I met you briefly at Michael Meacher’s funeral last year and am very good friends with Guy Taylor who had the ‘socialist wedding of the decade’ here at Tapeley where I was his best man (where I pulled out a didgeridoo – Guy’s least favourite instrument, which was encased in an RPG holder which I then played very badly because I can’t do that circular breathing malarkey).
A brief summary: My life changed in 2001 when I was at one of the epicentres of burning carcases and mass unnecessary slaughter during Foot and Mouth – a long story. For 8 months I was fighting a running battle to save our animals and other peoples – farmers could ring us in the middle of the night and we’d rock up at 4 or 5am (due to dawn raids, before our solicitor got out of bed, by MAFF heavies/slaughtermen) where we’d make blockades, fell trees and post activists in hedges for when slaughtermen would simply open fire in the field wounding some who’d often stampede into neighbouring fields thus furthering the contiguous cull.
After 8 months of this – pyres of carcinogenic smoke filling ours and our children’s bedrooms etc, I ended up in the Camden Centre where there was a majestic panel of Tony Benn, Jose Bove and George Monbiot. Full of anger I let rip and next thing I knew I was on the (so called) ‘Anarchist Express’ to the G8 at Genoa. For the next few years I was pretty much on every demo the wonderful Global Resistance (and Guy in particular) organised.
In tandem with this I got swept up by the anti-GMO activists being a farmer. In 2004 I managed to infiltrate the Labour Party conference at the Brighton Centre where I heckled the loathsome (sorry if you feel differently) Tony Blair (and did the same to Gordon Brown at the G8 in Edinburgh 8 months later). Michael Meacher was the first person on the phone to me re. Labour Party Conference (giving congratulations) and we worked very closely after that on keeping GM crops out of the UK with other amazing activists.
I’m not ashamed to mention I’ve been arrested a lot (‘polite’ letters of dissent end up in the bin) and was the only farmer to have a short spell in prison – re FMD. I was also the person to get through security and scale the massive fence at Rothamstead Research Centre in Hertfordshire – a county from which I’m now ‘banned’ (a metaphoric badge I wear with pride) because I was ‘guided’ through mass security and ‘helped’ over the fence where I pulled GM crops. I fended off bailiffs for nearly 5 years and had to pay (a month ago) as the London bailiffs were descending with battering rams etc and I’d have spent the next 5-10 years fighting a rear-guard battle to get the William Morris furniture etc back.
Now I know food is not a priority (historically) in politics but I really believe that this is changing. I recently organised a demonstration (Sept 6th) against the use of the ubiquitously used Roundup – sprayed EVERYWHERE on wheat, oilseed rape (up to 5 times/year etc), to public parks where dogs walk absorbing it through their paws, children’s play areas and the WHOLE A303 I noticed this year for the first time.
To me Roundup is the ‘heroin’ of agriculture. I am going to try to ban this “probably carcinogenic” (A/C the WHO – which in non-corporate language, means ‘definitely’) spray on this Estate from now on. (After the demo I got a letter of ‘congratulations’ from Joana Lumley out of the blue which was nice, but I admit I still need to raise my game).
Our Government’s (unsurprising) stance is reflected in the chinless Michael Gove’s comment on 6.10.17 where he states “he is committed to ensuring that British farmers will continue to have access to Glyphosate to remain productive . . .” (I believe he has now changed his tune on this one thankfully).
In my opinion any agricultural funding/subsidies should ALL go to small farmers/small holders and NOT fat cat monoculture farming. Michael Meacher and I spoke a lot about this and he said small holders get at least 11/2 times more food than large scale farmers where soil fertility is enhanced (rather than depleted) and where insect, birdlife, earthworms etc. population thrives. (The number of people who’ve noticed/commented to me on the fact they’ve had no insects in their gardens is incredible and, I believe, very worrying).
I would welcome any advice.
c.c. for John Mcdonnell and your Agricultural representative.
Ps. Yes I did vote for you at the last Election in case you were wondering (having only voted Green) but I believe Michael might’ve had some input here . . .He was the closest thing to a Father to me and I miss him terribly – more than my Dad.