As winter sets in, many families are facing severe challenges, from the price of energy to the price of food, let alone the prospect of purchasing Christmas gifts.
With bird flu and rising costs affecting the supply of traditional Christmas turkeys and eggs across the UK, what’s clear is that global issues are impacting our daily lives more often than ever before, and it’s the global food system that lies at the heart of this perfect storm.
We have wilfully sleepwalked into a system whereby cheap, unhealthy food is the norm, regardless of the consequences.
Ideal conditions for viruses to thrive
Bird flu, now ravaging poultry flocks across the UK, did not originate in wild birds. Instead, it emerged in farmed birds during the massive expansion of the poultry industry in China and East Asia at the end of the 20th century. The intensive farming of these animals in caged, cramped and confined conditions proved to be a breeding ground for disease.
In Sixty Harvests Left, I explore how the very future of humanity is threatened by our current food system. How human, animal and planetary health are inextricably linked. The book title comes from the chilling warning from the United Nations that the world’s soils could be gone within a lifetime. It acts as a metaphor for the finite nature of the current food system, and why things need to change, for animals, people and the planet.
Accelerating towards catastrophe
In recent years, I have travelled from my farm hamlet in the Sussex countryside to discover anew the impact of Big Agriculture (Big Ag) on our world. Amongst these forays has been visiting the USA’s barren mega cattle feedlots, which are turning soil to dust. What I found is that Big Ag’s domination of our food system is destroying a 10,000-year life-giving contract with the soil.
Over the last sixty years our rural landscape has changed drastically. The escalation of intensive farming over the past half century has been unstoppable – animals have disappeared from the land to be confined in indoor factory farms, where they are treated as mere machines with scant regard for their needs or wellbeing.
I’ve seen industrial farms in the US where a thousand cattle stood motionless in dusty paddocks, not a blade of grass in sight, with the sun bearing down on them. There was an eerie silence. I’ve seen egg-laying chicken farms in the UK with row upon row of cages stacked on top of each other.
Today, a staggering eighty billion animals are farmed every year and most experience a life that is just not worth living.