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Tree clearing may have killed as many as 180 koalas in south-east Queensland in the two years after the former state government relaxed vegetation protection laws, according to an analysis by the World Wildlife Fund. The environmental group says a crisis gripping koala populations has its root in a surge in tree clearing given the political green light in both Queensland and New South Wales. The koala deaths in south-east Queensland, compounding a trend that has wiped out half the koala population statewide in the last two decades, came from the bulldozing of 44 sq km of bushland between mid-2013 and mid-2015, WWF scientist Martin Taylor argues. The wave of deaths pushed the iconic animal further towards local extinctions in former strongholds, particularly to Brisbane’s north. They were followed by an ongoing surge in fatal koala injuries from vehicles and dog attacks that has the RSPCA fearing for their long-term survival in the region. In NSW, there are also fears of local koala populations being wiped out after total numbers fell by an estimated 26% in the past two decades, according to a separate WWF report by University of Queensland academic Christine Adams-Hosking. The report declared tree clearing, also relaxed by the NSW state government in late 2016, a major factor. Martin, using koala density maps from a state government study, calculated that the equivalent of 4,400 rugby league fields destroyed in south east Queensland would have supported 179 koalas. “Bulldoze their trees and you kiss the koalas goodbye – they’re forced to look for new homes and are then killed by cars or dogs,” Taylor said. “The only solution is state government action to rein in excessive tree clearing.” The Palaszczuk government, in a hung parliament, tried and failed to restore tree protections after losing the vote of former Labor MP-turned-independent, Billy Gordon. It is likely to take its proposed reforms to the next election, due by January. WWF has called on the public to lobby key Queensland politicians to reduce tree clearing. Only 2% of the more than 2000 koalas treated in southeast Queensland wildlife hospitals for bone fractures over 13 years survived, almost all of them injured in vehicle collisions or dog attack. RSPCA Queensland’s Wacol hospital treated a “staggering” 323 koalas in the year to 1 April, spokesman Michael Beatty said. Beatty said their plight was “of course linked to habitat destruction”. “There are also increasing concerns about where koalas can be safely re-released,” he said. The Adams-Hosking report found steep, long-term declines that would see populations around the region extinct within a few koala generations (six to eight years). On the “Koala Coast” to Brisbane’s south-east, the population had plummeted by about 80% between 1996 and 2014. In Pine Rivers to Brisbane’s north, it fell by about 55%. The destruction of forest across Queensland is forcing koalas into “increasingly fragmented pockets of habitat”, the WWF report finds. Between 1995 and 2009, before the resurgence in clearing, koala numbers in southern inland Queensland plunged from an estimated 59,000 to 11,600, a reduction of 80%. The report predicted koalas in Ballina in northern NSW were heading for extinction, with deaths outnumbering births. Numbers in the Pilliga Forests had sunk 80% since the 1990s. In the NSW town of Gunnedah, known as the “koala capital of the world”, a quarter of the population died during the 2009 heatwaves as they struggled to find water and tree shade. In the NSW Port Macquarie-Hastings council area, at least 10% of a population of 2,000 koalas are admitted to hospital every year.


