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'We can support the environment and farmers at the same time,' says South Holland and the Deepings MP Sir John Hayes

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In his weekly Hayes in the House column, Sir John Hayes dismisses calls for a meat tax...

The grand pronouncements of the key actors from almost 200 countries at the COP26 event will undoubtedly have focused minds. Predictably, however, ‘noises off’ brought a mix of wisdom and nonsense. Beyond measured consideration, we heard the usual siren calls from militant eco-warriors for extremes which would sacrifice the interests of working people in service to their fascinations.

One of the weirdest suggestions has been for a ‘meat tax’. A plan to raise the price of meat in order to reduce demand and so slash farm production. As pampered extremists cheer on the destruction of the agricultural way of life at the British countryside’s heart, perhaps they might spare a thought for the time, within living memory, when many poor families could not afford good meat. In our time, farmers and growers deserve much credit for the provision of readily available high quality produce, too often taken for granted. My grandparents could not have imagined a world in which wholesome food is so routinely consumed. Not only do eco-campaigners disregard the miracle of modern agriculture, they ignore the fact that farmers and growers are the stewards of our land.

Sir John Hayes (53226042)
Sir John Hayes (53226042)

British farming is amongst the most sustainable in the world. Greenhouse gas emissions from UK beef production are already less than half the global average and the figure for UK milk production is even lower. Good farming practices of the kind commonly
employed in farms and fields across the UK are not a barrier to improvement, they are the way forward.

Farmers and growers need more Government support, not less, so that the United Kingdom can lead the way in restoring domestic food supply. ‘Meat taxes’ would do nothing to further the conservation of the God-given natural inheritance we must pass on to generations to come. Solutions that bring only cost will disproportionately disadvantage the least well off Britons.

Thankfully, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Farming and
Rural Affairs have poured cold water on the crude concept of a tax on meat. A more compelling idea would be a carbon border tax to target the truly unsustainable practice of importing produce from far flung places, that could be made here. Environmental protection through boosting domestic production means making much more of what we consume domestically, so shortening the food chain and guaranteeing food security (implicitly aiding traceability), reducing air miles and reconnecting communities with local, sustainable economic activity– by far the best way to protect both our environment and way of life

Think, for a moment, of the wasteful nonsense of produce grown in Lincolnshire being shipped to a distant distribution centre to be packed in plastic, then transported back to be sold in a supermarket just yards from where it was grown.

It is not through soulless global corporates that we will find salvation, as much as individuals like Jeff Bezos may pretend. His corporation, Amazon, was responsible for 4.2billion packages of deforesting cardboard and plastic delivered in America last year. The market domination of companies like his shuts out local producers. With bitter irony, billionaire citizens of nowhere, such as Messers Bezos and Zuckerberg, wax lyrical at global conferences, while their monopolistic market space means that economies have become dangerously unbalanced.

Let us ignore the babbling nonsense of naysayers who enjoy the sound of their own voices. Instead, we should believe in, and invest in, the great tradition of British farming – and encourage the best endeavours of farmers and growers who are immeasurably more deeply rooted in the natural world than the, so-called, celebrities and militant activists who, with quasi-religious self-righteousness, preach doom.

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