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In October I attended my first open forum at the BBKA in Stoneleigh and realised for the first time the amount of politics involved in beekeeping! The particular issue that I have been asked to write about relates to the ‘should we/shouldn’t we’ discussion over a certain £18,000 of funding. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the issue as it stands, the sum is received each year by the BBKA from companies who manufacture pesticides; the money is supplied in exchange for the use of our logo on their products- a logo which certifies the product as ‘bee-friendly’. As you can imagine there were some very strong opinions on both sides- arguments so balanced, in fact, that they seemed to cancel each other out; are the association effectively selling the use of the logo for £18,000 or do they truly believe the pesticides are “bee friendly” and the monetary supplement is incidental? In light of such a balanced dialogue, I couldn’t help but think: discussions are always interesting- but isn’t the real question ‘What are we trying to achieve in doing it?’ As a group, we should not feel trapped by any decisions made in the past; we must be flexible, constantly adapting in order to best fulfil our purpose as an organisation- to ensure the welfare of the British honey bee.

The question we must ask ourselves is this: do we really want to continually waste our time defending a position which statistically 50% of the population will disagree with, and 50% will support? As far as public opinion is concerned, we are in a no-win situation- you can’t please all the people all the time. One thing we can be certain of is that there is no future in indecision; the first step to progress is to act swiftly and decisively. In light of this, let’s distil the debate down to its most basic level: one camp is concerned that we are associated with companies whose aims contradict our own; the other is concerned that without sufficient monetary funding, we will not be able to accomplish our own aims anyway.

Let me be the first, therefore, to allay the fears of both factions; these two equally valid concerns both have a common solution. That solution is to pour more of our resources into raising public awareness, and capitalizing on that awareness. To those concerned by companies whose products might harm the bee population, rest assured that our best method to combat this is to raise public awareness- there is only one way to get companies to change; and that is to get their customers to demand they change. Equally, to those who would assure our organisations future by making use of every available resource, you too must use the public- a public whose sympathy towards environmental charities increases daily. We are a national organisation, a registered charity no less, with 1,200 members- yet I have never seen anyone encouraged to ‘sign up now’ at the Devon County Show. Is it any different for other counties, I wonder? I have no real knowledge of how we currently raise funds, other than by subscription, but I would suggest that now is a good time to examine the possibilities; there is so much more that we could be doing to raise awareness- and therefore money- that issues regarding our finance or our leverage with companies of any sort need never be a problem, if we make use of all that is available to us.

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Fyfe

Joined February 2008

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