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News Article | November 7, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

My neighbourhood is inundated with feral cats, scraggy wild things that cadge food from animal lovers in winter and cadge baby blackbirds and robins from their nests each spring. Typically, I’ve moaned about this without taking any responsibility – until last week, when I became so exasperated, I set a humane trap. I bought a wire cage to see if I could catch a squirrel or rat to show my animal-mad daughter, Esme. Luckily she was at school when the door slammed on an adorable kitten. Clueless about what I should actually do, for the first time in my life I called the RSPCA. Rather like the first time I needed a hospital and was astounded by the brilliance of the doctors and nurses, the RSPCA was amazing. The charity knew all about my street’s cat problem and had caught 20 feral cats so far. I was asked to take “21” to meet an RSPCA officer at a nearby vet, where the kitten was checked (cats are assessed and adults scanned for microchips to ensure they are not pets) and pronounced a feral tomcat. Because 21 is only eight weeks old, he will be found a home as a pet. Adults are neutered and released wherever they came from, which my neighbourhood blackbirds won’t welcome, but feral cats have hard lives and only survive for a couple of years. The RSPCA has now lent me a better trap so I can join other neighbours in helping feral cats and other wildlife, at no expense to the taxpayer. Bravo for the big (cat) society. One problem remains: Esme is tearfully begging to keep the next catch. I was pleasantly surprised last week to receive an email telling me that a petition I’d signed to ban driven grouse shooting had been debated in parliament. Trying to ban one method of shooting one bird species to protect another (the much-persecuted hen harrier) might sound pretty niche, but 123,077 people petitioned for what’s actually a really important issue, encompassing the rural economy, the flooding of towns, and criminals driving a rare bird towards extinction. Many of us tremble with fear these days when the will of the people is invoked, but the grouse-shooting debate revealed some MPs’ enduring contempt for the masses. An orchestrated procession of tame Tories waxed lyrical about the joys of wild shooting. Gerald Howarth spoke of his “cousin, Will Garfit, who is not only one of the most exceptional shots in the country but a famous artist” – thanks for that, Sir Gerald – before belittling petition signatories. Charles Walker smeared the petitioner, conservationist Mark Avery, for an “unforgivable act of premeditated malice”: Avery, a doctor of ecology who has published over 50-plus scientific papers, had highlighted scientific evidence suggesting that grouse moorland management might contribute to flooding. Of the 28,000 words spoken in the debate, just 20% supported its concerns. E-petitions are supposed to reboot parliamentary democracy but, on the evidence of this farce, they are another kick in its teeth. And MPs are doing the kicking. Is the relentless age of scaling up scaling down? Two-thirds of plans to build large supermarkets have been (ahem) shelved by the “big four” chains over the past two years. Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons have filed just one supermarket planning application each this year, compared with 20 two years ago. Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean Cruises has announced its new generation of vessels will be not quite as massive as their predecessors, after protests in cities such as Venice over the humungous ships calling there. Small is profitable. This could be the start of something big.


