Farm Diary

November 21

It's been a busy day and I'm tired. I am remembering why I didn't keep this diary up in the past. When James is back I'll write something once a week. But every day whilst he is away.

The oaks in Slade will soon be bare of leaves.

I was out at a meeting of organic farmers this evening. There were lots of people there I hadn't seen since before the FMD crisis started. I drove first to a farm about 3 miles away and took a wrong turning in the dark, and then another one. Roger was waiting to give me a lift the rest of the way into Liskeard, and I finally arrived to find him waiting with a smile on his face saying he had seen my lights in the dark on the wrong roads for at least quarter of an hour. I had felt too tired to go out earlier, but was really pleased when I got there. There was talk about marketing and how imported meat not raised to the same standards is pushing down prices to the farmers. Why aren't all consumers asking their supermarkets (they wouldn't need to ask a proper butcher) for local produce? There was some useful discussion about all sorts of things, including the next meeting, and I've invited everyone here for a meeting just before Christmas. I'm sure James will be pleased!

Malcolm came to give a hand today. We had to do some fairly urgent rearrangement of the pigs. The young boar who was pushing past the electric netting was motivated by sex. We had a wonderfully coordinated operation. First, the fence in Slade was moved to sacrifice some more pasture for them to dig in, then all escape routes between Slade and Broom Park were blocked off. Then Gabriel gave the boars their late breakfast whilst we opened the fence up and I ran down the field with a bucket of feed chased by Gussie and Gertie and unfortunately only 5 of the 6 gilts (young sows). It wasn't too much trouble to get the solitary gilt into the trailer to move her whilst the boars were distracted by more food. Everyone ended up getting a lot more food than usual. Then the 2nd pig arc was dragged down by the tractor.

By the time we'd finished the bit of fresh pasture was already being dug over, and attracting more creatures, like this wagtail which you might just be able to see. It was well past lunch time when all the pigs were where they ought to be. I'm always surprised at how long even straightforward movements take.

The following is an email I've just sent. I'm putting it here just to share how really depressing the attitude of James' correspondent is. I am sure this attitude is shared by too many members of our government.

I don't know if you saw the extract from James's letter to the Times that was published a couple of weeks ago. He wrote it just before we heard that it was actually only 5 farms! "Sir, Only 18 to 25 per cent of farms where animals were slaughtered under the contiguous cull had foot-and-mouth. This shows that at least three out of four slaughter teams were wasting their time and that farmers who resisted the cull were almost invariably right to do so.
Far from prolonging FMD these people actually saved the Government money."

James had an email in response " The culpability for Foot and Mouth lies squarely with
the farmers of this country. It was introduced by a dirty
farmer and spread by sheep dealer's fraudulent practices.

We will see when the figures are finally released just how
many farmers were lying in their claims for subsidy, but my
information is that there will be many.

Farmers in this country are a disgrace."

James's reply "Thanks for your email. I don't know if you expected a reply but, since you
are so evidently anti-farmer, the only thing I can think of is to invite you
to visit us so that you can see what we actually do and we can explain what
it is like to be a farmer these days. Incidentally, the central message of
the Northumberland Report into the 1967 FMD outbreak was that the government
should either police/restrict imports from FMD-endemic countries properly or
introduce a vaccination policy (neither of which has been done). And were
you aware that this country was secretly testing a new FMD vaccine in
September last year? I hope you will be open-minded enough to take up my


James Rider

He got an email back:

"On the contrary, I live in a rural area and am well aware of farming
which is why I dislike farmers. Among my aquaintances is the owner of a
company whose sole purpose is to help farmers calculate the maximum they
can squeeze out of government grants, farmers being the most subsidised of
British industries.

In my view, the rigourous market policies applied in New Zealand should be
introduced here immediately, as the farming industry has cost this country
upwards of £10 billion in this decade alone by its incompetence.

I repeat, the cause of the disease was a farmer who broke all the rules in
feeding his pigs, the disease was spread by sheep traders who were moving
sheep around to claim fraudulent grants and the harm to the other
rural industries, self sufficient and far more important than farming,
magnified by MAFF's closure of the footpaths, the most ridiculous decision
I can remember.

The rural community, so inbred that it is incapable of logic, are attempting
deny their culpability by inventing all sorts of myths about the genesis of
disease. Feel free to believe them if you wish. I expect there is a
story being floated that BSE was not the fault of farmers either.

So though I thank you for your invitation, I feel that rural Hereford
teaches me
as much about farming as I need to know. You could perhaps answer one
question that the Devon NFU whitewash conveniently failed to address.
What was the sheep dealer Willy Cleave doing, moving all those sheep around?

Still, I suspect that many of the Devon farmers who have banked handsome
cheques would not welcome too close a look at how many sheep there were
on their farm, as opposed to how many they had been claiming for."

James can't see any point in replying. I don't know why I'm passing this on to you, just feeling rather despairing about this sort of attitude.

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