From Jonathan Miller's Mean Fields

Sunday Times: Nov 4 2001

The idiot National Farmers Union endorse the government's proposed animal health act amendments that will give ministry agents the power to destroy cows, sheep, pigs, alpacas, cats, dogs, horses, hamsters and goldfish without judicial review.

This vindictive, repressive legislation, to put beyond challenge the power of the government to kill any animal, has been rushed into parliament without waiting for reports from any of the three foot and mouth inquiries established by the government.

Ministers allege that animal owners who resisted the FMD cull helped spread the disease. But where is the evidence? There is plenty of evidence that the disgusting bio-sanitary practices of the government's own agents spread the disease - but not that it was spread by people trying to protect their healthy animals from the brutal ministry of death.

If the government is seeking to ex-post-facto legalise its unlawful contiguous cull policy, it can only be to make the next big cull a lot easier - without off-message citizens seeking redress at law. Maybe next time it will be dogs - all it will take is one case of rabies. Or perhaps we shall have foot and mouth again: our unvaccinated herd is as vulnerable as it ever was. The NFU, as close to the new Defra as it was to the old Maff, is not the only organisation to have emerged disgraced. Many are the collaborators. Vets - not the cuddly professionals we imagine - cravenly presided as ministry slaughter men took out pet goats, accompanied by soldiers and armed police.

As government agents on quad bikes chased cows, the sanctimonious, hypocritical RSPCA campaigned to ban hunting.

The police ought to protect our freedoms. Instead, the senior cadre supinely superintended gross violations of human and animal rights.

The Army did its best to ameliorate the distress by at least organising matters more efficiently. Yet Devon council's inquiry found the sum of it all to be "lamentable" - a situation recognised by some of us in April. Is the army the only institution we can trust? It's not just Afghanistan that needs accountable, democratic institutions to replace the corrupt horrors of a regime that seized power with the support of perhaps 25% of the people. Perhaps we need a coup.

Nick Brown, currently invisible as government minister for work (!), sang to me in his office ("Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood"). He has questions to answer: Why did he tell parliament that vaccination would "permanently compromise" Britain's meat export status? That wasn't true, was it? Holland vaccinated, controlled the disease (chose to slaughter afterwards but didn't have to) and has already regained its export status. Civil service heads should roll starting with Jim Scudamore, still chief vet. Maff (later Defra) launched its campaign without any relevant planning or simulation. The people who managed the catastrophe are still in place. Defra statistics on the epidemic are a lie. On the ground, Defra's stupendous incompetence has cost billions. Watercourses are polluted, civil rights have been trampled, and the air filled with the stench of burning animals and railway sleepers (full of dioxins and PCBs).

Mr Blair took personal responsibility for foot and mouth when it became clear that Maff /Deffra was stuffed with cock-up artists, poltroons, serial liars and sadists and he famously saved a Charlerois calf named Phoenix. Spin done, he has not stuck around.

But this is about more than Blair and ludicrous Nick Brown and the invisible government of an arrogant, unaccountable, secretive and institutionally lunatic civil service.

The question we need to ask is how long are we going to put up with bad government - of ministers and civil servants making a complete mess of everything they do? Our governing cadre cannot be trusted to run a chip stand. They preside over hospitals, schools, roads and trains that are unfixable national embarrassments.

Given the regime's hapless, venal performance when some cows caught a cold, are we seriously to believe this is a government and civil service prepared to cope with a nuclear, chemical or biological attack on our homeland?