Private Eye

Even Newer Muckspreader,

19/12/01

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Looking round for a last way to kick farmers in the teeth before the end of the year when they organised the biggest administrative shambles in British government history, ie the FMD fiasco, Mrs Beckett's officials came up with 'Operation Big Brother'. This is their brilliant wheeze to insist that every farmer in the country must buy a computer, to keep him (or her) in electronic touch with 'Control'. ie the Department for the Elimination of Farming and Rural Affairs. This will enable Control to dish out its latest orders to farmers on a daily basis, meanwhile requiring the farmers to report back to Control everything they do on the farm.

This comes hard on the heels of Big Sister 's earlier proposal, that all farms will in future must be licensed by the ministry, so that any farmer who in any way offends the officials can have his licence to stay in business withdrawn. This also of course comes from the government which has been rushing through its 'animal death bill', empowering Deathra officials to go onto any farm, to kill any animal they wish, including cats and dogs (but not goldfish), while making it a criminal offence for the farmer to question what they are up to.

Such are just some of the spectacular recent initiatives launched by the minister whose contempt for farmers was summed up in her lip-curling comment at a recent farm show in Cornwall, "aren't events like this boring?". In other words, these horrible little people bore me so much I am going to do everything I can to control and regulate them out of existence. Certainly by this measure she is doing a great job. How her performance is viewed by others, however, was highlighted when the Great Caravanner recently appeared in Brussels at a major international conference on foot-and-mouth organised by the Dutch government.

This was dominated by leading vets from various countries arguing that a catastrophe like that organised by Britain in 2001 must never happen again. There must be no more barbaric mass-slaughter. The only scientific, civilised way to deal with this virus is to vaccinate, as mankind now does for almost any virus you can think of, from polio to 'flu.

Bernado Cane, Argentina's chief vet, explained how his country has been successfully using vaccination for 30 years and that it is completely safe both for animals and consumers. FH Pluimers, Holland's chief vet, explained how it is now perfectly possible to distinguish between animals that have been vaccinated and those which have been diseased, and that the EU must put vaccination top of its agenda in dealing with any future epidemic.

Up to her feet then rose a strange dinosaur, Mrs Beckett, seemingly unable to grasp a single word of what all these experts were saying. Vaccination would be very difficult, she said, because consumers would not want to eat the meat from vaccinated animals (she is clearly unaware that every supermarket in the country offers meat from animals which have been vaccinated up to 20 times). We have no guarantee that vaccination is safe for the animals, intoned Beckett. There are no tests to distinguish between animals that have been vaccinated and those which have had the disease. Brothers, Big Sister was a laughing stock.

It was shameful to think that this sneering, antediluvian creature represented Britain to the rest of the world.