email received November 1 2004
"....there are convincing reasons why the government might have wished for a drastic reduction in livestock farming within the UK"
It is widely held in some quarters that the FMD outbreak was contrived by the British government in order to drastically reduce the livestock industry in Britain. This may or may not be true and I think it is unlikely that, even if such proof exists, it would ever be formally collected together to make a serious case. However, whether or not this occurred, I believe that there are convincing reasons why the government might have wished for a drastic reduction in livestock farming within the UK.
The CAP was costing the EU an enormous amount of money, much of which was going to support ever increasing sheep numbers in this country, and, from what one hears, thousands of sheep were being moved around illegally in order to qualify more than once for subsidy.
Agriculture in this country is far less significant in terms of votes than it is in other European countries. Furthermore, the enlargement of the EU is likely to lead to massive surpluses of food which, at least initially, are likely to be far cheaper than what is produced here, so why continue to subsidise British production on a massive scale?
To remove subsidies overnight, even if compensation were paid, would have been seen as unethical and generally undesirable by the voting public, so, is it not plausible that FMD was contrived to achieve the same end?
Personally, I think that the only justification for subsidies is that it is politically desirable for Britain to maintain the ability to feed herself - otherwise, what security do we have? The fact that cheap, subsidised imports are permitted, with which we cannot compete, is nothing to do with the efficiency of our agriculture but more to do with wider political issues - and always has been. However, I do think that the 'one size fits all' type of subsidisation incorporated in the CAP has led to huge inequalities and waste of resources and therefore something had to be done to stop the heamorrhaging of funds from the EU. Nevertheless, no-one could surely condone such a dishonest and brutal way of going about it, if indeed that is what happened.
Unfortunately, governments only tend to think 4 - 5 years ahead and are not really interested in the long term effects of their actions. In this respect, it is interesting to note that the financial press is now talking in terms of coal as a cheap alternative to oil!
As far as the future of British agriculture is concerned, there is certainly a movement in this area towards sourcing locally produced, traceable food and, in any case, whether the escalating price of oil is the beginning of the end of the cheap energy era or not, it is predicted to run out in the very near future, so maybe for that reason alone, cheap imported food will no longer be readily available.
Hello again Mary
I have just looked at Warmwell again - for the first time since FMD - what a fantastic site! I haven't yet had time to study it in detail but it would appear to address all the pressing issues we are currently faced with, in a very rational way. It must be more than a full-time job for you to keep it up.
We are so surrounded by vested interests and bombarded with propaganda that it is difficult for people like me who tend to question absolutely everything, not to appear paranoid. It does concern me greatly however, to see intelligent people brainwashed by, for example, supposedly impartial 'healthy eating' advice which is based on research sponsored by Flora margarine! The farming lobby has never had the resources to counter such propaganda and curls up and wilts at the slightest health scare. Compare this with the way the tobacco industry flourishes despite the most graphic and shocking anti-smoking publicity.
And then there is the way the Empire of Farm Assurance has been built on the back of the BSE epidemic: where auditors earn their living going round farms looking for cracked window panes, strategically placed flower pots and the right number of 'No Smoking' signs, and where more auditors are paid even more to audit the auditors. Yet meanwhile we have untreated lame cows, and no facilities, let alone any requirement, for herdsmen to receive training before they are allowed to calve cows. And herdsmen continue to smoke in milking parlours!
I agree with you completely about the oil. We are going to have to review absolutely everything we have taken for granted for so long. Perhaps we should be breeding Shire horses (or Percherons?)
There is so much more I could say but I will study Warmwell more closely first and then write to you again.
With warmest good wishes and, again, many thanks, Mary