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Wearing my conservationist hat, I believe the Govt's threat to wipe out sheep for ANY reason is unsupportable.

When smallpox was on the verge of being eradicated by vaccination programmes (!) there was actually a debate among scientists as to whether the last batches of virus, kept under lock and key (ha ha) should be destroyed - one of the questions being, did we have the right to cause any organism, even a microbe, to become extinct? If smallpox can be accorded these considerations, so can sheep.

We have 30 rare native breeds of sheep and goats in Britain. In the end the bottom line where these are concerned is not a commercial one, but evolutionary. It's about the survival or extinction of a unique genetic heritage. They're as crucial in their way to this country as the tiger is to Siberia.

WRT lethal genes. In my view, the best way to eradicate disease susceptibility is to let Nature work it out. That means having programmes for running self-determining, self-selecting breeding groups on natural ranges, rather along the lines of the Chillingham cattle. Nature always does the job better than us. You may end up with animals that have a stripe or a spot in the wrong place, but from a conservationist point of view this is trivial.

What is absolutely incontrovertible is that the last people on EARTH who should have anything to do with it are politicians. The thought of breeding programmes to produce politically-correct sheep defies the imagination. There is no one currently in government who has the first idea about eugenics - or who gives a sh*t. They should not be allowed anywhere near sheep.

Will the various interest groups mount any kind of a challenge? If past experience is anything to go by, it looks doubtful. I feel that already our representatives are being seduced by scientific rumour, political spin and the line of least resistance.

So let's get mobilised. Get informed. Consolidate. Start building the barricades.

Ley.

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