Environment and Rural Affairs Predictions for 2015

24687_386642912652_4145254_n2014 started with winter storms devastating many coastal and rural areas, with coastal sea defenses being severely damaged, and widespread flooding leading to damage and disruption to rural homes, businesses and infrastructure. DEFRA claims that 1 in 6 homes are at risk from flooding, as well as at least 200 homes being at risk of complete loss to coastal erosion within the next 20 years. Despite the investment of £2.3 billion in 1,400 projects across the UK over the coming years, we should be asking whether that is really enough, and whether stricter regulation and consultation about building new housing developments on flood plains may be required.

The Fisheries discard ban started on New Years day, meaning that all fish caught by fishermen targeting pelagic quota species, will now have to land their entire catch. In previous years, millions of tonnes of fish were discarded due to fishermen being required to discard a number of fish before being able to land in port. The Common Fisheries Policy has been reformed, allowing European Union Member States greater power to agree to measures most appropriate to their own fishing industries.The UK still needs to take measures to further protect our own fishermen, however, to allow them to catch the greatest sustainable numbers of fish, in order for the British fishing industry to flourish.

In other good news, DEFRA yesterday announced a 4 year 40% increase in British fruit juice exports since 2010 worth £65 million, making the UK one of the biggest juice exporters in the European Union. There is a predicted spike in 2015 for further growth in the British fruit juice industry.

Here are some predictions for 2015;

The Hunting Act has been in force now for ten years. The Countryside Alliance amongst other individuals and groups are lobbying for a repeal of the hunting ban, which could be successful if an act is passed in Parliament for English votes for English laws. It is, however, also dependent on the results of Mays General Election. Effective wildlife management is essential for rural communities and businesses, and it can only be hoped that parliamentarians listen to the lobbies of the likes of the Countryside Alliance.

Rural  Connectivity, or rather, the lack of connectivity is hindering economic growth. The longer that poor connectivity is left with little investment, the greater the gap of opportunity between rural and urban areas will become. Pleasingly, there is some good news in terms of developments that are already in the pipeline:

  • Broadband for rural areas is in the sights of the government, with £1.7 billion set to be invested to roll out superfast broadband to 95% of UK premises.
  • Mobile Phone Signal “not spots” are to be tackled by mobile network providers after the government secured a binding agreement with three networks to include a £5 billion investment to improve mobile infrastructure.

Food Labelling;

  • Halal and Kosher, Zabiha and Shechita will be subject to debate, because although British legislation requires that animals be stunned prior to slaughter, according to the Slaughter of Animals act 1928 and 1933, there is an exemption for the Jewish and Muslim slaughter methods. There could be discussion to eliminate exemptions in British abattoirs, but not prohibiting the import of religiously slaughtered meat from abroad. There is contention between religious and human rights groups as to how humane slaughter practises are. Although new European Union legislation requires food outlets such as restaurants and cafes to specify key ingredients in menu items, such as whether or not something contains dairy, meat, nuts or gluten etc, there is currently no legislation requiring outlets to label whether their meat is Halal or Kosher. Such legislation was rejected by MP’s in 2014, although the introduction of legislation, or at the very least, greater encouragement for outlets to label their meat, will allow all individuals, whether Muslim, Jewish or otherwise, to make a conscious decision about purchasing the food they intend to consume.
  • Country of Origin – current legislation allows for non-British meat slaughtered abroad, but processed and packaged in the UK to be labelled as “British”, which is misleading for consumers. In order to give a helping hand and level playing field for british farmers, true country of origin labelling should be mandatory.

There could be a full discussion for the ban on the transportation of live animals intended for consumption outside of the UK for slaughter. Providing more jobs for British people and improving animal welfare by reducing unnecessary transportation of livestock, providing a boost for the British meat economy.