It’s Not About Chicken

Don’t get me wrong, I like chickens. As a child I loved visiting the farm and feeding the little chicks in their pen. I just don’t think when deliberating what’s at stake for the U.K in signing a post Brexit trade deal with the United States that poultry should be the focal point of debate. 

From Jeremy Corbyn to the BBC it seems everyone has bought into the idea that  chlorinated chickens entering the U.K food chain is the number one objection to a trade deal with Donald Trump. It’s bewildering to see political debate on respected current affairs progammes ask “Does Britain really want chlorinated chicken?” As if the primary impact of a trade deal with with the U.S is the quality of KFC.

To clarify, in the E.U chicken producers must adhere to strict hygiene and welfare regulations throughout the process of rearing, slaughtering and producing poultry. But in the U.S, regulation and hygiene standards are incredibly lax and substituted with a legal requirement to wash chicken carcasses in chlorinated baths to kill off bacteria, remove feces and make chicken safe to eat. What misery and disgusting conditions are inflicted upon chickens before they are slaughtered is for the market to decide.  

This is one example of how safety and welfare standards differ dramatically in the United States compared to the European Union. And it’s significant because when trade deals are signed, states usually agree to give equal access to producers from both countries to each other’s market.

If U.S producers are allowed to flood U.K supermarkets with cheap chlorinated chicken the question is, will giant American food conglomerates have to sign up to stricter hygiene measures to match the U.K’s regulations? Or will the U.K ‘harmonise’ its laws with the U.S and lower standards for everyone?

One might argue that this is a false dichotomy. Just because we allow U.S produce into Britain doesn’t mean we have to lower our standards for British farmers here. Britain can still enforce higher welfare and safety standards.

That is true but let me present the following scenario. A 2014 Populus survey found that price is the most important factor in purchasing meat for 61% of U.K consumers. If  supermarkets were to be flooded with cheaper American produce, and U.K poultry farmers started going out of business because consumers were switching to the cheaper alternatives, do you think the government would let British poultry farming collapse or would they slash regulations to cut the costs of production and make U.K farmers more competitive?

This is the context in which U.S chlorinated chickens should be discussed. It should be a gateway to a wider conversation about how a trade deal with the U.S will likely be a pretext for deregulation, threaten British industry and provide massive companies like Tyson foods with extensive legal rights in the UK.

But that’s not what happens, the public debate starts and ends at a costs/benefit analysis of eating chlorinated chicken. The economic right love this, as it presents objections to a trade deal as minor and rather trivial. In reality a trade deal would be a massive corporate power grab for U.S multinationals to ransack the welfare state and hamstring future regulation by gaining legal standing to sue the British government for potential infringements of investor rights guaranteed under a trade agreement.

This power transition is what Brexit has always been about for the American and British right. “Throwing off the shackles” of the European Union, of democratic accountability  and state controls in order to turn Britain into market run hellhole where government has no role in healthcare or food safety.

We must begin to take back control of the conversation and counter the narrative that objections to the deal are trivial in matter. Next time someone tries to drag the debate towards the pros and cons of chlorinated chickens – let’s politely tell them no. That we’d rather start from the point of corporate power and the potential weakening of democratic state controls. That we’d rather start the discussion with what a trade deal would mean for the NHS, for the BBC and for other treasured public institutions. We’d like to start with who is lobbying for a deal, how much money they have spent and how much they personally have to gain. After that, we can go for wings.

 

 

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How Do The Left Beat Populism?

Author, commentator and journalist Owen Jones discusses his views on the major failings of left wing politics globally and how they can overcome the populist right which has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Economist who Predicted Trump & Brexit Explains What Happens Now

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qxBzcynHGEE
In this clip Scottish Economist & Professor at Brown University, Mark Blyth discusses the state of global politics post The U.S election. 

Arguing that this giant shift has an economic source and the demise of Greece and rise of Podemos should have been the wake up call that the world needed:

“The global economy has boomed in the last 30 years yet for most, their standard of living and access to public services has declined dramatically.”

Eloquently examining what the global order will look like with elections in Germany France, the Netherlands and possibly Italy in 2017.

Why Brexit Was an Anguished Cry For Community

In this powerful, insightful interview Owen Jones speaks to actor Martin Sheen about Working Class Britain.

He describes how you cannot underestimate the power of the “take back control” message. You are talking about communities that have lost all sense of control in terms of de-industrialisation, globalisation and abandonment from central government.

However this is  little to do with EU membership but needs to be tackled at a domestic level; measures such as co-operatives, credit unions and community governance which can alleviate many of the stresses and anxieties communities face in 2016.

This is a wonderful interview and well worth a watch in full.

Why Words Matter: Turkey vs. Europe

In this panel discussion Author & social commentator Elif Shafak talks about the degrading and increasingly hostile relationship between Turkey & Europe. In doing so she compares the rising nationalism in Europe to the rising Islamism in Turkey.

This is an excellent overview of Shafak’s views on cosmopolitanism and extremism. Believing that extremism flourishes when identities are concentrated to a mono form. Be it “you are a muslim” or “you are British”, Shafak argues that cosmopolitanism and and having a multitude of identities combats the rise of “us vs. them” mentalities.

Why Mainstream Journalism has Failed – Soledad O’Brien

Soledad O’Brien is a brilliant journalist. So good CNN felt they had to axe her for exposing politicians so much they were turning down appearances on the channel.

In this segment she returns as a guest lampooning the false equivalent back & forth coverage of Trump & Clinton. While Clinton has called out Trump for normalizing white supremacy, she has provided concrete evidence of rallies, Retweets and comments. On the other hand Trump has simply stated “Hillary is a bigot” and the media treat it as equivalent back and forth sparring without questioning the substance of both claims.

CNN often do this as to appear “neutral” politically. However, it is simply poor journalism not to question, expose and criticize politicians who make overtly false comments with no evidence to back up their claims.

 

 

 

Why You Must Be Made To Feel Uncomfortable

In this short clip for Big Think comedy genius John Cleese, most famous for writing and starring in the BBC’s Monty Python describes the demise of journalism and tyranny of “being offended” culture in suggesting that people should be shielded from questions or ideas contrary to their own.

Cleese speaks of the danger of a new generation growing up believing they should never feel offended or have their values questioned. However, he believes it is only by constantly challenging authority & mainstream thought that society achieves equitable nuance and grows constructively toward justice, otherwise unchallenged opinion becomes regressive, tedious dogma.