Farming

Pature for Life logo   Compassion in World Farming Live farming statistics in the UK

12/10/20 - RADIO: The Food Programme:English Pastoral: James Rebanks on the future of food (29 mins) Dan Saladino visits shepherd and writer James Rebanks whose farm in Cumbria spans three generations. What does can that history teach us about where food and farming go next? In his latest book English Pastoral: An Inheritance, James Rebanks provides an insiders account of the seismic changes to farming from the 1960s to the present day. Farming became brilliantly productive, he argues , but ecologically destructive. He explains how Cumbria's landscape was transformed by more intensive agriculture, and what we can do now to bring life back to the soil, to natural habitats and still the produce the food we need.

14/07/20 - Farmers hatch plan to return area the size of Dorset to wild nature WildEast aims to convince farmers, councils and others across East Anglia to pledge land to wildlife. Hugh Somerleyton, Argus Hardy and Olly Birkbeck, who own more than 3,200 hectares (8,000 acres) on their family farms in Suffolk and Norfolk, are seeking to persuade farmers and also councils, businesses, schools and ordinary people across East Anglia to pledge a fifth of their land to wildlife.

28/03/20 RADIO: Farming Today This Week (25 mins) Supermarket shelves are being stripped bare and veg box producers are seeing order numbers shoot through the roof. Meanwhile, some farmers and food producers who until recently supplied restaurants and pubs, are finding themselves with surplus stock. Charlotte Smith asks whether our famously complicated food supply chain can shift in time, to feed people, and avoid massive waste. And what will the long term impact be on the way we deliver food from farm to fork? We answer your farming questions on everything from auction marts to TB testing. Our Farming Today Audio Diarists give us updates from across the UK - from an rural tourism business in Scotland, to a goat farm in Northern Ireland. What's happening with farmers' markets? Some are closed, some are going ahead...and the police are getting involved. And, is this a silver lining? With fewer cars on the roads and aeroplanes in the skies, many of us are hearing the birds loud and clear for the first time in years. We find out what you should be listening for.

04/02/20 - RADIO: File on 4: Sewage Sludge (37 mins) For decades sewage sludge from waste treatment works has been used as a fertiliser on agricultural land. But File on 4 hears serious concerns over whether it could pose a risk to human health and whether tougher regulation is needed. The practice is perfectly legal. Treated sewage known as 'sludge' or 'biosolids' provides a rich and cost-effective source of nutrients for soil which is then used to grow crops. The process saves more than three and a half million tonnes of human waste going into landfill or being incinerated. But reporter Claire Bolderson hears from scientists worried about the chemicals, plastics and medicines that could be damaging soil and making their way into the food chain. And she investigates the process of regulating the treatment, storage and use of sludge, amid claims from experts that rules are outdated and oversight lacking. Recycling sewage as fertiliser fits today’s environmental agenda for waste. But do we know enough about what the potential impact of the practice might be in the future?

01/12/19 - RADIO: Food Programme: Eating Animals Part 2: A Meat Q&A (28 mins) Dan Saladino, Sheila Dillon and a range of experts ranging from climate scientists to beef producers answer your questions on meat eating and the future of farming and our diets. Featuring questions on methane, scientific trials of more carbon friendly beef, the impact of rice in climate change, the nutritional benefits of grass-fed meats and the value of traditional diets. Among the contributors are Dr Michelle Cains, a Climate scientist at the Oxford Martin School, Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union, Professor of Epidemiological Genetics at Kings College London, Patrick Holden, The Sustainable Food Trust, Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network and environmental campaigner George Monbiot.

26/11/19 - RADIO: Costing the Earth:Vegan World (28 mins) What would the British countryside look like if we all adopted the vegan diet recommended by many environmental campaigners? Tom Heap hosts a discussion with panellists from the National Farmers Union and the Vegan Society. We also hear from expert witnesses from Oxford University, Aberystwyth University, Harvard Law School and Rothamsted Research.

