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human activity and the destruction of the planet


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New UN report states that 1,000 species are at risk of extinction

A UN Report launched in Paris yesterday (6th May 2019) is the result of 3 years of study of species across the world.  It concludes that up to 1,000 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction and that things are happening faster than we realised.

UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’

The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is the most comprehensive ever completed. It is the first intergovernmental Report of its kind and builds on the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005, introducing innovative ways of evaluating evidence.

Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. The picture is less clear for insect species, but available evidence supports a tentative estimate of 10% being threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century and more than 9% of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened.

Other notable findings of the Report include:

  • Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
  • More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.
  • The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw timber harvest has risen by 45% and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year – having nearly doubled since 1980.
  • Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US$577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% were maximally sustainably fished, with just 7% harvested at levels lower than what can be sustainably fished.
  • Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992.
  • Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totalling more than 245,000 km2 (591-595) – a combined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.
  • Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change – due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.

The Report also presents a wide range of illustrative actions for sustainability and pathways for achieving them across and between sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance and many others. It highlights the importance of, among others, adopting integrated management and cross-sectoral approaches that take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management, and biodiversity conservation.

Also identified as a key element of more sustainable future policies is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy, steering away from the current limited paradigm of economic growth.

The Chair of the panel launching the report, Sir Robert Watson is quoted as saying, “The health of the ecosystems on which we and other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. “We have lost time. We must act now.”

BobWatson

Sir Bob Watson, Chair of IPBES

David Obura, one of the main authors on the report and a global authority on corals, said: “We tried to document how far in trouble we are and to focus people’s minds, but also to say it is not too late if we put a huge amount into transformational behavioural change. This is fundamental to humanity. We are not just talking about nice species out there; this is our life-support system.”

Three-quarters of all land has been turned into farm fields, covered by concrete, swallowed up by dam reservoirs or otherwise significantly altered. Two-thirds of the marine environment has also been changed by fish farms, shipping routes, sub-sea mines and other projects. Three-quarters of rivers and lakes are used for crop or livestock cultivation. As a result, more than 500,000 species have insufficient habitats for long-term survival. Many are on course to disappear within decades.

Further information can be found at:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/23/destruction-of-nature-as-dangerous-as-climate-change-scientists-warn



Since 1992, the world’s urban area has doubled – largely at the expense of tropical forests, wetlands and grasslands – a process that is decoupling our consumption habits from the means of production, and severing our understanding of our dependency on the natural world.

“There are people that really understand the linkage, although they don’t live it,” says Sebsebe Demissew, professor of plant systematics and biodiversity at Addis Ababa university. He has spent decades collecting and documenting plants across Africa, often working with indigenous and traditional peoples.

“But there are other people that don’t even think that nature’s contribution to people is so important, because sometimes if you are in town what you are really concerned about is what bread or something would cost, rather than its effect on a poor farmer.”

Prof. Sebsebe Demissew, of Addis Ababa University



 

In short, what is happening can be described by the subtitle of my book “Human Activity and the destruction of the planet.”

Is it too late to reverse the trend? Many of my colleagues in the climate action movement fear it is too late, though others are hopeful that we can turn the corner. But it needs a global realisation of the significance of climate change and loss of biodiversity.



Alan Simpson, a previous Labour MP and now advisor to the Labour party on environmental issues, has written the following in the Morning Star:

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/climate-jesus-versus-pharisees

It is entitled “Climate Jesus versus the Pharisees”, with the sub-heading:

We need to stop building more runways, motorways, or shopping malls and replant forests, green our cities and give pollinators places to feed, breed and shelter in.

Alan Simpson

Alan Simpson

“As political parties dust themselves down after the drubbing of local government elections, the good news is that all the answers are to be found in bigger, rather than smaller, issues.  Climate, not Brexit, is the key.

We live in revolutionary times. And we have our children to thank for still filling them with hope rather than despair.

