Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Feeling the effects of foot and mouth

I'm really saddened by this latest outbreak of foot and mouth - last time this happened I was living in Cornwall and the effects were really felt, even though Cornwall escaped relatively unscathed. Public footpaths closed, there was a definite army presence, and the drive between the West Country and London would fill the car with fumes from the pyres - all visible as you drove up the M5.

I've been wondering this week how I would notice the effects this time. Ok, I'm now in London, but by making a conscious decision to buy my meat from a mobile butcher at Broadway Market, as opposed to the supermarket, I've been wondering how long they will be able to visit the market, and whether or not their farm has an abattoir on site. Evidently from this announcement in this week's veg bag, the effects are already being felt at the organic farmers market in Stoke Newington:

"our new meat producers at the market, Nigel and Amanda, couldn't take their pig to the abattoir this week...losing a large part of their weekly income. If you go to any supermarket this week and look at the meat section - it's unlikely that you will even notice the difference. In this situation supermarkets just up the amount of meat they import from outside the UK. Meanwhile, local, small, sustainable meat producers who only have one or two animals killed at a time, and whose animals live in good conditions (with plenty of space and fresh air) will be in serious trouble if the foot and mouth crisis continues."

It's hard to say whether or not I'm pleased this evening that the ban on animal movement is to be relaxed - obviously this means producers working on a small scale can try to resume business - but I do sincerely hope that this means the government aren't going to bungle their way through this problem as they did last time.

I guess (and dare I say this?) the thing that I'm most saddened by is that half of the problem diseases like this are such an issue is precisely because of the way that supermarkets exercise pressure on our farmers and producers, and consequently corners are cut. Ok, not in this instance, but by working on a smaller, more sustainable and manageable scale we can hopefully work towards avoiding these problems in the future.

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