May 21st, 2021 Newsletter

Food and farming groups speak up against free trade

#JustAsk if pubs are supporting high welfare farmers

Now the pubs are open #JustAsk if the pork on the menu is from a high welfare UK farm. 1 in 5 people say they bought, and will continue to buy, more locally produced food because of lockdown. So let’s make sure pubs support UK farmers too! Please watch, like and share our 40sec, wacky video to help the #JustAsk message reach a wider audience.

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Australia trade deal would undercut UK farmers

There is a row going on within the government about whether to allow tariff-free imports of lamb and beef from Australia. Like boxers in the ring, Liz Truss (Trade Secretary) for the free traders is on one side and George Eustice, (DEFRA) is squaring up for the farmers on the other.

The ‘full tariff liberalisation’ demanded by Australian negotiators – supported by Truss – would mean cheap, low welfare imports of Australian beef flooding our markets (as much as a tenfold increase) and undermining UK farmers who raise cattle with higher welfare standards. While much UK beef is produced from cattle that graze outdoors for 6 months over the spring and summer, the Australian beef imports are likely to come from industrial, intensive feedlots.

Patrick Holden at Sustainable Food Trust condemns the trade deal with Australia saying it “will undercut our home-grown, environmentally friendly, high welfare beef producers”, And a letter from Sustain, The Alliance for Better Food and Farming, has been published in The Times.

TARIFF-FREE TRADE

Sir, Your article “PM backs tariff-free trade with Australia” (May 19) quotes government sources claiming that the UK can sign a zero-tariff deal with Australia and maintain our standards. But in sharp contrast to the UK government’s ambition to lead the world in environmental and animal welfare, Australia permits the use of growth hormones in farming and the removal of skin from live sheep. Its farm system allows the use of almost twice as many highly hazardous pesticides as the UK, much higher amounts of antibiotics and is undertaking worrying levels of forest clearance to make way for agriculture.

If the UK government gives tariff-free access to low-standard, low-welfare Australian produce then it will pave the way for low-standard deals with bigger trading nations. This food could end up in schools, hospitals and care homes. Such a deal would also impose low-standard produce on Scotland and Wales, as the Internal Market Act insists on free trade between the nations. The government would be breaking its manifesto commitment to maintain our standards. This deal would undermine our farmers and export the UK’s ecological and carbon footprints as it prepares to host COP26. We urge Boris Johnson to rethink.

RSPCA; Soil Association; RSPB; Sustain; PAN UK; Friends of the Earth England, Wales & Northern Ireland; Farms not Factories; Compassion in World Farming; Nature Friendly Farming Network; Landworkers Alliance

Development Banks lead the neoliberal mindset

Boris Johnson is a neoliberal so will continue to oblige his bank and corporate colleagues by liberalising trade of all protectionist regulations. Most recently his government omitted important amendments in the Agriculture Act and thereby sacrificed food safety, animal welfare, labour standards and environmental protection on the altar of free trade.

The fuel and influence behind the neoliberal narrative are the trade ministers from developed countries on the board of development banks using taxpayer subsidised loans to encourage economies of scale, aka monopolies. The global independent banks then invest with the knowledge that countries can’t and won’t let those giant development banks and their businesses fail – hence the expression ‘too big to fail’.

When we interviewed Gilles Mettetal, the Director of Agribusiness at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) for my 2009 film Pig Business, he explained (at 32.06 minutes) that they gave a $25 million taxpayer funded loan to facilitate a further loans totalling $75 million from private banks to US giant Smithfield Foods, the largest pig and pork producer in the world, to expand former communist farms in Poland in time for its entry into the European Union. He said,

“We are not driven only by financial profit but because we are driven by trying to set the way, basically trying to have a catalyst effect and in that way bring along with us then the private banks.”

‘Polish agriculture at the moment is not productive enough. Small farms are too small to be competitive. I think Poland wants and will have to be competitive on the World market and for that they will have to continue improving productivity. That will be over time, at the expense of smaller farms’

BBC World had published my previous 2 films,  and had given  me an  experienced producer to conduct the interview in my absence. After the interview, the bank’s PR representative told the producer that if he had known that Tracy Worcester was behind the interview, he wouldn’t have allowed  it! Also, fearful of litigation and of upsetting their licensor,  the UK government, the lawyers at the BBC declined to publish the film. However Channel 4 was brave enough to publish after months of legal editing to protect them from the libel litigation threatened by Smithfield. No lawsuit followed the Channel 4 screening, no doubt because the film’s depiction of their exploitation of pigs, people and the planet was, and still is, entirely true.

