The president of the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW), Gareth Vaughn, has hit back at Labour adviser Lord Haskins after he claimed Welsh lamb is produced with "lots of fertiliser" and New Zealand lamb was more environmentally-friendly.
"What planet does Lord Haskins live on?" said Vaughn. "It's certainly not Planet Wales and I wonder if he has ever visited our unique country."
Speaking on Radio 4's the Today programme, Lord Haskins, who was chairman of Northern Foods for 35 years, said: "There is an argument that Welsh lamb, which I'm very much in favour of by the way, is environmentally more favourable than New Zealand lamb. Well, actually, it's nonsense, because New Zealand lamb comes by boat. It doesn't come by aeroplane, and New Zealand lamb is grown under very environmentally-friendly conditions, whereas Welsh lamb, however friendly it is, lots of fertiliser is used in that."
Vaughn dismissed that argument and told MTJ: "Welsh farms...have to conform to strict environmental and animal welfare rules that are very different from those in New Zealand which ensure that fertilisers are used responsibly. Obviously, Lord Haskins had not taken the time to read the Environment Agency Wales' just-published 'Good Farming, Better Environment' report which would acquaint him with the truth about the unique role in producing our food, our landscape and our environment of Welsh farmers.
"If Lord Haskins believes that huge oil-consuming ships leave no carbon footprints then I feel sorry for him."
Lord Haskins's comments seem to refer to a 2006 study by researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand which compared the carbon costs of producing lamb in New Zealand and the UK and concluded New Zealand lamb is more environmentally-friendly. It took into account factors such as electricity and fuel, fertilisers, food and bedding and the cost of shipping New Zealand lamb to the UK.
The study showed New Zealand lamb produces 688.0kg of CO2 per tonne of carcase, whereas British lamb produces 2849.1kg of CO2 per tonne of carcase. However, the report has been criticised for failing to take into account the energy needed to refrigerate or freeze the lamb on its journey, basing the energy calculations for the journey on apple imports.