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The programme 'Farming Today this week', (Jan 12) which seems to be wheeled out for disseminating propaganda about farming these days, was easing the way for the licensing of farms.

A carefully selected panel, representing the RSPCA, the NFU, and New Labour in the form of an MP who is involved with DEFRA. [I didn't note the names at the time - David Hill was the NFU rep. - but I don't recall the others and despite Miriam O'Reilly's invitation to 'listen again' I can't find it on the BBC website.] Of course, no one challenged the concept of farms being licensed. David Hill was merely concerned about who would pay for licensing inspections: good farmers have nothing to hide, so why should they object to yet more interference by official inspectors? The RSPCA was clearly delighted with the prospect of being able to interfere with farms [in the interests of animal welfare - and their resistance to DEFRA malpractice during the FMD killings shows how seriously they take this] without the expense of Court action. The Labour MP seemed to indicate that licensing would provide an opportunity to discriminate between proper farms which are serious businesses and people who keep 'farm animals' and make a fuss about who represents farmers...

What on earth is being concocted? Will farms have to prove that they can produce an income which complies with employment legislation in order to be licensed? Will it then be made illegal to keep a milking goat or a house cow for fun? What about the 'cottager's pig'? Horses? Dogs? Quail? Carp? Will it be made illegal to grow fruit and vegetables and sell the surplus from local markets?

I couldn't help thinking that even better would be to licence where people live. After all there are lots of householders who are bad neighbours, don't control their children properly, keep hamsters and guinea pigs in tiny insanitary cages, don't mow their front lawns and so on. Some even say that the ruling party in government doesn't represent them! Licensing residency would enable the government to control and eradicate that sort of thing.

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