Why we must wipe out British farming with true free trade

Britain’s farmers are almost 18 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average industrial worker, and the fatality rate is increasing. Look through the government’s summary of the 33 fatal farm, forestry and fishing accidents in 2017/18 and there were a number of types of fatalities such as falls, crushes, electrocutions and equipment malfunctions. Most people (but not farmers) might be surprised to learn that work with cows is particularly dangerous – “crushed by a bull” was the single most common cause of death.

So what can be done?

Buy our food from elsewhere thereby saving any English people from having to do such a dangerous job, obviously.

61 thoughts on “Why we must wipe out British farming with true free trade”

  1. Anyone who has walked through a field of hostile cows will not be surprised in the slightest. They are quite large.

  2. The Meissen Bison

    They tend to be inquisitive rather than hostile towards humans, though dogs are a different matter.

  3. There are lies, damn lies, etc.

    The main reason so many people die in farming is that the vast majority of farmers are self employed, and often work alone with no supervision, and can continue to do physically dangerous work well beyond the age when they should have had the common sense to retire, from labouring if not from business entirely.

    If you drill down into the stats you’ll see that 50%+ are over 60 and the vast majority from the over 50s. There just are no other industries where pensioners are allowed to continue to labour week in week out in physically dangerous environments. If the same retirement criteria were applied to farming that is the norm in any other industry then the stats would look very different.

    In fact many of the elderly who die on farms are not really ‘in business’ in a serious sense at all, they are hobbyists, just doing a bit of farming to give themselves something to do rather than sit in a chair all day.

  4. Do you suppose Ted Heath ever boasted of reducing the number of fatalities among fishermen?

  5. Further to Jim’s explanation; I’d add that as the number working on a farm, the number of accidents per person increases.

    Combines, potato pickers etc are huge complex dangerous machines operated by one person.


    Yes, The Conversation is best ignored.

  6. “Buy our food from elsewhere thereby saving any English people from having to do such a dangerous job, obviously.”

    No, no, no. That is entirely the wrong solution. Britain must take the lead in setting up a nationwide agency specifically to monitor health and safety compliance in all food production facilities.

    Farmers must have a ‘crushed by bull’ response plan filed with the agency. They need to have a form filed showing compliance with the ‘National Farm Electrical Equipment Inspection Plan’. They need to have a tool and safety gear issue room staffed by a nationally certified tool and safety gear issuer. And Two-Person Safety must be mandatory – no more lone workers getting injured without someone nearby to help them out.

    Our office has done a ‘burden of regulation’ calculation and we calculate that this will add only 6-7 hours of extra work a year on farm businesses while saving untold number of lives.

  7. “Combines, potato pickers etc are huge complex dangerous machines operated by one person”

    Its not the complex machines that kill people on farms. Its very simple accidents. Often involving livestock, which are fundamentally unpredictable, and can kill you by accident, a full grown beef steer is the best part of 1000kg, if that squashes you against a wall, its not doing you any good. Older people who have worked around livestock all their lives get slower and don’t realise it, until one day its too late.

    The other main cause of deaths is gravity – things falling on people from height, and people falling off things from height. The numbers caught in machinery is in fact very low, maybe one death per year, and almost inevitably caused by operator stupidity – getting off the tractor to fix a problem without stopping the engine and/or waiting for the machine to wind down.

    Farming fundamentally is a peasant industry, because there’s not enough money in it to operate in the way other industries do, with owners (who don’t work in the business) and paid employees to do the labouring and management. So owners who are also labourers is how the industry is largely organised, and as such there is often no-one to tell the owner/worker to stop being an idiot and take some basic precautions.

  8. That 18:1 ratio – we need to know if that is better or worse than it used to be. I’m guessing from Jim’s comments that it is worse as the agricultural workforce has gotten older. Perhaps there’s a classification effect as we have this new thing called horticulture now which is super productive, and often unsubsidised is using less than 5ha of land.
    Back to the topic, this is the data from cycling weekly
    Basically, it’s watch out when cows are about, especially if you work with them. Cycling is low risk to walkers.

