Category Archives: uncategorized

To eat, to eat in moderation, to eat only humanely reared meat or to abstain?

A letter* from Edmund Dunstan brought clarity on a recurrent question, where formerly the heart and the brain could not reach agreement. He wrote:

Correspondence in the Friend has reminded me of two vegan posters, showing a calf and a chick. In fact, most calves and chicks would not exist without humans’ wish to use them, and might well live less long without humans feeding and protecting them.

“This raises the philosophical question of whether it is better for individual animals to exist for human use, or not to exist at all. It is not unreasonable to think that if they are treated decently, the former might be the case.

In the past, when debating the question of eating meat, I have heard the proposition that food plants are killed when we gather them . . . Orthodox Jains wear face masks to avoid inhaling insects . . . and sweep the ground free of living creatures before stepping out. They are vegetarian not vegan but avoid vegetarian food that is thought to harm living beings such as roots, bulbs and multi seeded vegetables.

Because, as a human animal, I would prefer to have a quick departure, rather than linger on in weakness, confusion or pain, I think the same option a desirable one for well-reared animals.

Tracy Worcester has devoted her time and energy to exposing the cruelty of factory farming and advises: “By using our power as consumers, we can choose pork that carries the RSPCA Assured label, is free range, outdoor bred or organic – and change the system. The power is in our purse. Two sausages from a factory-farmed pig costs the same as one and half sausages from a farm where they are raised humanely. Surely avoiding animal cruelty and saving antibiotics is worth half a sausage?” AndiIn mixed farming there is a ‘virtuous circle’, the crops grown feed the animals, and the animals supply fertilizer to the crop.

In the news recently: Jeremy Corbyn became vegetarian 50 years ago after becoming attached to the pigs when working on a farm – he is now eating more vegan food.

* the Friend: 8th September 2017







Will a brighter future belong to the ‘micro’ farmer (2-5 acres)?

After reading Ian Potter’s downbeat dairy news posted on the Political Concern website, Julian Rose writes by email:

“Ian is an enduring stalwart of the dairy industry. I bought and sold quota through him back in the 1990’s. His prognosis is all too true, it is indeed the supermarket and the global marketing casino that continue to ensure that the price of milk is subject to the roller-coaster ride it has become tragically accustomed to. A roller-coaster which continually forces dairy farming onto its knees.

But at the other end of the spectrum, as Tom Levitt also points out, a revival is taking place of the small herd supplying fresh, local and mostly unpasteurised milk direct to the public – micro-dairying:

“Unlike the product we pick off the shelf in the supermarket, the milk from micro-dairies is invariably unhomogenised. It is often still pasteurised to kill harmful bacteria, but even the semi-skimmed varieties are sold with the almost forgotten creamy top.

“The difference in the quality of milk, when the focus is on producing quality over quantity, is remarkable and it feels strange to call what we produce and what you pull off the supermarket shelves, by the same word – milk,’ says Josh Healy, who runs North Aston Dairy, a 19-cow herd in Oxfordshire, providing organic milk twice a week for 250 local customers”.

Julian ends: “There could hardly be a more contrasting scenario within the world of dairy farming. I believe that the brighter future might belong to the ‘micro-dairy’ practitioners. Not least because their product is about as close as one can get to ‘real food’, whereas the process of ‘denaturing’, performed on milk from wholesale suppliers destined for supermarkets, is wholly destructive of all the most valuable elements of this once excellent food.

Ultimately the buyer will come to recognize this difference”. 

farmers-m-krakowA farmers’ market in Krakow

Part of the year Julian lives and works in Poland. He writes:

The Eastern European peasant family farmer does not know much about what goes on in the corporate run, European Union subsidised, monocultural deserts that churn-out and almost endless supply of nitrate induced, vitamin depleted and pesticide protected – so called ‘foods’. He will not know what the majority of Westernised consumers dump into their trolleys on the way to the check-out desk, car boot and home freezer chest.

