1. Two full-page ads in one issue of the Guardian Weekend Magazine (21 October 2006) betoken vigor in innovation and competition in the alternative dairy milks and in a market bidding fair to challenge the "cowboy" trade effectively.
2. So Good Essential claims to be "the only soya milk that is specially enriched with heart-healthy plant-based omega 3 (a very healthy 700mg per 250ml serving)." It is enriched in the usual nutrients and will become available for consideration by shoppers at the chiller cabinets of shops and stores. The ads don't mention prices.
3. Alpro recommend "a healthy decision" for their Soya Light, which is unsweetened. Abjuring artificial sweeteners, the manufacturer tells purchasers: "you can enjoy all the natural benefits of a product that contains no added sugar, that's low in saturated fat and reduced calorie." They also describe the provenance of the soya beans to allay objections over sources.
We can expect further claims to arise as competition increases among the brands and the nature of their raw materials (eg whole beans or refined flours). Customers for these and many other products should pause before buying to ensure that the alternatives are nutritionally sound and that the health claims justify inclusion in the Portfolio of veggie eating plans in lifestyles that counter obesity and maintain and redress faults in the balance of fatty acids, in which the omega 6 to omega 3 ration should be adjusted to lower levels (which are unduly high in some people's version of veggie diets).
We are pressing the Food Standards Agency to assert assessments of labeling and claims that make such statements clear to customers showing a healthy interest in the products. In the Portfolio of eating plans that "could reduce your cholesterol by up to 28% naturally without the need for statins."
Yesterday's Times 2 devoted two full pages (three if the cover is included) to the "superfoods" in the Portfolio of eating plans that "could reduce your cholesterol by up to 28% naturally without the need for statins."
U-Turn Forced on Food Standards Agency over Antibiotic Residues and in Milk
A week or so ago the European Commission began legal action accusing the British Government of allowing unfit and unsafe food to enter the food chain.
1. Brussels is planning an urgent health safety investigation into Britain’s entire milk and cheese production. It will entail random checks at farms and dairies. As we reported earlier (click here), the Food Standards Agency indicated a will to challenge the Commission, but in a dramatic intervention, Whitehall has overruled the FSA, which has had to despatch Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and Trading Standards Officers with new instructions about the testing of milk.
Any milk found with traces of antibiotics must be rejected and dumped in a landfill site or retested to check whether the amount of chemical residue is safe for human consumption. (Dumping in landfill sites is likely to be strictly regulated for environmental reasons).
2. In future, any milk washed down from processing equipment must be free of detergent if it is sent for use in food production to other plants. Scientific experts are to discuss the whole testing program in Europe, in the hope “that a rapid test can be developed to gauge the levels of antibiotics in products” (The Times, 21 October 2006). Our earlier report discussed many details of the problem.
3. John Wright, a director of Bowland Dairy Products, which is bringing a legal action against the Commission over the closure, states: “It is sad that the government has not backed the FSA. This was a political decision not backed by the science or the law”. Brussels had ordered closure of Bowland Dairy Products after inspectors found that the processor was collecting out-of-date milk from retailers and manufacturers for use in cheese. It was found that mouldy and contaminated cheese was being used for vacuum-pack products sent to the continent.
Midland Meat Firm Fined over Packaging Waste Irresponsibility
Incorrect recycling of waste packaging has landed Shire Foods of Warwick with a fine and costs totalling of £3000.
The firm admitted breaching the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations during a hearing before Leamington Spa magistrates. The court heard that over a 4-year period the firm, "a specialist manufacturer of savoury pies, pasties, and sausage rolls, had avoided costs in the region of £9000". (Meat Trades Journal 27 October 2006).
A Statement from the Environment Agency, uttered after the case repeated a description of an "enormous amount of packaging… sent to landfill each year in the UK" and of the aim of the Regulations "to reduce this figure by ensuring that a significant proportion of this packaging is recovered and recycled". We can add our comment that impending legislation on disposal of wastes and landfill taxes should continue the difficulties for the live/deadstock industry.
VEGA makes a stand for end-of-life breeder birds
In August 2006 VEGA commented on a DEFRA consultation on proposed amendment to the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations. In response to this consultation several stakeholders (including VEGA) wanted end-of-life breeder birds to be brought within the scope of the amendment, resulting in a follow up consultation.
VEGA's comments to this follow up consultation below.
