Farmer's Guardian March 29 2002.

The Government's response to Tuesday's dramatic events in the House of Lords was telling. Not even in their wildest dreaams, had Ministers expected the Animal Health Bill to be thrown out be peers.

As shock turned to anger Lord Whitty was soon claiming that peers were simply taking their revenge on the Government's stance on hunting.

But the vote had nothing to do with hunting. The Minister had clearly failed to undersand the strength of puplic opposition to what has been coined the 'ANIMAL DEATH BILL'. It was derailed on Tuesday because the Lords agreed it would be a brutal piece of legislation giving dangerous draconian powers to an already bloodthirsty Government.

The Government has paid for trying to rush the Bill through without proper consultation and without waiting for the foot and mouth inquiries to finish.

The Lords were quite right to agree with an amendment proposed by Lord Moran requiring that the Government should wait until the inquiries are finished to proceed with the Bill.

They are right because there are far too many questions that must be answered about last year's cull before the Government is granted more pwers to cull animals without the farmer have the right to question the decision.

Ministers talk about the way resistance to the cull led to the further spread of disease last year, but have produced scant evidence. In many cases farmers resisted because they could see no logic in the cull that frequently qppeared indiscriminate and driven by panic.

They do not trust the apparently flimsy science behind it and want to know what role the forthcoming General Election played.

The feeling that millions of animals were culled unnecessarily has been strenghened by figures indicating that less that 2 per cent were infected.

The various foot-and-mouth inquiries should provide some answers and force the Government to redraft other useful provisions in a way that is more palatable to everyone.

The Lords have handed the under-fire Prime Minister and his Government a valuable lesson about the value of listening.