Home > Environmental, General waffle > The hypocrisy of the Tesco bashers

The hypocrisy of the Tesco bashers


The market will provide. And there lies the problem, or not, depending on which side of the fence you sit, because what most people want is cheap food, and that’s what the likes of Tesco et al provide. After watching tonight’s Panorama discussing the the seemingly endless march of the ‘big four’ across the towns and cities of the UK you would be forgiven for thinking that supermarkets have not contributed anything positive to society and that the market towns and villages would still be bustling with independent grocers and artisan bakers if it was not for these evil corporate giants. It’s just not true.

Supermarkets have grown because of consumer demand, pure and simple. The rise of the supermarkets has been driven by changes in the way we live our lives. People choose to shop there. Nobody forces people to buy their bread and milk from them, but when it comes down to it the vast majority of people opt for the convenience, choice and most importantly low prices of the major retailers. I’m no apologist for the supermarkets (no really) and I’m not saying they are naturally benevolent entities – they are profit driven – but neither are they ‘evil’ and out to destroy the British high street.

The middle classes in particular ring their hands about the death of small shops and the welfare of chickens but when the chips are down they’ll shop in Tescos and spend the extra pounds they could have spent on free-range pork at their local butchers, on a bottle of red or a holiday in the south of France. Yet it’s the very same people who are the first to shout the loudest when a Tesco wants to open down the road or a farmer starts building a mega-farm to produce milk cheaper than water. The hypocrisy is truly incredible.

cows
Image via Wikipedia

As a vet student I’m keen to see improved standards of animal welfare for food-producing animals and ever more intensive farming practices do not sit well with me. Even though many of innovations seen in modern agriculture such as zero-grazed dairy herds do seem to be able to provide animals with equal or even better physical health than some traditional extensive systems I can’t quite reconcile myself to cows which spend their whole lives indoors or to chickens which never get to see the light of day. However if we want local shops to stay open and animal welfare to remain a priority consumers need to wake up and realise that how much money they spend on food and where they spend it has consequences.

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