Williamson: Why the Farmers Are to Blame for This Appalling Tragedy

Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), March 4, 2001 | Go to article overview

Williamson: Why the Farmers Are to Blame for This Appalling Tragedy


Byline: Richard Williamson

AS black smoke from a grim funeral pyre casts a pall over England, we are once again weeping for the plight of the poor farmers.

This is, indeed, a tragedy and nobody can be anything but shocked by the heartbreaking sight of thousands of slaughtered animals piled in a mountain of death.

Only the insensitive will fail to feel sorry for farmers powerless to do anything but watch as years of hard work goes up in flames.

They say that despair will drive some to suicide. Nobody can want that to happen.

But as we give sympathy - not to mention millions of pounds in compensation to the food and farming industry - we are also entitled to ask a few questions.

After salmonella, BSE, swine fever, bovine TB and now foot and mouth disease it seems as if the countryside is a seething witch's broth of bacteria, viruses and toxins.

So are we talking about bad luck or bad farming?

I know what the response from the farming community will be: 'You don't know what you are talking about. Mind your own business and leave us alone.'

But it is becoming increasingly difficult to trust a calamity-prone industry that has a talent for blaming everybody but itself for its problems.

Paranoia

So great is the paranoia that there are even people muttering that the foot and mouth outbreak is deliberate sabotage by animal rights activists.

Investigations continue but the chief suspect is contaminated foreign meat in the pig swill, probably originating in the scrapings from restaurant plates.

Farmers are right to call for a ban on imports from countries with dubious health records.

But, surely, they also have a responsibility when it comes to what they feed to their own stock?

Can they have forgotten that the BSE disaster also began with contaminated feed?

We do not appear to have learnt the lesson about what can happen when you stuff untreated garbage into animals.

Farmers believe themselves to be the victims of the BSE catastrophe but what about the 80-odd people who have so far died of vCJD?

We may even have exported this lethal human version of Mad Cow Disease to our European neighbours.

Yet nobody seems to have shouldered responsibility for letting loose this nightmare. …

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