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The RSPBs hypocrisy 0


rspbThe RSPB has today published information relating to its use of egg oiling, nest destruction and the culling of birds. This is in response to a Freedom of Information Act request made by the Countryside Alliance.

In his blog the RSPB’s Martin Harper admits that in 2011/12 the charity obtained licences from Natural England to kill three adult lesser black-backed gulls and destroy 76 large gull nests and also killed 292 carrion crows and 11 magpies under open general licences.

The charity also said it oiled, to prevent hatching, 73 greylag goose eggs and more than 25 Canada goose eggs and destroyed 195 barnacle goose eggs.

The Countryside Alliance have also found out, through the Freedom of Information Act request, that the charity obtained a licence in 2011 to destroy the eggs of black swans.

In recent weeks the RSPB has used highly emotive language to criticise the granting of licences by Natural England to destroy the nests of buzzards and manage gull populations. Now, however, it has been established that the Society has been carrying out exactly the same sort of activities for its own purposes.

The RSPB’s use of the licensing system seems to be perfectly legitimate and justified but looks extraordinarily hypocritical in light of its recent comments about other licence applications.

If the licence system is correct when used by the RSPB, then it must also be correct when used by other applicants.

EU & Supermarkets to Blame for the Horsemeat Crisis 0




Perhaps consumers should start to ask why supermarkets can sell processed meat products so cheaply.

The European Commission took a decision in April 2012 to ban desinewed meat, which was a key ingredient in value food items such as pies, lasagne, burgers and other processed beef products.

This lead food producers to go outside the UK to source supplies of cheap mince to enable the supermarkets to continue selling manufactured beef products at ridiculously low prices.

When producers go abroad, the chain gets longer and documentation is relied alone for authenticity.

Desinewed Meat & Pink Slime

Desinewed meat (DSM) was introduced in the UK in the 1990s as a replacement for mechanically recovered meat (MRM). Sometimes called “pink slime”, MRM was formed by removing residual meat from animal bones using high pressure water.

Pink Slime is lean finely textured beef made from fatty beef carcass off-cuts, then heated and spun in a centrifuge to remove most of the fat, and then exposed to ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella.

It had been linked to the spread of the human form of mad cow disease and the UK government took steps to restrict it from the food chain.

DSM was developed as a higher quality form of recovered meat. It was produced using low pressure, retained some structure and was regarded as a meat ingredient on value products.

But in April last year, the European Commission told the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that it no longer regarded DSM as a form of meat and it would have to reclassify it as MRM, which meant it could no longer be used in low-cost meat items.

Manufacturers who were using it for value products had to leave the UK food chain and go and look at overseas suppliers at a price similar to DSM and this is where I think things potentially started to go wrong.

Not Just Beef Products

The possibility has been raised that lamb products might need testing to reassure consumers that horse had not been used as an ingredient. Desinewed lamb was used quite extensively in some products, and since the ban suppliers would also have needed to look outside the UK for a replacement.

DSM was being produced in quite significant quantities, especially for the kebab industry, so the only sure way is to look into the issue and test.

Food Labelling

While the on-going incidents of horsemeat in the food chain appear to be acts of criminality, the recent scandal highlights that it is vitally important to have adequate food labelling, particularly with respect to meat in processed food products. Mandatory country of origin labelling on all meat products has been a long-standing campaign, and it is clear to us that more stringent country of origin labelling would foster improved traceability systems, making it harder for unlabelled meat to enter the food chain.

A poll conducted by the Countryside Alliance Foundation (TCAF) in May 2011, showed that 90 per cent of people supported the proposal that a British flag should only be given to meat products where the animal has been born, reared and slaughtered in Britain.

Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North stated “the lack of mandatory country of origin food labelling continues to place British farmers at a disadvantage when much of their competition comes from producers in countries, which are not subject to such robust animal welfare legislation and standards and the associated costs.”

While the European Parliament voted in July 2011 to extend mandatory country of origin labelling to fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry, mandatory country of origin labelling still does not include foods where meat is an ingredient, such as sausages and ready meals. So sausages made in Britain using Danish pork can still be legitimately be labelled as ‘British’. This is unacceptable, both for British producers, who produce meat to some of the highest standards and consumers, who should be able to make an informed choice.

Councils in War Against Wind Farms 0


wind-turbinesThe onshore wind farm industry in Britain is under threat from councils using new planning rules to block the construction of thousands of turbines.

Milton Keynes, Stratford-on-Avon, Cherwell in Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Staffordshire councils are using planning rules to create ‘separation zones’ around wind farms.

