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The failure of lockdown localism How egg politics scrambled Britain

Why don't you want one of these in your garden? Credit: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Why don't you want one of these in your garden? Credit: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images


May 10, 2023   7 mins

We’re still eating a glut of chocolate from the Easter egg-hunt. But we also have a glut of real eggs: over two dozen, from our six back-garden chickens. As my house struggles with an egg surfeit, though, Britain’s shops have the opposite problem. This week, it was reported that many of the hens now supplying British shops are Italian. This is, producers claim, because supermarket pricing has forced many British egg farmers out of business. After a few years of selling your eggs at a loss, what is a farmer to do?

One of the UK’s poultry producers’ associations reported last autumn that between bird flu and persistently low margins, up to a third of its members either reduced production or closed down altogether. One former egg farm near me now rents storage units; another has been on the market for months, unable to find a buyer. As a result, there aren’t enough eggs to stock the shelves — and supermarkets are importing them from Italy. “So what?” you might ask. This is the market at work. But around this time three years ago, egg politics looked for a moment as though they might be on a different course.

Covid lockdowns scrambled many of the food supply chains we’d grown accustomed to — and as the country reeled, it seemed briefly as though more local networks might begin to re-emerge. (This was the point we first got our birds, albeit less with profit in mind than our own kitchen.) On my street, neighbours with back-garden poultry did a roaring trade.

Early 2020 brought a wider sense, too, that Covid might signal the end for free-trade absolutism more generally, and prompt a return to more bounded and local networks. But three years on, although my street still has several poultry-keepers, most have reverted to buying eggs from the shops. The turn away from free trade, if the Italian egg suppliers are anything to go by, has yet to occur.

Why, then, do we seem unable to imagine any other way of doing things? This seemingly inexorable drift back to the impersonal market epitomises Britain’s approach to food. This system, which we embraced in earnest nearly two centuries ago, maps a belief in the impersonal logic of “the market” onto a terrain whose most important attributes are simply not visible to market logic. And egg politics shows, in microcosm, just how poorly this ideology meshes with food production — to the extent that it now threatens our capacity to produce food at all.

Our trajectory toward the current situation was set out by Karl Polanyi, in the influential 1944 book, The Great Transformation. Humans, Polanyi argues, have always bought, sold, and exchanged things. But for the most part, across time and cultures, the market has been ordered to the needs of social institutions, and regulated accordingly. What’s unique about the modern world, he suggests, is that it works the other way round: our social institutions are ordered to the market.

For Polanyi, it was the enclosure of the commons that set England on this trajectory, by displacing England’s subsistence peasants, and creating the industrial proletariat, who were obliged to work for a wage. Perhaps the last nail in the coffin for that older, landowning order was the 1846 repeal of the Corn Laws: tariffs that aimed to protect domestic grain prices from the influence of cheaper foreign imports, and were vigorously opposed by the mercantile class and industrial proletariat.

It was, in effect, a contest between Britain’s food producers and an emerging population of food consumers. And in 1846, the food producers lost their protection from competition. The change accelerated Britain’s shift from a farming-first to an industrial economy, and set agriculture — once the largest employer in England — on the trajectory it’s followed ever since: dwindling opportunities for youth, relentless demands for efficiency, and with these a bitter tension between land stewardship, and market-driven pressure to lower standards. The historian Robert Ensor writes that after repeal, “the only chance for any young or enterprising person on the countryside was to get out of it”. Many smaller farmers gave up, and emigrated to America.

As populations urbanised, this also pushed Britons to abandon domestic poultry-keeping — or rather, to centralise it. Today, most egg farming (where it survives at all) is highly industrialised, with 48% of British birds in battery cages. Despite more recent regulations banning the cruellest intensive farming practices, bird welfare often suffers. And their waste, though an excellent nutrient for our domestic veg beds, is a major source of river pollution at scale.

Perhaps the gains in efficiency warrant the loss of chicken-keeping culture. But chicken centralisation also illustrates how, when market pressures collide with food production, it’s not so much that costs are driven down. Rather, they’re externalised into areas that don’t appear on the balance sheet, such as animal cruelty, river pollution, distressed producers — or, more subtly, disappearing cultures.

We’re middle-class chicken hobbyists, not farmers, but even amateur poultry-keeping has left me wondering what else is lost in cultural terms when chickens are centralised, from realism about animal behaviour, to poultry-based metaphors — or seasonal rituals. Absent modern, artificial housing conditions, many hens stop laying over the winter. If your birds are free-range, when they start again in the spring, you have to figure out where they’re hiding their eggs. When I learned this, it left me wondering whether this insight survives for most modern families only in the other egg glut we’re eating our way through: the chocolate one. Modern chocolate was, after all, invented the year after the Corn Laws were repealed. So Britain’s urbanisation began in earnest just as chocolate became a mass-market treat. Did a trace of the older form of “spring egg hunt” —  for real eggs — urbanise, too, in chocolate form, among now-henless households?

The nineteenth-century Tories were ambivalent about such losses: the Corn Law debate split the Tory Party down the middle, and eventually forced Robert Peel’s resignation as Prime Minister. But despite their residual association in the public mind with the interests of landowners, today’s Tory Party seems closer in spirit to the old Whigs: mercantilist to the core, and deeply reluctant to look too closely at how well “markets” manage the complex mesh of social, environmental and economic issues bound up in domestic food production.

When, for example, Johnson struck a “free trade deal” with Australia around two years ago, it was hailed as a benefit of Brexit. At the time, the National Farmers’ Union warned that the proposed deal would be disastrous for British farmers; Johnson shrugged it off with a merrily Whiggish nod to market ideology, declaring: “This is a country that grew successful and prosperous on free trade, on exporting around the world.”

Last year, British farmers warned again that, applied to farming, these free-market policies are “sleepwalking” Britain into a food crisis. In January, shop shelves across the country stood empty. The government shrugged, this time blaming supermarkets for “market failure”. More recently, food tsar Henry Dimbleby quit his post, condemning ministers’s “ultra-free-market ideology” as a threat to Britain’s food security.