World Bank

Similar to the board of the EBRD, trade ministers from across the developed world are on the board of the World Bank. Their lending arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has since 2004 given Ecuador’s largest factory pig company, Pronaca, at least $120 million in loans. Most recently a coalition of NGOs has sent a letter to the board of the IFC urging it to vote against a further $50 million loan for the further expansion of Pronaca.

‘Residents claim waste from the animals eventually ends up in their rivers. This then tainted the water with fecal coliform bacteria, causing skin, gastrointestinal, and respiratory issues… Other complaints filed include ‘foul odor emanating from the pig farms’ and negative impacts on a buffer forest.’

‘They have asked the corporation to commit to divest from the industrial livestock sector. The letters cite evidence ‘that proves the sector fuels the climate crisis; is a major cause of social problems, poor animal welfare, deforestation, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, water, and air pollution; and increases the risk of antibiotic resistance and new pandemics’.

In 2012 we filmed the impact of the Pronaca factory farm on local indigenous and farming communities to help them lobby the IFC to live up to its rhetoric of two overarching goals;

‘…ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity—that are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through direct investments and advisory services, IFC provides private sector solutions that lay the foundation for sustainable and inclusive economic growth’.

Banksters

Whatever the rhetoric of development banks and the global banks that piggyback off them, they are both consolidating agri-culture into an agri-industry that is destroying skilled small scale farmers and fragile ecosystems all over the world. Feedback’s campaign Big Livestock Vs the Planet exposes the banks that profit from the industrial meat and dairy industries where livestock is raised on deforested land and in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs – factory farms) as opposed to pasture fed livestock on small farms that sequester CO2 and support biodiversity. They focus their action on two UK high street banks, Barclays and HSBC.

‘If current trends continue, the global meat and dairy industry will account for almost half the world’s 1.5C emissions budget by 2030. Meat, aquaculture, eggs, and dairy use about 83% of the world’s farmland – expansion of which in turn drives deforestation. And the biggest five meat and dairy companies globally (including JBS and Tyson Foods) combined emit more greenhouse gases than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP. Despite this, Barclays and HSBC are some of the world’s biggest creditors to industrial meat and dairy corporations, lending a total of $5.4 billion in corporate loans and underwriting $9.4 billion in bond issuances to the world’s biggest industrial meat, dairy corporations between 2015-19, and owning $747 million in shares in these companies as of April 2020. Barclays was the biggest lender of corporate loans to JBS globally between 2015-19, and HSBC is the fifth largest global investor in industrial meat corporation Smithfield Foods / WH Group.’

Take action to call on Barclays and HSBC to divest from big livestock.

Changing your bank can be a really pivotal way of ensuring your money does not fund cruel, environmentally damaging industries. The Co-operative bank will ‘not provide banking services to any business or organisation involved in intensive farming methods’ and will ‘seek to support businesses involved in the development of farming methods that promote animal welfare (e.g. free-range farming)’. And the Triodos Bank focuses on supporting farmers who demonstrate the benefits of sustainable and organic agricultural principles and ‘want to stimulate the creation of more sustainably farmed land by financing the conversion of land from conventional to organic approaches’.

Corporate agenda shrouded in lies

We are told that we need to industrialise farming to feed the world’s growing population when in reality we have enough food to feed the predicted 9 billion people but only if we eat less but better meat, end food waste and the food is fairly distributed. However the tentacles of corporate capitalism have reached every corner of the globe, so food, like everything else, follows the money, leaving starvation and malnutrition where once there was a diversity of crops.

It is hard to reach a solution to an impending catastrophe when we are being systematically lied to. CIA Director, William Casey, in 1981 said, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” The myths that promote global trade are peddled by the corporations and banksters to their political stooges in the department of trade.

Absurd long distance food swaps

Corporate lies have shaped a food industry that now consists of animal factories and monoculture crops grown on stolen land with toxic chemicals, harvested by massive fossil fuel guzzling machines that leave communities without a livelihood so hungry and malnourished. The produce is then transported halfway across the world to be packaged and processed into nutritionally deficient food to then be transported thousands of miles more to the supermarket shed, shelf and finally the consumer. William Taylor, Northern Ireland co-ordinator of Farmers For Action, wrote about the absurdity of long-distance ‘food swaps’;

“…this government must be held to account about the carbon footprint caused by importing food products we don’t need from the US and other countries around the world. Instead all the food produced by UK farmers should be used before importing any shortfall from the nearest neighbour.”

He deplored the export of lamb, in which the UK is self-sufficient, as being

“purely for corporate gain, with absolutely no benefit to farmers or consumers in either country.”

