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.
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.
- If you really hate supermarkets, don’t go (Daily Telegraph)
- March of the supermarkets: A new store every day is given the go-ahead (dailymail.co.uk)
- Big supermarkets get planning permission for a store a day (guardian.co.uk)
Dangerous things, cows.T.S. Eliot feared and distrusted them, as revealed in his recently rediscovered poem:Of all the beasts that God allows In England’s green and pleasant land I most of all dislike the cows:Their ways I do not understand.
Henry Ford, the US car magnate, considered cows the most crude and inefficient machines, and spent much of his life campaigning against them: “We don’t need cows,” he said.And now poor David Blunkett has been trampled by an irate cow in the Peak District, bringing the number of people injured by cows in Britain over the past eight years to 481.
But the real threat from cows comes not from their horns, or that creepy rolling thing they do with their eyes just before they charge, but from their digestive systems: cows are flatulating the world towards oblivion. Daisy and Buttercup may look picturesque, and taste delicious with a little Béarnaise sauce, but each cow is a living factory chimney, spewing out pollution at a quite staggering rate.
It’s a very important issue which I’ve always been surprised hasn’t been tackled before now. Like it says in the article people just don’t connect what they see as a ‘natural’ process having an impact on the environment. Plus whenever somebody brings up the issue it’s always treated as a humorous news story, rather than a serious scientific challenge which could and is being researched. Don’t like the idea of laboratory produced meat though, it might do me out of a job for a start.
An interesting article about the various nations which are carrying out legal whale hunts under rules that allow traditional communities an exemption from international whale hunting bans. It appears that although some communities continue to cull wahles in small numbers in a traditional and sustaninable manner others are using the clause to kill whales on a more commercial scale.