October 29th, 2020 Newsletter

Neoliberal Tory Myths

Many readers have forwarded us letters they received from their Tory MPs explaining why they voted against the amendment in the Agriculture Bill that would put into law a ban on all imports produced to lower food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards than are demanded of UK farmers.

The Tory stock response is a greenwash disguising their true agenda which is to minimise legislative barriers to facilitate corporate access to global markets. This is our response to a letter from Tory MP Arthur Browne. The Landworkers Alliance have listed 10 myths peddled by Tories to justify their vote against amendments and below are a few quotes of this letter from Tory MP Gareth Davies:

“British consumers want high welfare produce, and if our trading partners want to break into the UK market, they should expect to meet those standards. The manifesto I stood on was clear that in all trade negotiations, our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards will not be compromised. The Government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers.”

“The UK citizen’s demands to protect our standards in law in the Agri Bill, are not from ignorance but from a collective concern that global trade rather than to protect our farmers and our health is the no.1 priority of the Prime Minister and his Ministers.”

“I am assured that all food coming into this country will be required to meet existing import requirements.”

“Why then is George Eustice saying that he will introduce tariffs on the food that is substandard when it comes into the UK? Tariffs would not be necessary if import standards were upheld, highlighting some of the contradictory claims made by members of the neo-liberal Conservative party.”

🎃 Landworkers Alliance Halloween action

As the Agriculture Bill returns to parliament Wednesday 4th, we need to keep the pressure on MPs, so the Landworkers Alliance (LWA) are asking people to carve – or write on – a pumpkin ‘SOS’ for Save Our Standards and send the picture to their MP. If you can, please tag the LWA on Facebook (@Landworkersalliance), on Twitter (@LandworkersUK) and Instagram (@landworkersalliance), and lookout for footage of a visual action the LWA have planned for this Saturday.

⚔️ Maxwell v Smithfield, battle of the US pork industry titans

The present ‘neo-liberal’ Tory Government follows the dictates of an economy in which global ‘competition’ is the mantra. This eye-opening article shows the result of this competition where Smithfield – the biggest pork processing and production company in the world – is being sued in the US by Maxwell Foods, another massive pork producer, yet small in comparison to Smithfields. Through what’s called vertical integration, Smithfield owns the pigs on many contract farms and thereby controls the prices paid to farmers for the pigs. It now controls 25% of the US pork markets, cornering the US buyers market and depriving producers like Maxwell Foods of any choice but to sell their business to Smithfield. Maxwell’s are suing Smithfield for breaking their promise to give them a preferential price for their pigs.

“So what does Maxwell Foods’ fate tell us about meatpacking today? Fewer companies and plants mean our national meat supply is becoming less resilient and more beholden to foreign markets and priorities. But the idea that the Maxwell Foods of the world are the “small family farm” underdog is also untrue. Maxwell v Smithfield is a battle of titans, and often the people who lose most when they collide are consumers, workers, and taxpayers”.

This game is continued at the retail level. Supermarkets have killed off independently owned and run grocers and now only compete with a few titan retailers in a race to the bottom; pushing down the prices paid to farmers, dodging taxes and collecting indirect subsidies. The true costs of their heavily processed, chemical soaked food is externalised on to the broader community as we pay the cost with non communicable diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, poor animal welfare and polluted environment. To keep supplying these monopolies, farmers are forced to cram ever more pigs into the sheds in their struggle to survive. Get big or get out of the industry is the neoliberal narrative.

🇪🇺 Speaking of Agriculture Bills…

The EU is also taking a worrying path – proposed changes to the CAP (Common Agriculture Policy), are being criticised for incentivising harmful agricultural practises and not aligning with both EU net zero climate and biodiversity goals.

🚜 We will always be #RootingForRealFarms

The only way to feed the world is to relocalise the food economy with a local network of small scale producers, slaughterhouses, processors and retail outlets. Vertical integration on this scale is efficient and Angus Buchanan-Smith, at The Free Company in the Pentland Hills just outside Edinburgh, is a perfect example. They keep 40-60 free range Berkshire and Mangalitsa pigs which are grass fed and largely kept outside. They have an in-house butchery and operate a Pig Club whose members pay a monthly fee and receive up to 60 kg per year (the equivalent of a whole pig), using every cut from the pig carcass. Pig clubs have been running since the 1940’s to improve food security, where members would collectively own and take responsibility for rearing pigs. Farmer Angus also features in an excellent new podcast from Farmerama; Who feeds us? In it they talk about who stepped up when lock down hit in March, and kept producing good food in face of the pandemic.

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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

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