Is the tide really turning?

5 thoughts on “Is the tide really turning?

  1. Yes Colin, one must value the small steps while recognising the larger blockages that appear to be set in pre-stressed concrete. In terms of evolution, the contiuous shifting and filtering of universal ingredients, while going forwards, maybe results in the gradual erradication of the inedible parts from the mix.

    Rudolf Steiner proposed that it would be another 25, 000 years before this process resulted in the great majority of mankind becoming spiritually aware.

    I find this too depressing; and consequently excite for a ‘mutation’ to quite suddenly transform mankind for the better. Something not unprecidented in the behaviour of genes, but in reality more likely to come about, if at all, due to things having got a lot worse – thus shifting the sleeping out of their comfort zones.

    However, the majority seem to feel that neither of these events will come about during their watch – but might at some later point. Which rather brutally explains why nothing of substance actually changes.
    Those who own the status quo do not wish to ‘move on’, and those who dnace to their odious tune, feel disinclined to shed their customary routines of slavery.
    And even if they did – mostly believe that nothing they could do would make any difference anyway.

    So it is that moral education and political correctness have combined to thoroughly dampen the possibility of any form of spontaneous rebellion. Firstly, a rebellion of awareness, leading to a rebellion against conformity, leading to a state of root and branch ‘complete change of everything’ which you continue to so rightly call for.

    In the meantime, let us strive mightily against our internal and external oppressors and continue to advance the cause of the great renaissance which is our true perogative.

  2. A very thoughtful piece Colin with which I find it very hard to disagree on many if any points.

    I would however like to consider the meat/milk/wool issue a bit more though. Our farm has historically always been a mixed one, the more so since the last war. My father was a very committed mixed agrarian, and had a background of fighting the WarAg in his native Shropshire on his return to his farm after the war to let him run cattle and sheep on the farm again rather than ruin the soil through unrelieved arable farming. My take on it today, in Cornwall, unless you are prepared to unleash the full might of the chemical arsenal, and use disproportionate quantities of natural gas to dry crops arable farming will be an expensive failure 4 years out of 5. Combine that with the soil damage of ploughing even organic cereals, especially as they will almost always only be fit for livestock, and my move into the PFLA at formation was the only sensible and moral direction in which to take the farm.

    This has been a personal decision, but it is one that any farmer with land in the wetter west should really be considering.

    The killer question of the Gove event was ‘why should I pay for an expensive license to practise organic farming and produce food fit for people, while my neighbour has to pay nothing to poison the land, his livestock and his customers?’ this should be written in very large letters right across every DEFRA premises in the land.

    The other point I would like to expand on is that of ecosystem services. I agree it is NOT an ideal term, or way in which to justify nature and the things that we need nature to for us. BUT, it does have currency, and it is a simple concept that most if not all can understand. And, if by its use it will mean the growth of a richer flora and fauna on our ecologically impoverished little island then I will be talking about it a lot.

    I share your belief that despite the fine words from Gove, it is US, the new wave of enlightened farmers who will have to change things, bit by bit, one chicory plant at a time.

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your thought provoking article..

    Kindness in animal keeping is an important theme and I would put in a plea for the inclusion of the ideas I heard at ORFC about small, local and on farm abattoirs, so vital to minimising the need for stress of long distance travel and encountering new and unknown places with unfamiliar smells and people.

    I agree wholeheartedly that livestock must be profoundly integrated within mixed farming to the benefit of the farm and the wildlife on the farm.

    I am thrilled you mentioned wildlife ranging across boundaries. My own pictures are about collaborating with wild species and include particular reference to migrating insects and birds, right across Europe. What we do to our insects affects what farmers in Southern Europe and Africa work with, just as their treatment of these migrating species affects us. If we don’t all collaborate with these species and each other, we stand to lose the species and their support for farming and our environment.

    In the Alps and Pyrennes in September and October you can, if you look along the tops of the Cols, see clouds of hoverflies and other insects heading south, at the same sort of time as the many swallows, martins and other small birds. Organisations like Insect Migration and Ecology Lab (Bern)and Exeter University and SCAPE (Scandanavian Association for Pollination ecologists) are doing excellent work in the field to uncover these stories. My point is again that wildlife vital to us all for pollination, predation etc etc crosses borders. We rely on each other to ensure we nurture it across borders.

    Dave Goulson’s message about the terrifying consequences of not working with invertebrates and wildlife and the apocalyptic scenario that is already beginning to pan out must be taken up and the causes of insect decline halted. As much of this happens on farm land it is up to us.

  4. Dear Colin

    You say in your blog post: “As many have been pointing out for many a decade (not the least being Kenneth Mellanby of Monks Wood Experimental Station in the 1970s) we can always keep modest numbers of livestock without feeding them the kind of food that we could eat ourselves, and with increased biological efficiency (which means the farming needs less room). We merely need to do what was traditional: keep pigs and poultry as sweepers-up of wastes and surpluses, and more or less confine sheep and cattle to land that is too steep or rocky or high or cold or hot or shady or wet or dry for sensible horticulture and arable.”

