Thursday, 24 July 2014

Badger Culling- Not In My Name.

Today the British Veterinary Association has come out in favour of ongoing badger culling. This is in spite of a damning report by the IEP (Independent Expert Panel) in to the culls last year, that found them to be both inhumane and ineffective. The BVA had said its support depended on the culls being shown to be humane.

I am extremely disappointed by this decision, as to me it flies in the face of what it means to be a vet- to avoid and prevent the unnecessary suffering of animals.



Firstly I would like to make it clear that the BVA does not represent the opinion of many vets on this subject. The BVA is a membership organisation of which I am not a member and nor are many of my colleagues. It claims to represent its members but no ballot has been taken over its position on the badger culls, with the decisions made by a number of committees.

It appears that the BVA has been placated by Defra's claims that it will all be different this time; that the killers will be better trained, that more badgers will be observed (60 is the figure mentioned), that there will be an independent auditor- although who it will be and the terms of reference are not known.
Sadly these promises sound empty to those of us who said last time that animals would suffer and this policy was doomed to failure and were proved right. We have no faith in Defra and their promises.

But the fundamental issue remains why Defra and the BVA are determined to push forward with this policy, that will undoubtedly cause suffering and waste more money when the evidence for it having any impact on bTB is so tenuous and weakening with every paper published. Is it pride, or politics, I honestly don't know.

The BVA policy paper goes further and claims if the culling stops now it will worsen bTB in the pilot zones, there is no evidence for this claim.
The BVA also state that it is the failure to tackle wildlife sources of infection that is prolonging the presence of bTB. There is no convincing evidence for these claims.
Meanwhile in Wales, where no culling is taking place but stronger cattle measures are in place, they are seeing dramatic and sustained reductions in the number of cases of bTB, far in excess of anything we are seeing in the UK.

I believe, as do many of my colleagues, that the suffering of badgers caused by culling can in no way be justified, especially given the nature of the evidence put forward by the BVA and Defra. Evidence that is extremely disputed and very far from convincing.

We once again call for the badger cull to cease based on ethical, humaneness and scientific concerns.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Another Day, Another Food Scandal.

Chicken is in the spotlight again after an investigation by the Guardian showed that food safety rules were being blatantly disregarded both on farms and in processing plants, increasing the risk from the potentially fatal food poisoning bug Campylobacter.

I strongly suspect this story will play just like the horse meat scandal did and the many food scandals that have gone before.
There will be the initial shock, the denials and investigations- yet  anyone who really know anything about the unregulated chaos that is our food chain won't be surprised at all. They'll just be annoyed that you are finding out about it.

People might avoid chicken for a bit, a few fines might be handed out, a few protocols changed and then it will all die down and everything will get back to normal. Until the next time.

The unfortunate reality is that behind these scandals is a food chain that is fundamentally broken, a powerful global food industry that is out of control and a food production system that is damaging our health, causing untold suffering to billions of animals and trashing the environment.

This Government is in thrall to this industry; it has cut the Food Standards Agency to the bone so that it can't seem to manage even its basic remit on food safety remit. The FSA itself also seems to be far too close to the industry it is supposed to be monitoring.
The good work that was going on; around areas such as nutrition, healthy eating and labelling ended with the Government's cuts.

It is surely time for a wider debate about our food system. Food prices are on the up and we are at the mercy of increasingly stormy global markets. Climate change is already impacting food production and across the globe meat consumption is increasing.

Intensification no longer looks anything like an answer. Terrible animal welfare leads to stressed animals, more susceptible to these infections. Massive inputs of energy and crops required to feed farmed animals. The overuse of antibiotics is driving resistance to these most crucial of drugs. Animal waste is a terrible pollutant. And the end product when consumed to excess, as we are encouraged to do, is shown to increase our risks of many life shortening diseases and is costing the NHS billions.

