Peter Rhodes on fishing for votes, the truth about trawling and a misleading message from the cops

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Out of sight . . . .
Out of sight . . . .

The dust has settled, the tree has dropped its needles and we're wondering whether this year is Two Thousand and Twenty-one, as a rather wordy BBC continuity person told us, or just plain Twenty Twenty-one, as most of us would prefer.

Reflections? Best Xmas present by far was a talking, motorised little police car which tears around the living room, fascinating our grandson while also implanting in his ten-month-old mind the notion that the cops are red hot on crime. The little car proudly declares with its electronic voice: “Dial 999 and I will catch the burglar.”

Of course, it would be more truthful to say: “Dial 999 and we'll try to get one of the lads around some time next Wednesday and in the meantime here's the phone number for Victim Support. Oh, and we only solve about two per cent of burglaries anyway.” But I suppose there's a limit on how long a message kiddies can grasp.

According to the old saying, there are two things you should never see being made. The first is English law. The second is sausages. It may be timely to add a third – fishing.

The fishermen of England appear to be the losers in the EU/UK trade deal. But then fishing is only a tiny part of the economy, so there aren't many votes in it. From the start of the talks fishing quotas looked suspiciously like bargaining chips, no pun intended. But today's fury over EU fishing boats in our waters seems to be based on the notion that fishing in the future will be much the same as it is today. Think again.

So far, fishing has not experienced the vegan, veggie and save-the-planet attacks suffered by the world's meat industry. This is probably because industrial fishing takes place far over the horizon and out of sight. But every TV report on the industry brings new images of how the cod on our table is caught and processed. It is not a happy sight. There are no humane killers on trawlers. Millions of fish every year are netted, dragged into the light and tipped into vast holds where they suffocate under the weight and slime of their kin. Millions of meat eaters are cheerfully turning to vegan and veggie alternatives. Does anybody imagine the fishing industry will not undergo the same ethical revolution?

A fascinating new book, The Official History of Britain, is based on the findings of the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It ends by looking ahead 100 years to 2121 when, according to its projections, only 7.7 per cent of Britons will eat any real meat or fish. By then, more than 57 per cent of us will be vegan, a revolution fuelled by the popularity of cultured “meat” and “fish,” grown in laboratories.

Boris Johnson says Britain will be able to “catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish” in the future. If the ONS is right, Boris's forecast could be quite prodigiously wrong.

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