UK dairy farmers are leaving the industry in record numbers according to new data* - with vegan activism and changes to data laws being cited as possible causes.
The latest information from the Food Standards Association (FSA) suggests that 222 dairy farmers (around 2.5 percent of the industry) have quit since November 2018.
This is so high - especially compared with the data from October 2017-2018, which shows 79 farmers quit - that the FSA is reportedly 'working to see if the number is an anomaly'.
A spokesperson for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), which represents farmers, told Farmers Weekly that the large drop could be a response to changes in data laws or the recent map of dairy farms released by pro-vegan organization Project Calf.
"The recent introduction of GDPR means the FSA may well have had a clear out of dairy farmers on its books who have already quit the industry but neglected to inform them," they said.
"Project Calf may have also spurred many ex-producers who are no longer in the industry to get removed from the FSA list to guard themselves from activists."
Project Calf told Plant Based News: "We have been overwhelmed by the number of people coming forward with interest in project calf, we are receiving reports every day from people who have done farm visits and sent in what they have found.
"Our Google map has been viewed over 80,000 times in under two weeks, so we are confident that many thousands of people who aren’t dairy farmers have been using it."
Number of cows
Despite the number of dairy producers falling, the number of dairy cows in the UK has remained fairly stable in recent years - with the latest data showing a small increase.
The most recent data from Defra, published in March 2018, shows the total number of UK dairy cows up until 2017.
"Figures for December 2017 show the total dairy cow numbers stood at 1,904 million, an increase of circa 12,591 heads on June 2017 and an increase of 6,432 on December 2016," said AHDB.
*Figures include buffalo, goat and sheep's milk producers as well as cows’ milk producers
Plant Based News has contacted Project Calf for comment.