We need a Government that is willing to stand up to the food lobby and to start promoting food as it should be-affordable, healthy and of good quality. They have massive power through procurement and also education. Unfortunately as we have seen time and time again with this Government they will go with the money, not the good of the people of this country.

See you for the next scandal.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Vets Against The Badger Cull- lets end this scorched earth policy.

This letter, to which I am a signatory, was published in this week's Vet Record.

Dear editor
 
We note with interest Neil Howie’s call for reasoned alternatives to culling badgers and the current farming status quo (May 12th issue).
 
For the record, with the exception of our previously stated opposition to the badger cull, we do not sign up to any of the other views that he seems to believe we might have.
 
We wholeheartedly agree with him that as scientists campaigning on this issue we should provide reasoned alternatives to current practice, and we are happy to continue to do so through consideration of scientific evidence, and with concern for welfare and ethics.
 
BSE, FMDV and bTB have all caused serious problems for cattle over the past 25 years, and it is surely incumbent upon us to examine whether there might be underlying flaws in the farming systems which have precipitated or contributed to these problems.
 
Taking bTB in the dairy industry as an example. we have previously published our view that the extensive use of artificial insemination (AI) in the dairy herd has adversely affected herd immunity (McGill et al 2012) due to inevitable flattening of the gene pool (Goldmann et al 1990), with consequent loss of natural genetic variation and hybrid vigour.  Recent evidence has confirmed that there is genetic variation present in the bovine genome in respect of immune resistance to bTB (Bermingham et al 2014).  Sadly, in our headlong rush to squeeze just a few more thousand litres of milk per year out of each cow, we seem to have overlooked immunity as an aim.
 
Such immunogenetic incompetence, coupled with severe target-driven metabolic stress might be more appropriate aspects of TB susceptibility in cattle on which to focus, in order to effect change, rather than foolishly persevering with a scorched earth policy in an attempt to rid the environment of an organism which now occurs widely in nature precisely as a result of the cattle industry’s activities.
 
In the 1950s, using AI to increase milk yield must have seemed just the ticket, with austerity, rationing and under-production all prevalent at that time.  Human bTB was a priority too as people were still dying from it in their hundreds.  We are faced with an entirely different set of problems and priorities today.  bTB in the human population is no longer a major problem, whereas the pressure to produce food and milk at ever decreasing cost is resulting in increasing pressure on our cattle and our farmers.  One of us (PT) has published a detailed analysis of bTB control which calls into question current spending priorities, and describes an alternative paradigm for managing the disease based on current evidence rather than historic habit (Torgerson and Torgerson, 2009).  There is a seminar by two of us (MJ and IM) available at www.thewebinarvet.com/webinar/badger-culling-a-veterinary-perspective/, which elaborates both the science behind our opposition to the badger cull, and also provides an alternative view of the dairy industry, using the simple but novel approach of contemplating how a dairy cow might perceive the industry she works for.
 
We do not think that the over-riding priority for the countryside should be any one industry, practice or species, and certainly should not be the maintenance at all costs of cattle-related industries as currently practiced. We should be looking at ways to enable farmers to operate less intensive, more localised and more compassionate livestock production systems, perhaps by protecting British milk suppliers with a move from an open market based on cheapest price, to one based on higher quality and higher price - a system that actually reflects the production costs in a humane dairy system.

These changes are not easy, but they are possible - with a will, and with an openness to change.
 
We would point out to Mr Howie that if his wish is to feed 9 billion people (there are only 7 billion people currently) then dairy and cattle based food certainly isn’t going to be the answer. At a population of 9 billion, humans are just going to have to learn to eat a little lower down the food chain, and consume more protein and energy at source, rather than getting cattle to process it for them, wasting nutritional energy in the process.
 
A system more humane, more empathetic, and with a good deal less of the scorched earth about it is something we could perhaps all work towards formulating. 
 
