VEGA News Item

Cost Sharing for Animal Health and Welfare - 16/04/2008
Vega responds to a DEFRA consultation on responsibility and cost sharing for animal health and welfare.

Vega responds to a DEFRA consultation on responsibility and cost sharing for animal health and welfare:

1. We applaud DEFRA’s initiative, because we have for many years complained of subsidization, compensation and indemnification for farmers and other food producers and hunters that shield practitioners of bad husbandry and practice, as well as imprudent risk from consequences for which final customers and consumers are to be hampered in seeking redress by recourse to the law. Standards need to be asserted by more than comforting sustainable words in a naughty and risky world and suffice to engage a nation of well-informed and canny consumers not benighted with the lures of fast and cheap foods. Your valuable discussions should be accompanied by attention to education in the essentials of citizenship and choice, possibly utilizing the extra year of schooling for such purposes, in which concerted efforts at the welfare of all animals – human, workers and customers, and including non-human species and wildlife – and the environment can be assessed and served.

2. Accordingly, we spend too many hours at open meetings of the FSA’s Board, delving into the entrails of the squalid live/deadstock industry and the consequences and violations of good practice and husbandry that are revealed. Risk-benefit analyses are compromised by necessary but tricky recourse to precautionary principles in customs and practices still inadequately supplied with scientific certainties of claims rashly made, disastrously overlooked or practised without due competence and diligence and compromising victims’ means of redress and compensation. Further, dubious marks and symbols of approvals by bodies suspected of limited competence and experience mar a true appreciation of their worth.

3. One of our Trustees was involved as an adviser for the defence in the McLibel case and as an expert witness. In the judgement the plaintiffs were proved “guilty of culpable cruelty to animals” and this at a time when scientific MAFF advice was reiterating assurances that consumption of meat and milk was “safe” for consumers of all ages. (The press would perform a useful function at the present time by seeking the views of grown-up Cordelia Gummer and by the advice now offered by her father to your current discussions: he is still MP and an adviser on agricultural and environmental matters to David Cameron, Leader of HM Opposition. We hope families affected by vCJD will be able to proffer their opinions on the subject of your discussion guide.

4. Official campaigns are beginning to reduce consumption of meat and dairy and to adopt thriftier styles in the style of Grow Food Not Feed policies. Excuses for profligate schemes of intensification and the accompanying connivance in awards of subsidies and compensations for harm will be reduced or withdrawn. “Sustainable” production of cow’s milk and the problems with calves and badgers will mean changes in harmony with meat-free and dairy-free trends, for which DEFRA must be prepared to foster research and advice for the farming industry, which will have to face competing resources of land for production of fuel and manufacturing purposes – and farmers once grew oats to power the equine machines pulling the plow – as well as for housing, leisure, and transport. Coastal waters will be “mined” similarly for resources. This will be cost sharing in its widest sense; and it will extend to activities and competition from imported and transshipped materials derived from “playing fields” both level and untilted if accommodation can be made for latitude, altitude, and seasonality.

5. Recent inquiries, reviews, prosecutions, and scandals that have engaged or are engaging MAFF, DEFRA, FSA, and FAWC teach many lessons for analysis in the present discussions. Such would include:

5.1 The BHS Inquiry, out of which came the consumer-oriented FSA and demise of MAFF.

5.2 The Cabinet Office’s invitations for NGOs to assess policies for Farming and Food, from which the Curry Commission emerged.

5.3 The FSA’s efforts, especially through the Meat Hygiene Service to clean up some of the live/deadstock industry’s dodgy practices and to raise appreciation of animal welfare at or just before slaughter; HACCP initiatives, scoring (albeit controversial) of manufacturing practices and in the service industries, and openness in revealing results to merchants and final purchasers. These efforts demonstrate the need to allocate jobs nationally and locally (eg by EHOs and TSOs).

5.4 Bowland Dairy and other similar enterprises at the recovery and “5th quarter” stages of value-adding to otherwise waste and polluting products. This looks like becoming cheap food, costly legislation, with international misunderstanding, for which uplifting reform is pressing.

5.5 Smoking. It is fortunate at least that British farmers don’t grow tobacco, so they can’t claim subsidies accordingly (however, the FSA seems unduly interested in ingratiating producers of sheep smokies). The officially disfavoured market in cigarettes illustrates nicely the play of evidence, warnings, precautions, taxing, and ability of customers to mount effective litigation for damages for alleged harm; it also demonstrates the difficulties in taxes, bans and other manipulations to curb evils while avoiding contempt for excessive exhibition of the works of the nanny-state.

6. Farmers work in a risky business for which they should insure themselves appropriately for damage or injury they or their customers incur, rather than relying on the state to bale themselves out. If the market or insurers refuse to bear such costs and responsibilities and the consequent reinforcement of policing and enforcement, such practices should be ineligible for licensing and continuation. In general such stipulations should apply to recalls of products and culling required by official veterinary control of biosecurity. The public must be prepared for adjustments in outgoings spent on the care and yields of our farming, food, health, and land and the consequent costs of research, training, upgrading and enterprise directed at the imperatives of the Quality of Life rather than the shifts of falsely High Standards of Living.  


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