VEGA News Item

Sustainable development in policy making - 05/06/2008
Vega responds to an FSA consultation on sustainable development
Vega's response to the FSA consultation on sustainable development in policy making.

We agree wholeheartedly with the FSA’s aims at developing food policies and broadening its purview to a full regard for standards that comprehend safety but include the wider responsibilities described in your document of 14 march 2008. As it happens, this congruence is demonstrated by the petition we have recently submitted to the Board of the FSA and in material rehearsed in consultations, mainly with DEFRA, FSA and FAWC, posted on our website.

International meetings of the FAO going on now – and likely to be continued soon – tell of new urgencies and need for R and D applications as the pressure if the challenges intensifies.

Our history illustrates the range of topics and disciplines comprehended in our common intentions. Our precursors, the Vegetarian Nutrition Research Centre, cut its teeth at the end of WW2 with famine relief and social remediation in populations subsisting on plant-based and monotonous diets. This was the era when protein-calorie malnutrition held sway and in Britain the post-war Agriculture Act, withdrawal of A Marshall Aid, and the beginnings of “feather-bedding” for British farmers and deficiency payments preceded CAP policies that connoted great changes in rural affairs, the environment, and wildlife.

Colonial interests and trade called for particular attention. In this we were in collaboration with Oxfam, Christian Aid, and other relief agencies, finally under the chairmanship of Frank (now Lord) Judd until the effort was closed by the then government.

In 1976 we compiled our researches and mission in a Green Plan for farming, food, health and the land, recognizing the corollaries in the health and welfare of all the livestock (including the human species) and the social, demographic, and trade consequences. Conservation of resources such as water and fuel (power), pollution, cash crops, diversity, and demography were included in an outlook that took in nutrition and farming policies (and farm-to-fork chains well in advance of the long awaited FSA). Afforestation, development of new (or rediscovered) technologies, and consideration of marine reserves and water have fallen within the scope of the Green Plan, which has educational functions in history and evolution and in the co-existence and harmony with our non-human commensals.

The 1970s saw the “fibre-righters” active in matters and the beginnings of discontent with “western diets” and with excess consumption and sloth. The ills in the poxy live/deadstock industry and threats of zoonotic diseases began to be revealed and the Campaign for Real Bread, having been designed as an easy introduction to the grander perspectives of the Green Plan and itself with a wide view of the arable scene and farm animal welfare, took off with great and heady acclaim from the media and government. The campaign has attracted renewed relevance, as with other factors in the Green Plan’s scope, in today’s panics in the markets for staple crops. Ruth Harrison’s remarkable warnings in her Animal Machines have recently surfaced in revelations on the corn-fed oven-ready broiler, and the plight of the battery and spent hen. Like the billions of victims of the relentless intensification in factory farming and killing their fate stands witness to the prostituted farming and consumption and the convenience and greed in meretriciously “high” standards of living and desertion of the values in the “quality” of life.

The Seventies and the Green Plan generated a litany of derision over its farming and food and prospects in CAP policies. The cry Grow Food not Feed – Live and Let Live was accompanied by laments that “Britain was becoming a nation of constipated toothless fatties” or, as one zoonotic disasters succeeded another, “Britain’s going to buggery.”

And after the BSE crisis came the FSA, which may now face further serious challenges of animal-derived scourges in the food chain and environment, which occupy much – too much – of its attention. Salutary food from Salubrious Farming is a possibility. We commend to the FSA’s Board our Portfolio of Eating Plans opening up tasty prospects for meat-free, dairy-free, and cruelty-free meals devised by the application of knowledge and experience in a range of disciplines. The labelling and profiling applied to the menus follow FSA procedures, interpreted by a fully-qualified nutritionist.

The Phillips’ Inquiry on BSE cost millions of pounds and tons of evidence was accumulated. Largely at our urging each witness at the Inquiry was called upon to tell if s/he had changed their diet during the epidemic; or if they had advised caterers, restaurateurs, governors of schools etc to adjust the menus they were responsible for, We now have new challenges for dietary change, authoritatively pronounced, but can Board members adduce evidence of practical application by themselves? Do they ask this question of advisers they may turn to as they explore wide-ranging plans for development? These are declarations of interest, open-mindedness, and self-discipline they should be heeding.

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