  9. Import bull semen. Let EU chumps take the risk.

    ’33 fatal farm, forestry and fishing accidents’

    Seems like a damn small number to me.

    ‘So what can be done?’

    Don’t lump forestry and fishing accidents in with farmers, then demand something be done about farmers.

    How many farmers are there in Britain? A million? <33/1000000 doesn't seem like a BFD to me.

    "But if government takeover of the economy saves one life, it's worth it!"

  10. Interesting, Jim, thanks.

    Mind you, I raise you my three weeks, aged 18, on a Hertfordshire farm in the summer of 1990. It wasn’t the putting out of the fire with rubbery paddles (which was fun and exciting) which did it. No, it was the crazy old no-larynxed coot sending me 25 feet up the corrugated aluminium silo above a cobbled floor to perch on its 5cm edge, bracing myself against the roof beams for stability, while from below he scratchily scratched at me orders I couldn’t hear, describing how best to tramnel grain into said silo above the roar of that same grain.

    Happy days.

    He sacked me soon afterwards, as a faintheart. Not how he put it, of course. But he plainly thought I wasn’t sufficiently engaged in maintaining whatever wealth he had. And I’ll confess I wasn’t nearly as scared as I ought to have been, albeit I was scared enough.

    Anecdata, which may mean nothing. Yet, I’ve known some nutty superiors, and he was the only one who not only seemed to have no interest in whether I lived or died but who also had the means and opportunity to make the latter a reality.

    So there, at least, was one old geezer determined to ensure it was not he, the old geezer, maimed or killed. Nasty old bastard.

    I’m sure things have changed.

  11. “I’m sure things have changed.”

    Yes and no. There are still nasty old bastards who run farms, for sure. They probably are held in check from actively killing their employees these days by the far stricter employee rights and ‘no win no fee’ employment lawyers who would like nothing more than taking on the case of an employee sacked soon after their employer broke every H&S law going.

    Most of the deaths in farming nowadays are the self employed, the owner/workers if you like. Farms with employees tend to be far more H&S conscious, because they have to be, they’ll get sued and prosecuted out of existence otherwise. But the H&S tend to leave the non employer sole traders alone, not sure if thats out of choice or that they have less powers over them, or that they figure if people want to kill themselves, thats up to them.

  12. Also, most people who die in work accidents are men

    Anything been done about the gender death gap at work,?

  13. Bloke in Germany in(vading) Austria

    Jim, that a not the way things work in the country. People go to the jack of all trades solicitor in the neareat town if needs be, and will usually let trivia like one of the kids being killed at work go, because it is bad luck to be the one always kicking up a fuss about something.

  14. Itellyounothing

    Farming is gonna be with us as long as Tories exist.

    The NFU being a big supporter, Tories will help keep food expensive to keep the NFU happy.

    Shame cause them poor folk get less food cry for more government redistribution and so the circle of politicians buying votes rolls on.

  15. so we should ban old farmers from working on their own farms but they cannot afford to hire anyone to replace them because the farms do not make enough to pay a wage.
    so farmer who gets old should lose his farm or sell it to developers maybe.

  16. @itellyounothing “The NFU being a big supporter, Tories will help keep food expensive to keep the NFU happy.”

    “Britons spend an average of 8% of their total household expenditure on food to eat at home. This is less than any other country apart from the US and Singapore, according to data from market research firm Euromonitor” – BBC report 1/10/2018

  17. @ Itellyounothing
    It’s the EU that keeps food expensive, limiting production through “set-asides” so that they don’t have to cut prices. The Tories are the ones who want to keep the price of food low – things like zero-rating of food for VAT (and, if you’re old enough to remember it, abolition of Retail Price Maintenance) – while it’s always lefties who want to put extra taxes on “naughty” foods like lemonade.

  18. @John77

    My guess is that despite being confronted with clear evidence that his assertion that the Tories keep food prices artificially high is wrong, Itellyounothing will simply ignore the evidence and repeat his claims.