25/11/19 : BBCTV: Meat: A Threat to our Planet? (58 mins) Following on from 2018’s award-winning Drowning In Plastic, science and wildlife presenter Liz Bonnin is travelling around the world to investigate the impact that our hunger for meat is having on our planet’s environment.  Reports from the IPCC and the FAO revealed that the global livestock industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the running of all the world’s transport combined - and it’s polluting our air, land, and water. So just how bad is the problem, and what can we do about it?  Liz travels from Texan megafarms, where 50,000 cows belch out vast amounts of planet-warming methane, to giant pig farms producing colossal quantities of polluting manure. In the Amazon rainforest she discovers how beef farming is a leading cause of deforestation, and comes face to face with a baby harpy eagle - a species rapidly losing its habitat as cattle farmers cut down the forest. Feeding our planet’s livestock is also leading to huge biodiversity loss and, in South Africa, Liz discovers how this is affecting life in our oceans, helping to drive the African penguin towards extinction.  Liz also meets the scientists and entrepreneurs urgently looking for solutions. At a university in California, Liz puts her hand directly into the stomach of a cow - all in the name of reducing methane emissions. In North Carolina she meets an entrepreneur who’s using his manure to power local homes. And in San Francisco, she becomes one of the first people in the world to try a lab-made chicken nugget - a product that might reduce the environmental damage caused by meat production. Liz finishes her journey on a small farm in Wales, where she meets a family who have shifted their relationship with meat by taking the bold step of slaughtering their own animals. At the end of her journey, Liz starts to assess her own attitude to meat, and questions what we can all do to save our fragile planet.

24/11/19 - RADIO: Food Programme: Eating Animals Part 1: The Future of Meat (28 mins) Dan Saladino finds out why tensions are running so high over animal vs plant based diets. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% by 2030. Coming under greater focus were sources of CO₂ and Greenhouse Gas Emissions linked to our food; cows and sheep. For some the science was enough to justify ever greater calls to reduce meat and dairy consumption and rein in the global livestock population. To others, the focus on meat has become too simplistic and driven by ideology. So, who's right and what should the future of meat look (and taste) like? In the first of two programmes Dan asks a number of experts to explain their different points of view. Author (and vegetarian) Jonathan Safran Foer argues that saving the world starts at breakfast and we should all be avoiding meat until the last meal of the day. That way he believes we can begin to bring our consumption of meat under control. Morten Toft Bech, the founder of The Meatless Farm which makes plant based beef alternatives, explains why he set out to help replace animals in the food system. Professor Frederic Leroy of Brussels University in Belgium has been monitoring the meat debate of recent years. He's concerned about the tendency to lump together vastly different production systems, good and bad, to create an anti-meat narrative. Dairy and meat farmer Simon Fairlie describes a possible solution, an approach he calls "default meat".

24/11/19 - RADIO: Desert Islands Discs: Isabella Tree, writer and conservationist (41 mins) Isabella Tree is a conservationist and writer of the award-winning book Wilding: the Return of Nature to a British Farm, which tells the story of rewilding a 3,500 acre farm estate in Sussex, which she oversaw with her husband Charlie. In 2000 Isabella and Charlie closed the farm business at Knepp, and turned the estate into a conservation project, letting the land develop on its own, and eventually introducing free-roaming animals – cattle, pigs, deer and ponies. Two decades later, the project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife, fungi, and vegetation with extremely rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies breeding there. The soil is richer in micro-organisms which help to recapture carbon from the air and promote a functioning ecosystem where nature is given as much freedom as possible.

21/02/19 - New research shows a substainably farmed Europe can feed a growing population a healthy diet Europe could be farmed entirely through sustainable systems, such as organic, and still feed a growing population, claims recent research. The ‘Ten Years for Agroecology’ study, from European think tank IDDRi, shows that pesticides can be phased out and greenhouse gas emissions radically reduced in Europe through agroecological farming - which would still produce enough healthy food for a growing population. With more than half the cereals and oilseed crops grown being fed to animals, the report argues that we have to reorientate diets towards plant-based proteins and pasture-fed livestock, away from grain-fed white meat.  There is no doubt that intensive agrichemical farming has contributed to a steep decline in global insect populations, birdlife, and ecosystem degradation - much of it linked to pesticide use. The report argues that the next 10 years will be critical in engaging Europe in this agroecological transition.