But the ideology seems as tenacious as ever, and our leaders as convinced at ever that where the dictates of the market require that something be dissolved — even if that turns out to be Britain’s capacity to produce eggs at all — then it will be dissolved. We don’t need poultry producers in Britain. The market will provide: we’ll just import eggs.

But this is premised on a belief that nothing can stand in the way of international trade, now or in the future. And even leaving aside energy prices, just based on news headlines over the last 20 years, this strikes me as — to put it mildly — a risky bet. What if we grind domestic food security to nothing in the name of the “free market”, only for the wheels to come off global trade again?

And yet nor am I sure that this is just a matter of ideology-blinded mercantilist leaders. For all proposed solutions to food security — whether free-market ones from the Right, or regulatory or veganism-based ones from the Left — share the same implicit certainty that whatever the solution is, it will still involve centralisation. And yet we could surely make a dent in the nested (sorry) poultry problems of food security, pricing, pollution, welfare, and carbon-intensive supply chains — not to mention improve domestic food waste management — by going the opposite way, toward chicken decentralisation.

Yes, some people live in apartments. But 87% of British homes have a back garden. And regulations on intensive poultry farming permit an insane density of birds — 17 hens per square metre — meaning even a tiny back garden could easily keep a few hens in many times this space, while enabling the recycling of kitchen scraps and supplying the garden with high-quality fertiliser.

So why aren’t we doing this? I don’t think it’s just that Tories are wicked mercantilists, or that the farmers are almost gone already. The only explanation I can see is simple, and dispiriting: that however excited some got in 2020 about re-localising and de-marketising food production, the vast majority of people just don’t want to.

The fault, in truth, lies with all of us: for market “efficiency” and “convenience” isn’t just about price and choice. It’s also about lack of obligation. As I’ve learned when buying (and, occasionally, selling) eggs among neighbours, the moment you make trade more local — which is to say, more personal — you swiftly become caught in additional layers of obligation, whether to the birds that depend on you for food and safety, or to the neighbours whose subsistence is now (in however tiny a way) more bound up in yours.

And while communitarians often idealise such networks, we’ve grown accustomed to being able to buy eggs without this layer of complexity. No one who views taking the neighbour’s bin round as a huge favour will be keen on re-creating this complexity unless they absolutely have to. Most are still more than happy to look away from the uncounted welfare, ecological and food-security costs of this freedom from obligation. And I suspect it’s this, more than anything, that explains our Titanic-like drift toward the iceberg of food supply disaster.

Changing course would not just mean kicking out the Tories, or fiddling with regulations, embracing synthetic foods, or even re-building forgotten practices in domestic food production. It would mean re-evaluating every basic assumption about how we relate to one another, and why. The food crisis will have to get a great deal more severe — and fresh eggs a great deal more expensive than mass-produced chocolate ones — before many are willing to do that.


Mary Harrington is a contributing editor at UnHerd.

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James Surry
James Surry
1 year ago

A great essay Mary, thank you. I’m (also) of the opinion that our shift from an obligation-first polity to one based on rights and consumption lies at the basis of so many of the socio-economic problems and the moral dysfunction we find ourselves living with. A polity that prioritises rights and consumption leads only to alienation: not just from our neighbours and our food, but also from something as seemingly small as our understanding of chickens’ behaviour towards their eggs in the springtime, and therefore alienation from the roots of our own cultural practises.
It is beyond me at present as to how we could begin to restore a culture of obligation, though I feel it is perhaps a crisis of the spiritual realm, rather than one of policy.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Surry
Simon S
Simon S
1 year ago
Reply to  James Surry

“I feel it is perhaps a crisis of the spiritual realm, rather than one of policy.” Yes – and that is a good reason for hope! Crisis brings revelation brings transformation. It is the doctrinal materialism which has come to dominate Western civilization (personified above all in self-regarding progressives) which has dissipated (it can never actually be broken) our sense of the ontological interconnectedness of everything in Nature at a very fundamental level. Meanwhile, the chickens are coming home to roost.

Simon S
Simon S
1 year ago
Reply to  James Surry

“I feel it is perhaps a crisis of the spiritual realm, rather than one of policy.” Yes – and that is a good reason for hope! Crisis brings revelation brings transformation. It is the doctrinal materialism which has come to dominate Western civilization (personified above all in self-regarding progressives) which has dissipated (it can never actually be broken) our sense of the ontological interconnectedness of everything in Nature at a very fundamental level. Meanwhile, the chickens are coming home to roost.

James Surry
James Surry
1 year ago

A great essay Mary, thank you. I’m (also) of the opinion that our shift from an obligation-first polity to one based on rights and consumption lies at the basis of so many of the socio-economic problems and the moral dysfunction we find ourselves living with. A polity that prioritises rights and consumption leads only to alienation: not just from our neighbours and our food, but also from something as seemingly small as our understanding of chickens’ behaviour towards their eggs in the springtime, and therefore alienation from the roots of our own cultural practises.
It is beyond me at present as to how we could begin to restore a culture of obligation, though I feel it is perhaps a crisis of the spiritual realm, rather than one of policy.

Last edited 1 year ago by James Surry
Roger le Clercq
Roger le Clercq
1 year ago

Uncomfortably acute call for a hard look at what comes first. Just what Unherd is for.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago

Reminds me of the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall series that encouraged people and communities to keep chickens as an alternative to intense farming. Ideals no doubt we can relate to, at least in principle, yet he failed to grasp that the UK consumes well over a billion chickens a year.
Keeping chickens is also little more than a hobby, it’s actually more economical to just buy meat and eggs.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

90% of the population can’t afford to eat at River Cottage produce prices. As an Old Etonian, Hugh F-W doesn’t quite grasp why the poor eat the way they do.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Most people have no idea that you need to buy chicken feed and it is very expensive, just like dog food or cat food. I’m definitely in the hole raising my chickens even if I sell a few dozen eggs here and there. I can’t free range them because of wild animals and hawks. However, I do feed them scraps and garden surplus to stretch the food. I still like Mary’s post. She’s right that people, myself included, don’t like to be entangled with possibly troublesome neighbors. We like to choose our aquaintances.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