Yours sincerely

etc
 
References
M L Bermingham, S C Bishop, J A Woolliams, R Pong-Wong, A R Allen, S H McBride, J J Ryder, D M Wright, R A Skuce, S WJ McDowell and E J Glass (2014) Genome-wide association study identifies novel loci associated with resistance to bovine tuberculosis. Heredity (2014) 112, 543–551
 
Goldman W, Hunter N, Martin T, Dawson M and Hope J (1991)
Different Forms of the Bovine PrP Gene have Five or Six Copies of a Short, G-C-rich Element within the Protein-coding Exon.
J Gen Virol 72 (1) 201-204
 
McGill IS, Menache A, Knight A, Allen C, Hill S and Eastwood B (2012) Bovine TB and badger culling. Veterinary Record 2012 171, 353-354
 
Torgerson PR and Torgerson DJ (2009) Public health and bovine tuberculosis: what’s all the fuss about?   Trends in Microbiology 18 (2) 67-72


Saturday, 14 June 2014

Vets Against the Badger Cull: Our most recent Vet Record letter.

Bovine TB and
badger controls

THERE have been a number of letters in recent editions of Veterinary Record (Den Leonard, May 24, 2014, vol 174, pp 535-536; Declan O’Rourke, Neil Blake and Martin Whitehead, June 7, 2014, vol 174, pp 584-586) relating to the efficacy of badger culling as a means of controlling the spread of bovine TB in cattle. We felt the need to provide some clarity with regard to the evidence base relating to this complex issue.
First, the efficacy of indiscriminate badger culling (or more correctly ‘killing’, since the term ‘culling’ implies a selective process) as a means of controlling bovine TB is not supported by the available scientific literature (Donnelly and others 2006). As John Bourne stated in his introduction to the Independent Scientific Group’s report, following the Randomised Badger Culling Trial (RBCT), ‘It is unfortunate that agricultural and veterinary leaders continue to believe, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, that the main approach to cattle TB control must involve some form of badger population control’ (Independent Scientific Group 2007). Indeed there is good evidence that badger social stability mitigates, and social perturbation (caused by killing) increases, the spread of infection in badgers (Weber and others 2013), and scientific analysis confirms that, because of the perturbing impact culling has on surviving badger behaviour, badger culling can result in increased prevalence of infection among remaining badgers, potentially increasing the risk of transmission to cattle (Woodroffe and others 2006, Bielby and others 2014).
Second, the killing methods being employed by licensed contractors and researched by Defra are very far removed from those employed during proactive culling in the RBCT in a number of respects; in particular, the time periods over which the killing has taken place and the estimated proportions of badger populations removed during those periods (Independent Expert Panel 2014). As pointed out by the meeting of scientific experts facilitated by Defra officials in April 2011 during the formulation of the current policy, ‘. . . the more that a future culling policy deviates from the conditions of the RBCT . . . the more likely it is that the effects of that policy will differ . . .’ (Defra 2011). Therefore, the results of the RBCT cannot legitimately be used to support current policy and the policy cannot be described as ‘science-based’. The ‘controlled shooting’ of badgers employed during the pilot culls carried out in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year was deemed both ineffective and inhumane by the Independent Expert Panel charged with evaluating them (Independent Expert Panel 2014).
Third, the premise that badger killing can be justified on the grounds that wildlife controls have been deemed necessary in other countries in order to control TB in cattle is seriously flawed. Very few countries have had to kill wildlife as a part of their TB control programmes; rather, control has been achieved through strict testing regimes, including using the single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin (SICCT) test as a herd, rather than individual, test, for which it is better suited. None of the countries in Europe (including Scotland) that has achieved TB-free status has adopted policies of widespread systematic wildlife controls and where low levels of bovine TB remain these generally relate to concerns regarding cattle controls (Schiller and others 2011, EFSA and ECDC 2014). The water buffalo (Bubalus bubalus) in Australia were a relatively small group of feral animals in Kakadu National Park and the wetlands of the Northern territories, and not a significant part of the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication policy in that country (Australian Government 2011). White tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the USA only became a part of the problem because hunters practised winter feeding of animals in order to increase their availability for hunting, which brought them into close contact with other deer and with cattle (Berentsen and others 2008). This leaves just New Zealand, where brush tail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), an introduced species, which has caused significant ecosystem disruption and which has very different social structures and habits from badgers, has been targeted; it is hardly a comparable situation to that faced in England (Clifton-Hadley and others 2000). Serious doubts about the contribution that systematic and widespread badger killing in the Republic of Ireland has made to the ‘successful’ reduction in bovine TB prevalence in that country have emerged following identification of similar trends in cattle TB incidence between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where badger culling has not been employed to date (Northern Ireland Badger Group 2014), and there are concerns regarding whether badger populations will recover from the impacts of the policy adopted in the Republic of Ireland (Carroll and others 2013).
Fourth, the premise that badger vaccination is ‘unproven’ or that it has ‘no meaningful effect’ is unfounded. Clinical field studies on free-living badgers demonstrated significant reductions in bovine TB incidence following vaccination (Chambers and others 2010), and vaccination has been shown to significantly reduce the severity and progression of disease (and hence the extent to which individuals are infectious) in vaccinated adult badgers and the risk of infection in unvaccinated cubs (Carter and others 2012). Furthermore, vaccination does not result in perturbation and, therefore, offers a reliable method of reducing prevalence of infection in badgers without any associated increased risk to cattle.
Lastly, the evidence from the Area Eradication Strategy, conducted during the 1950s and 1960s, and recent data on bovine TB incidence and numbers of cattle slaughtered particularly from Wales, suggest that strict cattle testing and control measures, combined with risk-based trading and strict adherence to biosecurity protocols, can bring this infection under control in the absence of indiscriminate badger killing. While Defra has been wasting significant amounts of public money designing, licensing, policing and assessing the shambolic ‘pilot culls’ that took place in Gloucestershire and Somerset last year, Wales has reduced the number of cattle compulsorily slaughtered as a result of TB testing by more than 50 per cent since 2009, without killing a single badger. Data on new herd incidents in Wales for the 12 months to the end of March this year showed a 22 per cent reduction on the previous 12 months, with the number of cattle slaughtered down by a third over the same period; the number of new herd incidents and cattle slaughtered in Wales during March 2014 was the lowest for a single month in March since 2008 (Welsh Government 2014). Data from England also show encouraging trends.
Many mammal species can become infected with bovine TB, and badgers are undoubtedly capable of carrying and transmitting the infection. However, attempts to control bovine TB in cattle by killing badgers have been repeatedly shown to be ineffective, cruel and unnecessary.
In supporting efforts to resolve this situation, we as a profession must not succumb to advocating the apparent ‘easy fix’ of inhumane and indiscriminate badger killing when it has no basis in science and, as such, is not ethically justifiable.