14/02/19 - Countries still using antibiotics to fatten animals despite ban Countries are being urged to impose an immediate ban on the use of “last resort” antibiotics as growth promoters in animals in a bid to combat superbugs. A report from the World Organisation for Animal Health (known as OIE) has found that 45 countries out of 155 that provided data are still giving antibiotics to animals as a way of fattening them up, despite the fact the practice is banned in many parts of the world. And a high number of countries are still using drugs classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as antibiotics of last resort – that is, treatments that should only be used when everything else has failed or in specific circumstances.The practice of using antibiotics as growth promoters was outlawed by the European Union in 2006 and the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2017.The misuse of antibiotics in animals – coupled with overuse in humans – is behind the spread of antibiotic resistance, which in 2015 is estimated to have killed 33,000 people in Europe.  

09/10/18 - IPCC Report: Food and Farming now in the hot seat on climate change Yesterday’s IPCC report sets the world a clear target: we must limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels to avoid devastating impacts and tipping points for runaway climate change. This means reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by mid-century. The report is a wake-up call to governments across the globe. More than any previous IPCC report, it is also a wake-up call for farming and for public health. Human health risks and crop yields are two of the major impact areas that become dangerously high if temperatures rise beyond 1.5 degrees.

27/06/18 - 'Closed Loop' Agriculture for the 21st Century  Keeping animals is an important part of the system of agriculture now known in the 21st century as ‘closed loop agriculture’. The principle is that the farm recycles all nutrients and organic matter back to the soil – this preserves the nutrient and carbon levels within the soil and allows farming to be carried out on a sustainable basis using less inputs.

04/06/18 - New methane emissions metric proposed for climate change policy A new paper published today has outlined a better way to think about how methane and other gases contribute to greenhouse gas emissions budgets. This is an important step towards evaluating the warming from methane emissions when developing strategies to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. “We don’t actually need to give up eating meat to stabilise global temperatures,” says Professor Myles Allen of the Oxford Martin School who led the study (meat production is a major source of methane). “We just need to stop increasing our collective meat consumption. But we do need to give up dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Every tonne of CO2 emitted is equivalent to a permanent increase in the methane emission rate. Climate policies could be designed to reflect this.”

20/04/18 - Back to the wild! How letting Mother Nature reclaim prime farmland and allowing cattle and ponies to run free produced breathtaking results. Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex, 45 miles from Central London. "Giving up intensive farming on our 3,500 acres had been a difficult, but unavoidable, decision; on desperately poor soil - heavy clay - we rarely made a profit and had worked up an eye-watering overdraft. Inspired by a rewilding experiment in Holland, we’d sold our dairy herds and farm machinery, stepped back and allowed nature to take the driving seat - the first project of its kind in Britain."

07/09/2017 - Rosamund Young is a farmer and author of The Secret Life of Cows. Here she shows us around Kite's Nest Farm, and we meet the cows, sheep and chickens she keeps. Cows are as varied as people. They can be highly intelligent or slow to understand, vain, considerate, proud, shy or inventive. Although much of a cow's day is spent eating, they always find time for extra-curricular activities such as babysitting, playing hide and seek, blackberry-picking or fighting a tree. The Secret Life of Cows is an affectionate record of a hitherto secret world.

05/12/16 - Why is a banned pesticide that harms bees actually being used more? Scientists fear that neonicotinoid manufacturers are copying tobacco industry tactics in a bid to end the moratorium on this devastating chemical.

28/09/16 - RADIO: Costing the Earth: The Growing Season(28 mins) The Met Office recently issued a report which states that the growing season in the UK is now one month longer than it was in the 1960's. Keen gardeners may notice that spring bulbs are coming up much earlier and that fruit like apples are flowering sooner in the year whilst some farmers can now bring in their harvest before the end of the summer. Peter Gibbs discovers that whilst there are opportunities for growers in more Northerly latitudes rapid changes globally may put yields of vital crops at risk. The UK's gardeners, crop scientists and farmers are not simply sitting back and admitting defeat though. A changing climate is a challenge which many growers are busy preparing for.

