VIewpoint by Peter Karran

Founder member of Liberal Vannin, Peter Karran gives his views on topics that takes his fancy in this occasional column for our website

7. Food Security

Liberal Vannin Position Paper on Food Security

Food security covers a number of issues, maybe not directly affected by the agricultural industry on the island. Such as public health and quality of life. Food security is important economically and socially for the well-being of those who work here.

The Island’s Government needs to understand it has three basic functions: to defend the Island and its residents; to house its people and to feed its people.

When I entered politics, agricultural policy was very high on the agenda for the island nation. I used to fight to try and change the focus to improve standards for the working people on the Island. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the reality that we cannot compete as a Manx agricultural industry with the size, mechanisation and factory farming that has become the norm elsewhere in the world. I always remember as a young politician being told you don’t fight them in their own midden.

Ever decreasing circles both in animal welfare and food quality has to be the reason why we need to bring a fresh approach towards food security on this island. It can simply not compete when the level of standards is so low in the United Kingdom, even though that is far better than some of our European neighbours. It cannot be right that an animal can be tethered to the floor as part of the food process. It cannot be right that an animal sees little or no outside space in units more like factories than agricultural units. The time has come, not just on moral grounds, but also on the economic and public health grounds that we need to bring in our own standards.

I remember well people ridiculed me when I talked about the cheese scandal.  And I’m sure, if they had come from Pulrose, they’d have gone to jail for it. When I was first elected to the House of Keys I said that they need to forget trying to compete  in an impossible market and go for quality over quantity and they did do that and it was the life-saving of the cheese industry to go in for specialised cheese. It’s a shame they didn’t do the other things I asked to do. At the moment we are sleep-walking into a world food shortage that will affect us as much as the third world.

It is now we need to be developing a strategy. Not engineered by industry or world conglomerates. We’ve already seen in the third world how they’ve developed starvation with seeds that don’t really re-germinate and many other issues with modified germ crops. We can start with milk production guarantee so that any milk that comes onto the island for sale comes from acceptable animal welfare standards acceptable to the RSPCA, not Red Tractors. Standards for minimum days out in fields for dairy cows need to be accepted. Yes, it will cost but we should have standards that covers the provisions of life at a reasonable level and if the animals are not treated to the standards of welfare that we would expect our own home produced milk to be provided by, then it shouldn’t be allowed to be imported. 

No one is wanting to kill the meat production on the island but what we do want to do is make sure that it’s at a decent level and the animals have a decent life whilst they’re on this earth. The idea of castration and mutilation of animals without pain relief is just not acceptable. Making sure that GM produce cannot be grown on this island. When it comes to agricultural products the Island needs the highest standards of health quality, both for the person who is eating the product and the animals concerned.

There are other factors that will actually increase the quality of life on this island from such legislation. We need to secure the future against any further climate change that might affect us getting produce to the island from our adjacent islands. It will improve public health that should bring dividends when it comes to our health services in the future. It will also create real jobs and a real future for the agricultural industry on the island.

People need to realise we need to stop this ever-decreasing circle of reducing standards in society and start making an agenda for the next generation to be proud of. To turn around the island from going backwards on such an important issue as food production. We also need to level up the opportunity for young people to see agriculture as a way forward. This means that we need to review tenancy and  land legislation and use planning and tax incentives to encourage the next generation of farmers. The government also needs to give directives so that its school meals, hospitals, care homes and homes meal service use home grown produce wherever possible by default. Any cost increase will be offset by increased economic activity in our agricultural sector.

Come along to Liberal Vannin’s public meeting on January 23rd. 7.30pm at the Manx Legion, Douglas. Full details at: Food Security on the Isle of Man – Liberal Vannin

Peter Karran