“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Gut feelings and full bellies.

As much as we might like to think that our opinions are the result of rational enquiry and a measured use of the power of our formidable logic, the truth is that we arrive at our opinions on politics, society and life in general via a far less scientific mish-mash of rationality combined with prejudice and old fashioned "gut feeling". Sometimes things just feel right; or wrong as the case may be. Growing up in the 50s and the last gasp of a colonial empire I was horrified by racism. I didn't know anything about racial theory or black history, truth be told I didn't know much about anything at all, but I just felt that beating down a group of people because they had a different skin colour was just plain wrong. At the same time I was developing an interest in socialism as a result of feeling that something like "fair shares for all" was, well, right I suppose. But gut feelings are no excuse for being misinformed and nowhere is this more apparent than when we talk about food production.
Few of us have any real understanding of where the food on our plate came from or how it was produced, we none the less may have quite strongly held views about how we think it ought to have been produced. This feeling of how we would like our food to be produced is bound up with nostalgia for the traditional English mixed farm and the landscape that went with it. Anyone who doubts this has only to look at the images used by the food industry to promote their products. These images are a million miles away from the high-tech, intensive agriculture that actually provides us with the cheap food that we demand. There is a genuine conflict between the value attached to cheap food and the valued ideas about "nature", landscape and animal welfare that lead to a rejection of the practices that produce that cheap food.
The assumption that only industrialised farming can feed us is being challenged at the Real Farming Conference being held in Oxford at the moment.

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