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April 22, 2007

Molly Dineen on Farming

This might not be a documentary worth watching.

But surely farmers have a reputation for whining? Dineen accepts that some are doing very nicely, but her film, The Lie of the Land, looks at farmers who are struggling. Like Ian Williams

from Cornwall, who earns his living from killing animals for farmers and then selling them, sometimes for just £2 a cow, to the local hunt for the dogs to eat. It’s a practice known as the flesh run. The animals are shot dead because they are economically unviable to keep and rear. It is a gruesome but increasingly common practice.

Dineen’s documentary does not shy away from showing how ruthless the countryside is. “Cows are killed because there is no need for them,” she says. “The farmer cannot afford to keep them except for some females who provide milk.”

Now as I remember it, the hunts used to feed the hounds on fallen stock. Stuff that keeled over in hte fields sort of thing. Under EU regulations this is no longer allowed, such animals must be disposed of "properly". Worth mentioning, wouldn't you think?

She is concerned, too, by what is happening to British food. “We now spend just 8% of our income on food yet 30 years ago that figure was far higher. This is regarded as a triumph by the government, which worships the supermarkets who have brought the price of food down but, in doing so, have destroyed British farms.

But it is a triumph! The price of food has been falling since the Neolithic, it's the very foundation of civilisation, that there is income with which to do other things than simply fill one's belly. Complaining about the very thing that allows one to be a documentary maker rather than a peasant farmer seems most odd, if one is indeed a documentary maker.

April 22, 2007 in Idiotarians | Permalink

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Comments

Definitely. Also, the amount we pay for our food relative to our income surely has little bearing on the quality of that food?

Posted by: sanbikinoraion | Apr 22, 2007 1:29:31 PM

the argument that in a setting of imperfect information, food standards have dropped below the level where well informed consumers would otherwise wish them to be, has some merit. Or at least, potential merit.

But really, how many of the people who agree with the supermarkets are bad argument also support progressive taxation and poverty alleviation measures? Can you think of anything less progressive than raising food prices?

Posted by: Luis Enrique | Apr 23, 2007 8:58:11 AM

I live in London but am totally sympathetic to the plight of many of the people who manage the countryside. I respect the farmers and the work they do to sustain life and the arrogance and contempt show by city/town people to them people is, well, just plain stupid, narrow-minded, selfish and inconsiderate. Chicken fillets don't grow in trees, they grow in chickens backs (under feathers).

Praises go to Molly Dineen for showing a practical guy with practical problems who wants to ensure his part in the food chain is considerately managed. I only hope the lawyers and lawmakers at DEFRA can dig themselves out of the insane processes they have and start putting some common sense back into policy (much of which I believe being to remove policy altogether).

Posted by: w.c. | May 3, 2007 10:54:14 PM

i wasnt impressed with her documentray skill in this, she didnt pick the right farms to film, the first farm was a typical old fashioned farm with a farmer who could barely string a sentence along let alone try to portray the farming crisis going on. then we had to watch a bunch of people riling up a herd of cows "atempting" to put them on the lorry. The horse being culled was somthing we didnt need to see and not once did a famre say how much he sells his milk for so the public actauklly know how little money goes back to farms.

Posted by: hannah | May 3, 2007 10:57:13 PM

As a young farmer hoping to go into the agricultural sector, i hope i can give a different point of view.

Whilst the farmers chosen for the documentary were perhaps not the best at forming a cohesive argument or viewpoint, they were real farmers, and were depicted as caring custodians of the countryside.

We do have some of if not the highest animal welfare standards in the world, however farmers have a long history of worrying about what their neighbour might be doing rather than working co-operatively to secure a market, and i feel that the documentary may have been more balanced if more progressive FPO (food production operatives, apparently a more correct word for farmers according to DEFRA!) were given a say. Whilst few farmers are big fans of the big four (Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Morrisons), I doubt that few would acuse them of being poor businesses, and it is time that farmers unified, understood their importance, and rather than asking for support from supermarkets, demanded a fair price for a fair product,possibly processing and branding regional products in farmer owned factories.

Finally, whilst i fear that the show may have confirmed the stereotypical straw chewing farmer, it will without doubt have raised public awareness regarding the countryside's plight, and for this i must congratulate Molly Dineen.

