What joy to hear about England and Wales imminent plans to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening. An estimated 6,400 animals were sent to Europe for slaughter in 2018. George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said, “Live animals commonly have to endure excessively long journeys during exports, causing distress and injury. Previously, EU rules prevented any changes to these journeys, but leaving the EU has enabled the UK government to pursue these plans.” Just shows that it is possible to have progressive policies outside of the EU but this Farm Gate discussion with speakers from WWF and Client Earth questions whether the Department of International Trade allows it!
The UK government is seeking new trade agreements with the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand where, according to a report from the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, pigs are given antibiotics – some of which are critically important in human medicine – both to prevent illness and to make them grow more quickly, a practice that has been banned in the EU since 2006. In January 2022, the EU will ban the importation of all meat and dairy produced with antibiotic growth promoters, but as Cóilín Nunan, the report author (who you can hear on on BBC Farming Today), says;
‘Unfortunately, the British government has so far refused to commit to fully implementing these bans on the misuse of antibiotics in British farming’.
Farm antibiotic sales have increased in each of these 4 countries while British farm antibiotic use fell by about 50% between 2014 and 2018, partly due to a variety of voluntary industry initiatives. Unfortunately recently published data for 2019 showed a 5% increase in use in the EU. The report recommends,
‘…preventing the importation of meat and dairy produced to low standards and with routine antibiotic use. The UK must maintain its ban on the importation of beef produced with growth hormones and introduce a ban on the importation of all foods produced with antibiotic growth promoters. Furthermore, in order to help achieve lower and more responsible farm antibiotic use, the UK should implement the EU ban on routine antibiotic use’.
A further worry was exposed by the Sustainable Food Trust;
‘The continuing use of these antibiotics in the US is a surprise because the US Food and Drug Administration agreed to a ban on growth promotion with representatives of US intensive livestock farmers in 2017. This regulatory failure could have implications in the UK if there is a no-deal Brexit. Under WTO rules it would not be possible to restrict meat imports based on the use of antibiotics’.
?? Interview with Jyoti Fernandes
Jyoti Fernandes, from Landworkers Alliance – the UK chapter of La Via Campesina, the global union that represents over 2 million peasant farmers – who attends many of the DEFRA meetings, lays out the politics around protecting our precious UK small and medium scale farmers;
“We’re trying to change our subsidy system so that farmers are rewarded for having high animal welfare, not using pesticides, looking after their soils, planting trees on farms, all of these things. But if products, produced in other countries in huge factory farms using loads of antibiotics and hormones or artificial fertilisers, or following poor standards of animal welfare, where they keep so many animals in really cramped conditions, are imported into the UK and bought very cheaply, it will undercut our farmers”.
? Trade Deals Have Become a Blank Cheque to Slash Standards
These threats to UK standards from global trade have catalysed Global Justice Now to push for an amendment in the House of Lords that would give parliament the power to vote on up-coming trade deals. As it stands, parliament has no such vote and there is every possibility that the so-called free trade deals will only be free to entrench privatisation and privilege a corporate agenda. Please sign their petition.
? Letter to Supermarkets to Improve Pig Welfare
The World Animal Protection has a letter that you can sign to your chosen local supermarket with specific asks which are tailored to raise their pig welfare standards above those they describe on their websites.
? Concerning Developments
Next year, DEFRA plans to scrap the Common Agricultural Policy’s greening measures – which includes sustainable land use practices such as permanent pasture protection, ecological focus areas and crop diversification – claiming that ‘less bureaucracy will be welcome to farmers’. The RSPB have raised their concerns that this ‘sends a signal to farmers that nature doesn’t matter’ as farmers will continue to receive the payments without having to comply with the greening measures as they did before.
On top of this, there is increasing concern that the transition period from the current CAP system to the new ‘public money for public goods’ subsidy scheme – which rightly prioritises green land use practice – will not be supportive enough to see farmers through the change of system.
On Farming Today (3.53mins) George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) explains how Sustainable Farm Incentive (SFI) payments will be introduced in 2021 to support farmers through this transition period. However, to receive the payment, farmers will have to comply with greening measures such as improving water quality and soil health, sensitive hedge management and integrated pest management, that may soak up all the payment so won’t actually help them to stay in business. Alarmingly his answer to that is that there is an exit scheme to help farmers retire with dignity!!
? Taiwan Protests Continue
Legislators from Taiwan’s main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT) have thrown pig guts and exchanged punches with other MPs in parliament in the latest attempt by opposition members to try and stop the Premier from easing restrictions to allow pork imports from the US containing ractopamine, a muscle-builder banned in 160 countries because of risks to human health. Hopefully this will be a warning to Boris not to allow ractopamine into the UK in his hunger for global trading partners – or else!
☣️ Manufacturing Doubt about Agroecology
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is pumping billions of dollars into an anti-agroecology rhetoric. Their foundation is funding the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS) who are overwhelmingly supporting biotech as a solution to the food system crises we face, and discrediting agroecology as a limited set of agricultural practices which involves a glorification of the past and a rejection of the modern. This is despite overwhelming support for agroecology from NGO, experts and farmers all over the world. It begs the question, whom does Bill, Melinda and CAS’s network serve, and to what end? We think its propaganda to further the corporate-controlled agricultural model.
‘[CAS’s] latest tactic was a webinar in what is a well-funded disinformation campaign to co-opt and neuter the transformative concept of agroecology, while promoting agribusiness-driven solutions to agriculture through proprietary science and technological innovation. In fact, it was for this very reason that just three days before, two agroecologists that had been invited to participate stepped down from the panel, citing bias.’
In case you didn’t reach the end of last week’s very long newsletter, this is the link to the section that gives more information about PhilanthroCapitalism.
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.
Tracy Worcester, Director