Animal Aid

Appeal for common sense from new Environment Minister

Posted 15 July 2014

Owen Paterson’s time as Environment Minister was dominated by tribal allegiances to the farming and pro-hunting, pro-shooting countryside fraternity, which resulted in irrational and highly damaging policies, such as the disastrous badger cull. But with his sacking in the latest cabinet reshuffle comes the opportunity for a more rational, common sense approach to farming policy in the UK.

As part of the Tory right, Owen Paterson has strong tribal links to the farming and land-owning community and throughout his term in office gave farmers virtually everything they wanted. Rather than deal with the root causes of the current bovine TB crisis – poor biosecurity, inadequate cattle movement regulations, and intensive farming practices – he paved the way for a badger cull, against all scientific evidence. When the winter floods hit, he approved river dredging, even though it would have little impact, because farmers called for it. When the EU moved to ban neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees, Paterson lobbied hard against it because that’s what farmers wanted. Again and again Paterson’s decisions on farming flew in the face of common sense, opting for policies that exacerbated the damage caused by the industry but kept farmers happy.

But what of his replacement? Liz Truss comes from a rural constituency and has twice voted in favour of the badger cull, but does not have the same links to the farming set as her predecessor. Truss is believed to be a strong advocate of deregulation. This could be disastrous if applied to the farming industry where regulations and checks are essential for limiting the suffering of farmed animals and minimising the kind of environmental damage of which the industry is only too capable. However, in the absence of Paterson’s tribal affiliations, Truss may take a more rational approach to farming and undo much of the damage he has caused. She cannot fail to see the badger cull for the fiasco that it is, or the widespread featherbedding of farmers and landowners, and logically should reject these and other shortcomings in the farming industry.

It remains to be seen how Liz Truss will use her time as Environment Minister, but Animal Aid appeals to her to look at the real harm being caused by the farming industry as it stands, and to take a more rational, common sense approach to the problems ahead. This means turning away from ever more intensive animal production, whose consequences mean not only immense animal suffering, but also damage to the human community and environment at large.

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