News Article | October 1, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

Four strawberries, picked an hour earlier, sit on a saucer on the dining-room table of Lindsey Lodge Farm, a 40-acre farm growing fruit and vegetables in Suffolk. It is June and these strawberries are the first of the English season. Andrew Sturgeon, a farmer for 30 years, smiles, certain of the quality. The aroma is heady, the taste is of strawberries as they ought to be, naturally sweet. Sturgeon delivers to 45 stores belonging to the East of England Co-operative, owned by its members. It is independent from the Co-operative Group chain and has more than 200 shops in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk. Ninety per cent of Sturgeon’s fruit is delivered straight to stores within 36 hours of being picked. They sell at £2.25 a punnet, compared with under £2 elsewhere. “Customers know what they are buying when they ask for our strawberries,” he says. According to a recent YouGov poll, 71% of UK shoppers say that buying local produce is important, yet it makes up only a fraction of the retail efforts of the four major supermarkets – Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, which dominate 75% of the market, providing ever cheaper food to more than 25 million households. In Felixstowe, in a supermarket converted from a Victorian railway station, Roger Grosvenor, the East of England Co-op’s joint chief executive, explains how the locally sourced drive began nine years ago. “I was driving past fields of asparagus on a visit to a farmer near Aldeburgh when it hit me,” he says. “Why are we importing asparagus from Peru, when it’s all here?” Sourced Locally was born. It still makes up only 6% of sales, but £45m has been ploughed back into the local economy, creating more than 400 jobs. Labels on products show images of real farmers and producers; provenance is detailed. The food is “honest”. Thousands of locally sourced products come from more than 100 suppliers, including exotic items: Suffolk chorizo and chilli sauce from Colchester. Sales have risen 15% in the last financial year. “We don’t have contracts, everything is on a handshake,” Sourced Locally manager Kevin Warden says. “When Kevin first came to see me,” Sturgeon recalls, “he said, ‘What price do you want for your strawberries?’ Nobody had asked me that in 20 years supplying fruit. Other retailers say, “This is the price we are prepared to pay and then they announce they want double on a promotion at the end of a season when little is left.” Locally sourced food, like Fair Trade or organic produce, is a small but fast growing market. Its popularity flags up that some consumers want to know more about what they buy and the terms on which those goods are delivered to the shelves of their supermarket –store or farm shop including distance travelled, freshness, animal welfare and pricing. It’s a simple story, but increasingly hard to unearth. The major supermarkets serve 25 million households (and are chafing because their profits have faltered recently as discounters Aldi and Lidl continue to thrive). We customers expect cheap food. But cheap food is often heavily processed, full of sugar and fat that plays its part in the obesity crisis we face; it requires animals permanently indoors, “no grazing” eating grain that produces nutritionally poorer meat; and it means the major chains source their produce from around the world, branding products to keep the memory of the British countryside alive, no matter how many air miles are involved. Cheap food also results in British farmers, bruised by the full force of a competitive global market, being increasingly squeezed by the demands of major suppliers for the perfect product and ever lower prices. At the same time, more and more intensive methods are being devised to extract crops from exhausted soil. These are not the ingredients that ensure sustainable, honest food. “Cheaper food is obviously welcome but there has to be a balance,” says Matthew Rymer, who comes from seven generations of Gloucestershire farmers. “What’s not currently calculated is the hidden cost of what’s on our plates. Too often, major retailers create the price storms that drown the smaller farmers and leave the others floating on subsidies. We are also losing our independent local food processing infrastructure as large retailers and processors contort the food chain and gain more and more retail power.” Sunday, 2 October is the final day of British Food Fortnight (BFF). At the beginning of the year, the government set up a Great British Food Unit to increase exports of food and drink, and announced that this would be the Year of Great British Food. Stinking Bishop cheese and Rutland bitter are among many examples of British food at its best, but they are on offer alongside intensively reared chicken that is three times higher in fat, and a third lower in protein and valuable omega-3 fatty acids, than in the 1970s. Brexit adds urgency to finding solutions that work not just for the supermarkets but for our health, the public purse (it costs the NHS £16bn a year to treat obesity-induced diabetes), the environment, consumers, farmers and the countryside. As BFF founder Alexia Robinson says: “This is a watershed moment for British food. Subsidised and regulated for 40 years by Europe, our farmers will now be competing in a global market place … we need … a robust supply of quality domestic food.” So what’s to be done? The “agri-food” sector in the UK was worth £109bn in 2014, employing one in eight of the national workforce. “Agri-food” includes manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing and catering: only 10% comes from farming. In three years, 1,000 dairy farms have gone, beaten by cheap milk. The income of pig farmers fell by 46% last year and the income of cereal farmers has declined 24%. British farmers receive 60% of their income from EU Common Agricultural Policy payments given, for instance, for improvements to the environment. The government has pledged to continue to pay £3bn a year provided under CAP until 2020, but what then? Until the early 1960s the farmer dictated what was on offer, according to the seasons. Now, while some relationships between retailers and suppliers are long and mutually beneficial, more negative examples are not hard to find. One apple farmer says he was encouraged to grow more and more apples, “then the supermarkets refused to pay what we needed to survive People rightly talk about food waste but we had to destroy apple trees that were five and six years old with plenty of life.”