Life at a crossroads

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Whilst we all get to a point in our lives where we need to make important decisions, it feels to me that the whole world is currently in a state of flux and at a defining point in our history.

Over the past few years, we have seen many reports on climate breakdown, catastrophic declines in wildlife, deforestation, marine pollution, dead zones and degraded soils.  The list seems endless.  The challenges daunting. Overlay Brexit for those living in the UK and Europe and we seem to have lost control, with diminishing confidence in our politicians and business leaders to make the right ethical and moral decisions for us and future generations.

This weekend, on 3rd March, it is UN World Wildlife Day. A day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. Started 6 years ago, it has has become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife. This year the theme will be “Life below water: for people and planet” which aligns with goal 14 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Given all of the above, and the huge pressures on Mother Nature and our world, it is likely to be the most important UN Wildlife Day to date.  Never have the animals and plants that share our home, been so under threat, or so many species close to extinction.

Recently I was privileged to be invited to speak to a number of farmers, who represented a cross section of interests:egg producers, sheep, cattle and dairy farmers, vegetable growers and the like. The farming community are clearly feeling this ‘life at a crossroads’ as keenly as any other sector, if not more so.  It was a lively, insightful and enjoyable meeting. I was greatly encouraged to hear how these farmers were eager to be proactive and willing to embrace changes in farming practice to protect the environment on which we all depend. We enjoyed a good conversation on the need for government, be it post-Brexit or via the EU Common Agricultural Policy, to offer public money for public goods, ‘goods’ in this instance being the delivery of high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection.

Philip with David Simmons, Managing Director of Riviera Produce (left) and David Thomas, Farm Manager of Riviera Produce (right)

I was pleased to hear the palpable interest in the room for these areas and to have confirmed what I already knew: that growing numbers of farmers are ready, willing and, in some cases, already adopting better practices to protect the countryside we know and love.

However, what was evident from our intense discussion, was their feeling that they have been pushed in the direction of over reliance on the very chemicals known to wipe away wildlife, pollute waterways and degrade the soil.  A recent UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help put meals on our plates has provided strong evidence that the world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity.

As well as the well-documented decline of bees and other insects, the report noted that 17% of vertebrate pollinators were threatened with extinction.  This cannot be allowed to happen. I feel deeply for farmers who want to reduce their use of these harmful chemicals. I also feel for them in their feeling of being trapped; locked into a system that benefits large agro-chemical companies more than it does the hard-working people who produce our food.

Compassion in World Farming recognises farmers and businesses taking steps to produce meat, dairy and eggs in ways that not only promote good animal welfare but also protect, improve and restore wildlife and the environment.

To this end, I am excited to share with you news that we are launching a new Sustainable Food and Farming Award. Anyone interested in apply for the award, please contact

As we celebrate UN World Wildlife day this Sunday, 3rd March, let us all do what we can to preserve the natural wildlife and biodiversity around us. Whether that means making our gardens more attractive to wildlife, avoiding using harmful pesticides and weedkillers, supporting those farmers known to go the extra mile, and speaking out when we hear of wildlife crimes.

Together we really can make a difference and make our voices heard.

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