Magazine article The Spectator

Diary: Prue Leith

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary: Prue Leith

Article excerpt

'Please God, make me good, but not yet.' I know the feeling. As I get older and more deeply retired, I globe-trot more and my carbon footprint is horrendous. And guilt does not result in abstinence. The brain is persuaded but the flesh is weak. Years ago I chaired Jonathon Porritt's sustainability organisation, Forum for the Future, and I remember holding a fund-raising dinner for rich Cotswolders and hoping no one would notice my gas-guzzling old car, toasty warm house, and melon with more air-miles than flavour. I've tried harder since then, but it's not easy. A couple of years ago I converted my ancient barn into an eco-friendly house with heat-exchange pump, grey water collection, massive insulation, the lot. The installer promised reduced bills amounting to a payback in 20 years. I'll be dead by then, I thought, but better do the right thing, and went ahead. First of all it didn't work and the house was icy as the grave; now it does and it costs more to heat than my old and decidedly un-green one did.

Needing to be reinspired, I went on a visit to Highgrove with Patrick Holden, formerly of the Soil Associaton and now running the Sustainable Food Trust. We walked round the farm with David Wilson, Prince Charles's trusty farm manager, and I learnt a few unsettling facts: Most factory-farmed day-old chicks have already been dosed with three different antibiotics, and they'll get several more in their short lives. Three times more antibiotics go into farm animals than into the human race, much of them into healthy animals. Admittedly some of the antibiotics are so toxic they are not used on humans, so perhaps any resistance to them built up in animals can't affect us, but still... Intensively farmed dairy cows who live on concrete, munching high-energy feed -- like children eating junk on a sofa -- can produce up to 12 gallons of milk a day. Most only give milk for two or three years, and then it's goodbye. HRH's organically fed, kindly treated, grass-grazing cows only give six gallons, but keep going for ten, sometimes 15 years. What cheered me is the news that pasture-fed meat is good for you. Yes, it costs a bit more than that pale, tasteless, tough stuff, but according to recent research it is higher in beneficial fats and antioxidants than factory farmed meat. Besides, if we are ever to give up chemical fertilisers, we'll need animals to fertilise the land: no animals = more artificial fertiliser. …

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