. Another says he supplied green beans to a high-end retailer which were sent more than 100 miles away for packing, ignoring the environmental cost,while a third of the crop would be rejected in the name of perfection, supposedly demanded by the customer but in practice demanded by supermarket buyers. Last year the National Farmers’ Union set up a Fruit and Veg Pledge to encourage supermarkets to treat growers and packers across the UK equally and fairly. The increasingly powerful discounter Aldi was the first to sign, followed by Lidl and this month the Co-op – and so far that’s it. A survey last year of 1,141 suppliers revealed that 70% had at least one problem under the Groceries Supply Code of Practice with the supermarket chains. These included such issues as charging for shelf space, short-term contracts and delaying payments. At the same time, the power of the supermarkets, as well as food processors and big agri-business (companies producing grain, chemicals and hi-tech equipment to try to correct the wrongs imposed by intensive farming), is changing the shape of farming. For instance, “bed and breakfast farms” are growing in number – where a farmer owns the buildings and provides water, straw, machinery etc, and the major producer provides the rest, including livestock, feed and veterinary services. A fee is paid to the farmer for looking after the pig or “finishing” the cow in its last few weeks. Again, the supermarkets are centralising processing and slaughtering systems on an industrial scale. In recent years 75% of abattoirs have closed, replaced, for instance, by Waitrose’s use of a central slaughterhouse at Dovecote Park, Yorkshire. These are changes that are bound to entail a big increase in animals transported long distances at an environmental cost. The RSPCA believes all animals should be slaughtered close to the point of production to minimise stress (which also affects the quality of meat). All the big supermarkets insisted they had good relations with suppliers and strongly supported British produce. “Our aim is to offer customers great quality and value … and we are continuing to do this by working well with our partners,” a Sainsbury’s spokesman said. A spokesperson for Aldi said: “Unlike other retailers, once we have agreed terms with suppliers we do not change them midway through the agreement or ask for additional monies to support better positioning of goods or increased shelf space … Aldi is a privately owned company and therefore not beholden to City shareholders… We do not need to generate the same gross margin as others in the sector to deliver strong and stable profits.” Supermarket clout is one issue: what is being done to our animals to get fatter livestock, ever quicker, is another. Graham Harvey, an agricultural adviser to The Archers, and author of Grass-Fed Nation: Getting Back the Food We Deserve, is an advocate of the grass-fed movement. Animals, many of them ruminant, spend their lives “non-grazing” indoors, fed on grain that would be better used in human diets. Harvey argues that if ruminants returned to grass, instead of grain there would be more than enough food for a global population predicted to reach 8.5 billion by 2030. He says “poor science”, “corporate ruthlessness” and our own lack of interest means that more than half of EU cereals that could provide food for growing populations are fed to animals producing less nutritional meat. This requires intensive crop production, GM crops and chemicals, insecticides, pesticides, plant growth hormones and “agri-tech” to coax exhausted land to produce, all of which leads to water pollution, soil degradation and biodiversity loss. In 2013 the government announced a programme in collaboration with one of the three major global agri-chemical companies, Syngenta, to lift average wheat yield from the current 8 tonnes a hectare to 20 tonnes in two decades. Harvey says: “If we didn’t have such a distorted economy, and agri-business had to pay for the soil degradation and pollution it causes, good food would be cheaper. Supermarkets are not going to change until consumers insist on change. In the meantime, government should be tackling the shareholder power invested in keeping the system that we have.” In June, a respected international thinktank, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), said in a major report that two billion people suffer micronutrient deficiencies because food systems produce an abundance of energy-rich but nutrient-poor crops. Olivier de Schutter, co-chair said, “Many of the problems in food systems are linked specifically to the uniformity at the heart of industrial agriculture and its reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.” In the same month, international researchers from Food Research Collaboration, a body connecting academics to civil society, called on EU states to review its food system. Professor Tim Lang, a senior adviser to FRC, said: “Policymakers are either too hesitant or too dazzled by a belief that technology will resolve future food problems. They cannot. Food culture also needs to change.” There is no easy way to make that happen. One tool would be to increase transparency in the food chain by making labels count for more – but that would need customers to read the small print, make choices and pay a little extra. While some logos such as the Soil Association and RSPCA’s Freedom Foods have higher standards, the largest food assurance scheme in the UK, Red Tractor (RT), is staffed and funded by the industry. The label tells you where the food is farmed, processed and packed – but is that enough? In 2012 Sainsbury’s dropped the RT label. Asked why, then chief executive Justin King said: “Red Tractor does not tell the customer anything special about the product … it doesn’t add any value.” Sturgeon in Suffolk disagrees. “Red Tractor has been very effective in raising the standards of both food production and food safety,” he says. RT employs 450 independent inspectors to regulate 50,000 farms. Chief executive David Clarke says very few fail to comply with standards. Asked if consumers should have more precise information on labels, he said: “That may be true of a small subset of shoppers, but generally [customers] are content to know the country of origin.” If “British” is on the label, the implication is that it signals quality and high animal welfare – but is that always the case? Several months ago Viva!, a vegan animal welfare organisation, published a gruelling report into pig farming, the New Big Pig Report. Three pigs are slaughtered every second in the UK. Only 1.5% are organic and live outdoors for their entire lives; 80% of pigs, which are highly intelligent animals, have their tails docked without anaesthetic, the report says. A high percentage of piglets have their teeth clipped so they don’t bite the nipple; 60% of breeding sows give birth