Marc Abraham, Grove Lodge Veterinary Group, 21 Southwick Street, Southwick, Brighton, East Sussex BN42 4AD
Caroline Allen, 226-228 Essex Road, Islington, London N1 3AP
Heather Bacon, 19/5 Polwarth Crescent, Edinburgh EH11 1HR
Fiona Dalzell, 2 Littlewood Cottages, School Road, Norwich NR8 6EP
Bronwen Eastwood, Wilbury Veterinary Surgery, 20 Wilbury Avenue, Hove,
East Sussex BN3 6HR
Richard Edwards, Foxfield, Slindon Bottom Road, Fontwell, West Sussex BN18 0SN
Phill Elliott, 9 Hunt Road, Earls Colne, Essex CO6 2NX
Bruce Fogle, 86 York Street, London
W1H 1QS
Geoffrey Hale, Geraldine Hale, Empress Business Centre, 380 Chester Road, Manchester M16 9EA
Mark Jones, Humane Society International/UK, 5 Underwood Street, London N1 7LY
Andrew Knight, 189 Liberty Place, Sheepcote Street, Birmingham B16 8JZ
Jo Lewis, 138 Chobham Road, Sunningdale, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 0HU
Iain McGill, 81 Stanmer Park Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 7JL
Alastair MacMillan, Pointers, West Chiltington Road, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 2EE
Andre Menache, Flat 5, 49 Granville Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1HB
Richard Saunders, 33 Cleeve Road, Bristol BS4 2JR
Peter Southgate, 61 Ferry Road, Sudbourne, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 2BJ
Paul Torgerson, University of Zurich, Section of Epidemiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland

