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 "Farming has a beef with vegetarian ministers"

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Join date : 2009-05-07
Age : 36
Location : Scotland

PostSubject: "Farming has a beef with vegetarian ministers"   Fri 24 Jul 2009, 10:44 am

Farming has a beef with vegetarian ministers

Defra's ministers and policies show contempt for those living in the countryside, argues Charlie Brooks.

The fate of British agriculture is controlled by not one, but two inner-city vegetarians

Written by Charlie Brooks, on the 29th of June 2009

Source : The Telegraph
(includes many reader comments)

Today is the end of the Government's consultation period on a "new independent body for animal health". Such an organisation may sound like another innocuous quango, but the truth is more sinister: it's an attempt to shift cost, responsibility and, above all, blame away from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the event of another major outbreak of animal disease.

The Government knows some sort of trouble is inevitable, whether caused by its own negligence (as with foot and mouth, which escaped from a laboratory in Surrey) or through the importation of animals from high-risk areas. It wants to wipe its hands of the problem now, by hiving off 240 staff from Defra and transferring their associated costs to farmers and animal owners. This will, of course, involve a new tax: £10.50 per horse, £4.80 per dairy cow, £1.20 for beef animals, 82p a sheep etc (and don't bet against cats and dogs creeping in at a later date). In addition, compulsory insurance will have to be purchased by animal owners. Given that insurance companies will see this as being asked to insure a house that's already on fire, the premiums will be high.

This development would be worrying by itself, but it is part of a wider pattern – one that has seen the fate of British agriculture controlled by not one, but two inner-city vegetarians.

It had long stuck in the craw of livestock farmers that their destiny was controlled by Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central, as Secretary of State. It beggared belief that Benn was joined by Poplar & Canning Town's Jim Fitzpatrick, another vegetarian (and the man behind the vandalisation of the rural office network), who is orchestrating the consultation for this new independent body. But the Government had a final insult up its sleeve, in the shape of the new rural minister, Dan Norris.

Norris doesn't list monitoring hunts that are legally laying trails as an interest on his website. But even though the Blackmoor and Sparkford Vale hunt is not in his constituency, monitoring it is what Norris enjoys. Imagine a snooper coming into your pub and filming you and your family having a drink. What is to happen to the footage? Will the snooper give it to the police on the grounds that he suspects you might drink and drive? Would you find that acceptable? That is what many hunt monitors have been doing. Now that Norris has finally been given a substantial job in government, he might find it useful to consult Jim Fitzpatrick's maiden speech, in which he pointed out that "participation in sport can help to transcend differences of race, gender and class… sport for all can be a building block of society".

This series of appointments speaks of a naked contempt for those living in the countryside. It is reflective of an administration booby-trapping the system on its way out. Yet while rural communities could have to suffer 11 months of further damage, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. Nick Herbert, Benn's Tory shadow, has been making encouraging noises. He was the first politician to commit to a significant badger cull to tackle the spread of tuberculosis in cattle. That doesn't play well in the suburbs, but even ex-Defra minister Jane Kennedy concedes it is becoming inevitable. Herbert has also been echoing David Cameron's desire to rid the country of meddling civil servants: he plans to re-orientate policy, and stop the army of inspectors telling farmers how to farm. Of course, they won't like being told to measure results, rather than dictate practice: what's the fun of being an inspector if you can't tell people when they're allowed to spread slurry?

The essential point is that farming needs ministers that know, and care, about the countryside. Otherwise, all you get are more measures like Benn and Fitzpatrick's new quango. Let's hope that when the next crisis comes along, Labour isn't allowed to hide behind such fig-leaves.[url][/url]
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