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8th November 2013


hector christieThe strange case of foot and mouth

It was the summer of 2001 and the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) (Now DEFRA) was gearing up to burn thousands of cows supposedly infected by foot and mouth on hundreds of pyres across Devon, Cumbria, Wales and Northumberland. Strangely enough, the creosote soaked railways sleepers used as firewood were ordered in by MAFF three months ahead of the outbreak, and farmers all over the country had been forbidden to vaccinate their cows. 

From his cell in Exeter Prison, Hector Christie experienced the carnage and stench of the burning carcasses, which lasted for five days, after he was arrested - broken leg and all - for lying in the middle of the road to stop the traffic in protest of the cull.

Like many others, he believes that the foot and mouth virus may have been deliberately released from Pirbright, an animal research laboratory. Why?  “Because behind the mass cull was the Government’s hatred of small farmers,”Hector said. Guy Thomas-Everard, a small farmer in Devon made an impassioned plea against his healthy farm animals being killed as part of the pre-emptive cull designed to halt the spread of the disease in the Exmoor area. His plea and threatened legal challenge was ultimately successful and the government held three enquiries into the affair.

Hector, himself a small-scale farmer, still keeps a reduced herd of Highland cattle on his land at Tapeley Park, the ancestral home in Devon that he inherited in a coin toss with his brother, who owns Glyndebourne.  Tapeley’s grounds have been successfully transformed by Hector and his team into award winning permaculture gardens as they work towards being Britain’s first environmentally sustainable stately home. [1]

Read more: Hector Christie Stands Up for Sustainability

For the women…Saving the Arctic by Jay Ramsay

women climbing the shard


The very thought of it

could make your palms sweat.

Sheer dizzying ascent of glittering hot glass ice!

Scaling it, this monument

spire of spires

bared under a Godless sky

pyramid of Mammon

where only corporations rule…Pharoahic

summit sheared off like a knife

tip snapped to skeletal scaffolding…

And six women with rucksacks, in helmets

six spunky angels faithful to a higher cause

than passive acceptance, tailing each other

feeding back thin white rope

to just over a thousand feet—

Passing a gobsmacked windowcleaner

and a black waitress at the 30th floor

poised with her tray in her hand, as if frozen

Not even the police dare intervene

they’re way beyond—

only monitored by their transport counterpart

via telescope, perhaps?

As they inch towards the stars

To unfurl the highest banner in the world

to shame Shell free of its rationalizations,

its lying polite business-speak

its pretend-God-horizon

where all is harmless and under control

(as it is secretly planned)

cold as the Arctic itself

whitewashed and snowblind

so all they can do is climb, and keep climbing

(no way back down)

the impossible mountain of the untransformed world

on the edge of our fragmented time

towering over all three offices far below

and the trains, you tweet, ‘like electric worms’

and the millions of us in London’s bloodstream

and every where this image is seen in

that want a future we can believe in

but have less and less idea where to look

(other than at each other—)

without closing our eyes

could raise them now

to what we can be

when we reach again for the sky.

On the 25th May 2013 around two million members of global civil society gathered in over 400 cities in 52 countries to protest against the giant corporation Monsanto. It’s been more than fifteen years since the whistle was blown on the safety of GM foods, so why are we still marching against them?

Fancy a glass of Agent OrangeHere are four good reasons:

  1. GM crops do not feed the poor. The fact that all GM seeds are patented means that Monsanto and not the farmer is profiting hand over fist from royalties on those patents.  Small farmers used to being able to save and swap heritage seeds are often left worse off as they spiral into debt to buy more seed and pesticide spray packages for each growing season [1] [2].
  2. GM crops consistently under-perform and have failed to live up to the hype that they would increase yields. Instead, these crops have significantly increased the use of herbicides and pesticides [3]. And newer strains have pesticides built into the seeds. This means that the poison is systemic throughout the plant and can be taken up by the soil and leach into groundwater.
  3. Uncontrollable super-weeds or hybrid plants containing genes for herbicide resistance are produced by accidental crossing of GM crops with wild plants. This has necessitated the use of Monsanto’s older chemicals such as DDT and Agent Orange in combination with their newer and even more toxic herbicide Roundup. Usage on mutant cultivars has increased 25% each year since 2001.
  4. Soils have been degraded by the accumulative effects of chemicals which kill the beneficial microbes and switch off the plants ability to take up key nutrients [4].  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup causing unprecedented environmental and human health problems throughout South America where the majority of glyphosate tolerant GM soya is grown. An up to date MIT review of all the independent studies suggests that glyphosate is far from harmless. It states that the suppression of enzymes and amino acids in the gut is a pathway for gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, heart disease, depression, autism, Alzheimers and cancer [5].

Read more: March Against Monsanto

Dame Vivienne Westwood has been a flamboyant figure of British fashion for over three decades.  Although not particularly well known for having an ethical stance on the production of her clothing, she is outspoken about the pressing issue of the loss of bees.

At the March of the Beekeepers, which swarmed on Parliament Square at the end of April 2013, Vivienne Westwood stood firm in front of the phalanx of photographers for as long as it took to get her message across.  Holding up her shiny bee placard, which said “Ban Neonicotinoids” on one side and “Bee Wise” on the other, she stated that what is good for the planet is good for the economy.  “We all need to understand what is causing climate change and that everything is connected.”

And as far as the bees are concerned, she said: “We all think that there needs to be a lot more studies to find out definitively which factors are causing the problem. But that is not a reason not to act.” On protests and participation:  “I support protests. There is a lot people can do; the public can do something. They can get a life, get involved with the world that you live in, don’t just suck everything up and wait until it’s all gone,” she said.

viv westwood finger signfor BKWestwood then walked down Whitehall with designer Katherine Hamnett CBE to deliver the Save the Bees petition to the Prime Minister, which was signed by 2,625,966 people throughout the European Union.  This time people protest really has worked because three days later enough EU officials voted to ban neonicotinoid pesticides for two years despite the British Government’s abstention.


Photo (C) Sam Burcher 2013



EJFandPAN group photo

From left to right: KeithTyrell, Ainsley Harriott, Katherine Hamnett CBE, Sir Bob Russell and Steve Trent.

Sir Bob Russell:  This is first time I’ve had to queue to get into an event that I am hosting. I think that demonstrates the seriousness of the event and why so many of you are here. I have hosted other events here.  For the 40th anniversary of Dr Who we had a dalek.  And one to get darts recognised as a sport.  If we can get a dalek in here and get darts recognised as a sport I hope we can achieve the same outcome with the more serious issues.

Why are we here?  Because bees are essential to us.  Out of 100 crop species worldwide I am told that 71 of these are bee pollinated.  We all know that populations of bees and other pollinators have dropped dramatically in recent years and my late paternal grandfather I can recall still seeing two hives at the bottom of the garden.  I think he would be aghast about what has happened over the last few decades. So these is little doubt that these declines are complex and wide ranging, but there is little doubt that pesticides play a key part. And other speakers will develop that in due course.

Read more: Save the Bees