90% of the population can’t afford to eat at River Cottage produce prices. As an Old Etonian, Hugh F-W doesn’t quite grasp why the poor eat the way they do.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Most people have no idea that you need to buy chicken feed and it is very expensive, just like dog food or cat food. I’m definitely in the hole raising my chickens even if I sell a few dozen eggs here and there. I can’t free range them because of wild animals and hawks. However, I do feed them scraps and garden surplus to stretch the food. I still like Mary’s post. She’s right that people, myself included, don’t like to be entangled with possibly troublesome neighbors. We like to choose our aquaintances.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 year ago

Reminds me of the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall series that encouraged people and communities to keep chickens as an alternative to intense farming. Ideals no doubt we can relate to, at least in principle, yet he failed to grasp that the UK consumes well over a billion chickens a year.
Keeping chickens is also little more than a hobby, it’s actually more economical to just buy meat and eggs.

Roger le Clercq
Roger le Clercq
1 year ago

Uncomfortably acute call for a hard look at what comes first. Just what Unherd is for.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Sadly, despite repeatedly bandying about the phrase, Mary doesn’t seem to understand what mercantilism actually is.
Mary’s version equates mercantilism with free trade. This is absoutely not what it is. It is actually about protectionist policies to maximise exports.
Show me a recent Tory government that’s been bent on maximising exports ! Quite the reverse. The “egg policy” (if indeed there is one – I doubt it) appears to have the effect of maximising imports.
If any country is associated with mercantilism – and arguably tries to follow that policy today – it is France (arguably also China).
Back to the matter of the eggs.
If it is cheaper for us to import eggs from Italy than produce them locally, there can only be a limited number of reasons. These would include possible subisidisation of production, energy prices, feed prices and animal welfare. It is hard to imagine that there’s any inherent advantage in the Italian hen population or climate that’s moving the needle here.
My guess would be that we’re outsourcing animal welfare to Italy here. But just a guess.
In any case, there appears to be a wide range of egg types and prices in my local supermarket – there are plenty of options for paying more. Likewise small local suppliers exist.
All this “food insecurity” talk. I don’t recall serious food shortages even during Covid. There was always enough food.
What problem are we really trying to solve here ? I do hope we aren’t trying to leverage “food insecurity” as a means to change an economic and political settlement that the vast majority are content with.
The Repeal of the Corn Laws was one of the greatest achievements of the nineteenth century and directly led to far greater wealth and freedom in the UK. What is sadly lacking today is not more protectionist measures (as the article seems close to calling for), but brave and visionary decision making like that of Robert Peel in 1846.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes. I was disappointed by this erudite writer’s misunderstanding of the term mercantilism which is trade as an instrument of government policy.

I speak as one who grew up on a small family farm in Australia, where the work was relentless and the profits small to nonexistent. Such farms no longer exist unless supported by a separate job.

Yes we ate eggs from our own chickens, and occasionally slaughtered them, and a sheep now and then, for food. But mostly we survived by dairy farming buying and selling cattle and trying to anticipate the market with crops, usually potatoes and peas as well as various grass crops. The price of all these depended on the market which is just a fact of life, not an ideology. Nobody was more aware of markets than the farmer.

Technology in the form of refrigerated transportation, better roads, better communication and so on are what enlarged the markets. Famine was elsewhere, in countries that tried to control agriculture from the top.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

A few weeks ago it was reported that the River Wye, apparently Britain’s fourth largest river catchment system was biologically dead.
The culprit? Chicken excrement leeching into the river from surrounding Chicken Farms!

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

But is this actually true ? I’m going there (a little downstream from Hereford) with some friends for a few days in July. Planned events include river swimming and kayaking, so we’ll find out soon enough.
The Cam in Cambridge was claimed to be unsafe to swim in 40 years ago and immersion supposedly required immediate stomach pumping. Supposedly.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Given the current mass hysteria generated by the Green Crusade probably not! But would the sainted BBC actually stoop so low?

I know the beautiful little River Monnow, which joins the Wye at Monmouth quite well, and there doesn’t seem to be a problem there.

Off course as the Cam passes ‘The Backs’ it is so narrow as to be little more than a ditch, so perhaps it was fairly putrid forty years ago?

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

Over on the Spectator website, a water industry insider explained to me that the current scare over Overspills (the releasing of untreated sewage into the watercourse when severe rain causes too great a volume of water to be treated in the sewage works) is almost entirely political. The problem has existed, without comment, since the system was built 150 years ago. The reason it persists is that it is ruinously expensive and disruptive to rebuild the Victorian sewage system that works fine except during flooding events. It has only recently been picked up as a cudgel with which to beat the government even though the LibDems in coalition and Labour in government were signing off overspill releases in exactly the same way.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank you.
Presumably most of the ‘stuff’ is biodegradable anyway and quickly devoured by ‘others’.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

Apparently they have fine mesh screens that filter out most of the solids in the overspill water. What happens to that residue, I know not.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

Apparently they have fine mesh screens that filter out most of the solids in the overspill water. What happens to that residue, I know not.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank you.

It did seem rather odd that it’s suddenly become an issue, and, as if in unison, reflecting in angry comments over all my social media, limited as it is.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Quite so. This is one of those problems that has always existed but now appears much worse simply because we are much better at monitoring it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank you.
Presumably most of the ‘stuff’ is biodegradable anyway and quickly devoured by ‘others’.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Thank you.

It did seem rather odd that it’s suddenly become an issue, and, as if in unison, reflecting in angry comments over all my social media, limited as it is.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Quite so. This is one of those problems that has always existed but now appears much worse simply because we are much better at monitoring it.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago

Over on the Spectator website, a water industry insider explained to me that the current scare over Overspills (the releasing of untreated sewage into the watercourse when severe rain causes too great a volume of water to be treated in the sewage works) is almost entirely political. The problem has existed, without comment, since the system was built 150 years ago. The reason it persists is that it is ruinously expensive and disruptive to rebuild the Victorian sewage system that works fine except during flooding events. It has only recently been picked up as a cudgel with which to beat the government even though the LibDems in coalition and Labour in government were signing off overspill releases in exactly the same way.

