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You may remember the extract from Jonathan Miller's Mean Fields article on 25th November:

"I get a letter of my own from Defra. Lindsey Clothier, a death ministry apparatchik, says I have been "selected" to participate in a survey of agriculture. Inspired by Morley's bare-knuckled style of correspondence, I reply: "Dear Lindsey: My contempt for Defra disinclines me to co-operate with your organisation in any way. I advise you to seek more reputable employment."

I received the same in the form of an e-mail. I chose a lower profile response - and ignored it.

Now I have my own letter from Lindsey Clothier enclosing my "December 2001 Survey of Agriculture form." It tells me: "Survey forms have been sent to approximately 30,000 farms across England. This is slightly more than usual and reflects the need for a greater degree of certainty when assessing the impact of Foot and Mouth disease".

On the reverse, it tells me that

"Surveys provide hard evidence on the state and structure of the industry. The results help policy-makers assess whether their decisions are having the desired effect and provide pointers as to the future direction of the industry.

"The information you provide may also be used in other ways. For example, drawing together mailing lists of approved material or providing the basis of models used to predict the spread of the Foot and Mouth outbreak."

This time last year I might have read all this without a second thought and filled out the survey. In the light of what we have experienced this year, this all sounds very sinister indeed. I wonder whether "policy-makers" will assess that their decisions "are having the desired effect". Despite the implied threat in the note that "there is a legal obligation, under the Agricultural Statistics Act, 1979, to complete the form",

I most certainly will not complete it.

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