Ryeview – July 2007

This cattle market has a vital role to play in our future

John Clark writes…

First published: July 2007 – Gazette & Herald

In the 1950’s in Appleton – Le – Moors, my grandmother and I walked down the street to a farm where the farmer poured ‘about a pint’ of milk into a jug. Not pasteurised, not homogenised, no top colour, no bottle, no food miles. Just local food produced within a natural environment.

Over the next half century the British people became separated from their environment, from nature and from the production of food. Glimpses of food production are seen only when there is a crisis. BSE was a high profile example. Manufacturers were putting ground up chicken feathers and dead cattle into animal feed. Not until the politicians panicked and the cattle staggered on our television sets were the public made aware.

The next big crisis was Foot and Mouth. In the past it would spread slowly. On arrival in 2001, Longtown market sent animals all over the country and Foot and Mouth spread rapidly. The disease was well spread by the time the scientists, followed by the observing public, caught up. We all remember the carnage and the massive funeral pyres.

More recently, H5N1 Bird Flu arrived in a food factory in Suffolk. It almost certainly did not spread from a neighbouring farm or a wild bird. More likely the virus had hitched a lift on the wagons hauling turkeys back and forth the length of Europe. The agribusiness solution was to compensate Bernard Matthews and to allow trading to continue within a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, the free range birds in small flocks were fastened up because of the alleged potential spread of disease.

The underlying message from this is that food should be non-intensive, small scale and local. With this background, the bully tactics of the Fitzwilliam estates over Malton Market should be opposed and opposed strongly.

Cattle Markets fit into the local small scale and transparent approach to food production. Local markets allow animals to be brought and sold locally. The welfare and treatment of the animals is visible. Farmers go with their animals to the market and are with them in the ring. The further the market is from the farm, the further animals have to travel. It is also less likely they will be accompanied.

It is vital for Ryedale that its food stays local. Malton Market is a major part of this. The future plan for Ryedale (the Local Development Framework) states the number of houses to be built each year, the amount of employment land to be developed and where the supermarkets are to be allowed. Up among these must be a commitment for the market town of Malton to keep its cattle market.

Before change of use for the present market site, there must be not only a commitment, but a new market must be in existence. As fuel becomes scarcer and more expensive, food will become dearer and harder to import. This will cause the pendulum to swing back from Tourism towards farming. Malton Market is an essential ingredient of this future food. It must not be allowed to become part of history.

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