The unthinkable is happening. Parliament, public institutions and the press are waking to the fact that climate change can only be constrained by systems change. This recognition is still in its infancy, but it is already unstoppable.

I recently came across an early version of what will have to be every (credible) party’s next election manifesto. Pasted up on a wall was a simple drawing of an elephant, with the words “climate change” on its back. It summed up what all future political choices revolve around: climate change is the elephant in the room.

Labour can pride itself for having introduced the world’s first Climate Change Act, and for passing the first “climate emergency declaration,” but we shouldn’t pretend that Parliament wasn’t “bounced” into doing so.

Since the 2017 general election, there have been ample opportunities for MPs to show real political leadership on the climate crisis. They never did. Instead, Parliament has preferred to play Trivial Pursuit with Brexit absurdities.

Social movements had to step into the vacuum; addressing the big picture issues politicians had been choosing to ignore. They, and they alone, have been the ones insisting that existential threat to human existence forms the centrepiece of political debate. Across the planet, this has been a debate shaped from outside parliaments, not inside.

We now know how much we owe to our children for doing so. But while the kids may have written the script, they weren’t alone. “One Planet” documentaries helped. So too did insightful journalism, climate physicists and church leaders. With the latest protests taking place over Easter it was really helpful for church leaders to have pointed out that, though protesters were undoubtedly breaking the law, Christ too had entered Jerusalem knowing he would face prosecution. Ultimately, however, it was the creative irreverence of Extinction Rebellion (XR) that has turned this into a movement that cannot be stopped.

In place of derision, Greta Thunberg is no longer the lonely child outside an indifferent parliament. Without vanity, she trailed an uncompromising challenge to every adult Establishment on the planet. The abuse she received from parts of the press that continue to be at the heart of the problem merely accelerated the growth of the movement.

Britain’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) would not have had the political space to bring forward their own “pull your finger out” report without the occupations that brought London streets to a halt. Nor would they have been listened to. The latest UN report on species extinctions now gets treated as evidence, not argument.
Politicians of all shades queue up, calling for a programme to deliver the CCC rescue plan.

Few grasp the upheavals involved (or that, in itself, this will still not be enough). Over 60 per cent of what the CCC calls for involves behaviour change; all of which is doable. What they duck is that you won’t get behaviour change without systems change.

The gap between Extinction Rebellion and the CCC may be one defined by climate physics, but it can only be delivered through transformative politics. This is precisely what Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have been calling for. For the party as a whole, though, this invitation is where the problems begin.

Internal battle-lines are already being drawn. How can Labour deliver climate stability if large parts of the party are still locked into airport expansions, fossil fuel subsidies, expanding road programmes and the illusion of a new era of global free-trade deals?
Physics tells us there are no “slow track’ survival options left.

Labour traditionalists insist they need longer timescales than the one (decisive) decade in which the science calls for transformation.
Those pushing for faster change already face criticisms of “trying to play Climate Jesus.”

What their critics fail to see is that the imagery puts slow-track traditionalists into the role of Pharisees; defenders of an order that is about to implode.

The Tories have made themselves almost irrelevant to this conversation. Conservative supporters no longer even look to their party for bigger answers. It is a party in free-fall disarray. Bless. But cross-party Brexit negotiations risk dragging Labour down too.

Theresa May should be left to sink on her own. The last thing Labour needs is a to be part of a suicide pact.

A better starting point lies somewhere between Extinction Rebellion and the CCC. To join in, Labour may need to tear up whatever has been its draft manifesto for the next election, replacing it with a new “climate emergency” one.

Tomorrow’s political stability will revolve around societal mobilisation and ecosystems repair. This requires a new economics that can live within contracting carbon budgets, give fresh life to abandoned localities (as key drivers in tomorrow’s sustainable, low-carbon economics) and offer an antidote to today’s obsessive, self-destroying consumerism.