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

40 years ago is nothing. You must, I am sure, be aware of the story of Queen Victoria walking past the Cam (before it was cleaned up) and asking what the paper floating there was. Apparently the reply from the academic with her was “Those, Ma’am, are notices advising the public not to swim in the river.”
It’s probably apocryphal, but a good line nevertheless.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Given the current mass hysteria generated by the Green Crusade probably not! But would the sainted BBC actually stoop so low?

I know the beautiful little River Monnow, which joins the Wye at Monmouth quite well, and there doesn’t seem to be a problem there.

Off course as the Cam passes ‘The Backs’ it is so narrow as to be little more than a ditch, so perhaps it was fairly putrid forty years ago?

John Solomon
John Solomon
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

40 years ago is nothing. You must, I am sure, be aware of the story of Queen Victoria walking past the Cam (before it was cleaned up) and asking what the paper floating there was. Apparently the reply from the academic with her was “Those, Ma’am, are notices advising the public not to swim in the river.”
It’s probably apocryphal, but a good line nevertheless.

Iris Violet
Iris Violet
1 year ago

I allowed my children to swim in the River Wye once because it was the only water nearby and it was terribly hot (and fun!). I did go and check but they did not glow in the dark at night.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

I live pretty much next to the Wye and have swum in it and know plenty of others do and many regularly. I think it may be partly exaggeration yet at the same time river water should not have effluent, agricultural runoff etc and this does matter.
Back to the eggs and good for us all to accept our part in this problem and it is a problem. We have our own poultry and get sometimes load of eggs and sometimes very few. We both need to get used to not outsourcing everything we need or consume and get used to seasonal goods. Not to reduce our global impact/climate change etc (I don’t believe there is any grounds for confidence that there is significant man made climate change or that we can do anything about it) but because we, people, are becoming spoilt, soft, useless and far too sheep-like as we don’t have any control of anything we do or need.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Always good to have a plan B.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

Always good to have a plan B.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

But is this actually true ? I’m going there (a little downstream from Hereford) with some friends for a few days in July. Planned events include river swimming and kayaking, so we’ll find out soon enough.
The Cam in Cambridge was claimed to be unsafe to swim in 40 years ago and immersion supposedly required immediate stomach pumping. Supposedly.

Iris Violet
Iris Violet
1 year ago

I allowed my children to swim in the River Wye once because it was the only water nearby and it was terribly hot (and fun!). I did go and check but they did not glow in the dark at night.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

I live pretty much next to the Wye and have swum in it and know plenty of others do and many regularly. I think it may be partly exaggeration yet at the same time river water should not have effluent, agricultural runoff etc and this does matter.
Back to the eggs and good for us all to accept our part in this problem and it is a problem. We have our own poultry and get sometimes load of eggs and sometimes very few. We both need to get used to not outsourcing everything we need or consume and get used to seasonal goods. Not to reduce our global impact/climate change etc (I don’t believe there is any grounds for confidence that there is significant man made climate change or that we can do anything about it) but because we, people, are becoming spoilt, soft, useless and far too sheep-like as we don’t have any control of anything we do or need.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The non-technical understanding of the word mercantilism, and the consequent lack of understanding of the merits of trade, makes this piece peculiarly informative about real word politics.
Policy argument becomes associative, emotional and feminine, perhaps self-contradictory. What can one do?

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

You’re absolutely correct that we’ve moved to emotion based – and therefore subjective and variable (non-repeatable) – decision making. This is a disaster. You can’t have a free and wealthy country over the longer term without rule of law. And you can’t have rule of law if it’s variable depending on the mood or emotions of the day.
The really depressing thing is that this was largely brought in by lawyers – Blair, Harman, etc. . Should be struck off for fundamentally undermining the law – things like innocent until proven guilty (“let’s assume the complainants are correct”) are at severe risk.
All we can do is speak up against this.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Unfortunately one can no longer trust even a High Court Judge.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Unfortunately one can no longer trust even a High Court Judge.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Nothing to do with feminine – male politicians nowadays are as subjective, partisan, illogical and self-contradictory as you could wish for. Nothing to be done about it either I’m afraid, unless one could find a way to ban the internet and to revive traditional churches to provide a safe outlet for the hoi polloi irrationality which has now leached into the civic space.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

You’re absolutely correct that we’ve moved to emotion based – and therefore subjective and variable (non-repeatable) – decision making. This is a disaster. You can’t have a free and wealthy country over the longer term without rule of law. And you can’t have rule of law if it’s variable depending on the mood or emotions of the day.
The really depressing thing is that this was largely brought in by lawyers – Blair, Harman, etc. . Should be struck off for fundamentally undermining the law – things like innocent until proven guilty (“let’s assume the complainants are correct”) are at severe risk.
All we can do is speak up against this.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Christian Moon

Nothing to do with feminine – male politicians nowadays are as subjective, partisan, illogical and self-contradictory as you could wish for. Nothing to be done about it either I’m afraid, unless one could find a way to ban the internet and to revive traditional churches to provide a safe outlet for the hoi polloi irrationality which has now leached into the civic space.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I have two boiled eggs every morning without fail. Never had any problem getting them despite all the talk of shortages (either from the milkman or when we run out, from Sainsburys).
I think the Aussie and NZ FTAs will lead to cheaper food. Particularly beef, lamb and pork. Obviously farmers here will complain – as in 1846 – but eventually some people will buy British for quality or concerns over air miles and some people will buy the cheaper stuff from overseas. And we will get to sell Land Rovers and JCBs and nuclear submarines to the Australians without hitting their tariff walls.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The word “mercantile” has had many senses over the years and I read this essay as if the author was using “mercantile” in an older sense. Isn’t this usage similar to how Polanyi employed “mercantile” in GT? I’d say the big hole in this essay is that it fails to mention the Irish famine. A focus on the complex consequences of both the corn laws, and their repeal, upon the Irish peasantry would deepen the essay’s engagement with the local and particular, not shifty abstractions like “mercantilism”.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

But she wrote “mercantilist” which is an adjective from the widely-understood (until two days ago, at least) historical term “mercantilism”, as opposed to “mercantile” which merely means related to commerce.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan B

But she wrote “mercantilist” which is an adjective from the widely-understood (until two days ago, at least) historical term “mercantilism”, as opposed to “mercantile” which merely means related to commerce.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The Corn Laws are so dĂ©jĂ  vu, and well preempted by the “Silver Crisis of 1619-23.” and its subsequent machinations.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Yes. I was disappointed by this erudite writer’s misunderstanding of the term mercantilism which is trade as an instrument of government policy.