    It wouldn’t even be worth pointing out that the three biggest donors to the Tories from the agriculture sector contributed less than £40k per year (compared to millions from the financial sector).

    His trope is evil Tories and wicked NFU bribing them so, to him, that’s the truth regardless of the truth. The left is a cult and cult members don’t need evidence to believe.

  19. Farming, fishing and forestry are currently and traditionally some of the most dangerous industries for workers. This applies to all the developed English-speaking world.

    In Australia an analysis over a decade of all animal related deaths in coronial inquiries came up with the conclusions:
    – horses are the most dangerous animal in Australia with jockeys and pony club riders and recreational riders accounting for the largest proportion of animal caused deaths;
    – cattle came in at number 2 as they are big animals again and can easily crush or trample people;
    – dogs came in at number 3 and only half the deaths were due to dog attacks. Other causes were such things as old people tripping over there pet dog and one unusual case was the deaths of four people due to the dog interfering with the driver of a motor vehicle.

  20. @AndrewC

    Not sure the proportionate spending is such a useful stat since Brits consume more food out of home (restaurants, fast food joints etc) than most other countries.

    But it’s interesting to think what “cheap food” actually means – should we adjust price for quality in some? Clearly it’s possible to eat cheaply if you eat cheap rubbish (some rubbish food is expensive but a lot of cheap food is rubbish) but I’m not keen on classifying that as “good value”.

  21. “They’re only cows, look : udders, nothing to worry about.” (Our Geog teach leading us across a field to get back on the right path on an outward bounds day)
    half way cross.
    “sir sir that cow has only one udder.”

  22. “Tories will help keep food expensive to keep the NFU happy.”

    Farm subsidies don’t make food more expensive, they make it cheaper, because they keep marginal producers in production. Vast swathes of UK agriculture is entirely dependent on the subsidy to remain in business, ergo their entire output only happens because of the subsidy. Remove the subsidy, many people would go bust, the land would not be farmed (as its not viable without subsidy) and production would fall quite considerably, and farm output prices would rise somewhat as a result, the amount depending on import penetration and/or availability.

    But subsidies do not make food more expensive, certainly not in the way they are applied in the UK. They are undoubtedly a market distortion, but not all market distortions are to the detriment of the consumer.

  23. PS, as a farmer the idea that the NFU has the UK government in its pocket is ludicrous to the extreme. If the NFU (known in the industry as the No F*cking Use) is so powerful, how come farming profits have been static for decades? And subsidies continue to be cut, and are due (thanks to Brexit) be cut entirely within the decade? How come one twat like Chris Packham comes along and suddenly we can’t protect our crops and animals from pests any more? If the NFU is all-powerful in Whitehall, I’d hate to think what might happen if they weren’t………..

  24. @Jim – “the idea that the NFU has the UK government in its pocket is ludicrous to the extreme.”

    It’s not that socialists know nothing, it’s that they know so much that isn’t true.

  25. MyBurningEars

    “….since Brits consume more food out of home (restaurants, fast food joints etc) than most other countries.”

    What? More than the two countries ahead of us in the cheapness stakes? The USA and Singapore? Barely anyone in Singapore cooks and the US is of course known as desert for those looking for something to eat. {sarcasm}

  26. “Not sure the proportionate spending is such a useful stat since Brits consume more food out of home (restaurants, fast food joints etc) than most other countries.”

    You mean food is so cheap in the UK that people can afford not only to buy it in vast quantities, but pay someone to prepare and cook it for them as well? The fact that people can afford to eat out so much (to the extent many people never cook at all) says to me that the actual food is dirt cheap. We’ve had the discussions on here how cheaply you can eat if you put your mind to cooking and preparing cheap meals, the basic fact remains most people don’t have to because they can afford to pay others to do it for them.

  27. @ most people on here.

    There is so much evidence that we in the UK and USA are (i) really well off (ii) much better off then the vast majority of the world today and (iii) much better off than we were in the past.