Conventional pledges to fairness, inclusivity and rebooting an industrial economy don’t automatically answer this existential threat. Suggestions that Labour might do so by expanding production, consumption and world trade would be ridiculed by XR, scientists and schools climate strikers alike. In the ballot box, it would be a disaster. We all need a different script.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband was right in telling Radio 4 that the British economy must be “put on a war footing to tackle climate change.” This “footing” must begin with reversing the damage we’re currently doing. The latest UN report, Nature’s Dangerous Decline, details the risk of 1 million species — not types of plants, animals, birds or insects, but whole species — facing extinction within the coming decades.

The answer isn’t to go building more runways, motorways or shopping malls. What we need is to replant forests, green our cities, and give pollinators places to feed, breed and shelter in. And for the public, we need a national programme to green the nation’s habitat too; delivering warm homes that also produce more energy than they consume.

I don’t care if this gets denounced as “loaves and fishes” idealism. It’s what the science (and the kids) know is our only choice. Today’s Pharisees can protest as much as they like that “the system” needs more time — to cleanse the air, restore the seas and heal the soils.

But time is the one thing they no longer have.

Outside the parliamentary temple, a growing social movement understands that we can either save “the system” or save society, but not both. Like Corbyn and McDonnell, this movement calls out for transformative change. Anyone’s manifesto that offers less will not be seen as Old Testament, just old hat.

 

It’s what the science (and the kids) know is our only choice. Today’s Pharisees can protest as much as they like that “the system” needs more time — to cleanse the air, restore the seas and heal the soils.

But time is the one thing they no longer have.

Outside the parliamentary temple, a growing social movement understands that we can either save “the system” or save society, but not both. Like Corbyn and McDonnell, this movement calls out for transformative change. Anyone’s manifesto that offers less will not be seen as Old Testament, just old hat.”



And another article, published by phys.org, highlights the importance of plant species, and their loss, on human needs:

https://phys.org/news/2019-06-species-extinctionand-danger-poses-life.html

Up to 1 million species may go extinct due to human activity according to a recent report, some within decades. We all know the mammals in trouble—polar bears, giant pandas and snow leopards—but how many of us could name an endangered plant? A 2019 report assessed 28,000 plant species and concluded that about half of them were threatened with extinction.

 

Lost connections

Our lack of appreciation for plants is a fairly recent thing. Our history tells a very different story. The dawn of farming around 12,000 years ago was when people became obsessed with growing plants for food, changing the way we live and our planet forever. Starting with domesticating cereals such as barley, rice and wheat, humanity’s increasing population and sedentary communities depended on their ability to farm, leading to entire civilizations focused on agriculture.

Industrialisation and the more recent “green revolution” in agriculture led to incredible increases in cereal production and farming efficiency, allowing more people to live in cities rather than work on farms. Our agricultural success is a major reason why, for the first time in our history, most humans no longer farm, leaving people free to ignore our complete dependence on plants.

Tragically, our talent for farming has come at a huge cost to biodiversity. Right now, half of the habitable land on earth is used for agriculture, a major reason behind our current extinction crisis.

Should we care about losing the diversity of , as long as we are producing enough food? Absolutely. Plants are the major food producers in most ecosystems, providing nourishment and shelter to microbes, fungi, insects and animal species which themselves play key roles in ecosystems.

While some creatures eat one type of plant—such as the bamboo-dependent giant panda—micro-organisms which live in the soil and make land fertile by recycling plant nutrients, perform better the more different plant species there are growing. Plant diversity also improves how much carbon is pulled from the atmosphere and stored in the soil – vital for mitigating climate change.

Our health is also intimately connected with plant diversity. Just under half of all prescription medicines come directly from plants or by remaking plant chemicals. We’ve screened only a fraction of species for potential medicines—we don’t know how many useful plant chemicals and genes remain to be discovered. Even the most overlooked plants can be enormously important.

You might be surprised to learn that the species most studied to understand how plants work is a genus of tiny weeds called Arabidopsis. Most people have never heard of them and couldn’t identify them, even though they regularly pull them from their garden. By studying Arabidopsis, scientists learned how plants know when to flower, which is being used to improve our understanding of flowering in vegetable crops—key to improving their yield. They also learned how Arabidopsis defends itself from pathogens, which could be used to make crops resistant to disease.