References
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT (2011) The feral water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/b4a187ba-7a72-4ed2-ab06-7a8b8a1b87a0/files/buffalo.pdf. Accessed June 23, 2014
BERENTSEN, A. R., MILLER, R. S., DUNBAR, M. R.
& EBERSOLE, R. (2008) Evaluating the risk associated with the transmission of bovine tuberculosis from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) to cattle in Michigan, USA: Preliminary results from year one. Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the European Wildlife Disease Association. Rovinj, October 2 to 5, 2008. p 78
BIELBY, J., DONNELLY, C. A., POPE, L. C., BURKE, T.
& WOODROFFE, R. (2014) Badger responses to small-scale culling may compromise targeted control of bTB. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences doi: 10.1073/pnas.1401503111
CARROLL, R., MARPLES, N. & CORNER, L. A. L.
(2013) Does long-term culling affect badger (Meles meles) populations in the Republic of Ireland? Proceedings of the 11th International Mammalogical Congress. Belfast, August 11 to 16, 2013.
CARTER, S. P., CHAMBERS, M. A., RUSHTON, S. P.,
SHIRLEY, M. D. F., SCHUCHERT, P., PIETRAVALLE, S. & OTHERS (2012) BCG vaccination reduces risk of tuberculosis infection in vaccinated badgers and unvaccinated badger cubs. PLoS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049833
CHAMBERS, M. A., ROGERS, F., DELAHAY, R. J.,
LESELLIER, S., ASHFORD, R., DALLEY, D. & OTHERS (2010) Bacillus Calmette-Guérin vaccination reduces the severity and progression of tuberculosis in badgers. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1953
CLIFTON-HADLEY, R. S., SAUTER-LOUIS, C. M., LUGTON, I. W., JACKSON, R., DURR, P. A. & WILESMITH, J. W. (2000) Mycobacterial diseases, Mycobacterium bovis infections. In Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals. Eds E. S. Williams, I. K. Barker. Manson Publishing. pp 340-361
DEFRA (2011) Bovine TB - Key conclusions from the meeting of scientific experts. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/documents/bovinetb-scientificexperts-110404.pdf. Accessed June 23, 2014
DONNELLY, C. A., WOODROFFE, R., COX, D. R., BOURNE, F. J., CHEESEMAN, C. L., CLIFTON-HADLEY, R. S. & OTHERS (2006) Positive and negative effects of widespread badger culling on cattle tuberculosis. Nature 439, 843-846
EFSA & ECDC (2014) The European Union Summary Report on Trends and Sources of Zoonoses, Zoonotic Agents and Food-borne Outbreaks in 2012. http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/EU-summary-report-zoonoses-food-borne-outbreaks-2012.pdf. Accessed June 23, 2014
INDEPENDENT EXPERT PANEL (2014) Pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. www.gov.uk/government/publications/pilot-badger-culls-in-somerset-and-gloucestershire-report-by-the-independent-expert-panel. Accessed June 23, 2014
INDEPENDENT SCIENTIFIC GROUP (2007) Bovine TB: The Scientific Evidence. Final Report of the Independent Scientific Group on Cattle TB. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/tb/isg/report/final_report.pdf. Accessed June 23, 2014
NORTHERN IRELAND BADGER GROUP (2014) Bovine TB in Ireland – what’s really happening? (Updated). www.badgersni.org.uk/tbireland.html. Accessed June 23, 2014
SCHILLER, I., WATERS, W. R., VORDERMEIERC, H. M.,
JEMMIA, T., WELSH, M., KECKE, N. & OTHERS (2011) Bovine tuberculosis in Europe from the perspective of an officially tuberculosis free country: trade, surveillance and diagnostics. Veterinary Microbiology doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2011.02.039
WEBER, N., CARTER, S. P., DALL, S. R. X., DELAHAY, R. J., MCDONALD, J. L., BEARHOP, S.
& MCDONALD, R. A. (2013) Badger social networks correlate with tuberculosis infection. Current Biology 23, R915-R916
WELSH GOVERNMENT (2014) Incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in cattle in Great Britain. http://wales.gov.uk/statistics-and-research/incidence-tuberculosis-cattle-great-britain/?lang=en. Accessed June 23, 2014
WOODROFFE, R., DONNELLY, C. A., JENKINS, H. E.,
JOHNSTON, W. T., COX, D. R., BOURNE, F. J. & OTHERS (2006) Culling and cattle controls influence tuberculosis risk for badgers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 14713-14717


