Watch out for this week’s bloody TV onslaught on the meat industry. The first of four more documentaries on BBC3 at 10.30 pm each evening from next Monday the 7th January in the Kill It, Cook It, Eat It series will “brutally demythologize” the meat-eating habit.
Each program features a baby animal, the first on the suckling pig; on Tuesday goat kids; on Wednesday veal calves; on Thursday lambs; and on Friday a review of the new series. As if this isn’t enough to put fire in the bellies and facts in heads of campaigners we welcome on the website, the series should literally give pause to consumers who claim to love animals – roasted, fried, grilled, or minced.
And if some people think white meat is less disgusting Channel 4 is running its Four Season “to make us think about what we eat and how it’s produced.” Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall starts with the premise that “chickens are the most abused animals on the planet” and in three programs from Monday next to Wednesday at 9pm each night; then on Thursday, also at 9pm on C4, Dispatches gives more of the Truth about your Food, demolishing claims made for many of the products. Supersize Me is an “engrossing Oscar-nominated documentary” on an experimental animal (a man) resolving to eat nothing but McDonald’s meals for a month “as part of an experiment to lift the lid on the fast-food industry.” The whole evening’s entertainment (and fascinating choice of advertising breaks) invites outbreaks of direbetes and other dire disorders, we think.
To complete the week on Channel 4 Jamie Oliver leaves the kitchen for a 35-minute escapade in the Big Food Fight season to examine Britain’s poultry in one of Jamie’s Fowl Dinners. He allots 35 minutes from 9 pm to host “a gala dinner which brings together consumers, producers, retailers, and experts, including Bill Oddie and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, to demonstrate how chickens and eggs are produced in this country and whether things need to change.” Some of us remember the late Ruth Harrison’s seminal book Animal Machines, published in 1964, followed by the Brambell Committee, and ultimately today’s Farm Animal Welfare Council, but billions of birds have suffered to this day – and continue to do so. We need evidence that the presenters and teams producing these TV programs are themselves convinced by their own evidence and explain to the public “out there” the merits and relevance of eating plans in our Portfolio of cruelty-free menus, with attested nutritional and environmental attributes. Descriptions of fish, game, and dairy production should clinch conversions to plant-based grow-food-not-feed ways of eating decently, with vigorous participation and invention by celebrity chefs.
And there’s even more for foodies in the evening of Friday, the 11th January, on Channel 4: a First Cut: Health Food Junkies, which explores the beliefs of the “raw foodists”, for whom the cooking of food “constitutes an act of nutritional vandalism.” It’s a half-hour program starting at 7.30 pm; Jamie’s Fowl Dinners follows at 9pm. The thought of a late-night steak tartare is enough to bring on a salmonella or E. coli O157- driven bout of what old doctors would neatly describe as a great griping of the guts. We wish all our visitors a eupeptic New Year.
After Hunting. Coarse Fishing and Commercial Shoots are Fair Game
1. Boxing Day 2007 was an appropriate occasion for reviewers of farming, environmental, and animal welfare issues to ponder. The workings of the anti-hunting Act set a focus, because it had drawn so much effort and funds from the animal welfare NGOs and charities in particular. The ensuing Animal Welfare Act is now ripe for evaluation too.
2. The press and other commentators had little praise to report for anti-hunting regulations. Their analyses were superficial, concentrating on the social scene and the paucity of sustained prosecutions brought in the workings of some clearly tricky legislation. Welfare, wellbeing, and the banning of cruelty are attributes that entail much more than laws and prosecutions, but the example set by the Brits has come over as dubious encouragement to animal tormentors in Europe and the rest of the world. The blatant devil-may-care attitude to the law may disturb Spanish welfarists impressed by the Brits’ ability many years ago to oust bull-baiting but now daunted in these more “enlightened” times by an apparently lacklustre and precarious advance into hunting territories.
The British press did not analyse the number of drag hunts and friendly alternatives with bloodhounds nor even the number of foxes killed by the hunts in 2007; nor did they contrast the longstanding “control” of the fox population by the hunts’ activities with the much bigger efforts of lampers with their guns. And in the light of current topics did the commentators rove from hunters in their stirrup cups to farmers, scientists, and the public concerned with badgers, TB, and the prices of milk and calves?
3. Many MPs in marginal seats could have been plunged only a month or 2 ago into a general election in which they would have been particularly vulnerable if their views on hunting surfaced. Gordon Brown took the right decision to play for time on that challenge, but the Battle Cry of Freedom from the opponents of the vexing restrictions is resounding now in the shires for well-concerted and funded attacks by Liberals and Tories to dislodge vulnerable MPs and to expose the weakness in the anti-hunting laws and consign them to the terrier men and despatch by repeal. The average voter and urban politician does not recognise the sympathy in rural constituencies and politics for the function of hunt-kennels (and zoos) to dispose of “fallen stock” from ailing or dead animals from commercial exploitations of farmed animals.
Proximity to a local slaughterhouse or knacker’s yard or landfill site is hardly the neighbourhood second-home incomers and property-owning NIMBYs – or even a free-range chicken producer – relish, when in fact the morning call of a cockerel or the farmer resorting to plastic in reducing the impediments of latitude in efforts at competition with imports of fruit and veg from many food miles away count as powerful forces of rebellion and conspiracy down the pub.
4. It is therefore imperative for the begetters of the anti-hunting regulations to prepare for the worst and also to allow for legislations within the next 2 years that improves the Act and averts its repeal...
