What people think of farming and why

I had a great idea when we were working on the latest issue of Farm Business. I looked at the comments on the Guardian website below its articles on farmers’ reaction to the price of milk and other farming related issues and thought that maybe it would be informative to quote some of the more outrageous comments. I gave up. We’d have had to fill the page with asterisks. Basically, ‘you can all get stuffed you money grabbing sods’. Or ‘you can all get stuffed you badger murdering sods’, depending on the writer’s prejudices.

For those who don’t spend their lives on the internet, it’s worth pointing out that I’m quoting the Guardian because it makes it very easy to comment. There are plenty of right and left wing commenters. So there’s a good bit of ‘stuff them, they all voted Tory and didn’t support the miners’ as well as the ubiquitous ‘it’s all the fault of the EUSSR!!! We want out period!!!’ in the American English used by campaigners who may not be as familiar with the politics of our nation and continent as they’d like us to believe to remind ‘us’ how much ‘we’ don’t like Europe.

There’s the usual idiocy. The woman who was quoted on Radio 4’s PM programme in a lengthy diatribe on how our dairy sector would be doing just fine if only it dropped its evil insistence on pasteurisation, was just laughable, but a great example of the sort of utter drivel people believe.

It doesn’t just affect the dairy sector. I’ve read hundreds of comments recently on how there’d be no need for neonicotinoids, if only British farmers would drop their insistence on growing nothing but oilseed rape, at all, ever.

Which, of course, brings me with a thud to the NGOs. A massive problem with any discussion of farming is that your average caring ‘I only eat fair-trade tofu’ urban moron has been told repeatedly that all the problems of food and farming can be solved if only we’d go organic.

I’m grateful to Donal Murphy of NOAH for the very useful analysis of antibiotic use in agriculture in this week’s issue, but I don’t agree with him about who’s to blame for the misinformation that’s flying about. It’s not something called ‘the media’. They get their stories from somewhere. That’s why I’ve included Michael Wale’s report on the utterings of campaigners at a recent House of Commons meeting on antibiotics.

It’s not, sometimes, surprising that it’s easy to spread misinformation. Big business isn’t trusted and a lot of the time, big business doesn’t deserve to be trusted. We all know that. Look at how the car industry has been dragged kicking and screaming by legislators to every improvement in safety, economy and environmental performance. But while writing this I was reminded of an even more poignant example. Frances Kelsey, the Canadian doctor credited with having made sure thalidomide was never used in the US, has died at the age of 101.

People don’t trust big business and a thousand cases like thalidomide are why. Farming suffers for it, every day.

Chris Lyddon
Editor Farm Business

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