?? Trade chaos
As was predicted, the European Commission is not going to make trading easy with the UK, a disruptive child that has disobeyed the rules by exiting the club. Their punishment is to introduce a mass of bureaucracy for our exports, leaving British farmers facing huge delays and costs when exporting their perishable goods.
The result is UK food exports to the EU have decreased by at least 45% since 1 January and many smaller food producers have been shut out of sending produce to the EU. Beef exports decreased by 92% in January, down from £40m in the same month last year to £3m, while pork exports fell by 87% and lamb and mutton by 45%. All of these meat products feature in the UK’s top 10 exports to the EU. Rather than reciprocating to penalise EU imports, the Tory neo-liberal government wants to protect other UK exports from reciprocal barriers, so is allowing EU perishable goods unimpeded access to our market.
? Systems change
It is time to re-localise our food economy so disruption in trade doesn’t cripple our food producers. Even mainstream farming news outlets like Pig Progress has published an opinion piece about the need for system change and the need for farmers to protest against the laissez-faire global trading system that is undermining farmers worldwide. A recent news documentary showed the situation for UK pig farmers who voted for a very different Brexit – one that would have protected their products from cheap imports. Instead the Tories are signing trade deals to open our market to ever cheaper imports from around the globe with considerably lower standards than the EU.
Due to difficulties with exports and free flow of imports, an estimated 100,000 pigs in the UK that would already have gone for slaughter, are now stuck at farms devouring expensive feed. They are rapidly getting too fat to fit into their already cramped pens and too fat to meet the slaughterhouses’ demands – when pigs weigh in over the upper weight limit the producer has to pay extra – leaving the farmers in despair. The reporter concluded that ‘big fat pigs are a big fat problem’.
Irene Camerlink, author of the opinion piece in Pig Progress wrote, ‘If pig farmers would mass protest for change… and win, then how would pig farmers design the future industry? For example, a desired future may be one where pig farmers would get a fair price for their products and can farm in a sustainable manner without being heavily constrained by regulations and financial pressure.
‘Unfortunately, we are not there yet. A recent Dutch documentary looked critically at the role that banks play in agriculture. It revealed that banks are extremely reluctant to financially support farmers who choose to transition into organic farming or a more sustainable system.
‘While the government actively encourages sustainability and entrepreneurship, among others with a new EU Green Deal, the sector may not move forward as envisioned. At least, not until the whole system changes. Thus, if anger is needed at some point to stand up for one’s rights, then use it wisely and strategically with a clear vision of the desired future’.
? How about re-localising the global food economy?
If the Scottish food sector had been protected by re-localisation by re-building historic networks of small scale farms, slaughterhouses and butchers, pig farmers wouldn’t be struggling to deal with the closure of the country’s main pig slaughterhouse/processing plant earlier this year due to outbreaks of Covid. In a decentralised system, a few Covid cases would not force every independent slaughterhouse to close and farmers would not need taxpayer-funded bail-outs such as the Scottish government hardship scheme worth £715,000.
This money should instead be used to re-localise producers, processors and markets and re-introduce the meat marketing board which would guarantee farmers a fair price and prevent giant retailers from suppressing prices below the cost of production. This would also help farmers improve their animal welfare standards, reduce transport costs and greenhouse emissions, and make all UK food supplies more resilient to future trade disputes, pandemics and animal feed supply chain stocks that stretch as far as Argentina, 8,000 miles away.
? Red Tractor – ‘farmed with care’… really?
We cannot afford to lose a single pig farmer so we are promoting the Love British Food campaign. However, with 75% of UK pork raised in factory pig farms, we must go beyond the ‘produced in Britain label’ and only buy meat with high welfare certification labels RSPCA Assured, Free Range or best of all Organic. This way farmers are able to up their standards to meet demand.
Rightly, public confidence in the Red Tractor label is at an all-time low after undercover filmmakers yet again exposed a Red Tractor accredited farm in which pigs were kept in filthy, strawless and cramped conditions, suffering from open wounds, having their limbs chewed by other pigs out of stress from confinement in steel pens, and with dead pigs left to rot in the disease-ridden sheds.
Instead of raising their standards, Red Tractor have opted for a massive promotion campaign to pretend that their accredited farms are quite simply the best as described by their head of marketing Richard Cattell; “Our previous campaign really chimed with consumers, so we’re excited to bring back some of the characters and visual charm, and hope that we can make supermarket navigation for those shoppers who are looking for food that is safe, traceable and farmed with care, that bit easier.”
