Michael Gove pledges support for gay farmers

Michael Gove has signed a pledge to support the rural LGBT+ community.

The Conservative MP, who is currently the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, threw his weight behind a pledge to support LGBT+ people living and working in rural communities.

Gay people in farming communities have high rates of suicide, with farmers explaining that homophobic stigma is rife in the rural countryside.

Britain’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty)

On Tuesday, Gove met with activists from Agrespect, a body which “aims to start positive conversations about inclusivity in agriculture.”

At the meeting, the politician signed a pledge to “stand against prejudice and support rural LGBTQ+ diversity, inclusion and enablement.”

Gove said: “Farming today is an innovative and progressive industry that benefits greatly from being open to all, regardless of their background, gender, religion and sexuality.

“I hope that through the signing of this pledge we can further demonstrate our ongoing support for LGBTQ+ people in our rural communities.”

2017 film God’s Own Country explored attitudes towards gay farmers

The pledge was also signed by Defra permanent secretary Clare Moriarty, National Farmers Union president Minnette Batters and Country Land and Business Association (CLA) director general Helen Woolley.

Woolley said: “It’s encouraging to see how the world has moved on in recognising LGBTQ+ rights in the last 20 years, but we are not yet as inclusive a society as we need to be, including in our rural communities.

“Agrespect has highlighted a really important issue for diversity and inclusion, and by sharing personal stories and experiences they are uniting the rural LGBTQ+ community to change things for the better.

“I am incredibly proud to sign the Agrespect pledge to demonstrate Defra’s support for this brilliant work.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove (Jack Taylor/Getty)

Agrespect was launched after a moving Countryfile report in April this year shed light on the prejudice faced by LGBT+ farmers.

Lincolnshire flower grower Matt Naylor, one of the farmers behind Agrespect, said: “Agriculture and the rural economy are going through a period of massive change and the countryside needs to retain and attract the very brightest and best people. We need to welcome everyone.

“It is really important to promote the countryside as a vibrant and accepting place to live and work regardless of your gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

“Farming and food production is the bedrock of society and it is important that the people managing and working in these industries are fully representative of the people that they feed.”

A cow tongue (BORIS ROESSLER/AFP/Getty Images)

A cow tongue (BORIS ROESSLER/AFP/Getty Images)Research suggests a high prevalence of suicide among LGBT+ people in rural communities.

Psychiatrist Dr Ciaran Mulholland of Queen’s University Belfast explained: “We’re very aware that farmers are men who often work in isolation and face a lot of pressures in life, so they’re very prone to hopelessness and very prone to depression and to suicide.

“Gay men are also prone to hopelessness, depression and suicide, and it seems reasonable to assume that a gay isolated farmer is even more at risk.”

Gove has long been a supporter of LGBT+ rights, voting consistently in favour of LGBT+ equality in Parliament.

He also covered LGBT+ issues during his career as a broadcaster.

One memorable clip from 1993 surfaced of him reporting from a Pride parade for BBC News. He also appeared on a 1992 discussion show arguing for homosexuality in the British Army.