Ian Pigott who attended the event is a regular columnist in the Farmers Weekly. He said that he felt that he had been present at what may prove to be a seminal conference for UK farming. For this reason I am going to assume that not all WSG readers regularly consume the pages of this farmer’s journal, so will unashamedly quote extensively from his article.
“20% of the world’s deaths are a consequence of overconsumption and 63% of UK adults are obese, costing the NHS in excess of £5bn every year. After smoking, obesity is the leading cause of cancer. UK households each spend £2,500/year in “fat tax”, six times what they spend on the CAP. (Common Agricultural Policy)”
These statistics and the reasons for them are shocking and should concern us all.
Not many weeks ago I quoted the ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ slogan. On that occasion it was because the medics were saying that an apple a day was probably as good for you as taking a daily dose of statins. But perhaps one should qualify that with a warning that today’s apples contain about 30% sugar, whereas not so long ago the sugar content was 12%.
In the 1980s there was a shift away from high fat foods to high sugar diets. Retailers have been demanding higher sugar content and the farmers and growers have responded accordingly.
This included the push for dairy farmers to produce milk with less fat content, which resulted in the demise of the Channel Island and Ayrshire breeds of dairy cattle whose butter fat content was once prized and a premium paid
Now the farming industry is being drawn into the ‘cauldron of blame for the obesity crises.’ Some blame the explosion in obesity on our sedentary lifestyle, but neither sugar or sitting to excess are healthy for anyone. One could enlarge on this theme but I suspect I would be taken to task by the PC brigade if I did so.
Ian made the point in his eye catching headline, ‘Farming can make our beaches beautiful again!’ He qualified this by saying that 30 years ago, as a nation we looked a lot better in a bikini or our swimming trunks than we do today.
Just wander along the beach front of Brighton or any other seaside town on a hot sunny day, what you will see will not be lithe young things with toned muscles, as was the case in the past. Actually I would recommend you don’t look, what you will see is quite frankly nasty and should not be exposed to the public.
So we need a change in policy that will produce more nutritious, functional food. As farmers we are very good at responding to policy demands; the 75 per cent of our land in agri-environmental schemes is testament to that. But as Ian Pigott says, how do we do the right thing – grow food that, for example, which contains more antioxidants, and be rewarded for it?
The challenge is to make food more nutritious, returning financial reward to the farmer without it becoming too expensive to the consumer. Eating healthily should not be a privilege for the well-off. Although Ian did not mention it, I believe our scientists and GM crops clearly have a compelling role to play here.
It is quite obvious that the country must not continue to blindly head towards the proverbial cliff where this obesity epidemic is heading. We cannot afford it financially or morally, something must be done.
Nottinghamshire dairy farmer Paul Waterfell was cleared of manslaughter following the tragic death of a rambler in a field of cattle. It is not clear if the animal which caused Mr Freeman’s fatal injuries was the bull or a cow.
There is now a row emerging in Somerset where farmer Alan Brunt has erected a 6ft high spiked fence across his 29 acre field. He says this is to “protect and contain his stock. Also, to keep the public safe, and prevent dog fouling and keep scooter-riding youths from using his field as a race track.”
The fence has caused anger amongst some and gratitude from others who live nearby.
I have to say I have sympathy for Mr Brunt. If his cattle attacked one of the dog walkers he would be in big trouble. If his cattle picked up disease from parasites from the dog mess, there are welfare and financial consequences.
We have to cope with rambling dog walkers and owners who think it is acceptable for their animals to run amongst the cattle, in gardens and the farmyard.
Having had to cope with a huge fly tipping episode last week my patience is wearing thin. We made available for parking the field next to Wivelsfield Church for a local funeral. While the gate was unlocked the fly tipping episode occurred, so I am not feeling very public minded at present.
The idea of 6ft spiked fencing is tempting. Keeping walkers to the official footpaths sounds good but would be financially crippling and impractical. No doubt it would also be viewed as anti-social.
Carola Godman Irvine