Displaying items by tag: United Kingdom
Avian flu has brought devastation to our wild and sea birds. From Cornwall to Scotland, gannets, terns, gulls and puffins have died in thousands as the deadly disease spread through breeding colonies. Cases in farmers' flocks, too, have risen exponentially. Last year's annual record was quickly exceeded as a new, more lethal strain emerged. Thousands of poultry birds, including many turkeys, have been culled. This disease, devastating for farmers, veterinary, other staff and businesses, adds pressure to public and private finances. As it becomes commonplace, like bovine TB in cattle and wildlife, it has the potential to harm people. Hosea warns, ‘Therefore the land mourns and all who live in it languish; together with the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing’. (Hosea 4:3). Pray for farmers and others on the frontline tackling it.
Asda is limiting customers to two boxes of eggs and Lidl is allowing three, due to rising costs and bird flu. Waitrose is monitoring customer demand. The UK is facing its largest-ever bout of this highly pathogenic disease. When there is a confirmed outbreak on a poultry or egg farm, all birds in the area are destroyed. The outbreak is compounding existing shortages as producers cut back on output or leave the industry due to increased costs. Russia's invasion of Ukraine raised farmers' energy bills and the costs of chicken feed, hens and packaging. There are 36.7 million egg-laying birds nationally, but there is capacity for over 44 million. Also, retailers are not paying farmers a fair price. The price of twelve supermarket eggs has risen by 50p, but farmers only saw a price rise of 5p to 10p.
Christian Aid says rich countries are not doing enough to fight the pandemic. They have ranked twenty rich countries' efforts to support rolling out Covid-19 vaccines globally. The worst nation is India; the UK is the second worst. Christian Aid said that the richest countries have a responsibility to improve global access to Covid vaccines, tests, and treatments, given their wealth and high vaccination rates. Governments financed research and development of these products and should not leave pharmaceutical companies to monopolise supply and price. But, amid a collision of international crises, the UK is turning its back on the world and undermining efforts to produce more vaccines, tests, and treatments in lower-income countries. By holding back the global pandemic response, the UK is haemorrhaging moral authority amongst international partners. Only one in three people in Africa - under one in four in low-income countries worldwide - have completed a course of vaccinations.
Britain and France have now agreed to unite to stop illegal migrants from crossing the Channel. Interior minister Suella Braverman said Britain faced an ‘invasion’ from people in small boats, saying, ‘It is in the interests of the UK and French governments to solve this problem together. There are no quick fixes, but this arrangement means we can have more gendarmes patrolling French beaches and ensure UK and French officers work hand in hand to stop people smugglers.’ There will be 40% more UK-funded officers patrolling French beaches in the next five months. A task force will focus on reversing the rise in Albanian nationals and organised crime groups exploiting illegal routes. British officers will work in French-led control rooms and on the ground to improve coordination and intelligence sharing. There will be drones, detection dog teams, CCTV, and helicopters to help discover and prevent crossings, plus reception and removal centres in France to prevent journeys to the UK of economic migrants.
Albanian drug gangs use French migrant camps as recruitment grounds. They pay the passage for those prepared to work in the UK drugs industry on arrival. Senior police and immigration officials on both sides of the Channel are worried by the growing number of Albanian middlemen facilitating crossings. Albanians accounted for 1/3 of the people arriving in small boats this year. They have the right to enter France as EU tourists for up to three months without a visa., and are urged on by social media adverts promising help. Posing as an Albanian migrant, a journalist contacted two people-smugglers advertising for clients on TikTok. Both responded within half an hour, with options to pay in France or in England, and guidance for getting to Belgium or France, where a fixer would make contact. The message from both of them was ‘It's easy’.
A report has found recruitment for secondary school RE teachers was 20% below the level required. A Westminster debate was called by Conservative MP Martin Vickers, as many schools deliver the bare minimum of religious education. During the debate Conservative MPs spoke highly of RE and urged the Government to do more to protect it. Stephen Morgan, the shadow education minister, was appalled over government failure to introduce a national plan for RE, saying that an education in religion and worldviews is an important part of the school curriculum. The debate highlighted the importance of RE and the need for more specialist teacher training and recruitment.
A recent meeting of the College of Bishops discussed the next steps of the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) discernment process. LLF entails churches discussing whether to allow same-sex marriage in the CofE. One bishop, Steven Croft, published a 52-page essay on 3 November, detailing why he is calling for the Church to back same-sex marriage. It was suggested that when bishops engage with the media, they honour their pledge to be open about their diversity of perspectives. Some want the Church to be more inclusive with regards to same-sex marriage: others believe allowing gay marriage in Church would depart from Biblical teaching. Their debates will be brought to February’s General Synod for decision-making.
At the end of September, 401,537 patients had waited over 52 weeks to start treatment. The total number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment is a record high 7.1 million. NHS England and the government have set a goal of eliminating all waits of more than a year by March 2025. Meanwhile nurses are about to strike nationally, for the first time ever, sending up distress flares about the state of their service. The majority of NHS members voted to strike for fair pay and safe staffing. Strikes will be at NHS trusts or health boards which meet relevant legal requirements. Many of the biggest hospitals in England will see strike action by RCN members, but others narrowly missed the legal turnout thresholds to qualify for action. Nurses worry they cannot care as they should.
Just Stop Oil protesters demand climate change action. Their protests cover fossil fuels, renewable energy investment, and better building insulation to avoid energy waste. To make their point, they have thrown soup at National Gallery paintings, tried to disrupt Britain’s Formula 1 Grand Prix, and closed the M25 using ‘nonviolent civil resistance’. Dealing with these protests is extremely difficult for the authorities, despite arrests and court action. Just Stop Oil said it will demonstrate every day until their demand for no new oil or gas in the UK is met. A bill is currently going through Parliament to grant powers to prosecute someone interfering with the operation or use of key national public services on roads, railways, or air transport infrastructures. Since October the police have dedicated 10,000 officers to policing them, officers who would otherwise be dealing with local offences such as knife crime, safeguarding, or burglaries.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has encouraged young climate activists attending the COP27 conference in Egypt. In a message posted on Twitter, Justin Welby said, ‘You're the ones who are the future of this extraordinary planet, because you'll inherit it. So it is essential that you're included in the conversation on climate change, and that you take part actively. Your call for action must be listened to, by the most powerful’. Leaders from poor countries criticised wealthy governments and oil companies for driving global warming, using their speeches to demand that they pay up for damages being inflicted on their economies.