Debating Foxes While Cattle Burn

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 28, 2001 | Go to article overview

Debating Foxes While Cattle Burn


THE GOVERNMENT deserves to be embarrassed by the coincidence that, even as Britain's countryside faces its worst crisis for a generation from foot-and-mouth disease, the House of Commons was yesterday debating Labour's proposed ban on foxhunting. One of many objections to the foxhunting legislation is that Labour politicians are indulging their own urban and suburban prejudices at the expense of attacking traditional rural life. More than a few critics have observed that there is something seriously wrong with the politics of a party which can turn out far more MPs to vote against hunting than to debate the great issues of modern Britain, such as education, child welfare or the future of the health service. All this was true, even before foot-and-mouth struck. Today the whole farming industry faces disaster.

Farmers whose livestock have to be compulsorily slaughtered are eligible for compensation. But since it now appears likely that the blanket ban on livestock movements will have to be maintained for weeks, if not months, almost every farmer will face heavy costs for feeding animals which he cannot sell, yet by present rules cannot expect compensation for. Farm incomes are already hard hit by BSE and falling prices. Even farmers who make marginal income from holiday lets and other non-agricultural sources are threatened by the ban on the movement of people into the countryside. …

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