Re: Follow up Consultation on the inclusion of end of life breeders in proposed amendment to the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing)
Regulations 1995 to permit the use of gas outside of a slaughterhouse We agree with the proposed amendment to cover the end-of-life breeders. Since our response to the consultation that ended on 30 August 2006 we have attended conferences at which the medical profession (doctors and vets) and participants from the Armed Forces have been present or represented.
Our misgiving over the enormity of the threatened massacres have only deepened and increased our despair that the “efficient and humane way” sought for the proposed processes is at the moment a cruel farce.
In fairness to DEFRA’s own staff and the prostitution of professional vows and duties of care, as well as the standards that the Food Standards Agency purports to uphold in food production and the morale in the industry, the awful procedures intended should be well publicised in public debate: consumers must be warned of the corollaries in the intensified and relentless production of cheap food and the need for the industry to undertake urgent reform and precautions at its own expense to realize the loftier aspirations of DEFRA’s purposes of welfare and environmental pleasure.
Shame on the Live/Deadstock Industry and Sham Surveillance
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is beet with problems in the dairy, poultry and meat industries involving surveillance of manufacturing practices and assertion of controls.
1. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is beet with problems in the dairy, poultry and meat industries involving surveillance of manufacturing practices and assertion of controls. Manufacturers and retailers are seeking relaxations by which they would run their own affairs, reducing the costs and levies they deem excessive for the activities of the Meat Hygiene Service.
These discussions are frustrating analyses of meat inspectors’ records of rejections of carcases and offal as suitable for human consumption, which would yield valuable evidence of husbandry and handling of live animals up to the final act of killing. Bruising is an example of significance in assessing welfare – or, more likely ill fare.
2. Two examples from last year illustrate the industries’ disquiet and at the same time our concern that they are not competent to administer their own policing.
3. A Middlesbrough butcher was fined at total of almost £8000 and was banned from running any food business after he was discovered by environmental health officers dumping sheep’s heads and cows’ hooves and stomachs in the streets in residential areas. Jalal Sulman, who was running Fatema Supermarket and Butchers in the town, admitted 19 breaches of food hygiene and environmental protection laws.
4. When EHOs inspected the premises they found sheep heads, bags of sheep feet and a bag of cow hooves “which still had dung and hair on them” (Meat Trades Journal, 03/03/05). Further, “raw meat and cooked products were also found stored together”.
Jalal Sulman’s defending solicitor said that his client had moved to the UK 8 years ago but was “still unaware of cultural differences”. He attributed the problem to “a lack of understanding and naivety” and “a cultural difference between what goes on in this country and what goes on in Iraq”.
The chairman of the Middlesbrough Bench emphasized that the accused was “ultimately responsible for the operation of this business, including the action or omissions of your employees”. Jalal Sulman was fined £3800 with costs of £4000.
Christmas Nativity Plays must confuse pupils and teachers in many of our schools. Revision is needed in the educational and scientific manner the Food Standards Agency is bringing to school customs. We suggest a scenario and script.
Here come the Three Wise Persons, clipboards at the ready, bearing down on a family who have found refuge in a barn of mixed livestock (but no pigs), having disdained the accommodation at a local hostelry offering little sustenance and a smoky atmosphere. They have laid their newborn baby in a manger in the barn.
The majestic trio coming to exercise their surveillance and authority represent DEFRA, the Food Standards Agency, and the local Trading Standards Officer. Reinforcements arrive in the form of the artificial inseminator and a chap from the State Veterinary Service to check the tests for TB in the cattle and signs of badger activity in the environs and feed.
A midwife comes to ensure that the baby is latching on satisfactorily. An RSPCA inspector arrives, accompanied by the local police constable, having secured rights of entry after allegations of deprivations of fodder for the livestock.
Very belatedly, after a long journey from the clinic at the nearest mixed-animal practice, a vet arrives to demonstrate a mite of the Herriot worship, now in steep decline, that once engaged the profession and its vocation. His is to examine the pats and pellets and to de-worm almost anything that breathes and eats on the farm and to castrate the calves, lambs and (non-human) kids.
Feathers, droppings, and formites betray nestings and activities of airworthy denizens of the premises. In a desultory moment, while awaiting payment of his fee, vet and midwife ponder on the merits of breast-feeding and of an adequate fill of colostrum for tucked-in calves. And the place really needs to be deloused.