I speak as one who grew up on a small family farm in Australia, where the work was relentless and the profits small to nonexistent. Such farms no longer exist unless supported by a separate job.

Yes we ate eggs from our own chickens, and occasionally slaughtered them, and a sheep now and then, for food. But mostly we survived by dairy farming buying and selling cattle and trying to anticipate the market with crops, usually potatoes and peas as well as various grass crops. The price of all these depended on the market which is just a fact of life, not an ideology. Nobody was more aware of markets than the farmer.

Technology in the form of refrigerated transportation, better roads, better communication and so on are what enlarged the markets. Famine was elsewhere, in countries that tried to control agriculture from the top.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

A few weeks ago it was reported that the River Wye, apparently Britain’s fourth largest river catchment system was biologically dead.
The culprit? Chicken excrement leeching into the river from surrounding Chicken Farms!

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Christian Moon
Christian Moon
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The non-technical understanding of the word mercantilism, and the consequent lack of understanding of the merits of trade, makes this piece peculiarly informative about real word politics.
Policy argument becomes associative, emotional and feminine, perhaps self-contradictory. What can one do?

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

I have two boiled eggs every morning without fail. Never had any problem getting them despite all the talk of shortages (either from the milkman or when we run out, from Sainsburys).
I think the Aussie and NZ FTAs will lead to cheaper food. Particularly beef, lamb and pork. Obviously farmers here will complain – as in 1846 – but eventually some people will buy British for quality or concerns over air miles and some people will buy the cheaper stuff from overseas. And we will get to sell Land Rovers and JCBs and nuclear submarines to the Australians without hitting their tariff walls.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The word “mercantile” has had many senses over the years and I read this essay as if the author was using “mercantile” in an older sense. Isn’t this usage similar to how Polanyi employed “mercantile” in GT? I’d say the big hole in this essay is that it fails to mention the Irish famine. A focus on the complex consequences of both the corn laws, and their repeal, upon the Irish peasantry would deepen the essay’s engagement with the local and particular, not shifty abstractions like “mercantilism”.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The Corn Laws are so dĂ©jĂ  vu, and well preempted by the “Silver Crisis of 1619-23.” and its subsequent machinations.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Sadly, despite repeatedly bandying about the phrase, Mary doesn’t seem to understand what mercantilism actually is.
Mary’s version equates mercantilism with free trade. This is absoutely not what it is. It is actually about protectionist policies to maximise exports.
Show me a recent Tory government that’s been bent on maximising exports ! Quite the reverse. The “egg policy” (if indeed there is one – I doubt it) appears to have the effect of maximising imports.
If any country is associated with mercantilism – and arguably tries to follow that policy today – it is France (arguably also China).
Back to the matter of the eggs.
If it is cheaper for us to import eggs from Italy than produce them locally, there can only be a limited number of reasons. These would include possible subisidisation of production, energy prices, feed prices and animal welfare. It is hard to imagine that there’s any inherent advantage in the Italian hen population or climate that’s moving the needle here.
My guess would be that we’re outsourcing animal welfare to Italy here. But just a guess.
In any case, there appears to be a wide range of egg types and prices in my local supermarket – there are plenty of options for paying more. Likewise small local suppliers exist.
All this “food insecurity” talk. I don’t recall serious food shortages even during Covid. There was always enough food.
What problem are we really trying to solve here ? I do hope we aren’t trying to leverage “food insecurity” as a means to change an economic and political settlement that the vast majority are content with.
The Repeal of the Corn Laws was one of the greatest achievements of the nineteenth century and directly led to far greater wealth and freedom in the UK. What is sadly lacking today is not more protectionist measures (as the article seems close to calling for), but brave and visionary decision making like that of Robert Peel in 1846.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Great article. In particular, I like the fact that part of the conclusion is: it’s not just the Tories, or the regulations or the big bad supermarkets: IT’S US TOO. We’ve freed ourselves from obligation, freed ourselves from complexity, made our lives easy and convenient…and yet failed to realise this all has a cost and now there has to be someone to blame. This was all meant to be progress but it seems to have infantilised us as a society.
I don’t have a back garden, or even a balcony. But I find it immensely therapeutic (and also very practical) to grow herbs and chilis on my windowsill. I also love to forage: this year I’ve made syrup from lilacs, collected some juicy fresh nettles for soup while out walking at the weekend…and elderflower syrup is next on the seasonal delicacy list! Giving someone a homemade syrup or jam is a much nicer gift than, I don’t know, a box of chocs from Thornton’s.
As well as being a lovely way to connect to nature and be creative when I spend all week staring at a screen – growing things and foraging does make you appreciate the food in the supermarket more. The water those plants need, the work it takes to find and collect food, the time you need to prepare something good from it. It is slow and laborious in a way which you just forget when you whizz round Asda mindlessly throwing stuff in your trolley.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Stoater D
Stoater D
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Clearly you have a lot of time on your hands.
Many don’t.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Stoater D

Katherine may not have a lot of time on her hands, but what spare time she does have she uses creatively.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Stoater D

Katherine may not have a lot of time on her hands, but what spare time she does have she uses creatively.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I would whizz round the supermarket a lot faster if they would stop rearranging the shelves.

