Realistically we are at a cross roads as the government opens up alternative avenues. No longer will we take directives from faceless bureaucrats in Brussels deciding our fate via the Common Agricultural Policy. However, it is far from clear exactly what the vision is that Boris and his ministers have regarding the future of farming. Will they major on food production, or lean heavily towards the environment and ‘public money for public good’?
It would be sensible if both could run side by side. Our number one priority is to provide food - sustainably, ethically and economically. Farming enhances the environment, it really is not responsible for climate change. In fact if one listens to the science, the opposite is the case.
Animal welfare, with few exceptions, is beyond criticism. Our crops, grassland, woodland and extensive grazing of scrubland, capture more carbon than we produce. Those members of the public, who venture out into the countryside, and plenty don’t, understand the part farmer’s play in creating its beauty, and ensuring the supermarket shelves are full.
Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, in his latest report ‘Land Use: Policies for a Net Zero UK’, said “The time for discussion is over and the time for delivery has arrived; backed by legislation if necessary.” He believes that changes can provide new revenue opportunities for farmers, better air quality and improved biosecurity.
The committee recommend, amongst other changes: that the public reduce consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by at least 20% per person. Tree planting is increased by 100m trees/year. We take 20% of land out of traditional food production, and move into long-term natural carbon storage.
Interestingly Chris Stark, the committee’s chief executive, admits that to reach their suggested goals, we must all change our diets. And, although he admits grass-fed beef is ‘less damaging’ than other beef production methods, he still insists we should produce fewer cattle. Clearly this will result in our beef being replaced with imported beef, produced under higher greenhouse-gas-intensity and food miles. How sensible is that?
British agriculture is apparently responsible for 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore 88% comes from alternative sources. I would have thought that rather than target farmers who are doing a vital job feeding the nation, and creating a countryside so greatly loved by the public, and tourists, it is surely more sensible to concentrate upon those who make up the 88%. Most of which is emitted from towns and cities, transport, manufacturing, power stations, all of which generate a huge amount of waste.
It seems incredible that our under resourced police who should be rounding up criminals, are wasting valuable time investigation individuals who they suspect are ‘thinking’ non PC thoughts!
I wonder how my generation and those before us survived without overzealous ‘thought police’, protecting us from people voicing their opinions, cracking jokes at our expense, being called a derogatory name, being allowed to fail and debating with people we do not agree with. We also had to fend off the odd bloke with straying hands, without sending him to the gallows, as well as a mountain of other challenges, which are character building and part of life’s rich experience.
It is time to stop this free fall movement which curbs free speech. It has now become pathetic that people can be shamed or condemned for what they say or write. Some of us don’t really care, but the less robust do. I trust that in this new decade with a Prime Minister who speaks freely and advocates free speech, common sense will prevail.