Clean Air Strategy
As the Government published its Clean Air Strategy last week, further regulation on air pollution by farming seems inevitable. There has been significant debate about emissions of methane by ruminant animals and nitrous oxide from the use of organic and inorganic fertilisers but there is also emphasis in this report on ammonia. Agriculture is responsible for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia which can travel long distances and damage the environment, not least as a cause of acid rain. The gas also combines with other pollutants to form fine Particulate Matter pollution, harmful to human health. Defra has pledged to support farmers, for example by grants to use low-emission spreaders or to cover slurry and anaerobic digestate storage.
Pheasants dumped in a pit
There has been outcry following the release of a video taken by animal welfare activists of dead pheasants being dumped into a pit by a JCB digger. This caused a full page exposé and editorial comment in the Times last Thursday. Shooting organisation including the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation and BASC have described the action as an abomination and unacceptable but the estate concerned claims that the breasts had been removed from the birds before disposal and so the majority of the meat entered the food chain. The demand for shooting in recent years has outstripped the demand for game meat which results in a large proportion being exported. Earlier this year, the British Game Alliance was launched to introduce an assurance scheme for game and to expand domestic and foreign markets to ensure that all game ends up in the food chain.
Opposition to GM
Recent research has thrown up some interesting data on opposition to genetic modification. The most extreme opponents have the least knowledge about the science but it is very difficult to change their views because they believe that they have the most detailed knowledge. To how many other fields of human endeavour does this apply? Ignorance and bigotry have ever been the main enemies of constructive public debate.
Early winter was exceptionally mild with temperatures in November and December 1°C higher than average, a trend that continued into January. Snowdrops were seen in flower soon after Christmas and there have been other signs of an early spring. However, last year even earlier signs were cut short by the Beast from the East and there are forecasts of continuing cold weather through February this season. The end of winter could be a long way off yet!