Thursday, 11 October 2007

"Man has decidedly botched up the planet"

Most of the media continues to behave as if there is no problem. There is. An ever-descending black despair is with us. You cannot "snap out of" this one.

The stranglehold restrictions put in place to "control" foot and mouth and bluetongue show what happens if you allow animal health to pass out of the hands of those who know and care and into the surreal dreamworld of politics.
First came the EU legislation, the Directives and the Statutory Instruments. Then the 2002 Animal Health Act tidied up the loopholes. And then April Fool's Day this year saw the creation of "Animal Health" an outpost of Defra-world that merged - in the name of efficiency and as per the Hampton Review - the State Veterinary Service (SVS) the Dairy Hygiene Inspectorate (DHI), the Wildlife Licensing and Registration Service (WLRS,including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species CITES), and the Egg Marketing Inspectorate (EMI).
Does anyone pretend that this was more than a money saving confidence trick?

Better animal health policies were not the aim. Just the determination to keep ever tighter controls on those producing food.
"We all welcome this merger," enthused Glenys Stacey, Chief Executive of the monster, using a Defra-dialect unknown in the civilised world, "it will deliver more comprehensively and with the customer in mind."
So, like passengers of British Rail, like wrongs hushed up, we are "customers", herded into a corner and comprehensively delivered into the iron grasp of DEFRA - for which we do indeed pay but for which there is no customer service. The only communications are glossy pamphlets with mind numbing demands for compliance or expressions of self congratulation (The Defra-slogan now seems to be "Enabling everyone to live within our environmental means" a piece of meaningless Defra-drivel for which we also undoubtedly paid.)
There is no remorse and no apology in Defra-world. And no criticism allowed. The 2002 Animal Health Act saw to that.

And so, with extreme sadness, we turn to this extract from an article online at by Carla Carlisle with her ultimately doomed non-customer approach:
I am advised to 'check livestock twice daily'.
And this I do, taking buckets of extra feed, an apronful of windfalls, treats that make me welcome. We have two breeds. The Shetlands, small and gentle, look like the 'earth colours' section on paint charts. Born black, they evolve into taupe, chestnut, dark chocolate. If I sit on the ground, they come up to me, curious, concerned, and if I stay long enough, the older ewes lie down beside me. Then there are the Jacobs, dappled, scatty sheep with attention deficit disorders, courteous but wary.

I cannot claim that these sheep are vital to the financial future of this farm, but they provide a rhythmic sympathy with the earth that justifies everything we do here. They provide the grazing essential to the maintenance of the wildflower meadow.... Morning and evening, I check for signs of swelling and listen to the breathing beneath the symphony of crunching sheep nuts. And I pray for cold and rain. This depression doesn't feel like cowardice. It feels like the despair that André Gide described when he wrote that 'melancholy occasionally wins out: man has decidedly botched up the planet'. It is the despair of knowing that last winter was the second warmest on record, and there is no health in it.

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