September 23, 2002
Liberty and Livelihood

This Sunday, between 300,000 and 400,000 people (0.4% of the UK's population, approximately) came to London to protest against the government's handling of rural affairs. There seem to have been two main threads to the reasoning behind the protest.

Liberty. The government is planning to make fox-hunting illegal. The House of Commons has already voted this through twice, on both occasions allowing a free vote. On both occasions, the (unelected) House of Lords blocked the legislation. Assuming that a third vote goes against fox-hunting, the government is likely to use the Parliament Act to force the legislation through.

I have some sympathy with those who don't want fox-hunting banned. Not much, but some. I strongly disapprove of fox-hunting. I think that to hunt and kill an animal in a painful manner for pleasure is morally wrong. But, it is for the individual to decide on their own actions, and the government should stay out of it wherever possible. I think that the government should resist any impulse to legislate on matters of conscience.

Having said that, the ban on fox-hunting was in the government's manifesto, and the government won the election, so I suppose that they are entitled to legislate...

Livelihood. The farming industry in this country is becoming untenable. Subsidies are heavy already, and are very unlikely to increase, but farmers claim that is almost impossible to make a living.

Hmmm. Again, some sympathy here - no one likes to find out that their way of life has no future. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is. The farmers are, Canute like, fighting the tide of history, and they are bound to lose. The government couldn't change this if they wanted to. It seems that British farming as a means of mass food production is finished.

It must be said, this is not the first time that an industry has disappeared (or at least altered beyond all recognition). I can't say that I remember the farmers giving the miners much support ten years ago! Should the State keep obsolete industries alive? Can it? I think not.

If my skills go out of date, should the State support me? No, of course not. It is my responsibility to keep myself up to date and employable, and the same goes for the farmers. I suspect that farming can have a future in the UK, but as a producer of high quality produce for those willing to pay, not as a mass food producer. A smaller industry, certainly, but perhaps a sustainable one.

Personal observations - getting around London was a nightmare yesterday. The visitors have no idea as to tube-etiquette - pushing onto trains without letting people off first, mulling in large groups blocking interconnections, that sort of thing. One tweed-clad chap nearly crushed my little girl. I had to give him a firm shove to make some room for her.

Also, other than the tube, using public transport clearly didn't occur to people. The roads were chock-full of coaches, and I have never seen so many range-rovers parked throughout London's streets. I shudder to think how much CO2 was released! The train to Reading was nice and empty, though, as was the Science Museum!

The Science Museum is the best kid's day out in London by far, by the way. The girls and I go once a month at least - they pretty much demand it.

Update: Our Country Cousins & Damn those countryside people.

Posted to The Big Room by Simon Brunning at September 23, 2002 01:08 PM
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