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 PETER FROST has been listening to Tory MPs and the Archers

Tory MP Nadine Dorries tells us “I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk, but they are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others – and that is their real crime.”

David Cameron responded by telling us he did indeed know the price of milk “Just under 50p.” He went on to protest he did “a lot of the family shopping” and often went to Sainsbury’s in his Chipping Norton constituency.

Perhaps he discusses the price of milk when the shopping’s done and he stops off for a Cornish pasty and a cup of warm milk with neighbours Rebekah Brooks and Jeremy Clarkson in Sainsbury’s pleasant little Cafe.

Of course they could be weeping into their drinks about how Labour thrashed the local Tories in the Chipping Norton local elections this May.

We really shouldn’t encourage Dave to take too close a look at price of milk. His heroine Maggie Thatcher knew the price only too well. “Much too expensive to give to school children” she thought – so she snatched it away.

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What is all this about the price of milk anyway? The real scandal is that as farming becomes more and more of an international mega business run for ever increasing profit the price of milk goes up, the price the farmer gets goes down and the poor old cows who actually produce the stuff just get milked. And we all get milked too.

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Back in 1950 some chap at the Ministry of Agriculture had a spiffing idea. A radio soap opera broadcast on the BBC’s Light Programme. Quite simply it was to be Government propaganda to farmers to help increase productivity in the post war years of rationing and food shortages. The Archer’s was born.

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It’s still doing a splendid propaganda job. In Ambridge today there are plans to build a mega-dairy and the arguments for this latest aberration in food and profit production are aired six times a week.

Fictional Ambridge’s mega dairy is likely to become reality. Several are in the planning stage.

These new mega dairies will be around 30 times bigger than the traditional UK dairy farm. Between 3,000 and 6,000 cows will be kept indoors. The grotesquely huge uddered animals will stagger to an automated rotating carousel milking machine to give 44 litres of milk each a day.

Over the last half century, dairy farming has become more intensive to increase the amount of milk produced by each cow. Around 22 litres per day is typical now. It would be just four litres if the cow were producing just enough to feed her calf.

These horrifying developments are set against a background of an industry where a traditional dairy farmer goes bust in England and Wales every day.

Grazing on grass is natural for cows but in indoor mega dairies grass plays hardly any part in their diet. As a result the animals suffer from all kinds of physical and mental maladies – just like battery hens.

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In addition to how the cows suffer mega dairies raise serious environmental concerns. Excessive amount of fertilisers are needed to produce the intensive animal feed. Vast quantities of animal waste are potential sources of pollution.

The organisation Compassion in World Farming believes dairy production must have a balance which provides a good free-range life for cows and a decent living for dairy farmers.

You can do your bit by buying sustainably produced milk, cheese and butter and asking your local shop or supermarkets not to stock dairy products from cows that have never ate grass in a field.

That way we’ll all know the real price of milk.

First published in the Morning Star May 2013

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