My plea to all reading this is to grab hold of the 25 year carrot. That might seem like a strange request, but bear with me.
I was pleased to be able to participate in Defra’s 25 year food and farming plan kick-off event today. We know that the UK government is not mad keen on ‘strategies’, which is why it was refreshing on the face of it to be reminded of the new government’s wish to develop a vision for successful food and farming and to promote British food and farming. So far, so good.
The vision and plan are at an early stage. However the plan at the moment appears to be heading in the direction of being a food and farming growth and exports plan for the next five years, rather than a holistic integrated long-term, 25 year food and farming strategy, much as we called for in Square Meal.
At this early stage, I make three pleas to the Secretary of State, Liz Truss, from an ethical food perspective.
Firstly, please think about values. My plea is to put respect for fairness, wellbeing and freedom into your 25 year plan. Without them, the plan will be hollow and unsustainable, and ultimately unsuccessful.
Secondly, please don’t be afraid to tackle difficult questions. Let’s not sidestep the contentious issues – around meat consumption, food and poverty and more.
Thirdly, let’s think about consequences. Each step that will end up being part of the 25 year food and farming plan will have impacts across the sector and beyond. Please be vigilant and look out for the intended and unintended consequences - the likely impacts on future generations, on human health, on farm animals and on the environment, as well as financial impacts on agri-business.
The Government will be developing, and consulting on, its 25 year plan over the next few months. So, my final plea is to you, as someone interested in food and farming. The draft plan is highly unlikely to dangle all the carrots (and sticks) we are looking for. However, please do participate in the consultation, grab hold of what is being offered and try and reshape it for the better.
Let’s move away from the initial offering of perfectly straight, bright orange carrots being badged with a ‘made in Great Britain’ stamp heading off for export. Let’s instead push for a knobbly carrot that has character, is resilient, is lovingly grown by farmers well rewarded for their efforts, and that works with the environment, not against it.
Let’s try and put the ‘great’ into the Great British food and farming plan. Great British Food will only taste good and will only sell well if the British environment is in great condition, if labour standards are great, if the health of the nation is great and if farm animal welfare is great. An OK Britain food and farming plan doesn’t have quite the same ring about it…