These ban new turbines within up to 2km (1¼ miles) of homes. This would mean that less than 1% of the country could be used for wind farms.

RWE npower renewable, Britain’s biggest investor in green energy, has launched a High Court judicial review against Milton Keynes, whose 1km separation zone was one of the first to be implemented.

If RWE lose the Milton Keynes court case then other councils could introduce similar policies which would effectively kill the construction of new wind turbines.

The collective visual and environmental impact of turbines in rural areas is enormous and ruining our countryside, aside from the fact that they are inefficient and don’t generate enough power.

Brian May and animal rights hypocrisy 0


Brian MayIt came as some surprise last weekend to find that Queen musician Brian May had been leasing the stalking rights on his land. The news was broken by the Sunday Times, who found that he was receiving payments of £750 a year for the right to shoot deer on his Middlemarsh estate. Many other papers picked up on this story because of its significance since Dr May has become a figurehead of the animal rights movement.

This is more than just irony. Brian May is the self styled saviour of animals. Not a TV, radio or newspaper interview is complete without the obligatory comment from him “standing up” for the animals. He has vehemently opposed any form of culling, but was most vocal in the recent case of the proposed badger cull. The fact that a millionaire rock star raised his own dwindling profile at the expense of dairy farmers on the brink of collapse and bankruptcy is hard enough to accept. The fact that he did this having profited from a deer cull on his own land is indefensible.

Dr May stood shoulder to shoulder with the RSPCA and other animal rights groups to oppose the badger cull at all costs, including boycotting milk from already pressed farmers. As I reported last week, he also endorsed the policy that would make public the names of all those involved in culling, regardless of the consequences. In a cruel twist of poetic justice, May has been the one whose name was made public for allowing shooting to take place on his land.

Now the tables have been turned, Brain May appears to prefer secrecy about what happens on his own land. The word hypocrite hardly does justice to the level of duplicity displayed, but at least he must start to comprehend how the affected farmers feel.

Barney White-Spunner
Executive Chairman
Countryside Alliance

Supermarkets Finally have to Sell Non Perfect Fruit and Veg 0


fresh-vegetablesSupermarkets constant drive for perfection in fresh produce, which has conditioned the consumer to only accept perfect looking fruit and vegetables, is finally going to change this year, due to the terrible summer weather farmers have endured.

Supermarkets have finally relaxed their rules to allow smaller fruit and vegetables onto their shelves after the dreadful summer weather devastated harvests of British crops.

Many farmers are reporting that their yields of seasonal staples such as brussels sprouts, peas, carrots and potatoes are 20%-40% down after the wettest summer in a century. Supermarkets are reducing their usual requirement for brussels sprouts to be 23-40mm in circumference as many vegetables are about 10% smaller than normal, according to the British Growers Association.

The poor growing conditions this summer have resulted in some sprouts having darker external leaves, referred to as ‘purpling’. This colour difference has no effect on flavour, but Sainsbury’s said it would be accepting sprouts with purpling this year.

The pea harvest, which ran three to four weeks late, was down by about 45%, cutting farmers’ revenues by £20m. Peas are now already being imported from Spain.

The potato harvest is down 5% or more. Tesco has reduced its size specification, whilst Sainsbury’s is trialling selling a ‘basic potato’ range with more cracks and imperfection.

The apple crop is also down by about 27% in the UK and 20% in Europe, making it the worst since 1997. There will be a shortage of English apples by January which will drive the prices up by about 17%.

Tesco said: “We are helping our growers and suppliers by stocking produce that covers different sizes, weights and sometimes shapes… we have no plans to change our pack weights, although the vegetables might be smaller.”

With our ever growing population and inevitable shortage of food, perhaps the consumer should be ‘reconditioned’ and become more accustomed to buying and eating more ‘imperfect’ fresh produce. We should all fully support our UK farmers and buy what’s produced, not just what the supermarkets think we should buy. Questions should be asked what happens to all the ‘non-standard size and shaped’ food currently!

Rural communities ‘at risk’ without broadband access 0


Rural broadband

Rural broadband

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says economic development in rural areas is being put at risk because of failures to provide adequate access to the internet. Up to a fifth of people in rural areas still do not have adequate broadband services.

It also says the government is unlikely to meet its goal of providing universal coverage by 2015. But ministers say their broadband programme is firmly on track.

The government’s target by 2015 is to ensure universal broadband coverage, offering speeds of at least 2 megabits per second. It also plans to create a superfast network for the majority of the population within the same period.