in crates in which they cannot turn around, and remain in the crates until the piglets are weaned. All of this is legal. Ninety per cent of British pigs are reared on farms that take part in the RT scheme. In 2015 there were only 35 prosecutions over “welfare on farms”; the vast majority of the convictions involved animals reared outdoors and visible to the public, according to Viva!. Assurance schemes obviously require decent standards of welfare, clear information, rigour in policing and independence. When standards are poor, the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) is responsible for investigating complaints on farms and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) looks at food fraud and mislabelling. Both are much depleted, another cause for concern about what we are swallowing. Defra is said to be suffering cuts of almost 60% and the FSA is finding £22m in savings. In February, checks on hundreds of samples in West Yorkshire revealed more than a third were not what they claimed to be – beef mince adulterated with pork, “ham” made from poultry. West Yorkshire’s public health analyst said at the time: “We are routinely finding problems with more than a third of samples, which is disturbing at a time when the budget … is being cut.” If the odds are increasing that you can’t always believe what you read on the label, how else can credibility be restored to promises of “local”, “farm fresh” and “premium”? Matthew Rymer and his business partner, Clifford Freeman, have launched a campaign, #NametheFarm, to encourage consumers to exercise their power and challenge restaurants, butchers and retailers to be transparent about what’s on offer. (Supermarkets have begun using fictional British farm names to brand produce flown in from all over the world.) Rymer and Freeman breed pedigree Gloucester beef, “grass fed, taken in our transport to a local abattoir all within sight of Gloucester cathedral”. Their new campaign is part of their scheme called Happerley Passports (the name taken from Apperley, their nearest village) designed to establish traceability across the food chain. “Provenance should not be the preserve of the rich,” Rymer says. “Even if it’s a £3.99 battery chicken, why shouldn’t the customer know its story?” The passport is free to farmers and a small levy is charged to restaurants and retailers. By way of a mobile phone or the Happerley website, it gives the life story of a product – in beef, for instance, the breed, age when slaughtered, distance travelled to abattoir, farm of origin, and so on. But do consumers really want such granular detail about the ingredient in their casseroles? “By linking the food on our plates and in packaging back to the farmer we could create the most connected and transparent food industry with huge export potential,” Rymer says. “Brexit gives an opportunity to rewrite the rules. More information for consumers, whether they access it or not, has to mean better scrutiny and improved animal welfare.” It reduces the room for fraud. It also has the potential to put pressure on supermarkets to change some of their methods. The idea of transparency in the food chain to encourage a change in the culture is gaining ground. For instance, the Pasture Fed Livestock Association, five years old, has 250 members, mostly farmers, who sell either direct or via butchers and farm shops. Its livestock is reared only on grass in summer and silage in winter, offering meat that – according to research – is higher in vitamins E and B and beta-carotene. A shopper scans the QR code on the meat’s label or enters the label’s number on the PFLA website to receive detailed information(Defra, however, defines “pasture fed” as 51% fed on grass, which further confuses consumers.) “We are not organic,” says Dr John Medley, chair of the PFLA, “But like the organic sector we raise questions in the minds of consumers about the provenance of their food.” Last month the British Veterinary Association called for mandatory animal welfare labels on meat in an attempt to stamp out cruel practices. Labelling Matters, a campaign set up by Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA among others, is calling for labels that discard euphemisms in favour, for instance, of “intensive indoor” for pork from pigs that never go outside and “permanently housed” for dairy cows that never graze in fields. The Co-op is funding a 12-week pilot with a social enterprise, Provenance, to see how it can increase transparency on labelling “to provide a digital history so every product tells a story”. Catherine Higgs of the Co-op says labelling has clout: “We are proud to have been the first to label eggs intensively produced, a technically illegal step but which directly led to the law changing to allow eggs to be labelled ‘From caged hens’.” (Tesco plans to end the sale of eggs from caged hens – 1.4bn eggs a year – by 2025.) So where do we go from here? In 2001, following the foot-and-mouth disaster, the government commissioned a report on the future of farming. It concluded: “England’s farming and food industry is unsustainable in every sense of that term. It is serving nobody well. Farming has become detached from the rest of the economy and the environment … the key objective from public policy should be to reconnect farming with its market and the rest of the food chain; to reconnect the food chain with the countryside; and reconnect consumers with what they eat and how it is produced.” It’s food for thought that, 15 years on, none of those reconnections have been realised. How we create a more honest food chain is complicated and contradictory. Food is cheap, but still people in this country go hungry. While “ethical” food including organic and Fair Trade has steadily increased in popularity, in 2015 it made up only 8.5% of the market. Locally sourced produce and pasture-fed livestock widen consumer choice and offer healthier alternatives, but can’t yet meet the scale of supply supermarket chains demand. So, greater education about what constitutes a healthy diet, the learning beginning at school-age plus good information conveyed on labelling, monitored by bodies independent from industry, are vital – as is willingness to exercise our consumer muscle. Three men, Andronicos Sideras, Ulrik Nielsen from Denmark and Alex Ostler-Beech, appeared in court in late September accused of arranging beef and horsemeat to be combined and sold as beef in the UK in 2012 in supermarkets including Tesco and Aldi. It shouldn’t take another horsemeat scandal or outbreak of foot-and-mouth – or report of yet more damage to the environment – to encourage us to restrain the accelerating power of the major supermarkets and put a proper value on provenance.


