Western Morning News (Saturday) - - Letters - Peter Booth Chair­man, South West Con­ser­va­tives Jen­nifer White Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals (PETA) Derek Dawes My­lor Bridge

Plenty of good news in the bud­get

The bud­get of­fered plenty of good news and en­cour­age­ment for peo­ple and busi­nesses in Devon and Corn­wall.

The econ­omy is in a healthy po­si­tion, with growth for 2019 re­vised up­wards, em­ploy­ment set to in­crease by 800,000 by 2023 and wages to rise above in­fla­tion in each of the next five years.

This vin­di­cates the gov­ern­ment’s bal­anced ap­proach to the econ­omy and means we are in a strong po­si­tion to boost our vi­tal pub­lic ser­vices and help peo­ple im­me­di­ately with the cost of liv­ing.

The NHS is get­ting an ex­tra £20.5bil­lion in real terms by 2023/24, to in­clude a sig­nif­i­cant boost for men­tal health, while coun­cils will re­ceive an ad­di­tional £1bn to­wards so­cial care and pot­holes, among other things.

Per­haps the most strik­ing an­nounce­ment was the de­ci­sion to cut in­come tax a year early, in spring 2019, en­abling mil­lions of peo­ple to keep more of what they earn.

I was also pleased to see the in­crease in the Na­tional Liv­ing Wage, the freez­ing of fuel duty and the ad­di­tional £1.7bil­lion a year to help work­ing fam­i­lies on

Uni­ver­sal Credit.

An­other stand-out was the de­ci­sion to cut busi­ness rates by a third for re­tail­ers with a rate­able value un­der £51,000.

With the econ­omy re­cov­er­ing af­ter Labour’s mis­man­age­ment be­fore 2010, it’s im­por­tant we avoid t Jeremy Cor­byn tak­ing us back to square one by rais­ing taxes to the high­est level in peace­time his­tory and send­ing debt soar­ing. This Novem­ber 5, re­mem­ber, please re­mem­ber that for cats and dogs, Bon­fire Night might seem more like The War of the Worlds than a tra­di­tional cel­e­bra­tion. Noisy fire­works dis­plays are of­ten fright­en­ing to an­i­mals.

Peo­ple should make sure their an­i­mals stay safe and com­fort­able at home.

When star­tled, dogs can panic and try to flee. They may jump over fences, and some have even been known to jump through plate-glass win­dows to get away from the ter­ri­fy­ing sounds. Many cats, dogs and other an­i­mals are taken to an­i­mal shel­ters with bloody paws and torn skin from run­ning and break­ing through wooden fences.

Lucky an­i­mals are re­united with their fam­i­lies, but oth­ers are never found. To avoid such up­set, make sure you stay in­side with your com­pan­ion an­i­mals. Close win­dows and cur­tains to help muf­fle the noise of the fire­works, and turn on the TV or a ra­dio to help drown out the sound. Make sure that your an­i­mal com­pan­ion is wear­ing a col­lar or har­ness with an up-to-date iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tag – just in case.

Don’t for­get about wild an­i­mals, too, es­pe­cially hedge­hogs, which of­ten seek out warm nests for their win­ter hi­ber­na­tion – which could in­clude your leafy bon­fire pile. Be­fore light­ing any fires, please check for these small prickly friends. Heavy lor­ries are caus­ing an enor­mous amount of dam­age to our roads. So, why not give A&P Ap­ple­dore an or­der for a fleet of coast­ers?

Rein­tro­duce ac­tive coastal traf­fic around our is­lands and Euro­pean wa­ters.

Re­move large lor­ries from our roads and trans­port the goods by sea as we used to do.

This would open up a Mer­chant Navy fleet again and rein­vig­o­rate our ports. Nav­i­ga­tion schools would train young peo­ple in a worth­while ca­reer. You’ve got to feel sorry for poor old Neil Carter. It’s only a few weeks since he took over as gen­eral man­ager up at “pig city”, Justin El­liott’s in­ten­sive an­i­mal oper­a­tion at Ber­row Farm. And al­ready he’s off sick with back trou­ble.