11/05/16 - The gangsters on England's doorstep In the bleak flatlands of East Anglia, migrant workers are controlled by criminal gangs, and some are forced to commit crimes to pay off their debts. This is what happens when cheap labour is our only priority by

28/03/16 - Crossing Continents: Romania: The Shepherds Revolt (28 mins) Lucy Ash asks why thousands of angry Romanian shepherds recently stormed the parliament in Bucharest. Sparked by an amendment to Romania's hunting law, the unprecedented protest was over plans to limit numbers of sheepdogs and restrict grazing rights. The increasing size of flocks is leading to growing conflict with both hunters and conservationists over land use. Romania has an influential hunting lobby - around two thirds of MPs are hunters - and they accuse shepherds dogs of scaring off or sometimes even killing their quarry. They also claim overgrazing is damaging the natural habitat of the deer, the boar and other wild animals they hunt. Environmental campaigners are concerned that winter grazing by ever larger flocks is having a catastrophic effect on biodiversity. At heart this is an argument about what the countryside is for. Is its main purpose an economic one? Is it primarily for leisure? Or should it be about the people who live there? Shepherds insist the law is an attack on centuries of sheep-rearing and their culture and traditions.

02/02/16 - Bumblebees Their Ecology and Conservation (59 mins) A lecture given by Dave Goulson at the 2015 National Honey Show. The National Honey Show gratefully acknowledge the Nineveh Charitable Trust for their support and the sponsorship by BBWear.
 

14/03/15 - Plymouth study finds bumblebees prefer road-facing hedgerows as pesticides damage habitats Research by ecologists at Plymouth University has shown some of the most common species of bumblebees are more than twice as likely to visit flowers on the road-facing side of hedgerows compared to crop-facing boundaries. Scientists examined bumblebee habits at 30 sites across Devon and Cornwall, and found a simple solution would be for farmers to leave a bigger gap between crops and hedgerows.

06/01/15 - Interview with Dr Elaine Ingham (1 hr 52mins), keynote speaker at the 2015 Oxford Real Farming Conference about the importance of the Soil Food Web including the avoidance of tillage to protect the microbiology of the soil.

04/01/15 - 2015 Oxford Real Farming Conference: power, lies, and agrarian resistance As thousands rely on food banks to make it through the winter and a milk price crash threatens the survival of Britain's independent dairy farmers, Colin Tudge - co-founder of this week's Oxford Real Farming Conference - examines the growing need for an agrarian renaissance to tackle the increasingly obvious failings of neoliberal agriculture. "The small traditional farms that are so despised and routinely swept aside still produce 50% of the world's food, while 20% comes from fishing, hunting, and people's back gardens."

16/10/14 - Microdairies: remember milk with a creamy top? Will microdairying lead to a boom in local and artisan milk? A new breed of small dairy farms (such as North Aston Dairy), who process and brand their milk themselves, is emerging. They bypass the big dairy companies and supermarkets and sell it through doorstep deliveries, local shops and even vending machines: it is the polar opposite of the trend towards ever bigger herds and American-style mega-dairies, where 1,000 or more cows are reared, largely indoors, to keep costs down and meet supermarket demand for cheap milk.

Halt the sale of co-operative group farms03/05/14 - The beleaguered Co-operative Group has insisted that it wants a single major corporate buyer for its portfolio of British farms, and will not consider community buyouts. This dashes the hopes of green campaigners, who are calling the move a "panic sale" that leaves the way open for Chinese buyers to snap up the land.

20/03/14 - Halt the Co-op Farm sale - save the co-operative tradition The Co-operative Group is in deep trouble. Its response is to sell off its farms, in defiance of all its founding values.

06/01/14 - 2014 Oxford Real Farming Conference Summaries & Slides. 

27/09/13 - Do the UN's new numbers for livestock emissions kill the argument for vegetarianism? IPCC guidelines shaped the latest report on livestock emissions, and while estimates are lower than before, vegetarians can stand their ground. Yesterday the UN Food and Agriculture Organization made a timely announcement, in light of today's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Using the IPCC's new guidelines for calculating greenhouse gas production, they show that the meat and dairy industry could reduce its emissions by up to 30%.

01/09/13 - RADIO: On Your Farm   As a trial badger cull is underway in parts of Somerset, and is likely to start in parts of Gloucestershire, Caz Graham joins the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust vaccinating badgers against bovine TB on Greystones Farm in Bourton-on-the-Water. The trust has embarked on a five year trial, vaccinating badgers on two sites in Gloucestershire to test the vaccine's efficacy. Their staff trap badgers and inject them with a BCG vaccine, before releasing them back into the wild. Caz visits farmers in the surrounding area to gauge their opinions on both the cull and badger vaccination as ways to tackle the problem of TB in cattle.