The year 2012 marked a leap forward for animal welfare in the European Union. Farmers were no longer allowed to keep egg-laying hens in barren battery cages smaller than an A4 sheet of paper. Instead, the minimum requirement now is that hens are kept in a cage the size of an A4 sheet of paper, with an extra postcard-sized bit of shared space that allows them to scratch and nest. These are known as enriched cages. Animal welfare campaigners would like to see them abolished too, saying they barely make a difference to the birds’ ability to express their natural behaviour and live free from stress. Around half of the eggs we eat are still produced in caged systems. Full debeaking to prevent hens pecking each other is no longer allowed either, but beak clipping is still permitted in egg-laying hens. Their primary sensory organ is typically clipped at a day old, whether caged or free range. Progress here is that farmers must now use infrared lasers to carry out the process rather than the hot blade of previous days. It is cleaner but remains painful to the bird. Industrial egg-laying hens have been bred to produce more and faster, laying about 320 eggs over a life span of about 72 weeks, compared with a productive life of around four years in more traditional breeds that lay at a fraction of the rate. This high intensity of production tends to affect their bones, which can become brittle and easily broken; the birds become stressed – which is why beak clipping is necessary – and listless. New battle lines over the welfare of factory-farm animals were being drawn as President Obama arrived in London on Thursday to promote the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe. The US, long regarded as a laggard on compassion in farming, is pushing for Europe to open up its markets to American poultry, which is produced to different standards. Debate about those standards has ignited in recent weeks in the US, with a series of high-profile media reports on the cruelty inherent in its livestock production methods. The issue was back on the agenda in the UK too this month, after a government move to allow the poultry industry to rewrite welfare codes. A dramatic U-turn in response to the public outcry at the proposal has once again thrown the spotlight on how we treat our farm animals. The impact of intensive production on disease in broiler chickens reared for meat has also come under scrutiny once more. The government watchdog, the Food Standards Agency, was forced to announce that it is suspending its retailer-by-retailer tests of broilers for the food poisoning bug campylobacter. A change in processing at factories has made it impossible for the FSA to continue its highly effective work naming and shaming supermarkets with the worst bacteria scores. The lives of broiler chickens are not much easier to contemplate than those of the egg-layers. Much research has been devoted to genetic selection to produce the most economically efficient bird. The RSPCA produced a pamphlet several years ago that for me still provides the best illustration of what this means for the chickens. A series of photographs taken a few days apart showed a normal, traditionally bred egg-laying hen as it grows from chick to maturity. Underneath were parallel pictures of the modern broiler taken at the same intervals. By day nine, the broiler’s legs can barely keep its oversized breast off the ground. By day 11, it is puffed up to double the size of its cousin. It looks like an obese nine-year-old standing on the legs of a five-year-old. By day 35 it looks more like a weightlifter on steroids and dwarfs the egg-laying hen. In 1957 the average growth period for an eating chicken to reach slaughter weight was 63 days. By the 1990s the number of growth days had been reduced to 38 and the amount of feed required halved. But genetic selection to produce birds that work like factory units of production creates serious health problems. Their bones, hearts and lungs cannot keep up. A large proportion of broilers suffer from leg problems. You can see the tell-tale hock burns – dark red patches – on the leg around the knee joint in the shops, which are caused by squatting in dirty litter because their legs hurt or are deformed. Lameness is not just a welfare problem. Birds that sit in foul litter suffer more skin disease. Deaths from heart attacks or swollen hearts that cannot supply enough oxygen to their oversized breast muscles are also common. Because broilers grow unnaturally fast, those which are kept for breeding – and are therefore not slaughtered at six weeks but allowed to reach sexual maturity at about 15-18 weeks – have to be starved, otherwise they would become too big to mate. The intensively produced broiler is typically kept in an artificially lit shed of around 20,000-30,000 birds. Computers control heating and ventilating systems and the dispensing of feed and water. The water and feed are medicated with drugs to control parasites or with mass doses of antibiotics as necessary. Units are cleaned only at the end of each cycle, so after two to three weeks the floor of the shed is completely covered with faeces and the air tends to be acrid with ammonia. Keeping animals in such close confinement enables disease to spread rapidly. Although the industry says it has reduced its antibiotic use dramatically since 2012 and now produces nearly half the country’s meat while accounting for only 22% of all antibiotics used on UK farm animals, there is still serious concern that overuse of drugs in animals has contributed to antibiotic resistance. Experts have warned that we are close to the point at which human medicine may find itself without effective life-saving drugs. In the UK, the stocking density is typically 38kg of bird per square metre – an area less than an A4 sheet of paper for each mature chicken. Free-range and organic production insist on more space, but our typical Sunday roast chicken will have more room in the oven when dead than it had to live in on the farm. To maximise yields, farmers often overstock their sheds at the beginning of the cycle and then thin out some of the birds for slaughter because otherwise the chickens would not have enough space to grow. Thinning – when workers cull some of the chickens, catching them by the legs – is stressful and the point at which diseases can often enter a shed. The practice contributes significantly to the prevalence of the campylobacter in flocks. Campylobacter is potentially deadly to humans and the most common cause of food-borne illness in humans in the UK, affecting more than 250,000 people a year. The neck skin of chickens is often the most highly contaminated part of the bird. Processors have now started cutting it off at the factory, which adds to costs but removes some of the bacteria load – good news for consumers, but since it was this part of the bird that the FSA was collecting for tests, the development has also scuppered the programme. The FSA has said it remains committed to tackling campylobacter as a priority. Animal welfare tends to be marginalised in times of austerity, relegated to a luxury in the face of the need for cheap food. But if the government thought people were too hard up to care any more, they were wrong. When news broke that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) planned to hand over the job of drawing up guideline codes on farm animal welfare to the industry, beginning with the poultry sector at the end of this month, nearly 150,000 people signed petitions objecting. Defra quickly abandoned the plan, to the dismay of the British Poultry Council. “We were very disappointed with the decision, the intention was to bring the guidance up to modern standards,” said policy director Richard Griffiths. “Defra doesn’t have the resources to review the codes any more.” A Defra spokesman said: “We have the highest standards of animal welfare in the world, and no changes have been proposed to the legislation. We want to draw more closely on the expertise of the farming industry to ensure our welfare codes reflect the very latest scientific and veterinary developments. “We believe we can achieve this by retaining the existing statutory codes. The work of the farming industry has been invaluable and we will continue to work with them to ensure our guidance is updated to best help them to comply with our welfare standards.” The welfare codes have not been updated since 2002. (About a quarter of Defra’s budget was cut under the previous coalition government, and the department will see 15% further cuts over the course of this parliament.) While the state appears in retreat on standards, big business, responding to the concerns of its customers, is, ironically, leading the pace in some areas. In the UK and mainland Europe, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s, the Co-op, M&S and Waitrose have moved to cage-free production for the eggs they sell. Tesco eggs are now also around 70% cage-free, while Waitrose and M&S have applied the same standards to eggs used as ingredients in other products too. In the US, Walmart has made a commitment to phase out caged eggs over the next 10 years. The campaign group Compassion in World Farming has been applying pressure on Asda in the UK to follow its parent company’s example. Asda said that retaining the prices that enriched cage systems made possible gave consumers the choice on welfare standards. “Our customers tell us they want choice, which is why we offer a wide promotional range of eggs from Smart Price through to free range, all clearly labelled for customers to make an informed decision.” For Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, the argument that intensive farming is justified because poorer people need cheap meat or eggs is insulting to those on lower incomes. An intensively reared chicken is three times higher in fat, one third lower in protein, and lower in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids now than it was in the 1970s. “Keeping chickens in cruel conditions produces a poorer product,” he said. “Why do we think it acceptable to expect people on lower incomes to have to feed their children poorer factory-farmed food?” ■ There are more chickens in the world than there are any other species of bird: more than 50 billion of them are reared annually for food. ■ The UK egg market produced 10.02 billion eggs in 2015 and a further 2 billion were imported. ■ The British poultry meat industry produces approximately 875 million chickens, 17 million turkeys, 16 million ducks and 250,000 geese a year for consumption. ■ Poultry accounts for around half (49%) of all meat eaten in the UK. ■ Each day, 33 million eggs are eaten in the UK. ■ Around 47% of eggs sold are free range. ■ The UK egg industry is estimated to be worth £895m in sales.