“The key in all these climate-destructive food swaps is that they benefit profiteering corporate food retailers, corporate food wholesalers, corporate shipping companies and to a lesser extent corporate food processors and not the thousands of farming families or the environment in either food swap country”.

Carbon offsets can’t offset corporate pollution

Our morally bankrupt politicians are allowing polluting industries to buy carbon credits to off-set their continuing to trash the planet. Australia is playing this game with biodiversity offsets that will similarly fail to save our precious ecosystem when those that are obliterating it can continue ad infinitum by simply buying biodiversity credits. Research reported in ProPublica explains how the carbon offsets are no substitute for directly restricting carbon emitters;

‘In case after case, I found that carbon credits hadn’t offset the amount of pollution they were supposed to, or they had brought gains that were quickly reversed or that couldn’t be accurately measured to begin with. Ultimately, the polluters got a guilt-free pass to keep emitting CO₂, but the forest preservation that was supposed to balance the ledger either never came or didn’t last’.

Rigged democracy

Global trade isn’t ‘free trade’, it is heavily subsidised by taxpayers to ensure that economies of scale dominate the market. Any politicians or political parties that put people and the planet before economic growth remain underfunded. The first past the post electoral system keeps the Green Party in the margins while popular politicians, like Jeremy Corbyn, whatever you think of him, are smeared relentlessly, not least by the UK military and intelligence establishment, via the corporate-owned mainstream media, overwhelming the public’s ability to discern truth from fiction.

Could he have been such a bad man if, in his Labour party manifesto, one of the 20 pledges for farmers included;

‘Put farmers, fishers, food producers and workers at the heart of plans for delivering healthy food locally. Support local food networks, expand access to farm holdings and ensure rights of union representation for all food and agricultural workers.’

Real, high welfare meat or lab meat?

If we paid our farmers a fair price, they could afford the labour to ensure their locally raised livestock is treated with care and respect. Ditching meat isn’t the answer for climate change or any of the other costs of factory farming. Better farming is.

“And the idea that going meat-free is a silver bullet distracts us from comprehensive climate solutions, with the risk of keeping us on a trajectory where our food system depletes our planet, rather than helping to revive it. Some of these shifts away from meat might help slow that depletion, but the change the world needs will take more than that. We should use sustainable, regenerative livestock production to help us get there.”

Farrowing crates dont work

Not only are conscientious consumers on the rise but even the pig industry rag, Pig Progress, is finally revealing the benefits of free farrowing over sow crates and the absurd way we breed pigs and the brutal way we treat them.

‘Research shows a higher growth rate in free farrowing systems and similar mortality levels as in crated systems, but there is a large variation between farms.’

It also reported that the reason why the sow might crush her piglets is the way the handler treats them (‘In most cases, sows have predominantly negative experiences with humans’) and how we breed them, (‘The increased body size that sows have been bred for, coupled with poor leg strength, is not in their benefit when it comes to movement’).

The government’s Action Plan could encourage the breeding of traditional hardy pigs and ensure that they have the strength, space and comfort to follow their natural living and mothering instincts to lie down slowly and carefully to allow the piglets to get out the way.

Land up for grabs?

Our skilled small scale family farmers trading locally, who are struggling to compete with economies of scale and excessive bureaucracy, should be encouraged to stay in farming by being guaranteed a fair price for their traditional animal and nature friendly farming. However, in the name of helping farmers to retire with dignity, DEFRA is ostensibly encouraging them to get out of farming by offering them as a lump sum all of their remaining 7 years of payments under the original EU Basic Payment Scheme. This same scheme in Australia and Ireland resulted in the land being bought up by large, often corporate landowners and consolidated into large farm businesses, rather than being available for new entrant farmers looking for small or medium sized farms.

The Landworkers Alliance’s New Entrants Policy and Campaigns Officer said,

“It is ridiculous that Defra are suggesting these schemes will offer opportunities to new entrants with no condition to prioritise new entrants in gaining access to any land that is made available. Access to land, finance and relevant training in ecologically-based farming and land management techniques are three of the biggest barriers facing new entrants today – how can new entrants be expected to compete on the open market for land? This is a disgrace and frankly criminal, given the urgency of the many crises’ we face.”

Hero lambasts the philanthro-billionaires

To articulate the damage corporations are inflicting on people, fellow sentient beings and the planet, in this short interview, Vandana Shiva speaks about her recently published book ‘Oneness vs the 1%’.