If you haven’t already, please send this letter to Red Tractor asking them to raise their animal welfare standards by inspecting farms more often, including surprise visits, before anyone can trust their ‘farmed with care’ claims.
? Lab meat anyone, at $10K per pound?
Yes, high welfare meat is more expensive but farmers should not be used to prop up an economic system that fails to pay workers sufficiently, who in turn can not afford to pay farmers a fair price for their safe and healthy food. To avoid this conundrum, corporate giants, part subsidised by the taxpayer, universities and philanthrocapitalists like Bill Gates, using untaxed income, promote and invest in lab-grown meat made from livestock cells and plant-based meat made from genetically engineered soy doused in pesticides that have unknown consequences on our health – and that are still one hell of a lot more expensive than the natural alternative!
So, subsidies presently used to promote global trade in high tech synthetic meat should instead be used to revitalise whole farm agro-ecological farming systems all over the world. This would prevent the continued growth of the world’s chemical intensive monocultures and factory farms and their encroachment into the last areas of wilderness and so prevent diseases passing from wildlife to people.
? Deafening coughs from pig farm sparks pandemic alert
The Nipah virus could spark a deadly new pandemic where three-quarters of infected people die – and it could “happen with increasing frequency”, an expert has warned, due to the growing overlap between the human and animal worlds.
Dr David Quamman, whose best selling book Spillover tracks infections that pass from animals to humans before becoming pandemic, has warned that factory pig farms could be the cause of the deadly Nipah virus transmitting from bats to humans. He described a pig farm in northern Malaysia where infected bats had spread the disease first to the pigs and then to the farmers.
‘The virus has its reservoir in forest-dwelling fruit bats. However the forests were cleared to make way for agriculture and large pig farms, where thousands of pigs were kept together in corrals. The fruit bats then began needing to travel further to find food, and they began to eat the fruit from trees planted next to the industrial pig farms. The bats then dropped the core of the fruit into the vast piggeries which were then consumed by the pigs, leading to their infection.
‘Dr Quammen said: “The pigs then began becoming infected by the fruit dropped by the bats, that then went on to infect the pig farmers.”
‘Residents living near the pig farms talked of the “chorus of coughing” heard from many miles away, as thousands of pigs succumbed to the dreadful disease.’
? Peaceful protest – a crime? #KillTheBill
Going down the legal route and suing the government for allowing such a reckless system of animal factories may be our only option, especially now that the right to protest is under threat. The government has introduced a Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that if passed, would clamp down on a diverse range of civil disobedience offences and turn them into criminal offences with heavy sentences. So, on Sunday, I joined friends in Bristol to protest against the section of the bill that will make it a criminal offence to cause a nuisance in the street or to trespass. This would threaten whistleblowers who report illegal cruelty and suffering in factory pig farms with high fines and/or jail, making it prohibitive for whistleblowers to act on our behalf to expose corporate crimes in the public interest. The bill is an attack on protest of all forms, giving police powers to break up static protests, to set noise limits and to arrest even solo demonstrators.
This would seriously limit the ability of Extinction Rebellion, and other green groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to hold disruptive protests such as those around GM crops, climate change, and environmental destruction that have proved so effective in getting politicians and businesses to sit up and take notice.
In Bristol on Sunday the police were present but did not interfere as we walked amongst the stationary cars whose drivers accepted our apologies, recognising that the thousands of protesters were fighting for all our rights to peaceful protest. Though while walking #KillTheBill protestors were tolerated, when they sat down to block the road towards the shopping precinct, police intervened on horses to intimidate us to move. Why not just let the protest stay peaceful? Perhaps because by encouraging violence and escalating the situation the police can make the protest look like a load of hooligans giving the impression that the new anti-protest law is a good thing and drowning out why peaceful protests are essential. No one is sure whether the violence was caused by provocateurs – don’t discount the police themselves – or angry kids who vent their anger at a system that hems them in with lockdowns and deprives them of jobs and homes, forcing an increasing number of people to live in vans but, with the new bill, where will they park them?
Tuesday’s Right to Reside protest 2 days later where 200 travellers and assorted campaigners protested specifically against the criminalisation of trespass, was entirely peaceful until they were unexpectedly charged by an equivalent number of riot police from all over South West England and South Wales. The 14 arrests was double the number on Sunday’s riot with absolutely zero aggression from the protesters leaving one wondering, if the police will treat peaceful protestors like this, then what is the point of being peaceful?
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