A selection of the literature concerning the interaction of agriculture and (mainly) the environment:
Silent Spring: Rachel Carson, 1962. Penguin Books. (ISBN 0 14 013891 9)
'What we have to face is not an occasional dose of poison which has accidentally got into some article of food, but a persistent and continuous poisoning of the whole human environment'
First published in 1962 and reprinted in 1981, this is the book that was hailed to have 'founded a movement'. The book deals with indiscriminate use of chemicals on farms, in gardens, forests and homes, with scant regard to the consequent contamination of the environment and destruction of wildlife.
Although now rather dated, and written with dramatic chapter titles such as 'Elixir's of death', 'And no birds sing' and 'Needless Havoc', it is still a seminal work. However, many of the issues and problems it raises have since been, or are being addressed.
Animal Machines: Ruth Harrison, 1964. London Vincent Stuart Ltd.
'Rapid turnover, high density stocking, a high degree of mechanisation, a low labour requirement and efficient conversion of food into saleable products, were the five essentials for a system of animal production to be called intensive'. Farmer and Stockbreeder (19/12/61)
Again a seminal work, which starts off light-heartedly with a cartoon of a farmer trying to explain to his cows that grass is for eating, but rapidly moves onto the subject of factory farming. It deals mainly with veal production (crates have now been banned in the UK), battery chickens (to be phased out by 2010) and pigs on slats. A must-read for anybody interested in the history of animal welfare.
The Theft of the Countryside: Marion Shoard, 1980. Temple Smith London. (ISBN 085117 201 6 Paperback version)
'The unique character of the English countryside is being destroyed by a far-reaching agricultural revolution. The traditional patchwork of field, down, hedge, wood and stream is in the early stages of a process of transformation. If it continues unhindered, rural England will eventually become a featureless expanse of prairie and grass monoculture; our landscape will come to look more like that of the American Mid-West or Soviet Central Asia'.
This book is quite militant in its approach and refers to the 1947 Agriculture Act as 'subsidies for destruction'. It is a fascinating read and well worth browsing, again many of the issues it raises have now been legislated for.
Agriculture, the triumph and the shame: Richard Body, 1982. Temple Smith, London. (ISBN 0 85117 228 8)
'British farmers have an outstanding record of expanding production, but how many people realise the price that has been paid. Ever since the Second World War, agriculture has been subsidised and protected on a massive scale. The effect has been to divert resources away from other industries and services into the production of vast unwanted quantities of expensive food on land that is quite often unsuitable for growing it.'
A fascinating read for people who want the 'big picture' on post war agricultural support.
Unwelcome harvest: Gordon R. Conway & Jules N Pretty, 1991. Earthscan Publications Ltd. (ISBN 1 85383 036 4)
A very comprehensive book about agricultural pollution. Very scientific in its approach to pollution issues and methods for overcoming them. Contains some fascinating case studies. 645 pages
Regenerating Agriculture, Jules N Pretty, 1995. Earthscan Publications Ltd. (ISBN 1 85383 198 0)
'It is becoming increasingly clear that a more sustainable agriculture can bring economic, social and environmental benefits, yet despite the emerging evidence, many farmers are still locked into modernist approaches to agriculture which are dependent on high levels of external inputs'.
This book aims to address the challenges facing agriculture today, and details the concepts and characteristics of alternative sustainable agricultural practices.
Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic: Dennis T Avery 1995. Hudson Institute. (ISBN 1 55813 051 9)
'If one listens to the latest pronouncements from a number of prominent environmentalists, things are very dire indeed. According to them the world is running out of food, land, fresh water, trees, soil and just about any other resource one might think important'.
This book takes a different perspective, that of intensive
agriculture, with the illuminating use of world statistics. It takes a critical viewpoint
of 'Silent Spring' as being unscientific and attempts to dispel some of the
myths (you judge) created by other notable works.
Agriculture and the Citizen: C R W Spedding 1996. Chapman & Hall. (ISBN 0 412 71520 1)
'Whether elephants make love or war, the grass suffers' (African proverb)
Covering all aspects of agriculture and the environment, this book aims to make you rethink the whole subject of 'Agriculture and the Citizen'. Each chapter opens up with a proverb such as the one above and ends with a series of questions designed to stimulate hours of conversation, such as:
In countries where dogs are eaten, why shouldn't they be farmed?
The Living Land: Jules N Pretty 1998. Earthscan Publications Ltd. (ISBN 1 85383 516 1)
A book about recreating a living land, regaining some of the natural (environmental) and social aspects of the countryside, and about the suffering and hardships of rural communities.
Beyond Silent Spring: Integrated Pest Management and Chemical Safety: Helmut Van Emden and David Peakall 1996. Chapman & Hall. (ISBN 0412728109)
Agri-Culture: Jules Pretty 2002. Earthscan Publications Ltd. (ISBN 1 85383 925 6)
Pause for thought...................Browse at least one of these publications in the library and list what you believe are the five most important points made by the book
Agricultural and environmental press (left). Agri-environmental information (right).
Follow these outside links and read some of the most recent news reports regarding agriculture:
Schmallenberg virus BBC, 27th February 2012
Ban confirmed on imported battery eggs from non-enriched cages British Baker Magazine, 7th March 2012
Mega Pig Farm Guardian, 10th February 2012
Food prices could be affected by drought Telegraph, 7th March 2012
The GM Food Debate see various reports and news links
Bovine Tuberculosis see various reports and news links
Crops see various reports and news links
The Biofuels debate see various reports and new links
Pause for thought..................... Try and visualize yourself as a newspaper journalist writing articles supportive of British Farmers. Write 5 national headlines providing positive news on UK farming today.
Pressure Groups and Charities
Membership (000's) of selected environmental and countryside organisations in the UK (most recent survey)
|Royal Society for the Protection of Birds||98||441||852||1,007||1,004||1,022|
|World Wide fund for Nature||12||60||227||241||255||320|
|Friends of the Earth||1||18||111||114||112||119|
|Council for the Protection of Rural England||21||29||45||45||49||59|
Source: Office for national statistics (2004)
The following section contains links to some of the more active pressure groups and charities. If you do not already know of them then visit each site to get a general feel for the objectives of each organization.
Friends of the Earth Follow links to their work on natural resources, it is also worth checking out the news releases, usually at the top of the page.
Greenpeace Not really anything of agricultural significance here, tend to look more at global environmental problems.
RSPB Currently running at over 1 million members, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are actively involved in agricultural research. Follow the link to their home page and then click on 'our work' (blue icon at top of page), then 'farming'. Follow hyperlinks to find out the latest issues regarding farming and bird populations.
The National Trust Links directly to the Trust's Food & Farming Big Issues pages, for downloadable papers and news articles regarding agricultural policy, farming systems and land use. The National Trust currently have over 4 million members, and lobbies the government about planning reforms that may affect our environment.
Intensive Livestock USA site (part of Farm Sanctuary group). Judge for yourself. Biased or neutral? Check out the photo gallery and the world renowned artwork of Sue Coe.
Pause for thought...... Can you explain why membership of Greenpeace appears to have fallen in recent years?
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