May 15th, 2020 Newsletter

Government Ignores the Lessons of COVID-19 to Value Local Food

Last week we wrote about the horrors facing the US meat industry where pigs continue to be euthanised due to supply chain shocks. Now we see similar fates at home.

As the UK has followed the US food system of centralising production, processing, distribution and retail, these shocks are inevitable. The American owned Moy Park chicken factory in Northern Ireland has closed due to a 58 year old worker dying of COVID-19 and the workers union reports clusters of infections at other poultry and meatpacking sites.

Presently the government is being pressured by the US to accept their cheap imports so it was perhaps unsurprising that on the 13th May, MP’s rejected amendments to the agriculture bill that had the potential to prevent the import of goods into the UK which are illegal to produce here in terms of human health and animal welfare… Listen to this interview with DEFRA minister George Eustice as he scrambled to explain why the government is not writing laws to protect the farming community and the welfare of animals.

We recently interviewed Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Adviser for Compassion in World Farming who reminds us that ‘factory farming, in which large numbers of animals are kept in crowded stressful conditions contributes to the emergence, spread and amplification of pathogens both viruses and bacteria some of which are zoonotic’ – The last global pandemic before COVID-19 originated in farm animals…

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Amidst lockdown and the potential car crash in the UK food chain, little has changed for the small scale pig farmers; proving why high standards and local food production in the Agriculture Bill are necessary. Nicola at Trefrawl farm explains that during lock down they are struggling to satisfy the enormous increase in new customers reaching out to buy from a real farm. At Sussex Saddlebacks, the Harris family explain their responsibilities as part of their Community Animal Husbandry Scheme where families take turns to look after their group of pigs. During COVID-19 little has changed except implementing social distancing measures,adding time slots & tightening hygiene.

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