children of farmers feel 'silenced' by 'anti-dairy, anti-meat' narrative, says Tory MP

Alicia Kearns was speaking about her experience of discussing climate change in schools

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Children of farmers “feel they are being silenced” because of an “anti-dairy, anti-meat” climate change narrative, a Conservative MP has said.

Alicia Kearns was speaking in the Commons about her experience of discussing climate change in schools, and warned farmers’ children feel as though they “can’t speak out in support of their families”.

“When I visit schools in my constituency it’s quite rightly often to discuss climate change,” the MP for Rutland and Melton said, adding she was “proud of the passionate and smart young people” in her constituency.

Alicia Kearns has expressed her concerns over the 'anti-dairy, anti-meat' narrative.
Alicia Kearns has expressed her concerns over the 'anti-dairy, anti-meat' narrative.

“But I am concerned by the anti-dairy, anti-meat, and frankly anti-farmer narrative that I’m starting to see where students and children of farmers feel they are being silenced and can’t speak out in support of their families who feed our country,” Ms Kearns said.

Education Secretary Kit Malthouse responded: “I am very alarmed, as a rural member myself, very alarmed to hear the honourable lady’s stories.

“She is right that we should be encouraging schools to educate children about where food comes from, and indeed about the very high standards that UK farmers produce.”

He added: “There is a way to intrigue and make children curious about some of the challenges to climate change that’s brought about by farming. Not least, I have to say, I read recently about an additive made from seaweed you can add to dairy cow’s feed which reduces the amount of methane that they produce.”

Elsewhere in the session of education questions, a minister told the House that the Government will not use a review into special educational needs and disabilities (Send) as an opportunity to cut spending.

A review into Send provision was published in March, and the Government has been consulting on proposed changes to the system.

Kit Malthouse echoed the sentiments, saying he has been left 'alarmed'.
Kit Malthouse echoed the sentiments, saying he has been left 'alarmed'.

Shadow education minister Helen Hayes said the Send review had “caused widespread concern among parents of children with Send that it is seeking simply to reduce expenditure and erode the rights of parents and children to access the support they need”.

She added: “As the Chancellor trawls for departmental cuts to pay for the Government’s reckless economic experiment, can the minister confirm that the Send review will not be used as an excuse to erode further the resources that children with special educational needs and disabilities rely on?”

Education minister Kelly Tolhurst replied: “I can confirm to her that the Send review was not and is not an opportunity for us to reduce the support and needs that children with special educational needs require within this country.”

She added the Government had increased funding for children with special needs in recent years.

Labour MP Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) also pressed the Government over teacher retention issues.

He said: “Teacher vacancies are up 240% since 2011”, adding: “What steps is the minister taking to address pay, stress and an unmanageable workload which is driving the most experienced teachers out of the profession?”

Education minister Jonathan Gullis replied: “It’s a shame (he) uses this opportunity to be a bit negative about the profession, because when we’re trying to recruit and retain staff what we need is people talking up what a great profession it is to work in.”