April 2002

[Week 17 · Apr. 22nd - 28th, 2002]

Food Industry Gets a Broiling

The Consumers' Association was on another crusading rampage again this week - this time naming and shaming food manufacturers who provide misleading labelling on food products. There were lots of claims about what packaging terms like low-fat, fat-free and light actually mean in reality, and that some foods [crab paste was mentioned] contain little of the main ingredient which is instead filled out with other substitutes. To be honest this is something that has been going on for years and most people know it, but perhaps the CA's action might make some of us think twice about consuming products that have a milligramme of flavouring to a tonne of corn starch and cook fresh food instead.

A Times report intimates that residents on the Isle of Skye are at each others' throats over the development of a wind farm on that picturesque island on the west side of Scotland. While indigenous crofters on the island could benefit from the inward investment various incomers who have bought property for various reasons are up in arms.

Following on from the proposed Mugabe-esque Scottish land-grab - as opponents would put it - Mohamed Fayed [he of Harrods and Fulham FC fame] is greatly troubled by the proposals that will give crofters the right to buy the land they work. Indeed, he has threatened to sell his 60,000 acre Balnagowan estate, and cancelled investment plans for the estate.

Traffic slowed round Parliament Square on Monday as members of the UCSW - that's the 'Union of Country Sports Workers' to you and me, siblings - brought their protest against the anti-hunting bill to the Houses of Parliament, and delivered a letter to Downing Street. Whether the big brother inside was taking any notice is an entirely different matter.

[Week 16 · Apr. 15th - 21st, 2002]

A Sheep Envelope?

On Friday that veteran reporter Simon Hoggart penned a sublime article in The Guardian about the ridiculous... in particular, centering around a piece of official gobbledegook from junior rural minister Elliot Morley. He apparently uttered the now immortalised phrase: 'We are consulting on the sheep envelope in remote rural areas.' Well Hoggart was in his element and panned what he regards as the growing tendency for the government to talk jargon over plain English at briefings. But then, as one politician said not so long ago, this government is an advertisment.

The Telegraph was reporting on further rumblings north of the border over the proposal to give tenant farmers the right to buy, and the prospect that is would damage the Scottish agricultural industry. The article reflected that one problem which might occur is that in financng land ownership tenant farmers could well tie up capital which could otherwise be used for farm development by the same individuals. An interesting point.

The Daily Express carried an article claiming that 25,000 rural businesses affected by government's decisions taken during the FMD outbreak last year are to launch a legal claim for compensation... 7bn of it. Among those aggrieved are the humble YHA and larger Angus Steak House restaurant group. This is unprecedented in its scale and if it goes to court could see the PM downwards called to give evidence.

  [Week 15 · Apr. 8th - 14th, 2002]

A Rural Progress?

The Countryside Agency, which now has a remit to keep an eye on how government treats our rural community and economy, has felt the urge to speak out. The Rural White Paper was supposed to be the beginning of putting matters in order, but apparently few government departments are really in step with its aims after eighteen months. There are still problems with affordable housing, closures of essential facilities like healthcare and post offices, and public transport. Yet, as the chairman of the Countryside Agency, Ewan Cameron has pointed out, about 20% of people live in rural communities.

On Monday the Guardian reported on research from Newcastle University which suggests that many farmers will not give up farming post-FMD. The paper says that 67 Cumbrian farmers were interviewed yet only one was certain to abandon the land.

An FT article reviewed the vaccination question post-FMD, and although the NFU was against vaccination last year is keeping an open mind about that very possibility in the event of future outbreaks. Of prime concern at the time was the belief that meat from vaccinated would not find a ready market.

[Week 14 · Apr. 1st - 7th, 2002]

New Rally Planned

Following last month's performance in the House of Commons the Countryside Alliance is planning to rally its supporters and is planning a march in central London. Last year's planned demo - at which 300-500,000 people were expected to attend - was halted by FMD. In an article The Independent quoted an NOP poll which had 48% for a full ban on fox hunting, while the majority of the remainder wanted a compromise or the legislation to be dropped. This is sure to give heart to the CA.

The Independent reported that should there be another UK outbreak of FMD the Army and police will be called in immediately to take control of logistics and organisation. The article cites plans in Australia where similar measures have been put in place.

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