The home straight

You only have two weeks to join over 700 others in voting in the Nature of Harming ‘award’ – the results will be announced on April Fools’ Day.

Although there is a clear leader, one candidate made a strong bid for your vote this week and it seems that another is planning to get your vote later this week.

Only those gamekeepers who illegally kill birds of prey seem to be keeping their heads down at the moment – funny that.  In fact, to be fair, they seem intent on losing this poll as recent figures in that part of the UK which has introduced vicarious liability for landowners over wildlife crimes (aka Scotland) have shown a bit of a dip ahead of the new law coming into place.  If you’d like to help persuade other UK governments to introduce similar legislation then start here and sign this e-petition aimed at Defra (please).  Seriously, any reduction in illegal killing is to be welcomed – let’s hope that the apparent dip is the beginning of a true decline rather than a blip.

The recently re-elected President of the NFU, my friend Peter Kendall, has been showing the gratitude that we have come to expect of him whilst talking to Cornish farmers.  He lashes out at ex-Defra Labour Ministers and current Labour Shadow Ministers, and at the ‘daft beggars’ in Defra now, and seems to think that ‘his’ Agriculture Minister, James Paice, is either too lazy or too foolish to read the details of policies put in front of him.

The Ingrate Farmer, as I think I shall now call him, is quoted as follows: “The trouble is, within the bowels of Defra, they just don’t get farming – and that’s because when Defra was formed in 2002 it was first and foremost an environment organisation, with a bit of farming tacked on. So all the farming experts from the old Ministry of Agriculture left and got jobs elsewhere. Of course I’m disappointed about what now goes on within Defra.”

The Ingrate Farmer is as good on gratitude as he is on facts – Defra was founded in 2001, Peter – remember that year?  It was founded because all those ‘farming experts’ in MAFF were perceived to have failed to get a grip of Foot and Mouth disease – perhaps because they were just a little too close to farmers.  And that was the year when the massive movements of livestock up and down the country became more obvious to all of us because they were so crucial in the rapid spread of F&M which cost the UK economy £8bn.  And that costly disease started on a farm whose owner was convicted of failing to report a notifiable disease and feeding his livestock untreated waste.  What do you think was the subject of the IF‘s speech?  He was moaning about environmental legislation.

It is clear that the IF is trying hard to win the Nature of Harming ‘award’ for the NFU but if reports are to be believed, and I suspect they are, the Chancellor does not want the coalition government’s grip on the Nature of Harming ‘award‘ to be loosened. We’ll see what the Budget brings but reports in the normally very reliable and well-informed Independent are not encouraging, and the Guardian sees the bad news coming even sooner (tomorrow!).

Many have said to me that they would like to be able to vote for all candidates in the Nature of Harming ‘award’ – but it is a choice, and you have two weeks left to make your choice.

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3 Comments

  1. Dennis Ames

    Of course Mark even DEFRA will fail to stop those farmers who are intent on breaking movement rules and somehow find loopholes to exploit and the vast majority of those farmers who abide by the rules deplore the rule breaking that puts their animals at risk.This type of thing happens everywhere not just farmers,a typical example being drivers using mobile phones endangering other lives.

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    • Mark

      Dennis - yes, quite right. And if the AA were elected, and were always pushing for a weakening of road safety laws then we might take a dimmer view of them. And if their leaders were elected without opposition by a large majority of the driving public we might ask questions about whether drivers really do care about road safety. It's not a perefct analogy, but I haven't heard a word from the NFU which is wildlife-friendly for ages.

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  2. Dennis Ames

    Agree with you Mark,suppose really my point was that if in the case of that person flouting the rules on boiling swill for pig feeding and others flouting movement rules no one suffered more than all those innocent farmers who complied with the rules,lots having the trauma of herds,flocks slaughtered and even those of us who did not having lots of problems with stopping infection coming onto farm with disinfectant and serious problems with overstocking because we could not sell and in my wife's case could not visit very ill brother in case she spread the disease.
    Sadly nothing will stop people committing illegal acts and whether they go under Min Of Ag or DEFRA it will at the end of the day depend on what their instructions from above are and how diligently they carry out their duties.
    For sure the vast majority of livestock farmers whether NFU members or not would deplore those who break disease protection rules.
    Completely different subject that NFU hierarchy appear to be not wildlife friendly.
    Fact is although they are elected leaders by the rules of their system farmers are increasingly getting more wildlife friendly and I would suggest that by perhaps in my opinion quite often implying that farmers = NFU you are in my opinion antagonising quite a lot of farmers who cannot change the NFU president and are becoming more and more wildlife friendly.
    I am sure that is not your intention nor would you want those farmers to give up on their thoughts of becoming more wildlife friendly.
    Surely conservationists would be better when in discussions with bodies about future grants to point out that farmers are not taking the NFUs line but are becoming wildlife friendly in droves.

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