Dear Lynne,

Did you listen (or take part in) this morning's discussion (5.8.01) on Radio Newcastle? The MP for North Durham said some very interesting things.

At the beginning of the programme he said that the FMD crisis would give us the chance to debate the future size of the agricultural industry in this country. By the middle of the programme, with no 'debate', he was saying that agriculture 'will' be smaller after FMD and that this is all to the good for three reasons. Firstly, subsidies being paid to farmers can be abolished, secondly food can then be obtained cheaply on the free world market, instead of being sourced here. Lastly he said that the small family farms were things of the past and that the future was 'agrobusiness' (sic) which will be competitive in that world market. He claimed that during the crisis the government has spent #2bn on 'supporting the industry', even though on his own admission the industry is being cut back. Rather as Mrs Thatcher supported the coal industry I suppose.

The main thrust of the programme was to stir up envy about the compensation being paid to farmers. It was suggested to one farmer on the line from Belsay that he had received 'hundreds of thousands'. He hadn't.

Not a word on the programme about animal welfare, the failure to control the outbreak, the real sums of money spent on the cull, the personal cost to farmers or the pollution and destruction of the environment. What came across was a well rehearsed party line. The cull is simply a savage and unethical way of destroying lives both human and animal, which was spun into an inevitability and is being sold to us now as 'a good thing'.