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Opportunity or More of the Same

In his book ‘The News – A User’s Manual’, Alain De Botton writes, ‘The hum and rush of the news have seeped into our deepest selves. What an achievement a moment of calm now is…and what monastic discipline would be required to make us turn away from the maelstrom of news and listen for a day to nothing more than the rain and our own thoughts.’

As I pen these thoughts on British pig production, there is no chance of rain, as temperatures soar into the thirties ºC and farmers are busy combining and gathering in barley straw for the next year, and no time to think. Yet think we must, and as soon as we can. The news that seeps into our deepest selves is a mix social disintegration in parts of the world, suffering and destruction in others and of course the British concern over the probability of a Zero-Plus¹ renegotiation of our political and trade relationship with the EU.

The opportunity to reform was passed on, by the EU burghers of political union, in its dealings with our previous Prime Minister. The UK electorate decided no reform signaled greater seeping of the influence of a federal Europe into our deepest selves and so we wanted out.

How does this relate to the British Pig Industry? In simple terms, before we try to shape our destiny, we need to heed our past and in doing this we need to get alone with our thoughts. We should not just accept that our destiny will be shaped for us by organisations and people who have existed within the period of our membership of the EU. Our industry has been weakened, during this tenure, from a position of historical strength. If we are to be led in continuum, then I suggest we need, as individuals in the industry, a clear indication from those who assume leadership that they have got to get away themselves, from the maelstrom, to actually think and not to asseverate the status quo. This is a moment of great opportunity make no mistake. It is a time to inform a society that has become disconnected from the realities and the value of food production. Disconnected by the ‘maelstrom thinking’ that has led to this threshold of uncertainty. History, when it is heeded, is a good teacher, not of new things but of sound practice. Upon such practice it is possible to build what is demanded by the present, food safety is a high priority of government and consumer, correspondingly, so is bio-security for the producer. Sustainability is an imperative for the supply chain, there is an evidence base to inform cash-flow cost efficiency and there are technologies available that create electronic dialogue between farms and their suppliers that can deeply impact logistical efficiency including bio-security. And then there is product quality, the genetics are there to deliver increasing product quality experience for the consumer. To harness, let alone optimize, this potential there must be a much more robust response from the processing sector in terms of taste and from producers in terms of presentation. Farm assurance also needs to think about what it is meant to be achieving. As an industry we should be making our own news not waiting for someone else to make it for us, adding to the maelstrom.

As Little Britain’s Kenny Craig would as he terminated another hypnotic trance on the unsuspecting, just as we need to be reminded post referendum ‘Three, two, one…You’re back in the room.

¹ Read Martin Howe QC on EU Law

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