I have enough slow and laborious tasks to do without trying to turn shopping into a leisure activity, or being impeded by those who treat it as such.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Well said, so annoying!

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Well said, so annoying!

Stoater D
Stoater D
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Clearly you have a lot of time on your hands.
Many don’t.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I would whizz round the supermarket a lot faster if they would stop rearranging the shelves.

I have enough slow and laborious tasks to do without trying to turn shopping into a leisure activity, or being impeded by those who treat it as such.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Great article. In particular, I like the fact that part of the conclusion is: it’s not just the Tories, or the regulations or the big bad supermarkets: IT’S US TOO. We’ve freed ourselves from obligation, freed ourselves from complexity, made our lives easy and convenient…and yet failed to realise this all has a cost and now there has to be someone to blame. This was all meant to be progress but it seems to have infantilised us as a society.
I don’t have a back garden, or even a balcony. But I find it immensely therapeutic (and also very practical) to grow herbs and chilis on my windowsill. I also love to forage: this year I’ve made syrup from lilacs, collected some juicy fresh nettles for soup while out walking at the weekend…and elderflower syrup is next on the seasonal delicacy list! Giving someone a homemade syrup or jam is a much nicer gift than, I don’t know, a box of chocs from Thornton’s.
As well as being a lovely way to connect to nature and be creative when I spend all week staring at a screen – growing things and foraging does make you appreciate the food in the supermarket more. The water those plants need, the work it takes to find and collect food, the time you need to prepare something good from it. It is slow and laborious in a way which you just forget when you whizz round Asda mindlessly throwing stuff in your trolley.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson
1 year ago

WE get a vegetable box every week from a local organic supplier. THe eggs they provide from a nearby organic farm are absolutely delicious- incomparably superior to any supermarket kind from Asda. t I strongly recommend support of Soil Association work and what they are doing to work towards encouraging localised organic farming..

Peta Seel
Peta Seel
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Jackson

Ever since I moved to France 26 years ago I have bought eggs from local people like my cleaner. They are cheaper than the supermarket ones and far nicer. Definitely free-range as they often arrive with half the farmyard still attached!!

jane baker
jane baker
1 year ago
Reply to  Peta Seel

The irony is that if the big mainstream stores sold eggs,like that,ie all muddy + feathery etc it would become a subject of horror on tv consumer shows,and radio phone ins,and people would complain that they were in danger of being poisoned and it’s a threat to their children’s well being and The Government must DO SOMETHING.

jane baker
jane baker
1 year ago
Reply to  Peta Seel

The irony is that if the big mainstream stores sold eggs,like that,ie all muddy + feathery etc it would become a subject of horror on tv consumer shows,and radio phone ins,and people would complain that they were in danger of being poisoned and it’s a threat to their children’s well being and The Government must DO SOMETHING.

Peta Seel
Peta Seel
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Jackson

Ever since I moved to France 26 years ago I have bought eggs from local people like my cleaner. They are cheaper than the supermarket ones and far nicer. Definitely free-range as they often arrive with half the farmyard still attached!!

Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson
1 year ago

WE get a vegetable box every week from a local organic supplier. THe eggs they provide from a nearby organic farm are absolutely delicious- incomparably superior to any supermarket kind from Asda. t I strongly recommend support of Soil Association work and what they are doing to work towards encouraging localised organic farming..

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
1 year ago

Mary I wd love to keep chickens. The reality is that many deeds prohibit it, including mine.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

There are probably good reasons for that prohibition.
In mid-1950s I was a child living in Luton. Even then this town had a quite high immigrant population. Many of our neighbours (and my parents) grew fruit and vegetables in their gardens and kept chickens. A typical urban garden would never provide enough vegetables to feed a small family and just gave us a some tasty seasonal extras. Although the chickens provided a few eggs the birds were smelly and noisy. Worse – they proved to be a major health hazard as they attracted rats.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Yes, rats ate our chicken’s eggs in the country.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Yes, rats ate our chicken’s eggs in the country.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

There are probably good reasons for that prohibition.
In mid-1950s I was a child living in Luton. Even then this town had a quite high immigrant population. Many of our neighbours (and my parents) grew fruit and vegetables in their gardens and kept chickens. A typical urban garden would never provide enough vegetables to feed a small family and just gave us a some tasty seasonal extras. Although the chickens provided a few eggs the birds were smelly and noisy. Worse – they proved to be a major health hazard as they attracted rats.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
1 year ago

Mary I wd love to keep chickens. The reality is that many deeds prohibit it, including mine.

Richard Aston
Richard Aston
1 year ago

“lockdowns scrambled many of the food supply chains” very funny but did you poach that from someone else?

Richard Aston
Richard Aston
1 year ago

“lockdowns scrambled many of the food supply chains” very funny but did you poach that from someone else?

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

Depressing article. I’m beginning to wonder if Roger Hallam and George Monbiot have the ear of the UnHerd team.
Journalists (and other professional alarmists) have been warning of impending ‘massive food shortages’ leading to riots, looting and anarchy for at least a couple of decades. I’m still waiting.

Stephen Hunter
Stephen Hunter
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Much longer than that. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted mass starvation throughout the world within a few years. Since then he has made a glittering academic career out of being wrong about everything all the time.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Hunter

Ah! Paul R Ehrlich, granddaddy of population panic. It doesn’t matter if a prophet’s predictions are repeatedly wrong – as long as his message fits the worldview of the annointed elite they’ll find reasons to heed him.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

“It doesn’t matter if a prophet’s predictions are repeatedly wrong”
This reminds me of the engineer who warns that a bridge is on the verge of collapse. Month after month is stands, and the engineer is laughed at. What a scaremonger! Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Why doesn’t he just shut up, the idiot? Then one day the bridge collapses even if it stood longer than expected. The same folks will then complain that nobody warned them or find some other reason to blame someone else. Because socialism!

Andrew Stoll
Andrew Stoll
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

True!

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Stoll
N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Was that a real engineer and a real bridge or just one of those made up stories we used to call old wives tales?

