February 2002

[Week 9 · Feb. 25th - Mar. 3rd, 2002]

Deadly Cargo?

On Feb 25th The Independent ran an article in which it revealed the problem of illegal meat imports into the UK, particularly bushmeat from Africa. The article quoted recent spot checks on incoming flights from Africa which found 300kg of illegal meat on a Heathrow flight and 100kg on a Gatwick one. Two years ago five tons of illicitly imported meat were apparently intercepted in 14 spot-checks of incoming flights. Is it any wonder that we should worry about a re-occurrence of FMD or other such animal welfare crisis caused by diseases carried via illegal meat imports?

On Tuesday The Guardian carried an article highlighting the fact that a chief government vet believes the continuing problem of BSE cases in the UK is down to contaminated feed imported into the country, not by transmission from parents to calves - the area of research the vet has been involved with.

A suspected case of FMD appeared in two sheep on a North Yorkshire farm. Tests are being carried out, a couple of sheep slaughtered, a movement ban instituted for neighbouring farms, and all animal involved in the restocking of the farm in question being traced to source.

The Scotsman refelected on rumblings that the woodland grant schemes over the border are costing the public-purse too much money. The article cites one landowner in Wester Ross who aims to plant 2,500,000 trees [native species] at a cost of 2m to Scottish taxpayers.

The Countryside Alliance has shifted it's outlook on the anti-hunting debate and is intimating that it would support a licensing system for hunts.

The government announced 40m of aid to help boost the tourism industry which has suffered terribly in the last year.

[Week 8 · Feb. 18th -24th, 2002]

A Right Royal Village

Following his personal interest Britain's architectural heritage Prince Charles has given his backing to a new 'urban village' development in Cornwall on potentially similar lines to the Poundbury development in Dorset, so the FT reported on Wednesday [Feb. 20th]. Poundbury hasn't suited everyone's tastes in the design and architectural community with some regarding it as a quaint idea of rural Britain. The new settlement will be built on land in St. Austell and was once owned by British Rail.

Thursday's Guardian reflected on the aftermath of FMD which still haunts Whitehall. In particular the fact that DEFRA is now in charge of reburial of some slaughtered animal because they might pose a contamination threat to water supplies. The article also goes on the say the little credit can be taken by any of the major players in the UK crisis, while the Dutch were decisive in taking action when the disease was first discovered there, and reports that in a Northumberland post-crisis review it was revealed that many of the foreign vets called in to help were really more acquainted with domestic pets than farm animals.

A government report into the danger of our roads says that many of our rural highways, with their twisting turns, are infinitely more dangerous than our highspeed motorways.

The Ananova website reported that farmers in Cumbria are being encouraged to participate in a co-operative which has the backing of the Co-Op supermarket chain.

  [Week 7 · Feb. 11th - 17th, 2002]

Scottish Parliament & Hunting

On Wednesday [Feb 13th], in an 83 to 36 divide, Scotland's MSPs voted to pass the bill which outlaws hunting with dogs. However, there was almost immediate condemnation from pro-hunt supporters who claim an infriengement of their rights, and the threat of legal challenges to the decision. What has particularly angered Scots who are involved in hunting is that there is no plan for compensation of those who may lose their livelihoods as a result of the vote. There also seem to be several clauses under the European Convention on Human Rights under which the ban could be challenged.

Following Wednesday's vote by the Scottish Parliament for a ban on hunting The Times on Friday commented that PM, Tony Blair, needs to come off the fence but is disinclined to take on the rural constituency. Meanwhile Scotland's decision will almost certainly be challenged under the Human Rights Act which the Labour government signed up to. The Guardian commented that John Prescott sees the matter of reintroducing an anti-hunting bill as "an issue of credibility".

There was a glimmer of relief for the livestock industry in Shropshire as the Shrewsbury cattle market opened for business for the first time since the FMD crisis. However, bio-security measures and ministry vets were on hand to ensure control measures were in place.

[Week 6 · Feb. 4th - 10th, 2002]

Prince Stays in Cumbria B&B

On Wednesday [Feb. 6th] it was Jonathon Porritt's turn to focus attention on the Curry Report and NFU's opposition, suggesting that it is 'the last best chance' the farming industry has and that it is also about a sustainable future for the whole of the rural UK economy and our countryside.

Prince Charles demonstrated his support for rural communities by staying for a couple of nights in a Borrowdale farmhouse B&B.

The FT reported that the Government is supporting a campaign to boost UK tourism which suffered a 7% drop in overseas tourists to the UK and earnings slump 14% last year, following FMD and then September 11th.

A group of scientists has been tracking the ebb and flow of the deer population on the Scottish island of Rum for thirty years and have reported their findings in Nature. Apparently herd managers have been reluctant to cull large numbers of female hinds since these can breed the next generation of stags - which paying hunters prize. However as the female population and population as a whole increased to stretching point it is the males which fare worst - either dying young or migrating to other herds - and therefore reducing the number of males available.

[Week 5 · Jan. 28th - Feb. 3rd., 2002]

The Curry Report

On Wednesday The Times reported on the outcome of deliberations by the Policy Commission on the Future of Farming & Food headed by Sir Don Curry. Covering all aspects of UK food production the report says that farm subsidies for food production should be switched to environmental schemes and rural development.Among the other points highlighted was the need for illegal meat import controls, research into animal diseases, electronic tagging of livestock, and improved farm standards.

Thursday's Guardian drew attention to the belief that Tony Blair is facing pressure from Labour backbenchers to reintroduce an anti-fox hunting bill as per Labour's election manifesto.

There are jitters among Scottish landowners this week as the Telegraph said that the Scottish Executive are looking at giving tenant farmers across the border the opportunity to buy the land they work if it is put up for sale by the owner. This follows on moves to enshrine 'right-to-buy' land reform for Scotland's crofters.

In a letter to The Times published on Friday, Professor Paul Jowitt of The Scottish Institute of Sustainable Technology posed the question of the true cost of our cheap food and farming, suggesting that we pay for our food three times over... at the cashtill, with payments to support the EC's CAP, and general taxation to sort of our domestic food crises. On top of that Jowitt also reflects on how cheap imported food may come from regions where water is scare and how we overpackage our food. Interesting thoughts to reflect upon.

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