Role play

It has been a period of interesting appointments for the meat sector. The British Meat Processors' Association has announced it is taking on Defra's Stuart Roberts as its new director, while our brand new prime minister, Gordon Brown, has given us our new Defra minister, Hilary Benn.

The BMPA appointment raised eyebrows in some areas as, just a few weeks before, the National Beef Association had trumpeted Roberts' arrival as its new chief executive, taking up the role at the end of July. The NBA immediately reacted with cries of outrage, claiming it had been "gazumped" by the BMPA, portraying it as a David vs Goliath struggle, in which the big powerful processors won out over the impoverished struggling farmers.

Right or wrong, Roberts was made a better offer by the BMPA and I'm sure his decision was far from easy. I wish him luck in his new role and hope the NBA is able to find a suitable replacement for its unexpected management hole. We need all our industry organisations to work to the best of their abilities and, perhaps just as importantly, work together to further everyone's ends.

Meanwhile, in the corridors of power, Gordon Brown announced his new cabinet, with Benn taking over the role of Defra minister from rising star David Miliband. Whether the issue of Benn's vegetarianism was even considered when Brown made his cabinet appointments would be interesting to know. While we have to judge Benn on his actions, rather than his lifestyle, there is clearly some concern that he has taken on the role.

People in the industry are right to question whether a long-standing vegetarian would have any sympathy or empathy with the plight of the meat industry. We shall just have to wait and see.

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