issue 157 | March 1986
Battery-bred poultry -
The outline on this page is the present space allowed for battery-bred chickens in the UK. Within this is a drawing life size of the smallest hybrid hen likely to be found in a battery cage. Not much room? It is 465 square centimetres and there is too much wasted space according to the EEC. The Ministry of Agriculture says it is now 'as good as settled' that EEC will be trimming 15 sq cms off this size - the shaded space on the page. Only Denmark is holding out for more space for the poor birds.
Just what can a bird do in 450 sq.cms? Well, chickens need 550 sq.cms for a restricted wing stretch, 506 sq. cms to preen and 497 sq.cms just to ruffle their feathers. So all they can do in 450 sq.cms is eat and lay eggs. Some people are disgusted with such factory farming and pay extra for free-range eggs. Holland leads the way with 13 per cent of all eggs bought being free range. Compassion in World Farming suggest British readers write to Michael Jopling, Ministry of Agriculture, Whitehall Place, London SWlA 2HH and their Euro MP expressing their feelings about these space regulations. NI readers in other countries might like to investigate the conditions under which their own battery-laid eggs are produced.
Further information available from Agscene magazine No.81, Compassion in World Farming,
Oxfam leading from behind
In November 1985 the governing council of the UK's biggest charity Oxfam (annual 1985/6 projected income of £40 million/$56 million) agreed to end their patronage of Barclays Bank. It was rather late in the day. Many local authorities like Rochdale have already withdrawn, joining a number of the British churches and organisations like the Royal Town Planning Institute. Altogether this divestment has denied Barclays accounts with an annual turnover in excess of $8 billion.
It was in 1972 when the British-based student organisation Third World First and a very young Internationalist (forerunner of the NI) magazine first campaigned for a boycott of Barclays and an end to Oxfam's custom with the bank. The contradictions between the organisation's concern for social justice and keeping accounts with Barclays were obvious. For the bank is the biggest British investor in South Africa. It is the major shareholder - owning 40 per cent - of Barclays National Bank, the largest domestic bank in South Africa. The bank plays a crucial role in the apartheid economy, operating in illegally occupied Namibia and lending to the South African government.
But Oxfam kept its head down. Today such a withdrawal is following a well-trodden path. Better late than never. But what a missed opportunity.
Keeping the wages down
In a major cover story last October, Time magazine analysed the US economy, concluding predictably enough that the White House should reduce its budget deficit and maintain free trade. For the government is facing increasing calls for protection against cheap imports, calls which have been strengthened by a projected US trade deficit of $150 billion for the year - four times the 1981 level. In the meantime the US dollar is being effectively devalued against a basket of other major trading currencies, meaning imports become progressively more expensive and less competitive in the domestic market.
But there are still protectionist moves in Congress to reduce the country's imports of textiles from Singapore, Taiwan and Korea by up to 40 per cent. The more farsighted are worried about provoking a tit-for-tat trade war which would ultimately leave the US as the loser. For the country is the world's biggest exporter. For good measure Time magazine also blames labour. 'The US auto and steel industries have let labour costs get out of hand - the country having the highest paid manufacturing workers in the world.' (See chart). Yet low wages don't seem to have done much for the economies of countries further down The Wage Gap chart.
From Time magazine, October 7, 1985
Prices in Bolivia have been rising by an annual rate of 10,000 per cent, reports Parade magazine. The country is the poorest in Latin America. Tin is the major legal export. However the economy has been cruelly hit by the recent slump in world tin prices. Bolivia is being kept afloat by the cocaine industry. Peso notes, printed in Britain at a cost of $23 million last year, are the country's largest import after mining equipment and food.
From World Development Forum, Vol 3 Number 19, 1985
Teetotallers are everyone's friends in the Soviet Union since General Secretary Gorbachev started his anti-alcohol campaign. In restaurants everyone is rationed to 200 grams of vodka, so the company of abstainers is welcome.
Gorbachev's campaign is promoted by statistics showing that drinking costs Soviet production hundreds of millions of hours of lost work. No alcohol is now served in restaurants until past 2pm; opening hours of grog shops have been reduced, and heavy fines are to be imposed for public drunkenness. Queues outside the liquor store may last for hours. One young Russian was quoted 'In the past we lost half our days to drinking; now we spend the whole day standing in line drinking.'
From Stern magazine, Hamburg, Sept 12 1985
Saturday night special
'Last year, handguns killed
(Based on 1979 statistics)
'I think that I shall never see
'Children begin by loving their parents;
'The most obvious facts are most easily forgotten.