Farming, Food, Health and Land for Life, Not Strife
1. Using the fate of the anti-Hunting Act as an indicator of the likely treatment of environmental and welfare matters in the impending general and local elections and the sequels, researchers and campaigners like us try to assess attitudes in consumption and production to the origins and supply in the recession; are they matters too trivial to bother the policy makers and customers and so are swept away in a welter of legislation that represents a genuine pride in the nation’s traditions and customs, even when there is little hope of easy times ahead in a beggared nation bought off by the hacks of the press and PR industries, turning over ridiculously inflated funds from overseas to buy votes in seats in constituencies where environment and animal welfare and values rather than price were worthy pursuits. Curbing the torrents of junk must surely improve our existence.
2. Taking the Times is no longer a pleasure of objective reporting but an example of journalists recruited as hacks abandoning their calling to become servants to the persuasions of a rich owner. Interviewers steal prominence over the interviewees. Page 2 of the Times is now devoted mainly to comments from the cells of intrigue in the Westminster Village, and brings disgrace on the lickspittles serving ignominiously their political masters rather than incisively reporting facts. The reader of the broadsheets and the associated material must wonder sometimes if s/he has been delivered the American edition.
3. The scorn, vilification and character assassination inflicted on Gordon Brown distract and trivialize thoughtful consideration of the quality of life in the UK for decades to come. Are ill-tempered and vicious insults to dominate the conduct of our lives as the onset of apathy and decadence sully our relationship with the environments and wildlife, “managed” or not; and interpreting the Animal Welfare Acts in a kindly way and with a consistent regard for the land and inshore waters for worthy purposes and yet more “change” and “reform” out of touch with the unremitting violence with which our “wonderful” parents and grandparents “blooded” us into the cruelty and waste of hunting, shooting and fishing? Years of patient enlightenment, much of it as a result of worthy charitable endeavour, could be swept away in the next year or so by hasty politicians and a feckless electorate.
4. It will take years to rid the treatment of “our” livestock and companions of the sentimentality that attends our relationship with them but these matters are receiving increasing attention year-on-year, even in the beginnings of the Great Recession, whether or not the species are endangered or common mongrels and lurchers. In human terms the sincerity of the actions must be widely spread and genuinely offered by celebs and the hoi polloi alike.
Celebs: Bangers and Clangers
5. “Many people said she should go into politics after the Gurkha campaign, but the funny thing is, she says, she’s not in the least bit political,” writes Simon Hattenstone of Joanna Lumley, “a formidable crusader” and celeb (she not him). “She gave the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas £1,000 to help with her campaign to become an MP, but that’s only because she likes her as a person. She’s still not sure how she will vote. As for the campaigning, she says her track record is nowhere near as good as people make out. For decades, she’s championed one cause or another, often little effect, the Guardian report continues. “All the other things I was banging on about, like Compassion in World Farming, got nowhere,” she goes on dismissing one hardworking charity with an ill-aimed swipe of regal dismissal, possibly infelicitously worded and regrettable.
6. Joanna Lumley has been vegetarian for more than 40 years – today, she is wearing a scarf made for her by Linda McCartney, who was a friend. Lumley has a phenomenal contacts book – she numbers Prince Charles among her mates and knows the leaders of the mainstream political parties….”the gossip rambles on, with visions of Lloyd George hovering in the background.
7. If celebs in the cultural world inflict on charitable endeavours by the hoi polloi, the stars of the culinary cultures, whom we might address collectively as Hooray Henrys or Heathrow Flowerdales, trample on the niceties in abstemious catering, Eating out with Giles Coren of the Times Magazine, remembering “newly Michelin-starred pub (London’s first)…” finds that it could offer “only one veggie starter and no veggie mains.” Short commons there then for vegetarians in the party in this pub, offering none of the hospitality with baked jacket potato, beans and some salad at the bar of the local.
8. And Heston Blumenthal himself showed alleged carelessness with shellfish served at his trendy place where the elements of the Food Standard’s Agency’s HACCP principles were laughed off in quick order with the ministrations of the PR industry and expeditious compensation for the distress to diners caused by a commonplace virus are the Food Standards Agency’s Scores-on-Doors be displayed there?
Choices of Cuts and Cooking
9. At the end of last year a VEGA volunteer looked at the recipes offered in the posh press for meals of all sorts for preparation in kitchens appropriate for the readers of the journals and magazines. VEGA counted 240 recipes for day-to-day purposes, of which only 5 could be offered without demur to a veggy guest. None of the information and profiling offered in choices from VEGA’s Eating Plans was offered, nor were the further details intended in terms of cost and provenance. These were recipes for cheesytarians buttered up and chickened out with scant observance of enterprising and thrifty practice in observance of the Food Standards Agency’s own advice on reducing the threat of obesity and adherence to the “stern” messages to “cut down on meat and dairy” (the meat was generally chicken).
10. VEGA’s attempts at assessing the corporate catering at the FSA’s Aviation House were terminated before removal of exemplary “junk” foods at the tills could be completed and scores-on-doors implemented. In-house catering at Aviation House struggles to provide non-dairy milks (e.g. at tea breaks), an advance hard won at “healthy” meetings at the Royal Society of Medicine. The RSPCA’s formal annual conferences are now catered entirely veggy (vegan), thanks to some reforms instigated by a VEGA member and veggy colleague at an RSPCA A.G.M.
Bring Back Grace and Flavour at the Table
11. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 should survive any mauling in the imminent elections and any others run under the new rules and changes in the House of Lords. The Act is proving successful in terms of prosecutions and as deterrents to cruel practices, as exposed in freakish breeding for shows such as Crufts. Objections to “policing” by RSPCA inspectors are likely to subside; “rights of entry” are unlikely to be refused to CCTV monitoring, albeit with some mutterings of resistance by breeders, dealers and farmers, especially keepers of mini-zoos and collections of animals on petting zoos and other unsuitable premises. Stricter tests and monitoring will be exercised in awards of licensing and requirements for keeping and selling pets and other companion and exotic animals. Establishing common standards for domestic animals must encompass micro-chipping and reduction of mutilations such as ear-tagging. International cooperation is improving, albeit fitfully, in the conservation of exotic animals for stocking zoos and circuses or for eating and for objects and materials for foods, toiletries, and cosmetics; and disposals of products from rare and endangered species is enjoying support from official and charitable bodies working on conservation projects with common objectives.
12. However, the level of debate in the imminent hustings in the UK must rise above uncouth vilifications among humans and ridiculous assertions of “change” and new thinking while clinging to brutal practices in country lore, once taught by “wonderful” parents and grandparents but now objectionable in a land trying to recover some of the virtues prostituted in the remorseless pursuit in current politics for power and influence. Voters must ponder on the attributes of the local candidates, as well as of leaders and statesmen, in struggles for space, territory and usufruct. Generating respect among various species and harmony with our environment demands more patience and discipline than are informed by spatchcocked panaceas concocted by the executives and bankers of PR companies.