‘I just remember the sheer numbers’

So, when Alistair asked me for my reflections on pig industry ‘activity’ back in 1998, my immediate reaction was: “I can barely remember what happened yesterday!”, writes Richard Longthorp, a Yorkshire pig farmer and former NPA chair and vice chair.

But, there was one abiding memory. I can’t remember too much detail of events like the meeting at Bishop Burton, the demonstration at Immingham Docks or the rally in Trafalgar Square, but what I do remember is still vivid: the sheer numbers.

Hundreds at Bishop Burton and several hundreds, if not thousands, at Immingham and Trafalgar Square – all pig industry people desperate for some respite from an unprecedented haemorrhaging of cash from their business, their personal savings and their pensions. Their presence was brought on by a combination of circumstances, not least of which was the duplicity of retailers and ambivalence of government.

Some would try and justify their actions by saying it was ‘the market at work’. To which I say ‘Bollox’.

Even economist and philosopher Adam Smith might have empathised with the industry’s plight. For according to the man himself: “Markets and trade are, in principle, good things – provided there is competition and a regulatory framework that prevents ruthless selfishness, greed and rapacity from leading to socially harmful outcomes. But competition and market regulations are always in danger of being undermined and circumnavigated, giving way to monopolies that are very comfortable and highly profitable to monopolists and may spell great trouble for many people.”

For an industry to halve in size in a few short years in significant part as a result of ‘the market’ surely vindicates Smith’s warnings… and the action the industry took to try and ‘remedy’ the imbalance of power.

But at what a tragic loss and waste of human capital.


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