News Article | April 16, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

The number of urban foxes in England has quadrupled in the past 20 years, according to a study that estimates there are nearly 150,000 in England, or about one for every 300 urban residents. While the number of foxes is declining overall in the UK, the study by Brighton and Reading universities has found that Bournemouth tops the charts with the highest concentration of urban foxes in the UK at 23 per square kilometre. London was not far behind with 18, followed by Bristol with 16 and Newcastle with 10. The researchers, headed by the mammalian biologist Dawn Scott and the behavioural zoologist Phil Baker, tagged foxes with transmitters to track their interactions and territories, and asked residents from eight cities to report sightings during July and August from 2013 to 2015. Scott said the abundance of suburban greenery may have led to the higher density in Bournemouth“Housing types and the suburban structure in Bournemouth might be slightly more suitable than the areas in London we surveyed to support higher fox numbers,” she said. Through combining the sightings with models constructed from the tagging, they were able to make calculations of the density of foxes in towns and cities across the country. It is thought there were only 33,000 foxes living in towns and cities during the 1990s, and a 2014 study found that 91% of urban areas previously predicted to support few or no foxes in the early 2000s now have them. Trevor Williams, one of the founders of The Fox Project, which has operated a fox rescue service and wildlife hospital since 1993 and advises councils on humane fox deterrents, disputed the idea that numbers are increasing. His team rescues foxes in urban, suburban and rural areas. “I think what’s happening is that we’re taking over more rural areas and therefore the foxes that live there become urban foxes, but the other thing that comes to mind is that possibly the previous studies underestimated because of poorer research and samplings. “I just don’t see that the population has increased at all in terms of enquiries, or in terms of casualties. We get around 700 to 750 coming in to our hospital and we raise about 220 and 250 cubs each year, and that hasn’t changed in many years either,” he said. Whether urban foxes are dangerous has been a point of contention for many years. There have been widely reported cases of foxes killing young children and maiming babies in cities, but according to the RSPCA, such incidents are rare. Ian Tokelove, a spokesman for the London Wildlife Trust, said he was not surprised by the findings. “It’s what we see in the streets around us. They are much more common. They have a pretty hard time out in the countryside and in places like London they can find a lot of the food they require and the habitats they need. There’s lots of worms in our gardens and they’re particularly partial to London’s rats and mice. “I think Bournemouth is probably leafier and greener than London, so it’s not a surprise that Bournemouth has more, but a lot of people don’t realise that London supports a huge amount of wildlife.”


