VEGA News Item

Developments in the Food and Catering Industries - 09/02/2006
We appraise an example from 2 items, for which about an hour was allowed, at an Open Board Meeting of the FSA, held in the morning of Thursday, 9th February, 2006 in London.
We appraise an example from 2 items, for which about an hour was allowed, at an Open Board Meeting of the FSA, held in the morning of Thursday, 9th February, 2006 in London.

The FSA’s Board delivers advice to the Government – which may or may not take it, but ignores it against the guidance of a body it deputes to put the consumer/customer/citizen first, on the basis of scientific evidence. Further, the public can expect that Standards define more than Safety from Seed to Sustenance.

1. Information, running to 164 A4 pages, set before the FSA’s Board in advance of the meeting, had these titles:

a. FSA Science Strategy 2005-2010 (FSA 06/02/06), Agenda item & Annex A
b. The Governance of Science (FSA 06/02/07)

They can be viewed by the public on links above: hard copies are available from the FSA.

2. Consultations and Interpretations
In preparation for the discussion, officials produced an analysis of replies from a widely-advertised appeal for appropriate consultation. We reproduce Annex 3 from the main document set before the Board. It lists the organizations and people who engaged in the consultation and put no restriction on publication of their participation in the enterprise.

Annex 3, p 127-128 of the Science Strategy

The appointment and duties – a job description – of a newly-appointed Chief Scientist for the FSA were up for discussion at the Board meeting. As the briefing papers anticipated, issues likely to engage his attention – and the Board’s – would be expected to include some notewortily contentions matters, such as

  • GM feedstuffs and foodstuffs (“Frankenstein Foods”)
  • Organics
  • Animal Welfare, Wildlife, and the Environment
  • SpecialRequirements, e.g. for consumers with specific aversions, among which would be those with allergies, metabolic disorders, vegetarians, vegans, Jews, Muslims etc.
  • Assessments of Risks and Interpretations of Evidence from scientific research and epidemiology and of lifestyle factors in the Quality of Life, e.g. Smoking, Diet, Pollution, and Contamination

3. Dozy Defenders
Some normally boisterous farming and food interests have conspicuously not barked when they had the chance to mark territories that will continue to be dominated by well-heeled, well-subsidized (from public funds) bodies that the vociferous objectors condemn with all the rage of frustration. They cannot now complain if the FSA’s Board (and thus the Government) give them short shrift in the rest of this decade. Who are the ineffectual objectors going to expect to cope with challenges from our list above and have they considered the financial and other constraints the persevering NGOs, charities, and Trust suffer in the cause of independence?

It may be that some citizens’ groups have private and ad hoc meetings with the FSA and its officials that are not recorded for public inspection. Public and open meetings give organizations (such as VEGA) and the FSA and Government some idea of the competence and efficacy of other groups. We must say that the present exercise appears to show the FSA’s officials in a better light than the Agency should receive from the enlightenment of a constructively critical “official opposition”. The FSA’s Board, for instance, is likely to be seeking scientific advice on experimentation on animals, the European REACH project on the safety of household materials, and on the labelling of foods for all standards of production and animal welfare and environmental corollaries closely linked to food and drink and to farming and land management. With the Animal Welfare Bill progressing through its final stages and recurrent threat of zoonotic diseases animal welfare organizations have overlooked or ducked opportunities to strut their stuff in the FSA’s consultations.

4. Information, Communication, Education
The abundance (and excess) of means of communication and IT impose severe competition in attracting the attention and respect of movers and shakers in the world’s affairs. The Government is putting NGOs to test by requiring its Departments and Agencies to engage in swift consultations with “stakeholders” and interested parties. It is also a public and competitive debate, entailing deployment at open meetings and conferences and in the field with scientists, doctors, and farmers in bouts of eyeball-to eyeball persuasion. Cogency, urgency, and topicality are essential: the days of cosy circulations among the converted of news letters and publications with not even the immediacy of a parish magazine are gone (except perhaps to attract legacies that conform to few of the logistics of longterm planning and investment aimed at inspiring public, politicians, and consumer demand and restraint to the point where the industry appreciates trends and responds).

