Banburyshire farmers plead with the public to join celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's campaign to save food and British farming
The Harper and Hopper family farmers of Adderbury - Ann Harper, David Hopper and Tony Hopper - put out a plea this week after the celebrity chef's video went viral on social media. He called on people to sign a National Farmers' Union (NFU) petition to reverse a crucial decision in the House of Commons last month.
The vote concerned an amendment to the new Agriculture Bill which would prevent Britain from legally being able to agree trade deals that allowed any imports of meat and other foods that have not been raised to current standards in the UK.
There was a government 'whip' - meaning MPs were ordered to vote as they were told - to turn down the amendment. Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, a farmer's daughter and minister at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, was one of those who voted against that amendment.
In a story in the Banbury Guardian soon after the controversial vote, Banbury MP Victoria Prentis defended her vote saying the Government would not compromise on 'our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards'.
Tony Hopper told the Banbury Guardian: "We are urging people to sign the NFU petition, backed by Jamie Oliver, to prevent the import of lower standard food, maintain and protect the high standard of food produced and supplied in the UK, protect the health of the nation and to support British farmers so we can continue to provide homegrown, quality produce.
"We believe multiple links in the supply chain will be hugely affected by this amendment, as we ourselves are beef farmers, contractors for other local farmers and we have a butcher's shop on Hill View in Banbury."
In a video watched by well over half a million people by Monday, Jamie Oliver said: "There is a bill going through (Parliament) at the moment. It's really, really important to you all and to your future of health. Boris Johnson with his ministers (voted) down an amendment to maintain British standards for all future trade deals and imports.
"It is inconsistent with what his government has been talking about in the past which leads me to believe that they wanted to clear the decks to snap-grab trade deals."
He said food and farming is the 'patchwork quilt' of the countryside and very delicate and important - 'the fabric of our society' not only in business but in food and nourishment.
"This affects anyone and everyone," he said.
Mr Oliver talked about chlorinated chicken (carcasses washed in chlorine to kill bacteria accumulated in deep litter rearing sheds) and misuse of antibiotics, a 'massive deal' as well as the use of hormones in reproduction. He voiced his fear that the market would be flooded with very low quality, high salt and sugar products. He said such trade deals would be 'traumatic' to the British farming industry.
When the Banbury Guardian first published this story on Monday, 126,635 people had signed the NFU petition. By Thursday lunchtime it had reached 374,362 signatures. It is available here.