The RSPCA has been answering yes and is continuing its involvement with meat-free and dairy-free – “cruelty-free” – food, just as it did some years ago with its support for cruelty-free toiletries, clothing and footwear. Jeremy Laurance’s question (shouldn’t the RSPCA be advocating vegetarianism?) is nicely answered by the requirement of the Society’s last AGM to be catered for entirely in a meat- and dairy-free manner, and some branches are following the example. Many of the society’s members are discontent with flawed measures such as Freedom Foods attempts at accreditation and schemes such as the Soil Association’s to express “food ethics”.
We have been offering the RSPCA open access to our database and give the Society scientifically-, medically-, and nutritionally-based evidence to support utterances by agriculture and environment ministers and the Economist magazine giving advice to consumers to eat less meat and dairy produce and their derivatives; and Hilary Benn, the present Minister of State is a vegetarian. Our website offers weekly recipes that accord with Grow Food, Not Feed policies and come within a Portfolio of eating plans recommended by international medical experts and nutritionists, offering advantages, for example, in reducing recourse to regimens of drugs such as statins.
Dr Alan Long (of VEGA Research), as a long time member of the RSPCA, and Angela Walder, a member of its Council, won a decision at the last AGM for the Society to comprehend within its estimable range of practical endeavour initiatives to engage in true farm-to-fork manner with the Food Standards Agency (where S stands for more than one-sided Safety) in joined-up agronomic policies in which the interests of animal welfare (of all species, including human) and the environment are tackled. We offered the advice on the appropriate education and initiatives in marketing.
There’s no need for Jeremy Laurance to flog the willing RSPCA horse, but some whispers to raise the rate from a trot to a gallop would be welcome. We animal welfarists always think of Boxer’s fate in Animal Farm.
Fat Hope for Declining Dairy Industry
New Year’s Day opened with what the Times Consumer Editor hails as hope for milk producers as the EU relaxes rules; and, elliptically, “experts say change will help tackle obesity”. This must be enough to ruin the veggies’ first cup of tea in 2008.
Changes by milk companies in the marketing of milk are being allowed as “health chiefs attempt to get people to reduce their intake of fat”. Until now European Commission regulations meant that milk could be marketed only within tightly defined ranges as whole or full-fat, semi-skimmed, or skimmed. Strict rules governed the fat content of each. As farmers can achieve only limited performance by tricks of breeding, calving, feeding, and housing cows – even by genetic manipulations with artificial insemination in yielding a “natural” product routinely connived at by organic and Soil Association “producers” (i.e. the farmers, not the cows) – yields of skimmed milks entail lowering of fat contents by mechanical separation and resort to means of disposing of the butter fat; the milk industry is therefore especially keen to value add this by-product to co-product status and even to lift it beyond the range of value adding and “premiumization”. By crafty “lactating” otherwise veggie products, such as biscuits, cakes, and ice-creams, in the styles of Waitrose and Marks and Spencer – “buttering everything up” as VEGA would have it – the butter fat can be returned into “luxury” and “finest” items in the food chain. In the 1980s the Finnish South Karelia project coped with a similar problem by dumping the excess fat into the CAP’s intervention scheme of support; in the end the butter mountain was disposed of to the Russians and Poles, to the detriment of their health, but not after conversion into candles had been mooted...
“14. If the place of origin of the food (according to the principle of last substantial change) is not the same as the place of origin of its primary ingredients, it may be necessary to provide information on the origin of those ingredients.”
“28. It is clear that many consumers want more information on the origin of meat ingredients in meat products, and in research the ingredients in dairy produce also score highly.”
Livestock, including cattle, pigs, poultry and fish, is often reared using substantial quantities of imported feed (eg grain, soya, fishmeal). Many consumers will have an interest in the provenance of the feed, not just with regard to quality but also the environmental impacts.
We would therefore suggest that in future you give consideration to labelling that indicates whether a substantial proportion of feed has been imported. For instance, beef or milk labelled as ‘British’ should indicate that feed has been imported when the animals have not been raised on a majority of British produced feed.
The Pink Sea Fan (Eunicella verrucosa) is under threat from e.g. commercial fisheries, scallop dredging and diving. If potting and diving is allowed in the area (for development of possible alternative income streams into the local economy), the possibility of fin-strike damage by scuba diving damaging or killing colonies must be taken into consideration. However, divers can also be a source of people to survey and monitor the area, even if in an unofficial way. Studies have shown that E. verrucosa bend under the weight of pots but are not seriously damaged and they bend back when the pots have passed. However, long-term effects of collisions are not known and potting could cause disturbance.
The continuation of diving and potting relies on healthy corals, something that will not be sustained by scalloping in the area, and monitoring must be in place to survey the health of the area. Scallop diving is also in place in the area, and if scallop dredging is excluded scallop diving should be monitored to survey impacts of a possible increase in scallop diving.
E. verrucosa is also a host species for the sea fan anemone, Amphianthus dohrnii, another BAP species. Are there recordings of A. dohrnii in the area, and if not have surveys been undertaken to that extent as to exclude the possibility of the species in the area?
We think that option C“Exclude the use of all towed gear, by either SFC Byelaw or Order, in the 60 square mile area originally proposed by NE in May 2006”, is the only viable option, even though it will have some economic implications on the scallop dredging activities. This 60 square mile protection zone is still only a small part of the whole of Lyme Bay.