    Despite this, the left still run with shroud waving, doom mongering tales of woe and how dreadful everything is. They have to, I guess.

  28. Andrew C.
    Well, many of those folks have actually studied subjects such as Sociology and are convinced that things would be so much better if only they’d been allowed to control every minute detail of our lives. They can only cry at the missed opportunities.

  29. We need food security. If we got into geopolitical trouble all anyone would have to do to defeat the UK would carry out a blockade and stop food entering the UK,. It would be a disaster.

  30. The EU guaranteed European and British food security. It stops famines and food shortages.
    We should subsidize food production that is environmentally friendly everywhere.

  31. The EU guaranteed European and British food security.

    I was going to say that the EU doesn’t guarantee shit.

    But that’s one thing it’s guaranteed to guarantee.

  32. “We need food security. If we got into geopolitical trouble all anyone would have to do to defeat the UK would carry out a blockade and stop food entering the UK,. It would be a disaster.”

    Fine by me. The best point of UK self sufficiency for food production was the early 1980s, when we managed just under 80%, and the price of agricultural produce (as subsidised by the EEC) was 3 and half times (in real terms) that which is received at the farm gate today. For example wheat used to make £90-110/tonne in the 80s, I remember it well. Its currently about £150/tonne, but has been as low as £100 within the last decade. So for we’d need wheat prices at c. £500/tonne, milk at 90p/litre ex-farm (its currently about 25p), beef animals making £7/kg liveweight, compare to £2/kg now, and fat lambs making £250 each compared to £70-80 today. And you’d have to prevent all the far far cheaper imported food coming into the UK as well, to ensure that UK producers got those prices. And UK consumers would have to pay them. The average family food bill could be £350/week.

    How likely do you think that is?

  33. @Recusant

    Well yes exactly – the US is approaching the point where more calories are consumed outside the home than in it (not quite there yet, but well above one third and rising iirc).

    The UK is following that trend but hasn’t got as far yet, from memory.

    Therefore the UK being above the USA in “% of income spent on food eaten at home” tells us not a lot about prices, surely? Also somewhat complicated by US and Singapore being higher income per capita which would also tend to reduce the % of income spent on food.

    All I’m saying is it isn’t a terribly useful stat for doing price comparisons, and only somewhat useful for affordability comparisons.

    I actually agree strongly with both Jim and Andrew C that we are at a golden age of food availability and affordability compared to recent or distant history. Just that straight-up price comparisons are difficult given changes in taste and in consumption patterns (different diets and more meals prepared by others).

    On the dining out point… It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if within a generation or two, the ability to cook one’s own meal has gone the way of the ability to service and repair one’s own car or to mend one’s own clothes, as a useful but minority skill. There are certainly people betting decent sums of money on this transition taking place, and I know enough grown adults who can barely cook anything and have very little by the way of skills to pass down to their kids…

  34. One sign of a product being plentiful and affordable is that people don’t nick it ( apart from the company biscuit thief ), and society organisations give it away.
    We don’t need to go up many levels to find shoplifting of tobacco and liquor, though.

    I laughed at the earlier commenter that used ‘geopolitical trouble’ when he meant ‘war’. What an arse. Thinks foreign powers can blockade us in such a way that stops domestic production being both increased and substituted. And therefore we have to keep foreign stuff out now.

  35. @Jim May 8, 2019 at 10:22 am

    If the taxes to fund the subsidies were left in peoples pockets, prices may be higher; but all the subsidy bureaucrats could be sacked.

    People should be better off.

  36. Following Gamecock’s post I had a look at:
    Summary of fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2017/18

    Jim’s spot on with most >60
    “An 82-year-old self-employed farmer,
    assisting a vet, was knocked over by a cow
    in a crush. The cow’s head was not restrained
    and he was struck and fell to the ground. He
    died from head injuries.”

    As was I
    “A 44-year-old self-employed machinery
    engineer became entangled in a potato
    harvester while it was being serviced. His two
    young children were with him. He died from
    multiple injuries.”

