The Cost of Private Profit from Food

Felicity Lawrence in the Observer last weekend laid out the many problems with current poultry farming They include:

  • Cruelty –  the primary sensory organ is clipped, high speed growth leads to brittle bones, and poor hearts and lungs.
  • Drugs – to control parasites and mass doses of antibiotics to maintain the appearance of health among birds with just an A4 space to themselves.
  • Campylobacter – widespread in the flocks and potentially deadly to humans

The government has proposed to hand regulation of the poultry industry to the very people who think the above is all just fine – the industry. There has been a backlash against that but with cuts everywhere, who knows where that will end.

Commentary comes from Patrick Holden who is executive director of the Sustainable Food Trust. He points out that the producers using these intensive methods do not carry the actual costs including

  • Pollution of the environment
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Damage to public health

Quite the reverse, agricultural subsidies actually promote this kind of agriculture, while our taxes cover the cost of cleaning up water pollution. Meanwhile in the NHS, on the one hand there is the cost of the illnesses created by this kind of product, and on the other, the failing effectiveness of antibiotics, caused by this kind of overuse.

At the very least should we not be taxing chemical fertilizers and pesticides for the costs of dealing with their effects, just like we do tobacco?