Sunday, 22 February 2009

Tories launch 'Honest Food' campaign

I was pleased to see the new Tory spokesman for the Environment, Nick Herbert, launch an important campaign the other day. Under the banner 'Honest Food' he is demanding that meat products labelled as 'British' would mean that the animal was born and bred in this country - the current situation is that say pig meat from Denmark processed into sausages in the UK can be described as British. The customer could understandably I think believe that said meat in the sausages actually came from pigs reared here. This whole concept is something I've been aware of and concerned about for a very long time.

Some people are asserting that this is 'protectionism'. I don't see that. Bear in mind that, by common agreement, we lead the way in the UK over matters of farm animal welfare. It may not be perfect in some people's eyes but it is better than pretty well anywhere else in Europe. Where the meat is processed is of lesser importance surely, it's where the beast is born and bred that the customers have a right to know about. In Devon and Cornwall we have a wonderful patchwork of relatively small fields whose visual appeal is important to local and visitor alike. It's the farmers rearing livestock who give us the countryside that we find aesthetically satisfying. In many ways too nature benefits from the presence of livestock farming.

I remember now, at least I think I do, something of a parallel when the furore over live animal transport across the channel to the continent was at its height. If memory serves me correctly the French, as an example, could buy Welsh lamb on the hoof rather than the hook so that when slaughtered it could be described as "French lamb". Yes I'm sure that was it. There has never been a shred of justification for a live animal to be transported abroad if the sole aim is for it to go to the abattoir, I couldn't be clearer about that.

So good luck to Mr Herbert in his wish to make honest labelling part of the law of the land. I heard him talking about this subject on the radio and have to say I was fairly impressed with him. Representing the 'Arundel and South Downs' constituency he should have a feel for the countryside. It looks like a good choice by Cameron to have him in this post.

With all the turmoil in the economy subjects such as the Environment and Farming seem to be of less interest to the government. To me though they are more important than ever.

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