    Most were crush deaths, seven not farm related – three electrocuted in accommodation, two forest, one sea

    Cows: I’m not scared of them and have moved them. However, due to their size and weight I’m very respectful and wary of them.

    Converwhine: “This traditional mindset, combined with ever-increasing fatalities from farming incidents, demonstrate an urgent need for change.”

    Bullocks – Total of 33 in one year is not a number “we” need to worry about or do something about; imo it’s astoundingly low.

  37. Bloke in North Dorset

    Any country or group of countries that are strong enough to blockade us in to starvation are going to be strong enough to walk in and take what they want.

  38. @Tony McRush

    Stops famine? When was the UK’s last famine? Ever?

    What other claim would you make? The EU stops crocodiles eating us? Must be true as no-one has been eaten by a crocodile In the UK for a long time.

  39. The EU does stop famine. Subsidies are vital to maintain stability in the farming industry so we do not have famines. There were loads of famines in the UK. Look at the potato famines in the 1840s.
    And he fact there has not been a famine in Europe for decades is because of subsidies for farmers on the European Union to ensure food security. Just as we need to subsidise health, education, and housing to stop poverty, and shortages.

    The EU ensures food production in Europe is strong.

    And a typical example of Brexit supporters are Claire Fox.

    Claire Fox. is a disgraceful person. The Brexit Party claim to be British patriots, yet have has as number 1 candidate in the north west of England, a candidate who has made very controversial remarks about the IRA. As shown by this link. https://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/17612997.warrington-brexit-candidate-sally-bate-quits-over-claire-fox-ira-stance/

    Also I quote a article from the guardian below that says ‘In her time, she has stood up for Gary Glitter’s right to download child porn, libelled ITN journalists, backed GM technology and attacked multiculturalism.’ Here is the link. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/nov/19/comment.radio

    Here is a link in the morning star on Claire Fox.


    How can anyone vote for Brexit , when they put forward such disgraceful candidates?

  40. @ Tony McRush
    It is ridiculous to say that Claire Fox is a typical example of a Brexit supporter as very very few Brexit supporters are/were members of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the first we hear of her is when another Brexit candidate resigns rather than be associated with her.

    You seem to be unaware that one person is not plural – “candidates” is grammatically incorrect. Or maybe you *are* and are deliberately misleading.

  41. How can anyone vote for Brexit , when they put forward such disgraceful candidates?

    Hitler subsidized farming.

    Oh dear…

  42. Further to what Jim said I looked up causes of death and found that in the 20-64 bracket (the only ages for which causes of death are given by occupation) farmer/farmworker suicides are very nearly twice the accidental death rate.

  43. Bloke in North Dorset

    I’m not a fan of Claire Fox but I respect her principles on free speech and I’d rather hear her side of the story than from biased political hacks.

    She got grilled on the Quillette podcast by Toby Young and a slightly easier ride on Chopper’s Brexit podcast.

  44. @Gamecock May 8, 2019 at 10:27 pm

    GB Guinness is made in GB; that’s why it tastes different to NI/RoI Guinness

  45. “If the taxes to fund the subsidies were left in peoples pockets, prices may be higher; but all the subsidy bureaucrats could be sacked.”

    I doubt it. The total paid to UK farmers in subsidies is c. £3bn, and that includes environmental payments, which one assumes the public want to continue. The actual pure subsidy for just farming is about £2bn. How much is a £2bn tax cut going to save the average person vs maybe a 10% rise in the cost of their shopping basket?

    A bit of quick googling suggests a 1% rise in income tax, NIC or VAT all raise about £5bn in revenue. So you could cut taxes by less than half a percent, which suggests a tax saving of around £50/yr per person. The average spent on food per household is about £5k/yr, so if food prices went up by more than 1% then a two income household would be worse off.