VEGA’s Trust Deed commits it “to undertake or promote research for the public benefit and to advance the education of the public in the effects on humans and animals of the vegetarian/vegan diet and the consumption of products of non-animal origin” and “to undertake or promote research for the public benefit and advance the education of the public in the environmental and economic effects of vegetarianism/veganism and the consumption of products of non-animal origin”. The FSA offers one forum in which to flex those muscles in concert with the resources it can offer on a very broad scale.

5. Commitment and Aspiration
Much of the FSA’s effort in Board meetings and in the work of its officials and staff has been preoccupied with the mess left in the shambolic live/deadstock industry post BSE. It is not the stuff of enterprising endeavour in a lively food industry. Slaughter and butchery and the dreary entrails of the farm to fork ministry promise no uplift to aspiring managers in a vigorous agency. “The EU has been working overtime to develop guidance on how slaughterhouses can comply with new rules”, reports the Meat Trades Journal (10 February 2006), which must be among the very few weeklies that cannot manage in its pre-Valentine’s Day edition anything romantic for the public’s tables. “The FSA is committed to supporting the meat industry and is working closely with its representatives to help ensure smooth implementation of the new regulations” and “is always happy to engage in debate and work with the meat industry in relation to these important issues. Should the industry feel another meeting would be beneficial at this times, we would very much like to be involved”, states Peter Hewson, Deputy Veterinary Director of the FSA, which believes that “ controls on small abattoirs may still not be entirely based on risk”.

The scientific prospectus presented to the Board of the FSA answers some of VEGA’s pleas for diverting attention from the fleshpots to the enjoyment that the wit and ingenuity of scientists and technologists bid fair to be worthily applied, leaving the meat and dairy industries and all their associates to stew in their own bloody juice.

6. Cowed Veggies Slip Up
The Guardian Weekend’s (11 February 2006, see below) “great” offering from its Vegetarian Kitchen is vaunted “great for a romantic meal for St Valentine’s Day, or any other day for that matter” but it turns out to be a heart-stopping atrocity composed, among other ingredients for the loving dish for two, of 15g butter, 100ml milk, 40g cheddar cheese, 3 egg whites, 2 egg yolks, and 100g Brie. It is recommended to follow “buttery asparagus or perfect ripe avocado and follow with a voluptuous ice cream”. A miasma of misery hangs over a meal like that. The FSA’s scientists would really question the sincerity of professed vegetarians who celebrate with such a callous sacrifice of principles and respect for the victims. It takes little ingenuity to celebrate in a truly loving cruelty-free way, accompanied by appropriately replenished loving cups.

Guardian article: A romantic meal?

Of all commentators and consumers and users of the world’s resources, veggies should be the last to blink dispensable rituals, commercialized or enshrined in religious treatments of sacred cows (and sheep, goats, and birds), in ceremonial or any other feasting. The Old Bill’s powerful paradigm of treachery focuses on the cow and her calf. Evidence-based testimony abounds to influence the scientist and farmer that the dairy/beef/veal job is particularly disgusting. “Righteousness exalteth a nation… a merry heart marketh a cheerful countenance… better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therwith” commend the psalmists.

We wish our visitors truly lovely and tasteful fare – and not just for St Valentine’s Day.

Thou never dids’t them wrong, nor no man wrong;
And as the butcher takes away the calf,
And binds the wretch, and beats it when it strays,
Bearing it to the bloody slaughterhouse,
Even so, remorseless, have they borne him hence;
And as the dam runs lowing up and down,
Looking they way her harmless young one went,
And can do nought but wail her darling’s loss; …

Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 2, Act 3, Scene 1

7. Keep Clicking!
We urge our readers to click on to the FSA’s website, express their opinions, and read labels assiduously. We celebrate this month the anniversary of the launch of the Green Plan for farming, food, health, and the land, from which the runaway Campaign for Real Bread was an illustrative offshoot. The Campaign woke up the market for “Salutary Food from Salubrious Farming” and the relevance of “Growing Food, not Feed”, years before we could devote our energies into the establishment of the Food Standards Agency and the dismantling of the old MAFF (now DEFRA).

Many NGOs have been found wanting in the common cause. A parliamentary commentator recently expressed ignorance of the veggie implications in current issues in animal welfare health, food, and farming. It is both an arresting and quickening glimpse of real challenges. Keep in touch with our activities!

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