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

After Covid, we seem to have forgotten that we live in a scientific age, where these sort of these things can be analyzed and determined. – ‘Follow the science’ . Our Truth our Science !!! This is where a nonsensical comment like the above comes from.

Andrew Stoll
Andrew Stoll
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

True!

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Stoll
N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Was that a real engineer and a real bridge or just one of those made up stories we used to call old wives tales?

Peter Lee
Peter Lee
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

After Covid, we seem to have forgotten that we live in a scientific age, where these sort of these things can be analyzed and determined. – ‘Follow the science’ . Our Truth our Science !!! This is where a nonsensical comment like the above comes from.

Andrew Stoll
Andrew Stoll
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Paul Ehrlich’s population ‘panic’?
Population related issues are the most neglected of all, given their unique impact on all life on earth. Despite the sheer numbers of us being the source of nearly all environmental problems, the subject is all but taboo with greens, trendies and conservatives alike! Even ‘climate change’ is only a problem for humans because we insist that the world owes our species rights over life and death and perpetuity in everything. More people equals fewer wild things – simple – there is no room for both. The scale of everything us 8 billion people (and growing) must do to just be alive, even with our bare “footprints”, is ruining the planet, not just co2 or this or that! …and 33 billion chickens!

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

What hysterical moralising nonsense. You really are panicking.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

Absolutely right! Over population is a taboo topic, it seems, because of the control religions, particularly Islam and Catholicism, has over the media. It’s guilt tripping and I find it infuriating. If every woman,world wide, had about ten children we wouldn’t have gotten even this far.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

That old canard?
The Catholic countries of Europe have had the lowest birthrates for some time now.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

That old canard?
The Catholic countries of Europe have had the lowest birthrates for some time now.

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

What hysterical moralising nonsense. You really are panicking.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Stoll

Absolutely right! Over population is a taboo topic, it seems, because of the control religions, particularly Islam and Catholicism, has over the media. It’s guilt tripping and I find it infuriating. If every woman,world wide, had about ten children we wouldn’t have gotten even this far.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

“It doesn’t matter if a prophet’s predictions are repeatedly wrong”
This reminds me of the engineer who warns that a bridge is on the verge of collapse. Month after month is stands, and the engineer is laughed at. What a scaremonger! Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Why doesn’t he just shut up, the idiot? Then one day the bridge collapses even if it stood longer than expected. The same folks will then complain that nobody warned them or find some other reason to blame someone else. Because socialism!

Andrew Stoll
Andrew Stoll
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Paul Ehrlich’s population ‘panic’?
Population related issues are the most neglected of all, given their unique impact on all life on earth. Despite the sheer numbers of us being the source of nearly all environmental problems, the subject is all but taboo with greens, trendies and conservatives alike! Even ‘climate change’ is only a problem for humans because we insist that the world owes our species rights over life and death and perpetuity in everything. More people equals fewer wild things – simple – there is no room for both. The scale of everything us 8 billion people (and growing) must do to just be alive, even with our bare “footprints”, is ruining the planet, not just co2 or this or that! …and 33 billion chickens!

N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Hunter

Ah! Paul R Ehrlich, granddaddy of population panic. It doesn’t matter if a prophet’s predictions are repeatedly wrong – as long as his message fits the worldview of the annointed elite they’ll find reasons to heed him.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Well, at least it wasn’t an article about chickens who now identify as foxes, or something else to do with how people chose to engage in physical relations.

Last edited 1 year ago by Warren Trees
Stephen Hunter
Stephen Hunter
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Much longer than that. Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb predicted mass starvation throughout the world within a few years. Since then he has made a glittering academic career out of being wrong about everything all the time.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  N Satori

Well, at least it wasn’t an article about chickens who now identify as foxes, or something else to do with how people chose to engage in physical relations.

Last edited 1 year ago by Warren Trees
N Satori
N Satori
1 year ago

Depressing article. I’m beginning to wonder if Roger Hallam and George Monbiot have the ear of the UnHerd team.
Journalists (and other professional alarmists) have been warning of impending ‘massive food shortages’ leading to riots, looting and anarchy for at least a couple of decades. I’m still waiting.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Thought-provoking and elegantly written, as always from Mary, but calling for a few corrective thoughts.
Increased self-sufficiency is great but has its limits. Who looks after your hens, Mary, when you’re on holiday? And where there are hens there are rats. Your urban neighbours might not be so happy about your egg production when the rats start appearing in their attics and cavity walls. And do you eat your hens or just take the eggs?
Also, although our Tory Government has scandalously neglected rural communities in all sorts of ways, beware of thinking that the NFU has the solution to the nation’s food policy. That would be like allowing the RMT to dictate our transport policy. The NFU gives farmers very sound advice on how to increase their income by, for example, turning arable land into solar farms but that’s not necessarily in the wider public interest.

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago

Well you have hens, and rats, and predatory birds (like owls) and that sorts it all out.

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago

Well you have hens, and rats, and predatory birds (like owls) and that sorts it all out.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

Thought-provoking and elegantly written, as always from Mary, but calling for a few corrective thoughts.
Increased self-sufficiency is great but has its limits. Who looks after your hens, Mary, when you’re on holiday? And where there are hens there are rats. Your urban neighbours might not be so happy about your egg production when the rats start appearing in their attics and cavity walls. And do you eat your hens or just take the eggs?
Also, although our Tory Government has scandalously neglected rural communities in all sorts of ways, beware of thinking that the NFU has the solution to the nation’s food policy. That would be like allowing the RMT to dictate our transport policy. The NFU gives farmers very sound advice on how to increase their income by, for example, turning arable land into solar farms but that’s not necessarily in the wider public interest.

Iris Violet
Iris Violet
1 year ago

I always enjoy Mary Harrington’s contributions. This time rather than focusing on the deeper message, I was inspired to revisit the idea of keeping chickens. I live in an urban area but have a good sized garden and have always had the idea of keeping a few hens (does one need a c**k as well?). A quick search into what this would entail lead me to this rather sweet website: https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/. It offered some useful reminders of the work and commitment (and noise and general mess) that come with these feathery friends. I rather hope my neighbours don’t opt into small scale home farming. I for one will certainly stick to the Italian less fresh fare.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris Violet

Grow some balls and man up Iris! Noise and general mess? Oh the horrors!

