Viewing entries tagged
sustainability

National Vegetarian Week

Comment

National Vegetarian Week

I know a lot of people who have abandoned animal protein altogether- not because they have issues with the ethics of eating animals, but more because they worry about the sustainability of it all.

Animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to climate change- the methane they give off is 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon.

The soy needed to feed them is a cash crop in the tropics, where native habitats are clear-cut to grow it.

Large scale use of anitbiotics to prevent animals kept in hideous conditions from getting sick could have dire consequences for future (human) epidemics.

The numbers of large, predatory fish have declined globally by 90% and fish farming, still a young industry, is far from reaching standards many of us find acceptable.

 

Fair enough, on the whole and especially in the States, the food system has become a monstrous beast. It takes in a horrifying amount of resources and produces a terrifying amount of waste, purely to make cheap meat available to a growing class of people who eat meat three times a day. I can see where the vegetarians are coming from. But let’s think about the logic of the argument.

We have three categories of people, those who refuse to eat meat, those who will eat meat regardless and a third group who eat meat responsibly.

By responsible meat consumption, I mean people who eat animal protein a few times a week. They spend good money on good quality meat products. They’re happy to spend more as the meat is delicious, it’s had a good life and hasn’t been intensively reared and pumped full of hormones to make a quick buck. 

To grow animals in this way takes time and money. The farmers that do it have the same morals as the responsible meat eaters- they don’t want us to slide into the US system of cattle lots and hog ranches.

It’s the same with fishing. You can fish responsibly in harmony with the sea and the seasons, or you can hoover up everything you find or grow fish in pens and feed them on drugs and other ground up fish.

Here’s the crux of my argument. For every person that gives up eating meat, we lose someone from the responsible meat eater group. The group that doesn’t care grows larger and the group that does care grows ever smaller.

As less people buy responsibly sourced fish and meat, the people who were providing it are unable to make a living. They chuck in their jobs, sell it to larger interests with no concept of sustainability or they’re forced to cut costs and corners to sell their products to the supermarkets.

What happens then? The unaccountable food industry tightens its grip and takes over the entire supply chain.

No more small farmers, no more small fishermen, no more local produce. Just cheap, homogenous, bland food.

‘Ah’ say the vegans, ‘but if everyone gave up animal protein then the world would live in harmony’.

We’ll never stop the world from eating meat. It’s too delicious and most people don’t give a damn. A more pragmatic approach is to eat less meat. Eat better meat and eat meat better.

If we only ate meat two or three times a week, it would have the same effect as two thirds of the world going vegetarian. But we’d still all eat meat and not bore anyone with our sanctimonious tirades.

You won’t find many fishmongers telling you this, but we need to eat less fish. We need to eat less animal protein full stop. When you buy animal protein of any kind, make sure you know where it came from, what it’s life was like and whether it’s a good idea to be eating it at all. Chances are you won’t find any of this information in the supermarket, so go and support a local independent retailer instead! 

Comment

1 Comment

Quota quotes

Today the New Economics Foundation published a report on fishing. It says that if we reduce fishing pressure (ie catch less fish) then in ten years, stocks will recover to a point where we’ll actually catch more fish.

It also argues that small-scale fishermen, who use low impact methods (like the ones we work with here at SoleShare), should be given more quota than they currently have, so they would be allowed to land and sell more fish. This would obviously mean taking quota away from the bigger trawlers whose methods use more energy, have greater impacts on the marine environment and employ less people.

This isn’t some loony left wing idea either. The Common Fisheries Policy, the piece of European legislation governing fishing in our shared seas, actually set out to do this across the board, starting in January.

As you can imagine though, the vested interests of the large fleets want to hold on to their quota. Bertie Armstrong, head of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (the big industry body) has said
"Redistributing quota is a bit like saying to a farmer who has looked after his land and invested in his business over generations - thanks for all you have done and your stewardship of the land, but we are now going to take away your fields and give them over to allotment farmers."

Well it’s not. The Common Fisheries Policy and the industrial trawler barons it has created have done little to help fish, fishermen or the wider marine environment. The past 20 years has been a mess. Those in charge, who have grown fat on the subsidies and found themselves in positions of power are obvious advocates of maintaining the status quo.

Mr Armstrong is also purposefully framing the issue in this certain way. By aligning fishermen with farmers, it instantly conjures up images of Mugabe’s reallocation of farms in the 90’s. A policy move which moved Zimbabwe from the breadbasket of Africa to one of the world’s most food insecure nations.

The Cornelius Vrolik has 26% of English quota

The Cornelius Vrolik has 26% of English quota

The Annalousion has 0.0003% of English quota

The Annalousion has 0.0003% of English quota

This is harmful rhetoric and totally irrelevant. We’re not giving quota to people who’ve never gone fishing before. We’re simply taking some of the quota from the big boys and giving it to the inshore fleet.

Remember the UK inshore fleet makes up 80% of the UK fishing fleet, yet only gets to catch 4% of the fish. One single (Dutch) vessel, the Cornelis Vrolijk has 6% of the UK quota, more than the whole inshore fleet combined! And it employs a handful of people.

Inshore fishermen fish on the same patch of sea every day. It’s in their interest to look after it, because they rely on its underlying health to supply them with the fish they catch. While the way they fish is more environmentally sustainable, it’s not economically sustainable. We set up SoleShare to give them more money for the fish they catch, but if they’re not allowed to catch any fish, there’s not much we can do!

Don’t get me wrong, I'm not saying we should transition to a fleet made entirely of small dayboats, but we need to make sure we have a resilient, profitable inshore fleet. We need a mixture of larger and smaller vessels. They serve different needs and a healthy mix is best for supply, best for the seas and best for employment in the industry.

At the end of the day this is about the right to fish. The fish in the sea are not owned by fishermen. They are as much ours as they are theirs, they’re a public good. It shouldn’t be up to Producer Organisations to say who gets to catch what, we need a fairer more transparent system.

Greenpeace are currently fighting a legal battle to find out exactly who owns all the quota in this country. The government, despite a number of Freedom of Information requests have stayed tight lipped on the matter. Why, we don’t know. Maybe Putin owns it all, or ISIS, or the French government.

What we do know is that no matter who owns it, those who control it have done a terrible job with it over the past few decades. The number of fishermen has declined and the number of healthy fish stocks with it.

Redistribution shouldn’t be a dirty word. We should just reward those that do a job well with the ability to do the job even better.

1 Comment