News Article | July 25, 2015
Site: www.theguardian.com

“They sent you all this way to ask about a seagull?” The taxi driver looked at me in the mirror. In his eyes, I saw confusion, maybe a little fear. I smiled wearily. Not now, I thought. Not him, too. No more talk of seagulls. It had been a long couple of days. I was so nearly out of Saigon I could hear the rotor blades thumping above. By Saigon, of course, I mean Bridport, west Dorset, a seaside market town of charity shops, estate agents and bad local art galleries. By rotor blades, I mean seagulls. For the past 36 hours I had thought about little else. If you gaze at the seagull long enough, I learned, it gazes back at you. You wonder whether it has a demonic quality. A seagull will do strange things to a man. I suppose it’s fair. After all, I only went because someone had done strange things to a seagull. In recent months, the war between humans and seagulls has seen a dramatic escalation in violence. In Cornwall, diving gulls attacked a 66-year-old woman, who needed hospital treatment, and “savaged” a four-year-old boy, whose finger was badly hurt. They killed a pet dog. They flipped over a beloved tortoise and ate it from the soft side, like a dressed crab. David Cameron called for a “big conversation” about them, one of his highest settings of inaction. In George Osborne’s spring budget this year, £250,000 was allocated for the seagull issue, but the money was quietly taken off the table after the general election. The struggle continues. This week, it was reported that a seagull had swallowed a starling whole after smashing it to death on a roof. There were pictures. Patrick Barkham wrote a Guardian column urging us not to think of them as terrorists. At last, seagulls are getting the attention they deserve. But none of the other attacks had the mystery of the Bridport case. According to news reports, last Friday a seagull had been dumped outside Bridport police station, just alive but in a terrible state. The RSPCA suspected poisoning, and had taken the bird into its care. The gull had been tending its chick, who was now nowhere to be seen. Against a background of growing seagull insurgence, was this the first step in a vigilante fightback? Or a mafia-style warning: GSH, grievous seagull harm, pour encourager les autres. And why Bridport? It has seagulls, but so do all seaside towns. What it does have to itself, however, is Broadchurch, the detective TV series starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman, set in a fictional town but filmed in Bridport. This extra layer of intrigue seemed to rule out seagull-on-seagull crime. My priority was the bird itself. If it was on the mend and receiving visitors, it might provide valuable clues about its attacker. I spoke to Stephen Powell, the local RSPCA welfare officer, who had rushed to the scene. “It was in a bad way,” he said. “I’d never seen a seagull like that. Its neck was twisted 180 degrees, it couldn’t stand up, it had regurgitated some of its food and some blood.” He took the seagull and drove it to the West Hatch animal centre, in Taunton, but it was too late. “Sadly the seagull was dead before we arrived.” I deflated. I had allowed myself to daydream about helping to nurse the seagull back to health; perhaps watching it take its first tentative steps back into the world. “Sorry not to be more help,” he added. On the contrary, things had just got interesting. My assault was now a murder investigation. Next up was the police station. With a kind of crushing inevitably, it was shut. Crime never stops, except in Dorset, apparently, where it stops on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. A young seagull looked down on me from the roof, unbowed by the recent catastrophe. My own peregrinations would have to suffice. Across the road was an American-themed diner, decorated in Confederate flags and pictures of Elvis Presley, with wide windows that gave a full view of the front of the police station. I asked Tony Marraffa, the owner, whether he’d seen any suspicious gull behaviour. “I didn’t see anything, and I’d have known about it if there had been a seagull outside the front. Most of them don’t survive, anyway; they end up little grey things squashed on the road.” I thanked him for his time and walked the two miles or so down to West Bay, a gorgeous beach with a sliver of mustard-coloured sand running below ancient cliffs. It is the main local attraction, the backdrop to the Broadchurch posters. At the mouth of the river Brit is a small harbour ringed by fish-and-chip shacks. This was it: Seagull Shangri-La. There were hundreds of them. Some looped like Messerschmitts in the coastal air, some stood on the harbour. Others bobbed in the water, resting before the next assault. “They’re noisy, they’re smelly, they wake up early, they follow you around, they attack other birds,” said Amy Sibley, a waitress in a restaurant called – I accept some of you won’t believe this, and invite you to Google it – Seagulls. “I was on the roof the other day and saw them kill a racing pigeon. We found a leg with the tag on it, and had to call up the owner to tell him we’d found a bit of his bird.” “We’ve been here 17 years and they’re worse than ever,” agreed Lucy Blake in the No 8 fish and chips stall. “They’ve been a real menace for our customers. But you can’t do anything about it. They’re protected.” This was a common refrain. Like all wild birds, seagulls are protected by the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. They can only be culled in special circumstances, with permission of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. But perhaps there was another way of dealing with the problem? Lucy’s husband, Barry, certainly seemed to think so. “Nobody likes to see them hurt, but you could shake a few eggs at the start of the year so fewer of them hatched,” he said. It’s probably worth clarifying that Barry’s solution – and interfering with nests more generally – is firmly proscribed by the law. Still, the approach has been tried in Devizes, Wiltshire, where a seagull siege prompted the ruthless destruction of 600 eggs. It proved controversial, to say the least. “There’ll be those that don’t like it,” Barry went on, “but there always is. You’re never going to please everyone.” Sadly neither of them knew anything about the poisoning. Everyone had a story about a vicious attack: ice-creams taken from