    The irony is that paying subsidies to farmers has to be one of the best returns on taxpayers money you can get, in terms of ‘stuff being done per £ spent’. Mainly because farmers are doers, and just can’t face sitting around collecting their subsidy and doing SFA, which they could if they wanted to, the payments are specifically not tied to production, in order not to fall foul of the WTO subsidy rules. In fact a significant number of farmers actually make LESS profit than their subsidy payment, ie their farming activities have lost them money over doing nothing. They are in fact subsidising food production out of their own pocket.

  46. The total paid to UK farmers in subsidies is c. £3bn
    This isn’t really true. The subsidies are incident on the owners of the land. Some owners are also workers on farms, but the right to collect the handout falls on the owner of the large land holding not the person farming it. ( Own less than 5ha and you get nowt ).
    The OECD ( Fournier/Johannson ) estimate that removing subsidies increases national income by 6 times the value of the subsidy, as the capital can get put to uses which are more productive. The income generated by activities on land which is not farm land are massive on average to that which is declared as land in agricultural condition with some half-baked environmental consideration tacked on such as insufficiently deep hedgerows.
    So round numbers we’ve the potential to add 3 days to national income by abolishing the hand outs. We should get rid of the £4bn a year in hand outs to owners of foreign farm land too. That’s where most of the EU net contribution goes and some of the foreign aid budget is incident on land owners.

  47. @ Bongo
    Whatever the OECD says about removing subsidies does not apply to food production in a food-importing country.
    The subsidies enable many UK farmers to remain in business when they are selling at prices above their marginal costs but below their overall cost of production – this affects the price we pay on imported food [it also reduces the cost of unemployment benefits/pension credits, so the £3bn is not the net cost].
    There have been some years when the net income from the B&B’s provided by farmers’ wives exceeded the total profit of all farms.

  48. ” The subsidies are incident on the owners of the land. Some owners are also workers on farms, but the right to collect the handout falls on the owner of the large land holding not the person farming it.”

    Not correct. The farmer (ie the person doing the work) gets the money not the landowner. Now its true that means that if the person doing the work is a tenant they then have extra cash available to pay a higher rent, so some will end up in the landowners pocket indirectly, but landowners do not get paid farm subsidies direct to them, there is a market process at work that allows that to occur. If all tenants refused to pay higher rents and kept the subsidy in their pockets there is nothing the landowner could do about it.

  49. @Jim
    The true incidence is on the landowner (i.e. the rent will ultimately adjust to reflect it, just as with rates on commercial property) but, depending on the frequency of rent reviews, the effect can take a long time to work its way through. And meanwhile the tenant may have gone bankrupt.

  50. “The true incidence is on the landowner”

    Again not 100% true. It depends what sort of tenancy is in place. Any person or institution who is a long term landlord (ie was renting out farmland prior to the 1990s) will have tenants who have Agricultural Holding Act (AHA) tenancies. These were introduced by the Labour government in the 70s in a retrospective manner – any existing tenancy, however worded was unilaterally turned into an AHA tenancy. And all AHA tenancies are heavily in favour of the tenant, both via rent control, the ability to end them (its very difficult to get rid of tenants) and also that they last 3 generations – the person who got given a AHA tenancy in the 70s could leave that to his son, and then his grandson could take it over, each time by right, so landlords lost control of their land for the best part of 100 years potentially. Thus most institutional landlords have AHA tenants and as such the ability to raise rents to take into account of subsidies is heavily limited by statute. AHA rents are generally lower than non-AHA rents, by as much as half or more, and are often lower than the subsidy the tenant receives.

    If on the other hand you have rented land out since the introduction of Farm Business Tenancies in the 90s, then you are in a similar position to a residential landlord with Shorthold Tenancies – you can have tenancies that are for fixed periods with guaranteed possession at the end. As such the rent for FBTs tends to be a far more market based one, and incorporates all the available subsidy so it does end up with the landowner.

  51. @Tony McRush

    We need food security. If we got into geopolitical trouble all anyone would have to do to defeat the UK would carry out a blockade and stop food entering the UK,. It would be a disaster.

    I’m pretty certain that got tried good and hard not that long ago. And didn’t work. And wasn’t a disaster.

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