It is Orwellian.
"Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?"
Well, if the decisions were made by the virologists, by the vets, by the farmers and by the decent people all over the country we would have a policy that protects instead of one that kills.
Animal Farm's Squealer can turn black into white, day into night, suffering farmers can be turned into hypocritical whingers, and a Department incompetent to the point of gibbering lunacy can somehow still be taken seriously. And now farmers are to help pay for the policies that are forcing them out of business and causing them such grief. But they will be as helpless as ever. They will not share in the decision-making. That is for the "core stakeholders", some of whose trotters, one suspects, are cosy warm.
"We should use the word killing not the euphemism..." The farmer and vet Carl Boyde, in yesterday's BBC report from the killing fields of Surrey, said that "culling" is far too soft a word to describe what goes on.
It was one small step towards giving the public a glimpse of the the sheer misery of the situation in Surrey when DEFRA's FMD policy wrought its havoc.
"We should be looking at the whole situation - vaccination - is that not a better way?"As that kindly farmer/vet reminded us, in 1923, the 2nd Duke of Westminster had a herd of Dairy Shorthorns at his Eaton Hall estate in Cheshire. He sidestepped the draconian killing regulations, successfully nursed the herd back to health and several of the cured animals went on to win prizes at The Royal Show the following summer. But in the 1967 outbreak no such permission was received and the 300-strong Eaton herd of pedigree Dairy Shorthorns dating back to 1880 and containing champions, all were slaughtered.
This is the policy that against all scientific and ethical considerations persists to this day. Foot and Mouth is indeed a Manufactured Plague - as Abigail Woods so cogently explains in her book.
Arguments backed by knowledge of disease, understanding of modern vaccines, availability of state of the art on-farm diagnosis - in short, all pleas for sanity - fall on the defra ears and closed mind of the authorities.
The EU regulations are mad and bad. They are not founded on scientific knowledge. Their proclaimed precautionary principles are nonsense. Far from existing to protect the health and safety of animals and people, they protect the trading profits of the few. The victims are the rest of us - and the many decent farmers who care about their animals.
This BBC clip shows the continuing distress in Egham of the couple whose misery was recorded on warmwell.com on September 21st.
Carl Boyde is their local vet and what he says rings with the authentic tones of one who sees that the Emperor has no clothes:
The BBC interviewer obediently trots out the mantra that Defra "have to abide by European law which states that to keep the highest level of international trading status we cannot routinely vaccinate" and the non-sequitor that vaccination "wouldn't protect against all the different strains of foot and mouth."
" If we can buy and eat meat from countries which practise vaccination why on earth shouldn't we do it here with our own animals? It seems to me a great anomoly that even now in 2007 we still have the same mid-Victorian killing policy which has persisted in successive Ministries of Agriculture and persists in DEFRA to this day."
Give us strength, oh Lord. No one is arguing that it would. Vaccine protects against the strain for which it is designed - and in Surrey that strain was known (hardly surprising but accidents happen especially when government funding and regulatory care is so abysmal) There were, of course, supplies of the exact match vaccine to hand. Nor is anyone arguing at this stage for routine vaccination - although it will undoubtedly come one day.
The escape of virus is one thing. Turning that accident into a national disaster when the application of vaccination could have contained and eradicated the problem within days is utter, staggering insanity.
Until the public at large realise the miserable absurdity of our current policy and raise their voices against it, the big players of the meat industry, with the dead-eyed collusion of DEFRA and the EU protectionism, will continue to stamp out and stamp on people like the Hepplethwaites.
The horrors and terror and waste of 2001 cost the country £8 billion. The costs this time are still being calculated. Meanwhile, Rob Lawrence, the Hepplethwaites and all those others like them in Surrey, mourn the untimely deaths of their animals, the lonely fields, the changed landscape. They contemplate the future with bewilderment and grief. We contemplate it with anger and a determination that things can will and must change.