We can cultivate an appreciation of plants and their importance by improving access to parks, botanic gardens and forests, as well as including plant biology throughout the science curriculum in schools. But we also need to ensure there is a future for the thousands of threatened with extinction. We need to produce more food on less land, so that natural habitats can thrive.

Plants could contribute even more to society’s needs in the future. Technologies already exist for making fuels and plastic from the agricultural waste of straw, grain husks and potato peel. These alternatives sadly won’t compete with cheap oil until we pay the full cost of our current lifestyles with a carbon tax. To avoid mass extinctions, we need transformative change in our politics, economics and technology to preserve and sustainably use the incredible natural resources that Earth provides.

A painless first step towards making this change is something you could do every day: our one minute cure for plant blindness. If we stop, think and appreciate how enrich our lives, we will learn to respect our agricultural heritage and natural habitats and better manage the trade-offs between them.




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Decline in insect numbers threatens food availability

Several sources recently have reported that insect numbers are declining rapidly.  For a long time, we have been concerned about bees, especially in their roll as pollinators of fruit and vegetable species of plants, but now it would seem that other insects are declining too.  According to an exclusive report by Damian Carrington in The Guardian, at the current rate of decline, insects might be lost by the end of this century.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature

insects

A global analysis of insect populations has found that 40% of insect special are in decline and a third are endangered.  And the rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of birds, mammals and reptiles.  The number of insects present on the earth is 17 times greater than that of humans but they are essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems.  Not only do they have a function as pollinators but they also serve as food for some species and have a role in recycling nutrients.

The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.  The main author of this report, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo said that, “The 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is shocking. It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none.” The report was a comprehensive review of 73 historical reports of insect declines from across the globe, and systematically assessed the underlying drivers.

Habitat loss by conversion to intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines but other factors are present too, such as agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change. An abstract of the report mentioned that, in terrestrial ecosystems, Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and dung beetles (Coleoptera) appear to be the taxa most affected, whereas four major aquatic taxa (Odonata, Plecoptera, Tricpotera and  Ephemeroptera) have already lost a considerable proportion of species. Affected insect groups not only include specialists that occupy particular ecological niches, but also many common and generalist species. 

A rethinking of current agricultural practices, in particular a serious reduction in pesticide usage and its substitution with more sustainable, ecologically-based practices, is urgently needed to slow or reverse current trends, allow the recovery of declining insect populations and safeguard the vital ecosystem services they provide. In addition, effective remediation technologies should be applied to clean polluted waters in both agricultural and urban environments.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718313636#f0005



A new article by Science Direct has been published this month (Feb 2020), entitled,

Scientists’ warning to humanity on insect extinctions

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320719317823

The following is the Abstract and Highlights:

Abstract

Here we build on the manifesto ‘World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, issued by the Alliance of World Scientists. As a group of conservation biologists deeply concerned about the decline of insect populations, we here review what we know about the drivers of insect extinctions, their consequences, and how extinctions can negatively impact humanity.

We are causing insect extinctions by driving habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, use of polluting and harmful substances, the spread of invasive species, global climate change, direct overexploitation, and co-extinction of species dependent on other species.

With insect extinctions, we lose much more than species. We lose abundance and biomass of insects, diversity across space and time with consequent homogenization, large parts of the tree of life, unique ecological functions and traits, and fundamental parts of extensive networks of biotic interactions. Such losses lead to the decline of key ecosystem services on which humanity depends. From pollination and decomposition, to being resources for new medicines, habitat quality indication and many others, insects provide essential and irreplaceable services. We appeal for urgent action to close key knowledge gaps and curb insect extinctions. An investment in research programs that generate local, regional and global strategies that counter this trend is essential. Solutions are available and implementable, but urgent action is needed now to match our intentions.