hands, sausages stolen from barbecues, but I’d never experienced one myself. I took some of Lucy and Barry’s cod and chips and ate them slowly, with the paper open on my lap, an irresistible punnet of starchy entrapment. A large specimen landed in front of me but kept a respectful distance. Up close, they are not bad looking: white breasts, grey wings, black tails, yellow beaks protruding like the prow of a trireme from their shapely heads. There’s a certain nobility to their swagger. Also, don’t we loathe seagulls for many of the reasons we loathe ourselves? They are urbanising. They are too noisy. They make too much mess. They prefer to eat chips and other rubbish (often literal rubbish) than fresh herring. But they have also been forced inland because of human overfishing. They congregate at the seaside, just like our other bogeymen: immigrants, for the far right, and the far right, for everyone else. In that context, seagulls start to look like Ukip-voting miniature pterodactyls. “Psycho seagulls keep out illegals”, as the Star’s headline put it on Wednesday, after reports that the birds were dive-bombing a camp near Calais. Yet they are also intelligent and resourceful, and have been shown to use tools. They travel widely and thrive wherever they go. They are mongrel species, happily cross-breeding to make identification very difficult. They have increased in nuisance value even as their overall marine numbers have declined, which means that they are getting more efficient. Seagulls are humans, at our best and our worst. I was startled from this reverie by an older woman walking past. She pointed at a tiny brown bird by my feet, looking hopefully up at the chips. “He’s been ever so patient,” she said. “They’re all right when they’re that size, aren’t they?” She was right. How much of our anti-seagull feeling is a simple accident of their largeness? I tossed a chip to the little guy. You can probably guess what happened next. A honking great seagull, like a set of weaponised bagpipes, plopped down and gobbled it up. I had a where and when for my seagull murder, and a surfeit of motive, but I still needed a suspect. In the evening I went to a bar and asked the locals whether they knew anything about the crime. Their laughter suggested that perhaps the attack wasn’t as big a deal in Bridport as it was in central London. The band offered to claim responsibility if I gave them a plug. “Exterminate all the brutes!” suggested a young man in a flat cap. In the circumstances, the Heart of Darkness reference did not seem totally inappropriate. Later I lay awake in my B&B, listening to the seagulls, trying to work out what sound they were making. A squawk? Shriek? Cry? Wail? What word are they calling to each other? Craaawwlll? Xoiiahhh? Eighhhh? Staring at the ceiling, I worked it out: they were saying “seagull”. “SEAGULLSEAGULLSEAGULL.” It had been a long seagull day. Morning came. The police station was open. On the road outside was a squashed seagull. “Oh no,” said PC Alison Gale, who was on the front desk. “I had been feeding him, little bits of bread soaked in water. Maybe it was his first flight.” From a policewoman, this seemed a bold contradiction of the general advice not to feed the seagulls that I had seen plastered all over town, but I said nothing. I was here to meet PC Scott McGregor, the man who had found the body. “Thank you for taking the time to follow this up,” he said, offering a hand. “It was quite an important story, I felt.” With his calm professional manner, he reminded me of Simon Pegg’s character in Hot Fuzz, the young policeman sent to a small village, whose competence is wasted on the cases he has to deal with. He showed me into a brown interrogation room, where we sat across a plain desk: “It’ll be quiet in here.” I confessed that I’d always imagined my first meeting in one of these rooms would be in different circumstances. “Contrary to the early reports, the bird was not found in the front of the station, but the rear yard.” Hang on, so it wasn’t a mafia-style revenge killing at all? “The inspector indicated that poisoning was probable. We are waiting on the toxicology reports to see whether it was an artificial poison, or a natural poisoning, which can occur from botulism or salmonella.” Stephen Powell, the RSPCA man, confirmed that salmonella was a likely explanation. For some reason, the tabloid reports about the seagull had left this out. Journalistic experience told me that a seagull killed by salmonella behind a police station might not lead the week’s agenda as I had hoped. But McGregor wasn’t finished. “Sadly we’re no closer to identifying any suspects. But what we have found since is another discarded, dead adult in near proximity, in a public bin, within 100 yards of the station.” A second (seagull) body! I could have kissed him. “Whether it’s had a natural death we don’t know, because it’s the carcass of a dead bird at this point. There’s nothing to indicate whether it’s linked to the first death, but it seems to me to be too much of a coincidence.” “One’s an accident,” I said, eager for him not to underestimate the significance of the second dead seagull, and to keep on the trail. “Two’s a coincidence. But three ...” “I’m not familiar with that adage,” he replied. “But once bitten, twice shy, you know? And there’s no smoke without fire.” He smiled. I smiled back, but I wasn’t sure if I did know. Still, I had my second body. “It indicates that perhaps it wasn’t just a one-off,” said McGregor. “But we don’t know whether it’s a situation born out of a deliberate act.” The driver dropped me off at nearby Crewkerne station, still chuckling to himself. As I waited for the train I keep thinking about the most famous seagull-related quotation of all, from the footballer Eric Cantona. “When seagulls follow the trawler,” he said at a press conference in 1995, “it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.” Except in that analogy, the seagulls were journalists, waiting for his gnomic utterances. Wasn’t that exactly what I was doing, hunting these scraps of a seagull murder case? Journalists are seagulls. But what does that make you, the reader, hunting for scraps in seagull story? That’s right: also a seagull. This war is only just beginning, and we need to remember: really, we are all seagulls. • This article was amended on 27 July 2015 to clarify that the writer was dropped off at Crewkerne station.