News Article | August 31, 2016
Site: phys.org

The largest survey of its kind in the southern hemisphere examined 61 species, including 370 inidvidual birds from eastern Australia. Dr Kathy Townsend from the School of Biomedical Sciences and the Moreton Bay Research Station said 30 per cent of species investigated had ingested marine debris. "How the birds feed effects the type of debris they ingest, along with their habitat," Dr Townsend said. "For example, pursuit-diving species such as shags and cormorants ingested things like fishing hooks and sinkers, while surface-feeders such as albatross and short-tailed shearwaters ingested buoyant plastics and balloons. "The study showed that marine birds were highly selective of the physical characteristics, types and colours of debris they ingest." Dr Townsend said that for the short-tailed shearwater their unorthodox diet was likely a case of mistaken identity. "These birds feed extensively on red arrow squid and they were found to particularly favour red and orange balloons which may look similar when they are foraging." Lead author Lauren Roman, now with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Tasmania, conducted research as part of her UQ Honours thesis. Ms Roman said species which ingested debris included the near-threatened Buller's albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) and shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta). The vulnerable Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica) and Gould's petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera) were also found to feed on rubbish. Ms Roman said the birds investigated in the study were collected dead by citizen scientists and wildlife care groups across eastern Australia and the contents of their stomach examined during necropsies. "Pollution of the world's oceans is having direct impacts on marine birds but the extent is yet to be fully investigated in Australia," she said. Australian Seabird Rescue, Pelican and Seabird Rescue, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, RSPCA Wacol Wildlife Hospital, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and Queensland Museum all contributed to the survey. The study has been published in PloS One. More information: Anthropogenic Debris Ingestion by Avifauna in Eastern Australia. dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0158343


News Article | February 23, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.co.uk

Focus on product strategy, consumer wellness and sustainability will boost leadership in global agriculture and nutrition market, finds Frost & Sullivan's Visionary Science team SANTA CLARA, California, Feb. 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Though highly fragmented, the global processed food and beverage market will see high growth due to several Mega Trends. Key transformative forces include emerging business models such as crowdsourcing, marketplaces, gamification and mass customization, which are shaping retail, socioeconomics, connected eating in a cognitive era, and increasing popularity of "Freedom Foods" that meet ethical production standards. Major contenders, such as ADM, Clover Corporation, Coca-Cola, Dole Food, Tyson Foods and Unilever, are already rethinking product lines to align with these changes, focusing on consumers' health, wellness and embracing sustainable measures in processing to keep their lead. 2017 Global Processed Food & Beverage Industry Outlook, a part of Frost & Sullivan's Visionary Science Growth Partnership Service program, finds that total global expenditure on processed food and beverage products by final consumers will grow to $4.675 trillion in 2017. The research delivers critical insights that enable food and beverage companies to successfully assess trends that will shape market sub-segments such as canned food, confectionery, dairy and ice cream, frozen and perishable groceries, and pet and processed food. Click on the following link for complimentary access to more information on this analysis or to register for a Growth Strategy Dialogue, a free interactive briefing with Frost & Sullivan's thought leaders: http://frost.ly/1bu "The food and beverage market tends to be a safe investor haven in bad economic times due to its relative inelasticity of demand when compared with other industry sectors such as consumer durables," said Frost & Sullivan Agriculture & Nutrition Global Director Christopher Shanahan. "However, certain categories, like dietary supplements, may take a disproportionate hit due to the perception of the products as 'less essential'." In contrast to the saturated markets for processed food and beverage products, emerging markets such as Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe will display higher growth. However, increasing consumer demand for pollutant and allergen-free products that are ethically produced without wasting natural resources will add to the cost of the production as well as to the overall pricing. This might discourage a large section of the targeted consumers. Food producers must launch extensive campaigns to promote Freedom Food or RSPCA Assured products since consumers are often willing to pay extra for them. Participants must also continue investing in state-of-the-art processing technologies to teach consumers about compliance and top-notch quality. "The rise of Freedom Foods, specifically the need for enhanced nutrition and health, will dominate new food and beverage product innovation in 2017 and beyond," said Shanahan. "The transformation will start from the development of safer and cleaner seeds and livestock to extend to value-added functional foods and more environmentally friendly packaging." Recent topics covered under the Visionary Science subscription include Omega-3 Ingredients, Smart Agriculture Technology, Maize and Wheat Milling Industry in Kenya, Nitrogen Nutrients for Fermentation-Derived Specialty Biochemicals, US and European Nutraceutical Ingredients, Rapid Bacteriological Test Kits for Raw Meat and Raw Dairy Applications in the US, and much more. All studies in the subscription present detailed market opportunities and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today's market participants. For more than 50 years, we have been developing growth strategies for the global 1000, emerging businesses, the public sector and the investment community. Contact us: Start the discussion


