Whiner’s Letters*. Let Live and Live, We Say
A letter in the Sunday Times whining about vegetarians.

We have come across similar attitudes defended in newspaper columns explaining the supposed rules of etiquette. Would the commentators assume similar postures if the vegetarian happened to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu-teetotal or with an aversion or allergy to peanuts, dairy-products, or is a celiac? The quality of deference seems unduly strained. Non-vegetarians, especially those who say Grace before a communal repast, should understand that veggies can harbor a deep-felt disgust at the appearance on the table of the defiled mortal remains of a cow that surpasses reservations if meat-eaters addressed themselves to a suitably-served cow pat on a plate – a nicely-fermented natural vegetable product, freely given by a non-violated animal.

There’s hope yet for us veggies. Some of us remember the days when smokers would invade non-smokers’ designated territories without apology. The day can’t be far off when carnivores will need no reminding that we are glad to offer hospitality in territories unsullied by a miasma of cruelty.

*Winner’s Letters, Sunday Times, 23 July 2006

A New Kinder Farming

In response to Peter Singer's letter to the Guardian (12th July)

VEGA's response to Peter Singer’s letter in the 12th July issue of the the Guardian (Meat production today is not just inhumane, it’s inefficient), as well as to Anthony Gibson’s (director of communications for the National Farmers' Union) response.

“As consumers, we have the power – and moral obligation – to refuse to support farming methods that are cruel to animals and bad for us” argues Professor Singer (Comment and Debate, July 12 2006). For just such a purpose we have been inspired by a forthcoming conference at the Royal Society, organized by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare and the British Veterinary Association, entitled The Quality of Life – the Heart of the Matter, to present a new version of our Green Plan (“Grow Food, not Feed”) for farming, food, health, and the land as a manifesto for A New Kinder Farming.

The manifesto aims at mobilizing well-informed, discriminating, and effectual consumer choice and power engaging with an innovative food industry with reputable employment, deployment and standards involving production, trading, and service. In particular, the Food Standards Agency and DEFRA will have better things to do than delving into the entrails of the manky meat-market and organizing killing and culling measured on a scale of massacres. A practicable national trend is set to link “salubrious farming with salutary food”, engaging animal welfarists, environmentalists, and conservationists with medical and nutritional enterprise in developing attractive variations on consumption and lifestyle befitting a population exerting their individual conviction, choice and expression at the cash point. The wellbeing of animals (of which we are just one species) and the land, as well as thrift in agronomy and resources, are purports of reform that can be expressed effectively in every meal and every purchase. Now the time is ripe for fruitful joined-up thinking and action.

Conferences and Meetings Report June 2006

June was a very busy month for VEGA. We were invited to City University, London, to participate in a report on an EU project on the Ethics of Wheat and Bread Supplies. The group comprised academics and representatives from commerce and NGOs. VEGA’s involvement with the Campaign for Real Bread, being an offshoot of its 1976 Green Plan for farming, food and health, and the land, was useful experience and made a good connexion with the group at the University. From then on events unfolded in June with a succession of challenging opportunities covering a range of topics.

Read the full story here

Nutattritional Labelling

Traces of the Obvious on Sun Cottage packaging.

Green for Go in Wartime Agriculture

Professor John Raeburns’ death a few weeks ago removes a fascinating figure in the scope of agricultural policies during WW2 and in postwar developments, notably the 1947 Agricultural Act, which intensified government support for farmers and sought to avoid repetition of the post-WW1 experience when many in the industry had felt betrayed. His obituary in the Times (28 July 2006) describes him as the “agricultural economist who ran the wartime Dig for Victory campaign and did much to shape postwar farming policy”. These were green initiatives advertised with songs and posters featuring Dr Carrot and Potato Pete (and with the example of the acrobatic human digger in the picture).

Read the full story here

Animals in Transport

Re: The Welfare of Animals during Transport Consultation of the Implementation of EU Regulation 1/2005.

VEGA comments on a DEFRA consultation on the welfare of animals in transport (consultation available from here).

We are surprised that FAWC and none of the major retailers of food and other animal-derived commodities are mentioned in your list of potential consultees. These agencies are currently engaged in labelling and claims including animal welfare and the environment. Eddie Stobart’s name should be added to the list of carriers and hauliers.

Consistency must be aimed at to ensure that best practice implied in the Animal Welfare Bill, Home Office procedures and other specialized legislation is observed. The market value of the animal in transit must not be the dominant factor in its handling and treatment. The law must protect the weak animals in very large numbers who require special attention: such are the living “waste”, by-products, co-products, and “spent” livestock destined for culling, slaughter, or used ultimately as a source of fuel. Such would be animals rejected for disposal, knackering, or fellmongering as fallen stock from food-production and breeding, racing, and for showing purposes and from zoos, circuses, and other collections. We use the word animals to mean non-human species.

Read our comments here

Meaty Matters for Carlisle and Bradford

A Carlisle slaughterhouse has been fined for failing to comply with an improvement notice served in February 2005 that required it to put in place a staff hygiene training scheme.

Representatives from West Scottish Lamb appeared at Carlisle Magistrates Court last month and pleaded guilty to failing to put the order in place. The company also admitted 2 charges of possessing cattle older than 30 months with intent to sell the meat for human consumption, which was illegal when the offences were committed in May and August last year. (They were infringing the Over Thirty Month Rule, introduced as a precaution to reduce the risks of the spread of BSE).

West Scottish Lamb was fined £500 for the charges and also ordered to pay court costs of £4000. The Meat Hygiene Service will continue to inspect the premises on a regular basis.

Halal meat “could soon be on school menus in Bradford after Muslim children asked for more choice and fewer curries” the Meat Trades Journal (04 August 2006) reports. Lancashire hotpot, lamb chilli and lasagne are among the European halal meat dishes being sampled early in August after Bradford City Council’s school meals supplier, Education Contract Services, was asked “to widen its option”. Such options will be flouting the advice of government-appointed Farm Animal Welfare Council and RSPCA that methods of slaughter for halal meat should be banned. The options raise challenges that Bradford City Council and the citizens of the city should consider in setting children in educational environments the elements of responsible animal welfare.

Promotions in the Premier League

The market in veggie foods is undergoing changes bringing in new brands and names and restocking the freezers and chiller cabinets and freezers. Meat reducers and dairy-frees are beginning to dominate the demand and Premier Foods to meet it with a range of products from baked beans to Quorn sausages. Pages in the business press analyse the market. Now we take our turn – different mainly because we take the “slaves” view, interpreting the challenges in the broad view of animal welfare, human and non-human. None of these business pages measures the importance to the farmer and “his” animals.

What walks off the supermarket shelves determines the destinies of human considerations of welfare, environment, convenience, presentation, taste, and – decisively – cost. We have to admit that pious words, endless recitations of dogmas, and specious divisions and definitions don’t count for much when the customer surveys the overwhelming arrays of special offers, bogofs, and new ways of serving up the mangled remains or secretions of mass-produced livestock, many adding cosmetic enhancement and free-ranging lures to silence qualms and unease. Brand names and own brands blur aspects of quality in which food loses many specific attributes, particularly in seasonality and the fortunes of farming and production: analogy with fuel is apt, for few motorists nowadays bother to fill up consistently at the pumps of one of a particular brand, preferring convenience over the relatively minor differences in their car’s performance. However, the consumer and the government are beginning to consider the wider significance of food, fuel, and the market in other resources that transcend the importance of minor sectors dealing with populations with aversions, religious, ethical or through various allergies or intolerances, possibly of genetic origin or due to metabolic or physiological anomalies.

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no 8 2006






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