21/08/13 - Should pig swill from waste food be back on the menu?  Pigs are the most efficient converter of food waste to calories - we need calories in this world to feed growing populations, but in the meantime all pigs throughout Europe are being fed soya which is being grown in the Amazon basin. Rainforests are crucial, but we are chopping them down to feed our pigs and it is just crazy.

13/06/13 - Glyphosate briefings: reason for concern Glyphosate is the world's best-selling weed killer and one of the most widely used herbicides in Europe. It is crucial for growing genetically modified (GM) crops, many of which are modified to withstand glyphosate. Concerns surround the safety of glyphosate particularly about its effect on human health, particularly on the hormone system, and its impact on the wider environment.

05/06/13 - The Pig Idea: Let them eat waste  The campaign calls for waste food to go back on the menu for pig. The Pig Idea, launched today on World Environment Day, calls for change to the way we feed our pigs. Initiated by chef Thomasina Miers and food waste expert from Feeding the 5000, Tristram Stuart, the campaign aims to put food waste back on the menu for British pigs, and lobby to change European law in the long term, so that we can return to the traditional practice of feeding our surplus waste food to pigs.

20/02/13 - Reconnecting with Pastoral farming. The solution to meeting the challenge of tomorrow’s food production would therefore seem to be right under our noses, or at least those of our cows and sheep. We use the ability of ruminant cattle and sheep to make the best potential use out of grassland and use good productive arable land to grow crops such as cereals and soya, not as cattle feed with all of its associated inefficiencies, but for direct human consumption.

09/02/13 - VIDEO: Colin Tudge talks about GM and the case of Mark Lynas  (8 mins)

03/01/13 - Oxford Farming Conference - Soil Association response to Owen Paterson/Mark Lynas talks   Speaking from the Oxford Farming Conference, Tom Macmillan, innovation director at the Soil Association, responded to comments by the author Mark Lynas and Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson.

03/01/13 - GM crops not the answer to our food challenges  Commenting on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson's assertion at the Oxford Farming Conference today (3 January 2013) that the British public should be persuaded of the benefits of genetically modified food, Friends of the Earth's senior food and farming campaigner Clare Oxborrow said:

  • GM crops are not the solution to the food challenges we face. They are largely being developed to benefit multinational biotech firms that are gaining control of the seed industry, not to feed poor people in developing countries.
  • World food production needs a radical overhaul, but this should be based on less intensive practices that increase agricultural diversity, deliver resilience to the impacts of climate change and benefit local communities.
  • We must also switch to more sustainable diets globally, including reducing meat-consumption in wealthy nations and an end to food crops being used for biofuels.

05/03/12 - TV: BBC Panorama - The Money Farmers Samantha Poling reveals how millions of pounds of public money are being paid out to businessmen and millionaire farmers in an abuse of the farming subsidy system. Investors tell us how they have been paid without having to do any farming at all.

14/06/11 - Michael Hart, a conventional livestock family farmer, has been farming in Cornwall for nearly thirty years and has actively campaigned on behalf of family farmers for over fifteen years, travelling extensively in Europe, India, Canada and the USA.  In this short documentary he investigates the reality of farming genetically modified crops in the USA ten years after their introduction. He travels across the US interviewing farmers and other specialists about their experiences of growing GM.

04/04/09 - TV: BBC Natural World - A Farm for the Future  (Clips) Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is. Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future.

13/04/06 - Healthy diet for badgers might solve bovine TB. Feeding badgers is probably lowest on many TB affected farmers' priorities, but ensuring they have adequate minerals could be key to eliminating TB. Dick Roper, of Broadfield Farms, Eastington, Northleach, believes the disease is caused by a selenium and vitamin E deficiency in the maize diet of both badgers and cattle.

TV: BBC Mud, Sweat and Tractors: The Story of Agriculture  Documentary series looking at the history of 20th century farming in Britain.

Greenpeace, Golden Rice and vitamin A deficiency  Since GM Golden Rice was presented, solutions such as growing vegetables alongside rice and taking vitamin A supplements have proven to be very good working solutions for vitamin A deficiency in places like Bangladesh. "Genetically Engineered rice could, if introduced on a large scale, exacerbate malnutrition and undermine food security because it encourages a diet based on a single industrial staple food rather than upon the re-introduction of the many vitamin-rich food plants with high nutritional value that are cheap and already available," says Professor Klaus Becker, from University of Hohenheim, Germany.