News Article | February 23, 2017
Site: en.prnasia.com

Focus on product strategy, consumer wellness and sustainability will boost leadership in global agriculture and nutrition market, finds Frost & Sullivan's Visionary Science team SANTA CLARA, California, Feb. 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Though highly fragmented, the global processed food and beverage market will see high growth due to several Mega Trends. Key transformative forces include emerging business models such as crowdsourcing, marketplaces, gamification and mass customization, which are shaping retail, socioeconomics, connected eating in a cognitive era, and increasing popularity of "Freedom Foods" that meet ethical production standards. Major contenders, such as ADM, Clover Corporation, Coca-Cola, Dole Food, Tyson Foods and Unilever, are already rethinking product lines to align with these changes, focusing on consumers' health, wellness and embracing sustainable measures in processing to keep their lead. 2017 Global Processed Food & Beverage Industry Outlook, a part of Frost & Sullivan's Visionary Science Growth Partnership Service program, finds that total global expenditure on processed food and beverage products by final consumers will grow to $4.675 trillion in 2017. The research delivers critical insights that enable food and beverage companies to successfully assess trends that will shape market sub-segments such as canned food, confectionery, dairy and ice cream, frozen and perishable groceries, and pet and processed food. Click on the following link for complimentary access to more information on this analysis or to register for a Growth Strategy Dialogue, a free interactive briefing with Frost & Sullivan's thought leaders: http://frost.ly/1bu "The food and beverage market tends to be a safe investor haven in bad economic times due to its relative inelasticity of demand when compared with other industry sectors such as consumer durables," said Frost & Sullivan Agriculture & Nutrition Global Director Christopher Shanahan. "However, certain categories, like dietary supplements, may take a disproportionate hit due to the perception of the products as 'less essential'." In contrast to the saturated markets for processed food and beverage products, emerging markets such as Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe will display higher growth. However, increasing consumer demand for pollutant and allergen-free products that are ethically produced without wasting natural resources will add to the cost of the production as well as to the overall pricing. This might discourage a large section of the targeted consumers. Food producers must launch extensive campaigns to promote Freedom Food or RSPCA Assured products since consumers are often willing to pay extra for them. Participants must also continue investing in state-of-the-art processing technologies to teach consumers about compliance and top-notch quality. "The rise of Freedom Foods, specifically the need for enhanced nutrition and health, will dominate new food and beverage product innovation in 2017 and beyond," said Shanahan. "The transformation will start from the development of safer and cleaner seeds and livestock to extend to value-added functional foods and more environmentally friendly packaging." Recent topics covered under the Visionary Science subscription include Omega-3 Ingredients, Smart Agriculture Technology, Maize and Wheat Milling Industry in Kenya, Nitrogen Nutrients for Fermentation-Derived Specialty Biochemicals, US and European Nutraceutical Ingredients, Rapid Bacteriological Test Kits for Raw Meat and Raw Dairy Applications in the US, and much more. All studies in the subscription present detailed market opportunities and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today's market participants. For more than 50 years, we have been developing growth strategies for the global 1000, emerging businesses, the public sector and the investment community. Contact us: Start the discussion


News Article | November 29, 2016
Site: www.prweb.com

The Australian Firefighters 2017 Calendar is on sale now, ready to clear away the bad memories of 2016. Let’s face it, 2016 was a crappy year. There was Harambe, a seemingly never-ending election season, and the deaths of greats like Prince, Bowie and Alan Rickman. There was also the Zika outbreak and Hurricane Matthew – just to name a few. Thankfully though, 2017 is on the horizon and the 12 hunky heroes of the Australian Firefighters Calendar are going to wipe away the year-that-must-not-be-named. In fact, 2017 is going to be the best year yet, because January through December brings men in (half of their) uniforms cuddling puppies. It doesn’t get better than that, does it? And there’s no guilt necessary for indulging in this calendar – the money raised through calendar sales is going to help child burn victims at Australia’s Children’s Hospital, abandoned puppies through the RSPCA, and veterans in need through Mates4mates. These aren’t even the top, steamy pictures chosen for the 2017 spread – but, it’s a scorching sneak peak sure to thrill. Take a look at the 12 chiseled firefighters who are going to ensure 2017 is awesome, and hot. Dave is going to help you start the year off right. The 35-year-old firefighter travels the outback putting out fires on mining sites and gas fields. He’s done 4 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – so raising funds for fellow veterans through their partners at Mates4mates is something he holds close to his heart. Why, hello there Mr. February. Vaughn is a 23-year-old dad wrangling kids and fires in Newcastle. He’s also a 7-time junior bodybuilding champion – so getting in shape for the calendar wasn’t anything new. He fought for a spot in this year’s calendar to be a good role model for his own kids, and raise funds for little ones affected by burns. Is it getting hot in here? It feels like March just got a whole lot hotter. Richard is a firefighter in Brisbane, and also runs a local business that supplies calendar firefighters and other gym-goers with essential supplements for training. The 33-year-old is a dad-to-be and was inspired to do the calendar because his mother has been collecting them for years. So, why not give it a go, right? It’s sure a good thing this surfing firefighter did. What’s cuter here? Those dimples or the dog? Meet Tom, the former swimming and bodybuilding champion. During the week the 32-year-old fights fires in Melbourne and works as a personal trainer - and on the weekends he’s a volunteer surf lifeguard. Truly a man who does it all. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any better, Hugh comes along. This 24-year-old is a 2-year veteran of the calendar, and last year he was the organization's biggest fundraiser. No surprise there – just look at that smile. Hugh just joined the Australian Army, but he previously spent some time in the USA swimming for West Virginia University. Bring on the heat! Courtney is a former Australian Rules Football player-turned-Melbourne firefighter. But this sporty, and hunky hero also has an artistic side. When he’s not saving the day he can be found creating stunning airbrush artwork. He’s single too, ladies. As if July wasn’t hot enough. At just 33, Ty is a 10-year veteran of the Queensland Fire Service and a dad to two little kids. Ty tried out for the calendar for his grandmother, who used to love collecting the calendars and donating to local organizations. Needless to say, his participation is helping boost sales in her honor. Come late, Mr. August and his hot bod aren’t going to be much help cooling you down. Phil uses his athletic physique to fight fires now, but he spent a decade building up stamina as a Rugby League player for the National Rugby League’s Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans. Ray, the 23-year-old North Queensland firefighter, brings on the heat. Those chiseled abs aren’t just from lifting weights, though – he’s a 3rd generation blacksmith welding beautiful works that he sells for the Firefighters Calendar charities. Jeff might have massive muscles, but this firefighter’s got an even bigger heart. Formally working as a flight attendant and currently an aviation firefighter, the army veteran spent 6 weeks building a school in Nepal this year. So nice, Hugh is a calendar boy twice. No complaints here! We don’t mind seeing that smile, or those abs, for another month. Celebrating the holidays with this hunk up on the wall will be quite the treat. Keller, the 26-year-old Sydney Airport firefighter, also moonlights as a Judo and Jiu-Jitsu champ. He even represented the Australia at the world titles in Dubai. Oh, and he’s smart too. He wants to work for NASA one day. The Aussie firefighters are going to make 2017, both for owners of the calendar and for many others whose causes they donate to. To purchase a calendar and donate to some amazing causes, click here to buy now. Please contact us for the full list of the year’s photos. David Rogers +61433148744 david(at)firefighterscalendar(dot)com.au