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Close City Airport- for a Economy That Works for People.

Last night I attended the HACAN East (anti-airport expansion) hustings in Newham.
Held in the Britannia Village Hall it was necessary to stop speaking at times because of the noise of the planes flying in and out of London City Airport.

Photo thanks to Martin Warne who posted it on Twitter
The hustings was well attended, apart from by the ruling Labour Party who declined to send any representative. This was not well received, with many of the audience very critical of the 100% Labour Council and their all-powerful Mayor. A warning- if one were needed- of why a Green Voice on Councils across London is vital.

While the airport is of course a major issue for those is the Borough I explained that as Greens we don’t just oppose the airport for the obvious reasons but that this is part of a much wider debate about the direction London is heading in. Who is it for? And why aren't local communities having their say?

Of course as Greens we oppose the airport on many grounds.
-Air pollution has been a massive campaign issue for us and levels near to the airport are approaching EU safe limits. But we know for NO2 (nitrogen dioxide, one of the main pollutants) no safe limit really exists and the proximity of schools to this airport are really shocking.

-Noise pollution itself is increasingly recognised to have damaging effects on stress and anxiety levels.

-And on climate change, which is happening now, we need to be reducing our need to fly. Replacing the demand with decent railways- renationalised and affordable and technology.
As we start to seriously tackle climate change, as we must, City Airport will end up as a white elephant.

But there is a wider battle in play.
Why is the airport here, in this most inappropriate location? Right bang in the middle of a deprived Borough we have a business that makes the lives of local people a misery.
A business that offers very little to local people- causing traffic, pollution, noise- and catering to predominantly wealthy businesspeople.
A business that simply entrenches inequality in an area.

A report by the New Economics Foundation shows that as a business City Airport is under performing when it comes to its key lauded benefit –jobs.
This is business that doesn’t pay a living wage and only pays half of its own policing costs.

Local people get all of the downsides, none of the upsides.

Unfortunately it is a classic example of the direction of development in London today. Something that Greens have been very active opposing and standing up for local people.

-The flats that get built as investments for buy-to-leave, while local people cannot afford a home and even being shipped out of London altogether away from their family and friends.

-The gleaming towers of Canary Wharf, where the roots of the financial crisis were laid and where irresponsible and dangerous banking practices still go on. Greens in Europe are working to rein in the worst excesses; none of the other parties will dare to stand up.

-The land-grab in Crystal Palace that I visited with Jen Lambert MEP and Natalie Bennett earlier in the day, where the council is handing over common land to a private developer.

-The Heygate estate where a community has been ripped apart and social housing replaced with private flats.