Highlights

We are pushing many ecosystems beyond recovery, resulting in insect extinctions.

Causes are habitat loss, pollution, invasives, climate change, and overexploitation.

We lose biomass, diversity, unique histories, functions, and interaction networks.

Insect declines lead to loss of essential, irreplaceable services to humanity.

Action to save insect species is urgent, for both ecosystems and human survival.



 


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Orangutans and pangolins

In recent weeks there have been a number of TV programmes that demonstrate the dire circumstances in which various animal species live, which puts them at risk of extinction.  The two which have hit me hardest are two programmes, one about orangutans in Borneo and one about pangolins in Namibia (both shown on BBC2 in May 2018).

The plight of orangutans

img_3397

Orphaned orangutans being transported in a wheelbarrow

The plight of orangutan has long been known and is mainly caused by loss of habitat.  Much of the forest where they live is being felled in order to cultivate trees producing palm oil.  Although much is being done to save them, it may all be too late.  There was much of this TV programme that I couldn’t watch, as it was all too sad.  A mother, clutching tightly to her baby at the top of a tree, was darted and then caught in a net as she fell, the baby quite conscious and alert still in her arms.  Another baby being kept in a tiny cage as a pet. It was heart-breaking. But there are caring centres where these orphaned babies are safely reared.

June 6th 2018: a short piece of video posted today, shows a male orangutan confronting a bulldozer which is about to destroy its habitat. The video is from International Animal Rescue.   See:

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/video/news/orangutan-confronts-bulldozer-felling-trees/vi-AAyg3Di?ocid=spartandhp

and

https://news.sky.com/video/orangutan-confronts-bulldozer-felling-trees-11395835

Rainforest Rescue has recently posted this photograph of a young orangutan who has been burnt in a fire to clear land for agriculture:

Juvenile orangutan on an oil palm plantation

December 2019:

A new report from Indonesia has described how an adult orangutan was found blind and with 74 air gun pellets in his body. He is thought to have been shot by poachers. He was taken to a rehabilitation centre for an operation but the team was unable to save his sight, nor to remove all of the pellets from his body.



Pangolins

This insect-eating mammal may not be so well-known but it is among the ten animals that David Attenborough has said he would take on an ark in order to save them.  It is so endangered.

224310815-pangolin-pictures

Photograph of pangolin (courtesy of Markinternational.info)

  • The pangolin’s closest relatives are carnivores, but they are the only mammals that are covered in scales.
  • Pangolin scales are made of keratin, just like our finger nails, and make up 20 per cent of their body weight.
  • The word ‘pangolin’ comes from the Malay word ‘penggulung’, which means ‘one that rolls up’.

Being able to roll up into a ball when in danger is perhaps the characteristic that makes the pangolin so vulnerable, as it is easy to pick up.  It is therefore a favourite of poachers,  many thousands being trafficked to the Far East each year. Because it is so highly prized in China and Vietnam, the pangolin has become the most trafficked mammal in the world – up to 100,000 are thought to be poached each year in Africa and Asia to have their scales ground down into “curative” powder and their meat served up as a delicacy to the very wealthiest. It is the world’s most hunted animal.

The pangolin has an unusual gait, walking mainly on its hind legs due to the long claws on its front legs (used for digging out ants to eat).  Though very much smaller, when walking it is reminiscient of an earlier era of dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus Rex, which also walked on stronger back legs.  So, it must not be lost.

So, whilst we worry about the fate of pandas, polar bears, big cats and other endangered species, and rightly so, let us not forget the disastrous future and present circumstances, that orangutans and pangolins are already facing.

These TV programmes set me wondering about the cruelty and barbarity of the human species and what kind of mind-set leads people to exploit their environment and their fellow creatures in such devastating ways, all for personal benefit.  It is about greed and the acquisition of money, without doubt, but also about status and the maintenance of it.  Elsewhere on this website I have written about how the richest people in the world are mainly responsible for a situation in which the future of this planet is uncertain, all because they are promoting industries that burn fossil fuels, releasing carbon emissions, which act to warm the planet. And this is no different to the exploitation of, and cruelty to, endangered species.  Money, selfishness and greed is destroying our planet and its wonderful life forms.

