The scenes last week at Heathrow were an utter disgrace. I do not believe it is acceptable to hear once again that the executives of BAA are sorry that they have been caught ‘unaware’ by the weather. The total lack of care for the travelling public and the abysmal lack of communications with their customers was unforgiveable.
It was all too easy to look elsewhere in Europe and say they too had to shut down runways and airports. Yes indeed they did but there were never the scenes of utter chaos that we saw at Heathrow.
One of my sons was due to fly to Singapore the Sunday before Christmas to join his brother who is working there. The absolute pandemonium that he faced at Terminal 3 was shocking and unacceptable. He was travelling alone and was able to return to London and wait for a flight later in the week but his thoughts were with others who had young families and had already travelled across the country to fly from Heathrow. The sight of them huddled miserably in filthy corners of the terminal left him appalled.
BAA needs to get a grip and the Spanish company which now owns the airport, thanks to the last government selling it off in their haste for a quick sale and a fast buck, must get up to speed with how an airport should be run. The fact that this company has no former experience of running airports or any kind retailing, is not an acceptable excuse.
For a start they should invest in blowers to clear the runways as soon as the snow is falling and not wait until it is too deep when they then must rely upon antiquated snow ploughs and tipper lorries to move it.
They must also employ staff who care about their passengers who are what airports are all about. Passengers should not be taken for granted and herded like livestock; in fact sometimes it would appear that livestock are treated better.
Talking of livestock I was interested to see the BBC Panorama programme ‘What price cheap food’, which looked deeply into the steady growth of supermarkets in the UK, the effect they are having upon the primary producers - the farmers, and the plans for mega farms housing thousands of cattle and pigs in the future.
We saw the last milking on a traditional farm which like so many, in fact one a week, is going bust. The programme then took the farmer Tony Gillet to the USA where he was shown a Mega Dairy farm which is also a theme farm visited by the American public.
Tony was shown behind the scenes where the public do not go. He saw some of the 30,000 cattle which produce 2 million pints of milk per day on this single farm. He witnessed the cows circulating above him on two storey conveyors while being milked before returning to their cow sheds to eat, drink 30 gallons of water a day and sleep.
This traditional British farmer who we had witnessed in deep distress as he watched his beloved cattle being driven away from his farm on the way to the sale, was quite overcome with emotion by the sight of these American cattle; not because he was appalled by what he saw but because as he said “The cattle are happy”. He could tell by looking at these gentle beasts that they were content with their lot and well cared for. He decided that this was indeed the way of the future. Animal factory or not it was obvious that the comfort and wellbeing of these cattle was indeed the main priority.
This was not the end of the story as the programme was really about the effect the main four supermarkets are having upon the future of traditional farms, local produce, the quality of food and also the effect huge retail outlets are having upon the traditional high street and independent retailer.
Supermarkets are supreme at enticing the shopper by offering lost leaders such as milk and bread. Once the public have entered the stores for these essentials they will obviously stay and spend more on other items. Does the farmer producer profit from the benefits the retailer reaps from using his product to temp the shopper through the doors? No of course not, he will get what he is offered and be grateful!
The programme attempted to give the impression that once there are an increasing number of mega farms producing milk, pork, tomatoes and the like, it will then give the farmer producer the clout to tell the supermarkets what they must pay for these products. I am not convinced this will happen as they will still be able to source cheaper products from abroad and I do not believe they have any scruples or morals about doing so.
The most striking issue throughout the programme which one could see was the major issue with the Mega livestock farms was the by product - slurry. With both the cattle and pigs this was the subject which repeatedly was the main concern of the locals. There is only so much waste that can be spread upon the land and despite much of the solids being used by bio digesters and other energy producing systems, it is the dirty water which already does and will continue to cause a huge problem.
The spread of the supermarkets is like an unstoppable train. Will it end in the proverbial crash? It is today’s consumer who is the driver of this train, they have the choice.
As we listened to shoppers the message they gave was that they really did not care too much about the quality of the food they bought. Some said that if it was British they considered it would be safer than if imported and they hoped that the animals were well cared for. But above all the thing which drove their buying decisions was price!
I sincerely hope that the shoppers of Sussex will support local producers. As the saying goes – Use us or lose us!
Happy New Year.
Carola Godman Law