His deputy Han­nah Ri­ley, who’s in a house-share with Tom Archer, reck­ons they’re get­ting on bet­ter over there when the boss isn’t around. So as Neil sits at home, with his back propped up with cush­ions, is he think­ing, I won­der, that he might have made the biggest mis­take of his life?

It’s a shame be­cause he’s a top man is Neil. Ask any­one in Am­bridge. Fam­ily man, cap­tain of bells, chair of the par­ish coun­cil, he’s got “com­mu­nity” run­ning through him like let­ters in a stick of rock.

Out­side the fam­ily his biggest love is his pigs, no ques­tion about that. They have been ever since he went to work as pig­man for Phil Archer over at Hol­lowtree, where Toby Fair­brother now makes his gin.

For the last 20 years or so he’s had his own small herd of breed­ing Sad­dle­back sows, his pride and joy. He kept them in arks on the few acres he owns near Am­bridge View, the house he and Susan built. So that’s where you’d see him most of the time – with his pigs. Win­ter and sum­mer, fair weather or foul. Feed­ing and straw­ing them down in the morn­ing, tuck­ing them in at night.

Neil and his sows were as much a part of the

Am­bridge scene as Lynda and her lla­mas and Joe on his pony and trap. So it came as a sur­prise to a lot of us when, at the age of nearly 61, he an­nounced that he was get­ting rid of his pigs and go­ing to work for Justin’s in­ten­sive, high-tech unit.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not ques­tion­ing Neil’s knowl­edge and skills as a pig keeper. No one knows more about the an­i­mal than he does. And it’s not based on the­o­ret­i­cal facts from a text book. It’s a deep un­der­stand­ing that comes from car­ing for them as in­di­vid­u­als in a hands-on way.

When I heard he was go­ing to be on the move I thought I’d take a look at one of these mod­ern in­ten­sive units. It was a very slick oper­a­tion. Where I went they were turn­ing out 50,000 ba­con­ers a year. With num­bers like you have to rely on au­to­ma­tion. There’s no chance for the staff to get to know the an­i­mals as in­di­vid­u­als.

The place was run by a young an­i­mal science grad­u­ate in her mid twen­ties. She spent much of her day read­ing stats on av­er­age pig grow rates and the ef­fi­ciency with which they were con­vert­ing their food into meat. When she wasn’t check­ing the data she was read­ing on­line ve­teri­nary re­ports.

All very im­pres­sive but hardly the place for our Neil with his touchy-feely, hand­son ap­proach. So while it may be just a touch of back trou­ble at the mo­ment, I’ve got a nasty feel­ing it’s not go­ing to end well for him at pig city.

So I’d like to of­fer him a piece of friendly ad­vice.

Here in Bri­tain about half of our pig meat comes from in­door units like Justin’s, but the other half comes from pigs run­ning around in the clean, fresh air. And in my view that’s where Neil ought to go if things go belly up at Ber­row Farm.

He could do no bet­ter than find a set-up like Pipers Farm, near Cul­lomp­ton. I met some of the team from Pipers at a coun­try fair in Ox­ford­shire last sum­mer. They run a won­der­ful mixed farm amid the rolling Devon hills. The fields are small with pas­tures con­tain­ing deep-root­ing herbs and old­fash­ioned grasses. Wide, 400year-old hedgerows pro­vide fan­tas­tic cor­ri­dors for wildlife.

The pigs, reared for them on a lo­cal fam­ily farm, are a cross be­tween the Wes­sex Sad­dle­back and the tra­di­tional Welsh breed. They’re old-fash­ioned pink pigs with blue patches and “lop” ears over their eyes. Once weaned they live out­side in fam­ily groups, rang­ing freely, dig­ging for roots and wal­low­ing in the mud. In other words liv­ing truly piggy lives.

If Neil can find a place like that in Borset­shire I frankly feel he’ll be a lot hap­pier than at Justin El­liott’s agri-busi­ness setup. And to cheer him up while he’s laid up I might even send him a pack of the best West­coun­try, free-range ba­con. No doubt Susan will be happy to cook him a cou­ple of de­cent break­fasts un­til he’s back on his feet again.

Keep pets safe on bon­fire night Trans­port goods by coast­ers not lor­ries

Neil Carter could do no bet­ter than find a set-up like Pipers Farm, near Cul­lomp­ton

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