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris Violet

Grow some balls and man up Iris! Noise and general mess? Oh the horrors!

Iris Violet
Iris Violet
1 year ago

I always enjoy Mary Harrington’s contributions. This time rather than focusing on the deeper message, I was inspired to revisit the idea of keeping chickens. I live in an urban area but have a good sized garden and have always had the idea of keeping a few hens (does one need a c**k as well?). A quick search into what this would entail lead me to this rather sweet website: https://keeping-chickens.me.uk/. It offered some useful reminders of the work and commitment (and noise and general mess) that come with these feathery friends. I rather hope my neighbours don’t opt into small scale home farming. I for one will certainly stick to the Italian less fresh fare.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 year ago

The Free Market is efficient alright. It’s efficient at doing what it’s designed to do, namely transfer wealth from ordinary people into the hands of the globalist plutocrats.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
1 year ago

The Free Market is efficient alright. It’s efficient at doing what it’s designed to do, namely transfer wealth from ordinary people into the hands of the globalist plutocrats.

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago

Two key points missing from the above essay

1) housing price speculation driven by foreign money is driving EVERYTHING ELSE from the market place

2) the Corn Laws operated with total disregard for public welfare. This country was a nett exporter of population for over two centuries

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago

Two key points missing from the above essay

1) housing price speculation driven by foreign money is driving EVERYTHING ELSE from the market place

2) the Corn Laws operated with total disregard for public welfare. This country was a nett exporter of population for over two centuries

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago

But who wants to be one of, “England’s subsistence peasants,”? There were famines in those days.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Perhaps there have been improvements in food production.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
1 year ago
Reply to  Alan Hawkes

Perhaps there have been improvements in food production.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
1 year ago

But who wants to be one of, “England’s subsistence peasants,”? There were famines in those days.

Peta Seel
Peta Seel
1 year ago

” What if we grind domestic food security to nothing in the name of the “free market”, only for the wheels to come off global trade again?”
More to the point, what if there is another world war (China, anyone?) and we have to feed not only the population but an army as well?

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
1 year ago

The only cost of the free market was and is your culture.

Frederick Leigh
Frederick Leigh
1 year ago

Many neighbours in my Lancashire childhood kept chickens for eggs and slaughter. They remembered the food security lessons of two world wars and the depression years. Global trade is not free trade and to pretend otherwise is both naive and reckless. Food and energy are just as weaponised now as they were during those wars. Monopolies, cartels, tariffs, malicious actors like Putin and market manipulation are the prevailing forces today. We cannot afford to sacrifice this country’s security on the altar of the ideology of unregulated free trade.

Janet G
Janet G
1 year ago

When I was a child in Australia, we had “eggs for Britain” days at school. The collected eggs were sent on to the war-torn UK, some in shells, some powdered. in 1946 we sent 45 million dozen eggs.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

One of those empty Scottish Islands lost its people due to the exact kind of financial system which the wide UK relies on today, and the results will be the same.

The men fished a bit, grew some cabbages, a sheep… and the cash economy was based on every wife taking in, and doing, her neighbor’s laundry.

But one got greedy and thinking, ”I’ll just do my own washing, And still take in Morag’s, and doubly my income”.

But then the neighbor who did the first one’s washing could no longer afford to pay to get hers done, and so on, and till the whole cycle went round and everyone of them was broke – and all had to move to the Mainland for jobs…..

I wonder if this is the story Mary is telling of, with her chickens…..ï»ż

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I very much doubt it.
“every wife taking in, and doing, her neighbour’s laundry” is nonsense in terms of division of labour and no doubt intended to elicit some kind of spurious ‘community’ appeal. That’d be the equivalent of the UK importing Italian eggs and exporting our own eggs to Italy,

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That’s funny and my thought exactly.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That’s funny and my thought exactly.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Hmm, one side of my family are from such an island community. That view is nothing like what I heard about ‘the old days’ growing up. What my grandparents told me was that while you certainly had a great community of people, as late as the 1960s it was back-breaking hard work from dawn to dusk with no road transport to speak of. For their own grandparents in turn, they were little better than medieval serfs.

Islands lost people (and still do) because the more capable had opportunities to have a better standard of living, especially those who benefited from grammar schools, scholarships or attending technical colleges. Prior to that they were bunged on a boat and shipped off to the Americas or Antipodes.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I very much doubt it.
“every wife taking in, and doing, her neighbour’s laundry” is nonsense in terms of division of labour and no doubt intended to elicit some kind of spurious ‘community’ appeal. That’d be the equivalent of the UK importing Italian eggs and exporting our own eggs to Italy,

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 year ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Hmm, one side of my family are from such an island community. That view is nothing like what I heard about ‘the old days’ growing up. What my grandparents told me was that while you certainly had a great community of people, as late as the 1960s it was back-breaking hard work from dawn to dusk with no road transport to speak of. For their own grandparents in turn, they were little better than medieval serfs.

Islands lost people (and still do) because the more capable had opportunities to have a better standard of living, especially those who benefited from grammar schools, scholarships or attending technical colleges. Prior to that they were bunged on a boat and shipped off to the Americas or Antipodes.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 year ago

One of those empty Scottish Islands lost its people due to the exact kind of financial system which the wide UK relies on today, and the results will be the same.

The men fished a bit, grew some cabbages, a sheep… and the cash economy was based on every wife taking in, and doing, her neighbor’s laundry.

But one got greedy and thinking, ”I’ll just do my own washing, And still take in Morag’s, and doubly my income”.

But then the neighbor who did the first one’s washing could no longer afford to pay to get hers done, and so on, and till the whole cycle went round and everyone of them was broke – and all had to move to the Mainland for jobs…..

I wonder if this is the story Mary is telling of, with her chickens…..ï»ż