The farmer is in the background almost hidden behind piles of paper, playing modulations, subsidies, single farm payments, and accounts from his wife’s B&B enterprise on his computer.
Enter his eldest son, sick of explaining the word heifer to the new Polish stockman provided by an obliging gangmaster. The son tells his father that he’s quitting dairying for the built environment of property development. This being the 8th Day, there’s another little job to do.
On cue, the rabbi arrives, the vet and the midwife, as well as the parents, having rejoiced in the birth of a baby boy. The vet offers his skills and potions to the rabbi and the ritual cut is completed. There is great wailing all round, as the alarmed EU inspector flies in from Brussels. Exeunt.
Talking Turkey for Christmas
"A global revulsion at eating flesh of all kinds" would see a future when "we would all become vegetarians" predicts Dr Daniel Pauly, director of the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, who is among a selection of "brilliant minds", tempted by the New Scientist (18/11/06) to forecast the next 50 years in a 50th Anniversary Special 1956-2006.
He explains: "In the light of the time span considered here I think the most important development for the oceans would be a device that could detect, amplify, and transmit to us the emotions and "thoughts" of animals in such a form as to evoke analogous emotions and thoughts in human brains. This would first work with primates, then mammals in general, then the other vertebrates, including fish."
Purifying language of unedifying metaphors and similes has long exercised welfarists of various persuasions, but the offending statements have achieved a sustainability that surpasses all the efforts of innovators to devise replacements.
1. Not surprising, when the culprits lie embedded and entrenched in nursery rimes and in common sayings uttered with scanty support, on evidence-based and scientific principles so revered in modern practice; and some may ring unfortunately true. Lambs still go to slaughter, many callow and innocent of their fate; there’s no doubt too that many butchers’ dogs are models of canine fitness superior to so many pets and companion animals.
2. Many veggies who profess animal (ie non-human) welfare sentiments flinch at killing two birds with one stone: paying two bills with one loan would seem to be a worthier deal. Bernard Shaw, a doughty veggie campaigner, left a legacy for the reform of English spelling, which is still a good idea but not as pressing an enterprise as directing his wit to apt and benign figures of speech.
Kind words butter no parsnips for the true veggie, for whom a fine kettle of fish is a cauldron of cruelty.
3. Dogs look up to you, cats look down to you, pigs look you straight in the eye, runs a saying. Pigs have come up in the human world although the connotations of friendliness and fun still clash with swinish pejoratives. Cats are becoming favored pets, displacing dogs as pets in the urban environment where convenience and independence dominate.
The pet food trade is a major growth market for the meat industry: cat food is advertised as if moggy could share it with her human keeper. Designer dog foods illustrate plenty of NPD – new product development, which has generated a new diet on which the dog discreetly thrives even to the point of passing the compliment of pickupable poo.
4. Then there are the “animal” words that mislead and unfairly stereotype some. The school captain’s hand that upheld the stoicism of the boy soldier when all about him was collapsing and finally his own gun jammed evokes masculine virtues that actually contradict the evidence of the benefit of the resistance of the XX female over the less endowed XY male, the Y-chromosome being inferior in some respects to the X version. In fact, it is cows and ewes who demonstrate stoicism in suffering.
Farmers may well post warnings to ramblers of the bull’s presence, knowing that the animals grazing in the field to watch are the sentinel cows guarding the calves of the herd. The sheep’s purpose in life is finding ways to die is the callous farmer’s verdict on what is likely to be stoically disguised suffering – as part of an innate defensive mechanism – of assaults inflicted in the course of inconsiderate husbandry and keeping that bears no resemblance to the conditions described in Psalm 23 and derived hymns.
5. A curious gap in common English usage denies us a singular of the collective noun cattle. Sheep can be described as such in large numbers, among which a single sheep may be denoted. It is true that farmers do describe a cattle in a sale, for instance, but the tendency to use the word cow to describe cattle singly or collectively, whether they are male, female, calves, heifers, bulls, bullocks, steers, or stirks.
Cats can be included similarly in generic descriptions for kittens, queens, and toms and the corresponding neutered forms. The females of these species have earned some pejorative words in the English language, although the fierce demonstrations of their maternal instincts attracts little respect. Co-evolution of humans and the domestic and farm animals has produced great numbers of docile neuters among the livelier populations of entires powered by full-strength hormonal surges and selfish genes.