Church leaders are to call on the Ministry of Defence to support the struggling farming industry by buying British food for its soldiers, rather than cheaper, intensively farmed, foreign food, following a debate held this weekend at Ripon Cathedral.
Church representatives at the Synod (or ‘parliament’) of the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, meeting on Saturday, unanimously backed calls for the government to change its policy of sourcing cheaper food from abroad while insisting on higher more expensive standards for local livestock farmers - a policy which was described as 'unethical' and 'hypocritical'.
The motion, “requesting the government to source the food requirements of the Ministry of Defence UK bases from this country rather than from abroad”, was tabled by parishes in the Deanery of Richmond, home to the largest Army garrison in western Europe at Catterick.
Introducing the debate, the Revd Stanley Haworth, Assistant Area Dean of Richmond, told the Synod that the MOD was operating double standards.
“Our farmers are restricted from using intensive farming methods and that adds to the cost of rearing animals. But when it comes to sourcing food for our soldiers, the government wants the most economic sources. Much of the beef they buy comes from South America, much of the lamb from New Zealand, much of pork and chicken from Eastern Europe. It is hypocrisy to buy from countries where animals are intensively farmed” he said.
Mr Haworth reminded the church leaders that Catterick Garrison, with more than 50,000 soldiers, covered at least five parishes or benefices in the Richmond area. Yet the local economy was suffering and the MOD was adding to the carbon footprint by transporting meat from the other side of the world.
Other speakers, welcomed the motion, and said that it was time that the government cut down on air miles and supported the struggling farming industry.
The debate was chaired by the Rt Revd John Packer, Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.
Following a unanimous vote in favour of the motion, Bishop Packer told Synod that he and Diocesan Secretary, Philip Arundel, would be seeking a response from ministers and the Ministry of Defence as a matter of urgency.