The Greens are calling for a different type of economy.
In Newham we are calling for the airport to be closed and for a different kind of development.
One where the land is in a Community Land Trust, where people have a say, where genuinely affordable home are built as part of a mixed development. Where we support businesses building a different kind of economy that is resilient and is part of the solution to tackling the crises’ we face. Evidence shows that the ‘Green economy’ is growing and bucking the downturn.
We need jobs that are decent jobs, pay a living wage and develop our economy in the right direction.
Not zero hour, poverty pay.

Greens know that increasing inequality is simply not sustainable, in any sense of the word. We don’t want London resident’s to get the crumbs left over when the rich have had their piece of the pie.

Greens in councils, the GLA and Europe are working for an economy for people not corporations.

With fellow Greens at the event
You can read more about the other candidates contributions here on a blog by Martin Warne. 

We Need to Debate our Food Future.

This weekend I joined Bromley Greens and visited the Crystal Palace Food Market. This brilliant community led market is providing not only an outlet for locally produced food, but a great way for local small businesses to grow and for people to come together.


Food is a particular area of interest of mine and of course food and agriculture policy is a massive issue in Europe.
Rising food prices, combined with benefit cuts and poverty pay, is already driving unprecedented numbers into food poverty and needing the use of foodbanks. Something Green MEPs have been campaigning against.

We are a tipping point with stark choices ahead. Do we allow the agribusinesses to push ahead with further industrialisation, telling us it is the only answer. While at the same time driving environmental degradation we can ill afford, along with climate change, pollution, appalling animal welfare.

Or do we look at another approach, that supports community based food growing, a re-localisation of our food, decent rural livelihoods, shorter supply chains, more jobs, less pollution and resilience to climate change.



The Crystal Palace market is only a small place. I'm not claiming it's the answer to how we feed ourselves In the future. But it-and places like it- need our support to grow and become part of a local food network, that I do believe is part of the picture of how we feed ourselves in the future.

Greens in the European Parliament are doing a lot of work on improving food and our food production systems. You can find out more here.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Manifesto for the Commons: Needed in Crystal Palace.

During the election campaign I've been contacted by hundreds of organisations and individuals who ask for my support for a particular issue or cause. 
I have been very happy to support action against TTIP and the corporate takeover of Europe. Of course I am happy to speak up on animal issues and for better access to health care. I support digital rights and am against Heathrow expansion.
One interesting pledge I just signed was on the Manifesto for the Commons.
The introductory text reads:
'Common goods are universal: they belong to everyone and they must not be monopolised by private interests. European Institutions, as guarantors of fundamental civil liberties, peace, cultural diversity and the rule of law, must ensure respect for, and the preservation of, these common goods.
Common goods, by definition, belong to the community. Water, the quintessential common good, should not be privatized or commoditised. Nor should this be the case with education and health. They ought not to be treated as commodities, but rather us our common heritage, protected and enriched by the community.
In a context of crisis and austerity, where privatisation is often encouraged, a political approach based on respect for common goods represents an opportunity to establish a new democratic project for European society, one based on citizen participation, respect for fundamental rights and cultural, moral and intellectual development'.
The proposers of this manifesto are asking for the creation of a cross-party parliamentary group, whose goal will be to lay the foundations for judicial and political recognition of common goods within the European Institutions.
I am very happy to sign this pledge and believe this is an important issue. Across Europe we are seeing a corporate take over and London is no exception, in fact everywhere you look public goods are being sold off. 
In particular I have long been concerned with the way our public space is slowly being privatised, packaged up and sold off to developers, who then work with councils to limit the access of local people. 
The latest example I heard about was the scandalous situation in Crystal Palace which I visited today. Bromley Council are privatising a massive area of public parkland on a 125 year lease for a development that is shrouded in secrecy. I spoke to many local people who were concerned not only about the development but about the whole process and lack of consultancy.
Local Greens are calling for the land to be put into a Community Land Trust and then leased and for any development to be suitable for the local area and community. 
This was certainly a very popular alternative amongst local people I spoke to. You can find out more about the Green's position here