Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Never mind the badgers, what about culling crap politicians?

You have to wonder what Mr and Mrs Brock have done to offend the government.

Pencilled in for widespread culling because they pass on a form of tuberculosis (TB) to cattle, it now appears that the meat from those infected cows is still healthy enough for people to eat, as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been selling it to processors.

There are, it’s worth noting, serious questions over the scientific basis for the efficacy of the planned types of culling as a method of TB control – as has been raised by Dr Ben Goldacre.

But let’s not get into that right here and now.

It appears that the meat has been sold to processors who supply schools, hospitals and the military – and also make it into pasties and pies.

And there is no labelling of any foodstuff to allow consumers to make a choice (informed or otherwise) as to whether to consume meat from any such animal.

Now Defra goes into some detail as to how meat from TB-infected cattle is checked and okayed.

But if that’s the case, then it makes an utter nonsense of the badger cull – certainly as some sort of massive emergency.

If meat from TB-infected cattle is safe to eat, then getting bovine TB is hardly a disaster, right? It’s not like foot and mouth, where cattle were simply destroyed and then burned.

Somehow, it doesn’t seem likely that animal welfare is the government’s primary concern here.

Mind, the entire process is indicative of the farcical attitude toward food in the UK that we’ve seen for some time – and not limited to this year’s horse meat scandal.

This comes at the same time as Labour’s shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, made vaguely embarrassed comments to the Independent about how supermarket dominance may not really be a very good thing and may create “monostreet”.

He called for people to spend a little bit more, at least occasionally, and go to independent shops.

That ignores the simple fact that, for many people, watching as their incomes reduce almost before their very eyes, they cannot easily afford to spend much more on food.

One of the wealthiest countries in the world we may well be, but the use of foodbanks is going through the roof – although as Tory work and pensions minister Lord Freud (himself a millionaire) has now clarified for us, this has nothing to do with rising poverty and everything to do with people taking advantage. So, a bit like politicians, then.

The Umunna comments were leapt upon by the Telegraph blogs and some of its educationally challenged contributors – who have presumably mistaken that publication for the Daily Mail and struggle with the simplest of matters.

This was partly because writer Will Heaven had disingenuously claimed that Umunna had been warning against the budget supermarkets, when he was speaking more generally about “big brands” and specifically mentioned Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

But even then, it takes some doing to extrapolate that into asserting that Umunna was being a ‘typical socialist’ (as at least one poster, inflamed beyond reason, did) because the MP had admitted that he shopped at a Tesco Express, while it seems that he also stops in at a new, local, independent cafĂ©.

For goodness sake: it’s a bloody long time since there were any socialists in the shadow cabinet. Labour, certainly in Parliamentary terms, is essentially just another neo-liberal party.

But also, since Umunna didn’t actually claim that nobody should ever shop at any supermarket – budget or otherwise – and since he also stops off at least one local, independent business occasionally, he’s apparently doing what he suggested.

The issue that should be taken with the comments are that they suggest that Labour has no concrete plans to tackle big business and its dominance of the British high street.

But if you wanted an indication of the state of public discourse in this country, in a nutshell, that’s it.

Mind, on top of that, we had the George ‘Gidiot’ Osborne in a tweeted picture, putting the final touches to his latest spending review speech while eating a burger.

‘I’m down with you ordinary people,’ it seemed to proclaim. Until it became clear that it was a 10 quid burger from a fast food chain that is somewhat posher than McDonalds.

It was obviously the perfect fodder for preparing a speech that announced that thousands more people would be losing their jobs and others would be having their already-frozen pay attacked further.

Oh yes, we’re all in this together.

And then dear Eric Pickles responded with a tweeted picture of himself eating a salad, while preparing a speech. Ho ho ho.

The cost of the salad was unclear, although given his department’s record spending on biscuits …

But such is the state of politics in the upper echelons of the mother of parliaments.

In the meantime, Owen Paterson continues to big up genetically modified (GM) food as though it is the answer to all our problems and that we should embrace it – and conveniently forget all the research that suggests that, at the very best, there are major doubts over the safety of GM food.

Fracking is to go ahead – the answer to all our energy problems, apparently – with little apparent regard for the massive risks that that holds for the water table and, therefore, domestic farming and food supply.

Some farmers are getting subsidies, but many others – smaller ones particularly – continue to struggle. And nothing has been done about the bullying behaviour of the supermarkets that Umunna wants us to sort of use sort of less.

If all that isn’t enough to make you want to hit your head against a brick wall, it’s difficult to know what would be.

But Mr and Mrs Brock are going to get it, so that Defra can reduce the amount of fit-to-eat meat that it can sell to be made into pies.

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