(P.S the documentary is somewhat out of date with todays legislation, which just goes to show the level of bureaucracy within the industry)

Posted by: william pearson | May 3, 2007 11:24:09 PM

What an excellent documentary.
Brave for it's content, and true, for Molly didn't goad the farmers to respond, she asked sensible questions that most people watching would've asked if they had been there.The farmers simply answered her from their hearts.
I think that Molly chose the best subjects for her film. Not the "city farmer" who is only interseted in the balance sheet, but a real live farmer who actually cares what he does.
It takes a very special type of person to become a farmer. One who gives up the right to an annual holiday, redundancy payment should the market change,a five day working week,just to name a few.
Most of todays farmers have to have another income from somewhere to put food on their plates.
Yet they still farm.
Farmers and farming in this country are treated worse than most, yet without them, where would we be? Buying all our produce from overseas.
And just to clarify,one of the farmers interveiwed did state how much per litre he was paid for his milk.
And no, I am not a farmer, but I sure do appreciate what they do and have to put up with from people who don't, or didn't, know any better until Molly Dineen picked up her camera and headed for the countryside.and channel 4 broadcasting the result.

Posted by: Sam Turner | May 4, 2007 12:16:58 AM

Well said Sam Turner, I could not agree with you more! I just hope that alot of people watched the program, not just those who are already supporting British produce. The farmers came across as hard working, kind and honest people. if only there were more people like it!!

Posted by: Richard Fynn | May 4, 2007 11:40:49 AM

I thought it was a brilliant film,I really learnt a lot from watching it.

Posted by: Nancy Hooker | May 4, 2007 7:24:09 PM

I thought it was a brilliant film,I really learnt a lot from watching it.

Posted by: Nancy Hooker | May 4, 2007 7:25:40 PM

I thought that the documentary was very informative and hopefully will bring home some of the realities of farming today. As far as the fox hunting issue was concerned, it clearly exposed that the shooting of foxes is in most cases far less humane than the immediate kill by the hounds. Yes, they do rip the body apart, but after the neck is broken and the fox is dead. Preferable indeed to the maiming by a gun.

Posted by: sue heather | May 4, 2007 9:45:40 PM

Molly Dineen's film brought back the harsh reality farmers experience these days. Farming communities experience high levels of stress, anxiety and hardship. Changes in farming over the last two decade's let to further isolation and recent policies broke their social base. No wonder that farming has become a hazardous profession with the highest suicide rate amongst all working professions.
Without a doubt, the strength of the documentary was that we saw real people with firm connection to life and nature.
I hope to develop a pilot project in care farming in East Anglia, which combines farming with aspects of health & social care. It is a partnership between farmer, health & social care providers and service users. It is a model which allows people with learning disability, mental health problems, ill health, substance misuse or disaffected young people from mainstream education or life to work on a farm as part of their day time occupation, recovery or rehabilitation.
The care farming concept will give farmers an extra income which makes a real difference as it will allow the farmer to continue with his profession he knows best and loves. It breaksdown isolation and reconnects with society.
In the Netherlands, this model is well developed and currently there are 620 care farms spread over the country. It is sponsored by private health insurers as they see the financial benefit to it - people recover much quicker and better through working on land and in nature. Also, statutory organisations have witnessed social benefits to the individual and society as a whole - social accountancy.
So, although farming communities are under a lot of pressure and are not well understood by their fellow urban citizens, there is a potential for farmers and we could see them play a much more important role in society than we think.
It is crucial that we support our farming communities, buy locally and fresh every day every week!!

Doeke Dobma

Posted by: Doeke Dobma | May 4, 2007 9:50:57 PM

This was an excellent documentary. The plight of British farmers was exposed with appropriate grit and realism. I have lots of experience in the agricultural sector and have experienced first hand the sacrifices farmers are forced into making in the face of ridiculous legislation. Unfortunately I agree with the earlier points made, in that only people who actually cared about the problem would have watched it. However, even if it made only a handful of people question their food ethics then it was a success.

Posted by: Tom Clark | May 6, 2007 6:41:58 PM