Skip to navigation Skip to content

Modern dairying practices the subject of Edinburgh Fringe show

Cows eat grass, don't they? Image by Keith Weller/USDA (
"It’s an important time for dairy farming in the UK; the sector has moved away from one type of system based on seasonal grazing and housing."

Agriculture is changing. There is an increasing gap between how food is produced and public knowledge and values about agriculture. Dairy farming in the UK has changed from seasonal housing and grazing to around a fifth of farmers housing cows all year around. This change continues to be controversial with the public. Consumers are concerned about the environmental, welfare and social impacts of large farms housing cows all year around.

The show ‘Cows eat grass, don’t they?’ will take place at the Edinburgh Fringe on 14th August as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas; an informal platform for academics to engage the public with their research.

Social scientist Dr Orla Shortall, from the James Hutton Institute, said: “There needs to be more discussion between different parts of the industry and the public about the future of dairy farming. Not only about facts – what are the environmental, social and welfare impacts of housing cows; but also about values – how do we want our milk to be produced and what do we value about agriculture?”

The informal setting of the Fringe and the mixed audiences that shows typically attract provides an interesting opportunity to explore their thoughts and perspectives, and to provide some extra information about the dairying industry, both ‘traditional’ and evolving practice.

The show is part of a wider three year project exploring the future of indoor and pasture based dairy systems in the UK and Ireland:

“We did the event last year and there were farmers, industry representatives, animal rights activists and interested members of the public. The discussion was lively and nuanced and insightful,” said Orla.

Join her to discuss indoor dairy farming and the future of the industry at the Edinburgh Fringe. The show is on the 14th August at 8:10 pm in the New Town Theatre, Edinburgh. Tickets are available at:

Besides her talk at the Edinburgh Fringe, Orla's research also involves a survey of dairy farmers to listen to their views on the future of the industry.

The survey is for any commercial dairy farmers in the UK and Ireland. It takes around 10-15 minutes to complete, with questions covering production systems and opinions. “It’s an important time for dairy farming in the UK,” said Orla. 

“The sector has moved away from one type of system based on seasonal grazing and housing. There’s a feeling that the industry and the public are out of step about the realities of dairy farming and this survey aims to collect rigorous data on farmers’ views on the future of their industry to help provide more clarity on this subject.”

As a gesture of goodwill £2 (and equivalent in euros) will be donated for every survey completed to charities helping struggling farmers: the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) in England and Wales; the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI); Rural Support in Northern Ireland; and the Mind our Farm Families phoneline in Ireland run by Pieta House and the IFA. The project aims to raise £1500 for these charities in total.

The survey can be found at:

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

Printed from /news/modern-dairying-practices-subject-edinburgh-fringe-show on 04/12/23 12:50:52 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.