Farming Pollution and Subsidies Award

We venture into the world of agribusiness and land monopoly, for our coveted Farming Pollution and Subsidies Award.

This hotly contested award seeks to recognise companies that do their damndest to farm subsidies and spew pollution, degrading communities, wildlife, and ecosystems in the process.

Vote here to recognise their efforts!

Our Nominees

Mowi

Scottish salmon is a powerful brand around the world. While it cynically sells on images of majestic salmon in pristine lochs, the reality is far more sordid. Enter Mowi, a Norwegian multinational fish farming and ‘nutrition’ company, previously known as Pan Fish. Mowi bought into the Scottish fish farming market in 2006 by acquiring Marine Harvest from previous owners Nutreco and Stolt. Since then, they have expanded greatly, capturing over 25% of market share and are now the biggest player on the Scottish (factory) fish farm scene. Between April  and December 2019, Mowi Scotland released 19.6 tonnes of formaldehyde, used as a pesticide, into Scottish lochs.  Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen and SEPA states that uncontrolled releases ‘have potential to cause significant harm to the environment’. 

At the same time, Mowi touts their dubious green credentials, claiming that eating salmon is a low carbon dietary option. This is simple misdirection from a company with blood on its diseased fins and little concern for anything but return on investment. Well, aside from its strong liking for government subsidies that is! A strong contender for our ‘Farming Pollution and Subsidies’ Award. 

Crown Estates Scotland

The Queen, also known as ‘The Crown’, owns about one sixth of the planet’s surface, and is the largest legal land owner in the World. The bulk of the property owned by the Queen is held on her behalf by the Crown Estate, which operates as a real estate business and returns all of its profits to the Treasury – although the Queen then does receive a grant of 15 percent of the total profits of the Estate from two years previous. Crown Estate Scotland (CES) is one of the largest property managers in Scotland and a pillar of the unequal land distribution that plagues the country, managing assets worth £385.8 million including 37,000 hectares of rural land, leasing virtually all seabed out to 12 nautical miles, and holding the rights to offshore renewable energy and gas and carbon dioxide storage out to 200 nautical miles. 

Crown Estates currently lease around 750 sites to fish farm operators to grow finfish and shellfish. Slice, a pesticide containing emamectin benzoate is used to kill the sea lice that plague caged salmon. The Ferretreported in February 2020 that at least 45 lochs were contaminated with the chemical. A study, which was posted online in August 2016, suggested that emamectin contamination of the seabed was causing ‘substantial, wide-scale reductions’ in crabs, lobsters and other crustaceans. But it was contained within a second report that cast major doubts on its findings.The second report, termed a ‘wrapper’, was said to have been commissioned due to concerns from ‘independent’ but unnamed referees. Crown Estates, the Scottish Government and the fish farming industry did not allow the identities of those referees to be released but Merck, who make Slice, has been revealed as one of those casting doubts on whether the criticism can be said to be independent of vested interests. Given the Crown Estates receives so much financial support from the British Public and is pushing the polluting fish farming industry in Scottish waters, they are an obvious nomination for our ‘Farming Pollution and Subsidies’ Award. 

Buccleuch Group

Fourth on our list is the Buccleuch Group, a vestige of our feudal past. holding company with interests in commercial property, rural affairs, food, and beverages. Owned by the current Duke of Buccleuch, Richard Scott, the 10th Duke, it is the 2nd largest (as of late 2019) private landowner in Scotland with more than 240,000 acres and chairman of the Buccleuch Group. His estates receive  Buccleuch is the trading name of MDS Estates Limited. It’s land ownership can be viewed here. The estates benefit significantly from public subsidies – including the tidy sum of £650,000 for its Thornhill Estate in 2018 alone – but have bemoaned the fact that leaving the EU means withdrawal from its Common Agricultural Policy payments, meaning potentially less subsidies for the estates. Boohoo! 

The Buccleuch Group also likes massacring threatened species. Source

The Duke employs pliant capitalists to manage his properties. The manager of his estates is Benny Higgins, close economic advisor to Nicola Sturgeon and leader of the Scottish Government’s economic recovery group. The same Benny Higgins who called environmental groups like Friends of the Earth Scotland ‘zealots’, for calling for a just and green recovery. 

Unsurprisingly, Tthe Buccleuch estate has been attacked for by politicians, community and environmental groups for using ‘insider influence’ to try and get its way behind the scenes. Regarding its slippery approach to tax, Scottish Greens MSP Andy Wightman has said ‘the estate as a business – the 270,000 acres – pays nothing. Why in Scotland in 2012 do landowners still get away with not having to pay their fair share of property taxes?’ Describing the worst effects of that monopoly power as ‘socially corrosive’, the Scottish Land Commission has warned: ‘In some parts of Scotland, concentrated land ownership appears to be causing significant and long-term damage to the communities affected.’ The eventual goal of the commission would be to break up many large estates.In the worst cases, owners were demolishing cottages, planting large-scale conifer forests, damaging the environment by focusing on deer stalking and grouse shooting, converting homes into holiday lets or cutting the amount of land available for small tenant farmers. The Scottish Land Commission wants major landowners to start selling off land but Buccleuch Estates has said the 18 plots on sale could be sold as a single package. Meanwhile, their treatment of tenant farmers has caused controversy, with one elderly couple, the Telfers, facing eviction because they cannot afford to buy their farm. The Buccleuch Group exerts a pernicious influence on the Scottish environment, economy and culture. 

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