    I agree about the pigs and poultry, but unfortunately, as you know, this sensible solution is illegal. The danger as always is that we promote an unattainable ideal and in doing so justify something very far from ideal, such as the unsustainable current pig and poultry production system, disastrous both in its free range and indoor incarnations. I have often noted this tendency: that those who argue for continued meat eating promote a completely different system to the one we have. Surely a more honest argument would be: given that we don’t have – and currently can’t have – a sensible and sustainable system, at least for the time being we should stop eating the stuff.

    As for confining “sheep and cattle to land that is too steep or rocky or high or cold or hot or shady or wet or dry for sensible horticulture and arable”, this is the proposal that seemed to make sense after I read Simon’s book, but that fell apart when I lived in Wales and discovered just what it entails: a vast area trashed for the barest sliver of production.

    I don’t know how many times I have to keep saying this, because it seems to have no impact among people like yourself. What is sustainable, justifiable or ecologically responsible about denuding an entire upland area to produce a few lamb chops? The level of production is simply risible, which is why all upland farmers in this country are dependent on subsidies. There are roughly 4 million ha of sheepwrecked land in the British uplands, just a little short of the entire arable and horticultural area, and yet sheep meat across both upland and lowland provides just 1.2% of our diet. Some 76% of the land surface of Wales is devoted to producing meat, but it is so unproductive that Wales imports by value seven times as much meat as it exports. Worldwide, grazing land produces 1 g of the 81 g of protein we eat on average per day. Yet it occupies twice the area that cropland does.

    So much for “increased biological efficiency (which means the farming needs less room)”. If this were really your aim, the last thing you would promote is meat production on highly infertile land. It is hard to think of any industry with a higher ratio of destruction to production. There is certainly no other industry that is so land hungry.

    In return for that measly pile of lamb chops, we get the near total destruction of our potential wildlife reserves, downstream flooding, soil carbon loss (on an astonishing scale) and many associated disasters besides. It is sheep, with some help from deer and grouse, that explain why the UK has only 13% forest cover, by contrast to the European average of 37%. Why is it so hard for the defenders of livestock even to acknowledge these issues when attempting to engage in this argument? How is it credible to keep promoting default meat without doing so?

    At the OFC debate, not one contributor addressed the points that Philip and I made. I mean not one – there was not a single counterargument. It was pretty dismal to be honest: I was hoping for a proper debate. Can you and other ORFC people at least try to do better?

    All the best, George

  5. Are we just Green wash on a Brexit juggernaut?

    When you ask Michael Gove a question there’s no saying what his reply will be – even less so what he’ll actually do when you’ve left the room.

    Lest we forget, he once claimed to be “constitutionally incapable” of being Prime Minister, then tried to be Prime Minister.

    A week or so on from the Oxford Real Farming Conference we see him lurking in the background at the launch of May’s Green vision.

    He doubtless helped mastermind the 25 year ‘emergency’ action plan, while simultaneously helping to take credit for the plastic bag tax.

    Now correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that, wildly successful policy, in the Lib Dem 2010 manifesto and not the Tories?

    Would it not be fairer to admit that it was the work of the Lib Dem Environment Secretary Ed Davey that resulted in nine billion fewer bags being used since the policy was introduced in 2015? They’ll be claiming credit for the increase in income tax threshold next – what’s that? They already are. See!

    – in fact this paltry extension to the 5p levy announced now only closed exemptions unnecessarily introduced by the Conservative Party in the first place.

    And how quickly we forget Amber Rudd’s slash and burn of the green policies the moment the Tories took power on their own in 2015.

    Let me remind you of a few; Scrapping support for onshore wind, selling off the green investment bank, giving up on zero carbon homes,

    The last of which prompted the afore mentioned Sir Ed to Tweet: “Conservatives ditch Zero Carbon standards for new homes after killing onshore wind: Cameron may as well hug a coal power station.”

    So when a Conservative Secretary of State turns up at the Oxford Real Farming Conference, after studiously ignoring it for nine years, it is fair to say I am more than a little sceptical.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to kick a gift horse in the mouth! Just being recognised is a start, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Gove at the ORFC and May at the Wetlands Trust are little more than a diversionary tactics used to stop us thinking too much about the most calamitous action any government has taken in the history of this country – Leaving the EU.

    While Theresa May promised “global leadership” her lapdog David Davis is packing up our stationary and throwing out our seat around the table of the world’s most important market place.

    The moment we actually leave the European Union there will be differences in the way they and we treat our farmers. Perhaps not immediately but gradually and increasingly so.

    From this point one of three things will happen. We’ll be forced to impose heavy import duties that will see the price of food rocket, we’ll slash our own welfare standards to produce cheap food ourselves or we will just import food from areas where the welfare standards are already low – thereby crippling our farming industry as the market is flooded with cheap imports.

    Just as May gave us nothing but rhetoric in her Green Plan, Michael Gove told the conference nothing about how leaving the EU will usher in a brave new world of enlightened agriculture.

    My overriding fear is that we’ve been led a merry dance by an arch-Brexiter who has done for schools what Attila the Hun did for European Asian relations.

    Yours sincerely
    Tim Bearder
    Liberal Media Ltd

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