News Article | May 3, 2017
Site: www.theguardian.com

As party leaders prepare to sign off on their election manifestos, we would like to draw their attention to a policy that has the overwhelming support of the British public. While 52% of British people voted to leave the EU, 84% want the ban on hunting foxes to stay, according to the latest Ipsos Mori data. In addition, 88% support the ban on deer-hunting, and 91% back the ban on hunting hares. Support for the ban among people in the countryside is at similar levels. Ipsos Mori projections indicate that there is a clear majority in favour of the ban in every constituency in England and Wales, including that of all party leaders, and that voters view more favourably those candidates who support the ban by a margin of more than seven to one over those who want it repealed. We call on all party leaders not only to rule out any repeal, weakening or substitution of the Hunting Act but also to support its strengthening and enforcement. The Hunting Act is one of the most popular pieces of legislation on the statute book today. We’re asking party leaders to send a clear, unambiguous message at this election that they fully intend to preserve Britain’s great natural heritage, and ensure that cruelty to animals in the name of “sport” remains firmly in the past. Eduardo Goncalves Chief executive, League Against Cruel Sports, Jeremy Cooper Chief executive, RSPCA, Anne Brummer CEO, Save Me Trust, Philip Mansbridge Director, IFAW-UK, Bill Oddie President, League Against Cruel Sports, Dr Brian May Founder, Save Me Trust, Chris Packham, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Egan • If there is one issue that should be at the heart of this election, it is climate change. When we next choose a government (in 2022), it’s likely that global temperature will have risen 1.5C. That’s the level that nations (including the UK) pledged at Paris in 2015 should not be breached to avoid dangerous climate change. At current rates of burning coal, gas and oil, we are on track to put enough carbon in the atmosphere in the next five years to push us past that temperature increase. But it’s not inevitable. Rapidly increasing our efforts to reduce emissions – from homes, businesses and transport – and installing more renewable energy give us a fighting chance. To build support, politicians must spell out the consequences of not taking the decisive action urgently required on climate change and introduce policies that will drive that action. Greens have long campaigned for warmer and more efficient homes, renewable energy, public transport, and better provision for cycling – measures that reduce emissions and are cheaper for society in the long term. I urge voters to find out where the other parties’ candidates stand on climate change and press them to commit to increased action. Because, whatever government we have and however hard or soft Brexit is, the challenge of climate change will still be with us. Robert Palgrave Hereford Green party • There are three reasons the government is reluctant to publish its clean air plan (Report, 28 April). First, it will demonstrate that Defra has prioritised the interests of car manufacturers over the public good for the past five years. Second, the proposals are likely to be deficient and will be heavily criticised pre-election. Third, it will highlight the dangers of Brexit: for without the EU air quality directive, there are no legally binding standards to protect the public from the harmful effects of air pollution. Dr Robin Russell-Jones (Former chair, Campaign for Lead-Free Air), Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire • Deborah Orr has made the connection between NO emissions and hay fever: “The presence of NO also triggers allergic reactions to pollen” (Children can’t play if they can’t breathe, 29 April). Increased instances of hay fever, asthma and respiratory problems (especially in urban areas) are an unintended consequence of tree planting programmes, which are done for all the right reasons. But local authority planners and urban designers are not considering allergy and asthma when selecting tree species. For example: the male catkins of birch may be a delight to see, but they emit copious, almost invisible, airborne pollen, which is a particularly potent trigger of hay fever, asthma and several common food allergies (pollen-food syndrome). The beautiful bark, relatively low purchase and maintenance cost and foliage that is pretty efficient at capturing carbon are positive features, but there are plenty of non-allergenic alternatives that could do the same job of mopping up carbon and releasing oxygen for the benefit of all. The cost of ignoring allergens is poor respiratory health, days absent from school or work, and individuals suffering due to persistent over-exposure to noxious fumes and particulates and increasingly high pollen counts. When there are alternatives, the idea of “simply not letting the kids play outside when air pollution is particularly bad” doesn’t really work. Children, when they go to and from school, collect pollen in their airways, hair and clothing, which they then bring home. Neither school nor home is a pollen-free sanctuary. The necessary policies include selecting the right trees and plants for highways and public spaces, alongside actions to cut the NO and particulate pollution that is primarily driven by diesel. Jackie Herald London • Bart Elmore is right that “Coca-Cola should have known better” (Report, 2 May). In 2016, along a two-mile stretch of a minor road in my home parish, volunteers cleared up 850 recyclable drinks containers, of which 25% were Coca-Cola-branded items. During January-April 2017, the same stretch of road has yielded 334 recyclable drinks containers (a 15% increase), of which 26% were Coca-Cola brands. Can we have a deposit return system in England and Wales as well as Scotland (Report, 23 February), please? James Marsden Much Marcle, Herefordshire • Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters


News Article | May 16, 2017
Site: www.foodprocessing-technology.com

The Walloon Parliament has voted to outlaw the unstunned slaughter of animals, which will significantly impact or prevent traditional Kosher and Halal slaughter. The environment committee voted unanimously for the ban, which will come into effect in September 2019 if the parliament approves it later this month. Belgian consumers want to know more about their food’s origins; they need transparency from brands as modern Europeans have a keener interest in animal welfare and the environment than previous generations, and identity is becoming a more hot-button issue due to international politics, political populism and terrorism. A European consumer who wishes to avoid meat slaughtered in a way they do not agree with needs to know how it got to her plate, regardless of religious or political affiliation. Despite media coverage to the contrary, this rule wouldn’t necessarily spell the end of Halal slaughter in Belgium. Islamic opinions on non-stun slaughter can vary; in the UK in 2015, the British Veterinary Association and RSPCA noted that over 80% of UK Halal slaughter (zabiha) involves pre-stunned animals. Despite this, there has also been a sharp rise in non-stun zabiha as more conservative Islamic opinions have become more popular. By contrast, all shechita (Kosher slaughter) requires the animal to be uninjured, aware and healthy at the point of slaughter, preventing the adoption of stunning methods. In Belgium in 2012, approximately 5% of the population was Muslim, and 0.4% was Jewish. News of the decision has caused outrage in these groups, who feel that their religious freedoms are being encroached upon by the state, whereas animal rights campaigners have welcomed the decision as much-needed social progress. Belgium is not the first country to take this step – non-stun killings have already been prohibited in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and New Zealand. When  consumers desire increased welfare for animals and ethnic or religious politics of identity get involved, clashes over freedoms and regulations are inevitable. Brands that want to prosper in this environment are best served through their own honesty and transparency; they should be clear about what they do and why, and prepare a thorough communications plan for if or when popular social media opinion turns against them.


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.


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 | 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.”

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