News Article | February 28, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

Attempting to buy food that is ethical is not only expensive, it’s also confusing, thanks to a wide array of labels that promise varying degrees of animal welfare, and a lack of consistent regulations when it comes to calling a product “free range”. Asda is boosting its eco credentials with the introduction a “Pasture Promise” label, on free-range milk, taken from cows that have been grazed outside for a guaranteed minimum of 180 days a year. So what does free range actually mean? Unsurprisingly, it’s complicated. Millions of eggs are about to temporarily lose their free-range status, after hens in England, Scotland and Wales were ordered inside to protect them from an outbreak of avian flu in December. Under EU regulations, if a hen has been inside for more than 12 weeks, it no longer counts as free range. Farmers are getting around this with a sticker explaining that this temporary imprisonment was for the animals’ welfare. According to the RSPCA, legal requirements for free-range eggs ensure a minimum amount of space and litter for the hens: no more than nine hens a square metre, 10cm of feeder a bird and one drinker for 10 birds. Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) goes further, with a guide to Compassionate Food, grading various animal-welfare schemes out of 100. British Lion Free Range gets 33 on the scale, while RSPCA Assured gets 63. Find organic eggs with a Soil Association label, and you’re up to 70 points and happier hens. Free-range poultry must meet legal requirements. The RSPCA states that chickens must have a defined amount of space (no more than 13 birds a square metre), be 56 days old before they are slaughtered and have continuous daytime access to open-air runs, with vegetation, for at least half their lifetime. There are no such regulations for pork, but CIWF recommends that free-range should mean “pigs who are born and reared in outdoor systems throughout their lives, with permanent access to pasture”, and gives its highest marks to pig meat with Scottish Organic Producers Association or RSPCA Assured labels. As most cows and sheep are reared outdoors for part of the year anyway, they suggest looking for a “grass-fed” label and Soil Association organic meat. This is a relatively new area for free-range, and there are no regulations yet. John Avizienins, from the farm animals team at the RSPCA, says he has seen a number of definitions for free-range milk, “but from our point of view, none of this actually says anything much about the welfare of the cows in these systems”. He points out that most farmers send cows outside during grazing season anyway, but, in some parts of the country, this period may be shorter than 180 days due to the weather. “It could actually be anti-welfare if you’re forcing cows outside in bad weather to get your free-range premium,” he explains. He is, however, largely positive about its intentions. “It’s slightly more complicated than some of the marketing rhetoric we see, but it is a great aspiration.”


News Article | February 18, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

About 1,000 day-old chicks have been abandoned in a field. RSPCA inspectors said members of the public made the discovery of the newly hatched chickens in a field in Crowland, near Peterborough, in Cambridgeshire on Friday. Many of the chicks are believed to be in good health, although some had died while others had to be put down due to their injuries, the animal welfare charity said. It is believed the chicks came from a commercial chick producer and may have been abandoned by a third party. The producer is fully cooperating and assisting the RSPCA with their investigations. RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs said: “I have never seen anything like it, it was just a sea of yellow. And the noise was unbelievable. “The chicks are only about a day old and are really tiny and quite delicate. Some of the birds were dead or dying when we arrived so some, sadly, had to be humanely put to sleep. Thankfully, most of the chicks did not appear to be suffering. “The breeder came to the scene to collect the surviving birds and take them back to their unit. These tiny birds wouldn’t have survived long out on their own at such a young age and in such unpredictable weather conditions. For someone to dump these vulnerable chicks is unbelievable.”


News Article | November 7, 2016
Site: www.cnet.com

People put random things in their backpacks -- gum wrappers, receipts, scrawled notes. But in a suburb of Brisbane, Australia, a woman tossed a baby koala in her bag. "There are many firsts in our job and last night was one of those," Queensland Police said in a statement. The East Brisbane woman, 50, had already been arrested on unrelated charges Sunday in Wishart when she was asked if she had anything to declare. "The woman handed over a zipped green canvas bag telling officers it contained a baby koala," police said. "Not quite believing their ears the officers cautiously un-zipped the bag and found this gorgeous boy." Police are investigating the woman's claims that she simply found the baby koala, called a joey, and was just trying to take care of it. It was dehydrated but otherwise in good health, the police statement said, and has been given fluids and will be taken to a carer selected by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or RSPCA. The RSPCA dubbed the koala "Alfred," and police are using its cute photos to get the word out that wild animals should not be picked up. "Often the animal may have no obvious signs of injury but it can have internal injuries that need immediate attention." the RSPCA said in the police statement. When last seen, Alfred was apparently trying to log on to the internet.

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