Read more in his excellent paper: ‘The Future is the Farmer’ in Discussion Papers.





People from these countries visited the site this month


FT: “No government should take risks on food security”

“Politicians should tread carefully. It is in Britain’s interest to maintain a strong farming industry at home and no government should take risks on food security” 

The un-named FT journalist adds that farming is an uncertain profession, increasingly exposed to the challenges posed by climate change. That is why most developed countries, whether inside the EU or not, maintain public funding for farming communities.

As Ian Potter, specialist entitlement broker and dairy industry commentator, has said: no matter what the defence, the reality is that low farmgate milk prices are painful, and unsustainable.

dairy farm closures 13-16

Devinder Sharma’s words in Ground Reality refer to Indian agriculture but are universally applicable, “Providing the rightful income into the hands of farmers is what will push domestic demand and at the same time revitalize the rural economy”..

Scheherazade Daneshkhu, the FT’s Consumer Industries Editor, reports that the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has called for the end of direct subsidies, adding that the payments sometimes go to landlords, rather than tenant farmers..

Stephen Wyrill, TFA chairman, said the government should require public food procurement policies to favour homegrown food and to investigate the power of supermarket chains that are often blamed by farmers for squeezing their incomes. 

food trade gap 2

August 9th is the date this year when the UK’s domestically produced food supply for the year runs out. The UK relies on homegrown produce for 60% of its food needs, down from 78% at its 1984 peak.

Some farmers are calling for more protectionism, including tariffs, while others favour softer measures such as improved labelling and educating children about farming and the countryside from a young age.

George Eustice, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has suggested that a government-backed insurance scheme should be put in place to help farmers to cope with weather-related disasters and a futures market set up to protect farmers against volatile commodity markets.

brit farming awards header

Meanwhile the much trumpeted British Farming Awards will go ahead blithely junketing as if British farming is thriving.


Consultation on trade disruptions due to low level GM in ostensibly GM-free food

Several countries have asked the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation to organise an international dialogue on the issue of trade disruptions involving low levels of GM crops in ostensibly GM free food.

In Rome on 20-21 March 2014 there will be a Technical Consultation on Low Levels of Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in International Food and Feed Trade, intended to facilitate a common understanding of the issue, not to reach policy agreements..

un survey gm trade disruption cover.

In 2013, FAO sent a questionnaire to member countries to gather information on the extent and nature of problems incurred with low levels of GM in traded commodities. 75 countries responded to the questionnaire and a report summarizing and analyzing the response to the questionnaire has been prepared and will be presented at the Consultation as a basis for discussion. On page 23 of the survey the issue was summarised:

“There is ongoing disruption to trade due to asychronous authorizations between EU and third countries. The current “tolerance” of < 0.1% under Reg 619/2011 is inadequate to facilitate trade between third countries and the EU. Trade problems are likely to increase in future, as more GM events enter the pipeline, giving rise to more frequent incidents of asynchronous authorizations and rejection of (maize) consignments Ireland from US.

“After the notification, consignments already imported into Japan were tested and those found positive were shipped back. After the above phase, import became acceptable only when consignments for Japan were tested and certified to be free of Bt10”.

Sustainable Pulse, owned and maintained by a group of concerned citizens and scientists, highlights the finding that there was an increase in cases between 2009 and 2012, when 138 out of the 198 incidents were reported; shipments with low levels of GM crops originated mainly from the US, Canada and China, although other countries also accidentally shipped such crops; once detected, most shipments were destroyed or returned to the exporting country; the highest number of incidents involved linseed, rice, maize and papaya. It reported that Renata Clarke, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer said:

“In the survey, countries also asked us to help them assess whether GM crops are safe to eat and we would like to see countries sharing any scientific findings they have on the subject. For this purpose, FAO established FAO GM Foods Platform, a web page for countries to share information on safety assessment.” The platform can be accessed at

American visitors top the list this week: