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Showing posts from January, 2011

My latest on society's sentimentality towards farming - published by The Free Society

What's wrong with factory farming?Friday January 28, 2011Prejudice against factory farming needs addressing, says Jason Smith. If we want to feed the planet, we cannot view the countryside, farmers or livestock in a sentimental way. I wrote an article some months ago on Spiked about a campaign against a super-dairy planned for Nocton in Lincolnshire. A planning proposal for an 8,100 cow operation at Nocton Dairies was being considered by North Kesteven District Council. A campaign against the proposals was also getting underway, initially started by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and local residents who didn’t feel included in the decision making process. Conservationist Bill Oddie, comedienne Jo Brand and actor William Roache (Coronation Street’s Ken Barlow) had signed up against the scheme. Since then the plan for Nocton has diminished in ambition and scale and now plans facilities for 3,770 dairy cows, an 80-cow milking parlour, and special care, maternity and isolation units…

Have we lost the ability to socialise teenage drinkers?

Neil Davenport is a writer and politics lecturer based in London.
He blogs at

Laura Hall, 21-year-old boozer extraordinaire from Redditch near Birmingham, is the anti-drink campaigner’s poster girl of choice. Her claim to fame is that she has been banned from every pub and club in Britain for her supposedly wild, drink-fuelled antics. She has been arrested more than 40 times and made 29 court appearances for drunk and disorderly conduct, hitting a few coppers along the way and touring the nation’s police cells in the process. In short, she has become a one-woman symbol of Everything That Is Wrong With Binge-Drinking Britain.
Nevertheless, how the current generation of young people reacts to the effects of alcohol is notably different from previous ones. It is not helped by the way contemporary adult society appears genuinely frightened, alienated and rather unworldly about the follies of immature youth. In fact, nothing reveals society’s inadequat…

Reason and the eighteenth-century: salons, the Lunar Society and the novel

Thursday 24 February 2011
The Studio, Cannon St, Birmingham B2 5EP. 7.00pm until 8.45pm
Bill Hughes recently completed his PhD on 18th-century dialogue, communicative reason and the English novel. Jan Bowman is author and illustrator of THIS IS BIRMINGHAM, a history of the original Lunar Society and its effect on the city. Our speakers will be discussing their work and the factors which made the Enlightenment such an inspiring, eventful milestone in human history. Jan's slideshow will situate the discussion in its visual context and explain the inspiration behind her book on Birmingham's original 'salon'. 300 years ago an explosion of new ideas and discoveries led to great social upheavals, and revolutions in the USA and France. This period -- the Enlightenment -- gave rise to such new cultural phenomena as the salon, the novel, and Birmingham's Lunar Society. Wonderful new inventions, from soda water to fire extinguishers to pianos to steam engines, burst onto the worl…

Brendan O'Neill - We should all have a new year's resolution to be highly sceptical about climate panic

You couldn’t have asked for a better snapshot of the chasm that divides today’s so-called expert classes from the mass of humanity than the snow crisis of Christmas 2010. They warn us endlessly about the warming of our planet; we struggle through knee-deep snow to visit loved ones. They host million-dollar conferences on how we’ll cope with our Mediterranean future; we sleep for days in airport lounges waiting for runways to be de-iced. They pester the authorities for more funding for global-warming research; we keep an eye on our elderly neighbours who don’t have enough cash to heat their homes.
Not surprisingly, with snowstorms smothering Western Europe and the East Coast of America, many asked: ‘What happened to global warming?’ On the 20-hour bus-and-boat-and-train-and-car journey I took from London to Galway, surrounded by people forced to make a similar trek because their flights were also cancelled, there was much jocular banter along the lines of: ‘So this is the climate change…