Undermined and with their livelihoods compromised and threatened, Farmers, Politicians and DEFRA vets alike are responding aggressively to this recent outbreak of Bovine TB As a farmer, if the criteria by which my subsidies were paid to me were to change my policies, practices and behaviour would then change as would the transactions that I have with others, my cattle movements then cattle behaviour, maybe even the number of cattle I keep would change.
In June 2003, EU Ministers announced Common Agriculture Policy reform with the intention to de-couple payments to farmers from production, introducing the New Single Farm Payment Scheme. All member states signed up, and by 2005 farmers in Wales were among the first in Europe to engage. By the end of the first day 75% of Welsh farmers had received their first payment! 98% of them had done so within 6 months. So it would follow that over a very short period, all transactions between farmers change, all cattle movements change, cattle behaviour changes, even local populations change. These changes may be very small and subtle, but equally they may be large and obvious. Either way it follows that they would occur.
The purpose of the CAP reform was to change the behaviour of farmers and then to reward the change with payment. It succeeded, and in Wales they all changed things at the same time! When such change is applied in an area where the farming community is particularly close knit and where unique ergonomics exist, a hotspot in behaviour will develop and present. Bovine T.B., always present in the national herd (and we know this because they are always testing there), slips through and breaks out and in response the Welsh Assembly become involved in order to put right what are effectively a farm business management issue and a man-management issue, and they do this by consulting a vet! So the disease spreads.
Possibly the biggest single act of reformation in agriculture in Europe in over forty years happens five years ago on a farm near everyone. All farmers in Wales act at the same time, and in response our politicians here pursue a policy to kill badgers.
Environmental damage should never be used as a tool to prevent or suppress leakage of any nature from agriculture, whether that leakage is into other agriculture or into the environment. However, when the department of government that is responsible for ensuring that such leakages shouldn't occur, having stood by for over 40yrs and just killed cows, now advocates environmental damage to reduce the cost to taxpayers and to make up for its own shortcomings in Europe, it has to raise serious questions about the competence, the integrity and then the relevance of that department.
The Common Agricultural Policy, its purposes and its consequences, should never be applied outside agriculture, especially when that application is done forcibly, wilfully and with an intention to do damage to the environment and its contents.