Friday, May 04, 2007
The lie of the land
With the light evenings and the weeding I am not watching much t.v. at the moment but last night I made a point of watching Molly Dineen's programme The Lie of the Land that I had heard previewed on Radio 4's Woman's Hour.
It was a film that evolved from Dineen accompanying a flesh run for a pack of hounds - where dead, dying and valueless animals were picked up to become cheap meat for the hounds. It then went on to explore the lives of several other failing farmers whose existence is being threatened by the way that today's consumers chose to buy their meat.
Dineen's style is non-interventionist, matter-of-fact and direct. She is not afraid of filming past the point that the majority of viewers will feel queasy. Her straightforwardness, without sentimentalisation or sensationalism made it, for me, compelling and uncomfortable viewing. My worry is that many will have switched off when the first calf was shot, and many more when it was skinned using the landrover.
The thing that I found most telling was one farmer talking about how it is only in the last 35 years that people's eating habits have moved away from buying seperate ingredients and cooking in the home to todays reliance on ready meals. In 1973 average households spent 1/3 of their income on food. What do you suppose it is now? I turn 38 in two weeks time - it is my lifetime.
I think that this should ideally be a series - moving away from the connection with hunting which clouds issues and looking at all food production, not just meat-. It could look more at the way that people's consumer choices impact on farmers' and animals' lives. As consumers our power is in the way we spend our money - Is it on British goods or imported? Do we care about whether our pigs live indoors or out? Are we bothered about whether rural economies work properly or do we just want manicured farms to look good in our holiday snaps? Are we ready to panic about whether Britain is self sufficient in food? I think as a nation we need to be much more aware.
Do we even know how farming works? One of my best friends is a farmer, she farms sheep, cows and hens, I have had illuminating conversations with her husband about the black grouse he want to conserve on his land, I know whether lambing is going well or badly, but I have no idea about the economics of it all.
Dineen's style could confront people with the reality of how our spending makes a difference - she might have to strap some of the audience into their seats though.
And if you saw the programme remember it was filmed in 2005. Two whole years ago.