reminder of this extraordinary story

Tony Gosling tony at
Sun Jan 23 14:26:37 GMT 2011

>The NFU 'doesn't care about its membership'
>Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 09:00
>After seven years as the Somerset delegate for 
>the National Farmers' Union, I'm afraid I have 
>come to the conclusion that the NFU is there 
>merely to promote itself and really doesn't care 
>about the interests of its membership.
> From all I have seen and heard, I am driven to 
> the conclusion that it is far more concerned 
> about maintaining the supermarkets' margins and 
> playing lapdog to Defra – the well-worn route 
> by which retiring office-holders collect their 
> non-executive directorships and knighthoods.
>One of the main reasons I stood for presidency 
>of the union in February was because it was my 
>belief that the voting system is totally unfair.
>And how can I substantiate that claim? Simple: 
>the ballot papers used to elect candidates to 
>the top three posts are all numbered, so 
>officials can plainly see who voted for whom.
>I was so disillusioned with the way the NFU is 
>run I was actually going to resign last year.
>But I was encouraged to stay because so many of 
>my council colleagues told me I was one of the 
>few people who was prepared to say what I really 
>thought, and had a chance of making a 
>difference. But in the end they didn't have the guts to vote for me.
>Predictably, under such circumstances, I only received three votes.
>One of them was mine, and the other two were 
>those of Somerset NFU chairman Mark Pope and 
>Charles Bourns, chairman of the poultry board. 
>Charles Bourns is a man who stands up for his beliefs.
>He and the board deserve to be thanked for their 
>work in ensuring the Little Red Tractor actually 
>means something and has the Union Jack wrapped 
>around it – despite opposition from others who 
>wanted to see it applied equally to any imported food that met UK standards.
>I would like to thank him publicly for voting 
>for me, because it caused him a lot of 
>aggravation, sparking a campaign to remove him 
>from the chairmanship of the poultry board – though one he managed to survive.
>My old colleagues in Farmers For Action, David 
>Handley and Paul Reynolds have repeatedly told 
>me that I would never change the NFU and I'm 
>sorry to say that I now have to agree with them.
>After all, what has it achieved over the last 15 
>years? We have seen the steady decline of 
>British agriculture, we have lost status as an 
>agricultural nation, lost the Royal Show which 
>used to showcase the best of British farming, 
>and lost the Smithfield in 
>– and despite what may be claimed the 
>replacement shows are no more than very pale 
>imitations of a once-great event. We are only 50 
>per cent self sufficient in food and the proportion continues to fall.
>A quarter of all farmers are below the poverty 
>line and supermarket profits are still rising.
>We have 62 million customers on our doorstep and 
>only enough food for three days.
>We are, as someone put it, three days away from 
>anarchy. It is an absolute disgrace.
>This all rests at the door of the NFU, its 
>failures in leadership and its emerging role as 
>the government's propaganda machine.
>The only positive sign is that Peter Kendall has 
>removed the bovine TB brief from Meurig Raymond 
>and he is now dealing with it directly himself.
>I have already had a couple of discussions with 
>Mr Kendall, but the situation is getting worse.
>While politicians have been allowed to dither we 
>have seen TB spread to sheep, wild boar and 
>deer. Yet to all intents and purposes Mr Kendall 
>still appears to be dithering while the South 
>West's livestock sector goes to the dogs.
>One man I have a lot of time for is badger expert Brian Hill.
>Unfortunately, we have gone down with TB 
>ourselves but we have had him on the farm and he 
>has shown us the logical, sensible way to tackle the problem.
>Meanwhile, the government continues to waste 
>millions (on top of the compensation bills) 
>trialling an untried vaccine using untested 
>techniques and telling farmers where they can 
>send stock from closed-down farms, instead of 
>tackling the disease at its root and removing the infected badgers humanely.
>For all the hate mail, the vicious, snarling 
>attacks by the badger-huggers and (sadly) the 
>perception among some sections of the public is 
>that all we farmers and countrymen really want 
>are healthy badgers and healthy cattle.
>If there were any justice in this situation the 
>pro-badger lobbyists should be taken to court for cruelty to animals.
>TB is a terrible disease and a terrible way for 
>a badger to die. If you had a domestic animal or 
>a farm animal suffering in a similar way, it 
>would have to be put down humanely – because it 
>is a criminal offence to leave it.
>The problem is that as a result of legal 
>protection there are now too many badgers in the 
>countryside – and certainly more than can be 
>comfortably accommodated given their territorial nature.
>But we do not want to see the mass slaughter of 
>badgers, as is about to happen in Pembrokeshire.
>There are farmers there who are very frightened 
>because some areas have never had TB and have healthy badger populations.
>So why take out these and increase the risk of 
>infected ones eventually moving in to take their place?
>I believe there is common ground between farmers 
>and badger groups and I honestly believe that 
>the next move is for us to talk to them and see if we can identify it.
>We may have to, as an alternative to swapping 
>insults, because Hilary Benn's refusal to take 
>an unpopular decision and to listen only to the 
>'science' that he wants to hear has ensured that 
>this has become a long-term problem which will require a long-term solution.

+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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