Not all my readers will be Christians, as I am, so I have tried to keep this website secular.  However, what comes to mind when meditating about this situation is a passage in the Bible:

“We know that the whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, right up to the present time.”

In chapter 35 of my first book, “I Will Lift Up My Eyes” (2002), I discuss the human characteristic of acquisitiveness.  It was written whilst I was visiting Calcutta (Kolkata) in the 90s, when I was struck by the huge differences there between rich and poor – the vast contrast between the hedonistic affluence of the Grand Hotel and the pleading destitution of the beggars and lepers living on the streets outside.  Whilst I don’t think the poachers who prey on pangolins could be described as affluent, they are just trying to find their own way out of depriving circumstances, but there are many in the trafficking chain who have become affluent by it.  In the Hong Kong markets too, I had seen tiny monkeys, too young to be separated from their mothers, being kept in small cages to be sold for a profit.  Where is the conscience in all this?

Further thoughts on all of this can be found in the Introduction to “Three Generations Left?”

May 31st 2018

And today, I have been sent another posting from a colleague.  This is about UK mega-farms and how they are fattening up livestock for market, with little concern with the suffering that is caused by this.  Again it is all about profit.

https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/secret-state-22-mega-farms-owners-directors-donations/

With thanks to my colleague, Barbara, I copy the piece in its entirety below:

Drone footage and satellite images have recently revealed that thousands of British cattle reared for supermarket beef are being kept at some sites in outdoor pens, known as corrals, sometimes surrounded by walls, fences or straw bales. Although the cattle will have spent time grazing in fields prior to fattening, some will be confined in pens for around a quarter of their lives, until they are slaughtered. Disease spreads easily in such conditions and traces of the medication needed to prevent or treat the animals will be present in the meat offered for human consumption.

Who owns these companies? Who are the directors? Do they donate to party funds?

Why are there no official records held by DEFRA  on how many intensive beef units are in operation?

Government regulations  say that an environmental permit is needed if you operate any of the following:

-an industrial facility,
-manufacturing facility
-or other business that produces potentially harmful substances, eg:
-a landfill site, a large chicken farm, a food factory

Why is government not requiring an environmental permit before their construction – and indeed consulting those in their neighbourhood?

A small section of a group of intensive units photographed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism/ Guardian

Though environment secretary Michael Gove said, in a parliamentary statement. “I do not want to see, and we will not have, US-style farming in this country”, it’s here.

The Guardian and Bureau last year revealed that 800 poultry and pig “mega farms” have appeared in the British countryside in recent years, some housing more than a million chickens or about 20,000 pigs.

Following the revelations, the environment secretary, Michael Gove, pledged that Brexit would not be allowed to result in the spread of US-style agribusiness.

Readers who want to know the extent of this problem and the location of megafarms for dairy, pigs and poultry, may find this information by looking at the interactive maps produced by  Compassion in World Farming: The snapshots show information about intensive pig rearing in Gloucestershire, where the writer lives.

A Moseley reader draws attention to research by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism establishing that the UK is now home to a number of industrial-scale fattening units with herds of up to 3,000 cattle at a time. Sites in Kent, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were identified, the largest farms fattening up to 6,000 cattle a year.

The practice of intensive beef farming in the UK has not previously been widely acknowledged – and these findings raise questions over the future of British farming.

Richard Young, Policy Director at the Sustainable Food Trust, said: “Keeping large numbers of cattle together in intensive conditions removes all justification for rearing them and for consumers to eat red meat…

“More than two-thirds of UK farmland is under grass for sound environmental reasons and the major justifications for keeping cattle and eating red meat are that they produce high quality protein and healthy fats from land that is not suitable for growing crops.”