‘Widespread poverty and malnutrition, an alarming refugee crisis, social unrest, economic polarization have become our lived reality as the top 1% of the world’s seven-billion-plus population pushes the planet-and all its people-to the social and ecological brink. In Oneness vs. the 1%, Vandana Shiva takes on the Billionaires Club of Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg and other modern Mughals, whose blindness to the rights of people, and to the destructive impact of their construct of linear progress, have wrought havoc across the world. Their single-minded pursuit of profit has undemocratically enforced uniformity and monoculture, division and separation, monopolies and external control-over finance, food, energy, information, healthcare, and even relationships. Basing her analysis on explosive little-known facts, Shiva exposes the 1%’s model of philanthrocapitalism, which is about deploying unaccountable money to bypass democratic structures, derail diversity, and impose totalitarianism, so that people can reclaim their right to live free; think free; breathe free; eat free. Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental thinker and activist, a leader in the International Forum on Globalisation, and of the Slow Food Movement. Director of Navdanya and of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and a tireless crusader for farmers’, peasants’ and women’s rights, she is the author and editor of a score of influential books’

News round-up

? Food giants accused of links to illegal Amazon deforestation;

“Cargill, Bunge and Cofco sourced soya beans from the Chinese-owned Fiagril and the multinational Aliança Agrícola do Cerrado, both of which have allegedly been supplied by a farmer fined and sanctioned multiple times after destroying swathes of rainforest, according to a new investigation.”

⛔ Viva campaign is successful as Berkshire pig farmer is evicted and business closed following a series of animal cruelty incidents;

“A pig farm supplying UK supermarket giant Morrisons has been shut down after an investigation uncovered a ‘serious’ health risk to the public… Leading vegan charity, Viva! is behind the shocking discovery that also saw ‘disturbing’ examples of animal cruelty.”

? Defending the Indefensible: Pig Industry Veterinarian Speaks Out;

“Nearly two years on, I am growing tired of receiving appalling footage of the pig industry. The footage is rightly recognized by the public as “shocking,” but not once have I been shocked by the findings; I have seen similar atrocities many times in person, and indeed, much worse.”

? GM CRISPR Technology alters DNA it isn’t supposed to;

“A growing body of evidence suggests that the tech, which allows researchers to remove, replace, or insert new DNA sequences into a cell’s genetic code, tends to also make unintended genetic changes too”

? UK is ‘banning itself’ from exporting raw milk to the EU

“The UK is in effect “banning itself” from selling raw milk to the EU due to a refusal to license certain storage premises for export, experts claim… It’s the UK authorities being unable to make up their mind as who needs to authorise what. It’s ridiculous.”

? Watch: John Mettrick, a small scale butcher from the Glossop hears how the local farmer whose chickens he has sold for 40 years, is shutting shop. With a 70-hour week raising 75,000 high welfare chickens, he can’t compete with the giant chicken factories not least due to excess rules that are only necessary for the giant corporate chicken factories but are bankrupting high welfare smaller scale farmers.

? Watch: this cartoon from Greenpeace; if you think your carefully sorted plastic waste is being recycled, think again – the lies are choking life across the world!

? Watch: this food ad spoof from Ecohustler, which exposes the truth about salmon factory farming. They also have a petition about it too, which you can sign.

“This is not just any smoked salmon. This is responsibly-sourced smoked salmon from a fancy supermarket …” So begins a cheeky and subversive spoof advert released today from campaigners ramping up their efforts to rein in the factory salmon-farming industry.

? Read this excellent report from the Oakland institute; The Investors Bankrolling the PHC Oil Palm Plantations in the Democratic Republic of Congo

“As community efforts to reclaim 100,000 hectares of their ancestral land, initially seized over a century ago for oil palm plantations, are met with violent repression, unlawful arrests, and murder [this report] unveils the names of the investors financing the plantations in the DRC; including The University of Michigan Endowment, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust”

? Success! Supreme Court in Mexico confirms suspension of Yucatán mega pig factory

“Industrial animal operations are notorious polluters, threatening air and water quality and human health. [The facility was] expected to generate over 272 million kilograms of urine and feces each year, more than is generated by the entire human population of Tijuana.”

Please donate

Forgive me for pointing out that, while we receive some one-off donations, I am funding Farms Not Factories myself, and if we are to continue to fight the cruel, antibiotic-led factory farm system, we will need some regular donations from like-minded people. Please consider a monthly subscription of £2/month and help us support a network of smaller scale, humane and healthy UK pig farms, local abattoirs and butchers.

“Our message is simple, we want to help bring an end to this dangerous, inhumane system. Vote for real farming over factory farming.”
– Tracy Worcester, Director

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