The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian network founded in 1973


'Methodist Recorder' Debate
(1983) Letters

Modern Farming Methods

While agreeing with part of Mrs Valerie Spouge's reply to my letter, I would like to make some comments. We have to face facts and I am sure that if the governments of Africa were asked if tractors or hoes would solve their food shortages best the answer would be tractors.

I did not recommend mechanical battery systems, but intensive poultry houses which I have seen constructed very simply with wire netting sides and corrugated iron roofs. Even though maize was introduced from USA it has now become the staple diet of a large proportion of the blacks.

The reason why animal protein is used in the West is because people demand it and if the British farmer didn't produce it other countries (such as New Zealand, Ireland, Argentine) would be only too pleased to supply us.The textured meat from beans has not had much success in Britain even though I agree it is a very good food.

The food which was fed to the chickens I mentioned was not as wasteful as Mrs Stouge says. The feathers, blood, legs, heads, intestines, all dead chickens, are dried, ground up and heat treated and then used as part of the protein to balance the ration for more chicks. The droppings and litter are used for cattle food.

At one time hoes and spears were sufficient to keep the native population alive along with the extended family system, but now that people have left the villages and gone to the enormous black townships around the copper belt in Zambia and on the outskirts of the towns in South Africa tractors and modern methods of farming are sure to be needed and I don't consider that to be confused thinking.

The abundant and cheap labour is being widely used by all the white farmers, one example of which I saw was twelve blacks milking a herd of 100 cows which could have been done with one trained man and a milking machine.

While in South Africa I visited Umtata, the capital of Transkei, and was taken to the Parliament Building. We heard a member making an impassioned plea for agricultural advisers to be sent out to villages to teach the latest methods in horticulture and agriculture. He said they should not sit in offices with black suits but put overalls on and get out where they were needed.

This man had just returned from visiting India where he had seen what a transformation has taken place during the last twenty years through the use of irrigation, better seeds and fertilisers and the will to do work. He said it could be done in Transkei and I hope he is right, because it is an extremely poor country and I shudder to think what it is like this year after the drought.

I hope we can all agree with some of the issues raised in D K Britton's lecture, Economic and Ethical aspects of Modern Agriculture. 'We cannot abandon economics in favour of ecology or ethics; they have to co-exist and serve each other.'

I do think that it would help if the Christian Churches could clarify their teaching about man's responsibility under God for our planet and for the living things which share it with us.

Peter Hall (9/6/83) 

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