Editor’s comment September 2013

Cotswold Life editor, Mike Lowe

Cotswold Life editor, Mike Lowe - Credit: Archant

THERE’S been much talk recently of workers’ rights and the impact of zero hours contracts (see our Business section for a refreshingly realistic take on the subject from Darren Sherborne). But I want to talk not about human rights but about animal rights.

You see, this stem-cell burger thing, where something approximating a beefburger was created in a laboratory, got me thinking. Yes, it might make it easier to ‘feed the world’ in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way as scientists claim, but where does that leave the animals with whom we’ve had a lifelong two-way contract?

Are Clarry the Cow and Oliver the Old Spot suddenly going to find themselves redundant, cast aside by technological advances in the workplace? Well it’s happened in every other industry – including this one – so why should farming be any different?

Well it is different. We can’t treat our farmyard animals like a redundant salesman, left bereft by the loss of his company Vauxhall Vectra with power steering and sat nav. They have no transferable skills for a start. Re-training would be problematic – well, unless Giffords Circus has plans for some unusual future acts.

Let’s be fair, we owe them a future. We’ve raised these animals, we’ve looked after them. They shape our countryside (yes, there are issues with methane, pollution and climate change) and then they feed us. If we didn’t farm them, they wouldn’t exist. So there is a clear responsibility on our part to secure their future instead of dabbling in the black magic of the chemistry lab.

And that is probably their best chance, because which of us is prepared to embrace a diet of tissue-engineered treats? Imagine the menu description in your favourite restaurant. No more pan-fried this and slow-roasted that, complete with purées, smears and assorted jus. Stand by for “hoops of greyish-white protein suspended in a gel-like growth medium containing antibiotics and serum extracted from cow foetuses. With onion rings and chips”.

“Yes, very nice” I can hear you saying. “Is there a vegetarian option...”

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