At present, people living in rural areas pay the same monthly amount as those living in towns and cities, but the speeds delivered by providers are significantly less which seems grossly unfair.

But according to the CLA, progress so far has been very slow and those goals are unlikely to be met, potentially leaving rural communities without adequate broadband access.

It has previously called on local authorities to ensure that contracts awarded to infrastructure providers include fair compensation provisions for any failure to meet time and coverage requirements.

It now says operators should be legally obliged to provide coverage, even in very remote areas, and it also wants isolated communities to be allowed to use public sector networks.

Otherwise, it warns, social and economic development in rural areas will suffer.

Wind Farm Developers Deceiving Local Councils 0


stop-wind-farmsWind farm developers have been accused of deceiving local councils and the public by using computer-generated images in planning applications that make turbines seem smaller than they are in reality.

The usual and accepted practice was for a photograph of the landscape where the turbines are to be sited to be taken on a camera with a 50mm lens. This is then digitally stitched together with other 50mm shots to create a long, shallow panorama on an A3 page.

The problem is that the human eye does not take in the whole panorama, but focuses on the middle section where the wind farm company has placed the computer-generated images of the turbines, giving the impression of a small development on a large landscape.

The claim is contained in a new book, Windfarm Visualisation: Perspective or Perception, by Alan Macdonald, an architect whose company Architect which specialises in computer-generated images.

“A printed 50mm photographic image will always under-represent our perception of the scale of a more distant object because we are looking at a flat image devoid of any depth information,” says Macdonald.

The University of Stirling conducted a study which found serious flaws in the images that are presented as part of a visual impact assessment in the planning process. They also found that the use of the industry-standard 50mm lens to be misleading.

Farmers Milk the Cows While Supermarkets Milk the System 0



Agriculture Minister Jim Paice Doesn’t Know The Price of Milk! 0


milk-glass-bottleMr Paice admitted he did not know how much a pint of milk cost, telling the BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today his wife “buys most of it”.

Farmers say they will lose on average £50,000 a year because of a drop of nearly 4p a litre in the price they receive from milk processing companies.

Dairy farmers from across the UK are expected to stage a protest at Westminster today to voice concerns about the future of the industry. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has said it will support any action that is peaceful and legal and has called for an immediate reverse of the price cuts and the resignation of those involved.

Its vice-president has warned of a mass exodus from the dairy industry, adding that if that happened in three to four years “consumers will be paying a lot more for their milk”.

Some of the farmers are backing a campaign of direct action and have threatened to pour their milk down the drain.

The Farmers Weekly have started a campaign on their Facebook page of ‘Fair Price on the Shelf, Fair Price on the Farm’.

Some supermarkets sell non-organic milk for about 30p a pint, for larger bottle sizes. Single-pint bottles are offered at nearer 50p, with smaller shops often charging more. Milk delivered to the doorstep costs consumers about 65p a pint.

Farmers receive about 14p a pint! As usual the middlemen and the retailers are quite literally creaming off the top…

Milk Price Cuts are Killing Dairy Farmers 0


milkHundreds of dairy farmers have gone out of business in recent years, and following recent price cuts by milk processors, the industry says it has had enough.

The NFU and the Tenant Farmers Association have called for all price cuts since 1 April to be reversed by 1 August.

Robert Wiseman, Britain’s biggest fresh milk company that was taken over by European dairy giant Muller in January, cut the price of a litre of milk by 2 pence in June and plans to cut it again by 1.7p in August.

Wiseman’s standard litre price would then be 24.73p. This is well below the cost of producing a litre of milk, farmers say. Other milk processors in the UK announced price cuts last week.

In the dairy industry, the processors set the price they pay farmers for their milk.

They say they have had no choice but to pay less for the product, because the price of cream on the commodities market has fallen sharply in the past 12 to 18 months.

Milk processing in effect involves skimming off cream to make milk more palatable for consumers. So the processors say if they are making less money selling cream, they have less money to pay for the milk.

According to the NFU, Tesco and Sainsbury’s offer farmers “good” contracts, whereas those offered by Asda and Morrisons are “not so good”. Supermarkets will often buy milk directly from farmers and also through third-party processors.

All the main supermarkets are selling milk at £0.52 per litre for 2.27 litres (4 pints) and £0.78 per litre for 1.13 litres (2 pints).

As usual, somewhere in the supply chain there are large profits being made at the expense of the UK dairy farmers. Will they only be happy when the dairy industry has been decimated and we’re only left with super dairies, or resulting in imported milk from Europe.