L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

18 March 2007 Blog Home : March 2007 : Permalink

No Passport? No Life

As noted by Tim W and Stephen Pollard, this week's Booker column describes a truly nightmare scenario. I personally would not want to be a farmer in the UK because some petty minded bureaucrat can seize and destroy your livelihood without compensation. Although the Booker column, which appears to be almost identical to the "Down on the Farm" column in this week's Private Eye (could they be related?), is infomrative the best background information appears to come from this Cheshire Online article from last month. As near as I can establish what happened to the farmer, a Mr David Dobbin, is this:
  1. In 2005, at a different farm, he failed to fill in paperwork to do with TB vaccination correctly
  2. The bureaucrats started investigating everything else he had done since as a result
  3. In his new farm the inspectors went through his paper work with a fine toothed comb and found irregularities
  4. They then confiscted the cattle passports (the documents that track an animal through its life) in November 2006
  5. In February 2007 they served him a "notice to identify" his cattle with a 2 day deadline
  6. Since this was impossible to meet (DNA testing takes > 2 days and they have his cattle's passports anyway) they took his herd away to destroy it
  7. At approximately the same time he plead guilty to 3 charges relating to the TB stuff, but his lawyer says that the guilty plea was entered due to the fact that he was rather busy defending his current business and thus having a hard time preparing or travelling.
  8. His lawyers managed to get a last minute order to stay the slaughter and applied for a judicial review
  9. The judicial review was granted
  10. Two weeks ago the bureaucrats insisted they had to destroy the cattle anyway because they couldn't look after them
  11. A judge agreed and the herd was slaughtered.
As Booker notes:

the regulation permits officials to destroy only animals that cannot be identified. Defra has never claimed that the paperwork for most of Mr Dobbin's cows was not in order, only that the officials had found "what they believed to be an unacceptable level of non-compliance with the regulations", and that this "could have serious implications for the protection of the human food chain".


All Mr Dobbin can now hope for is that the judicial review may confirm that Defra acted outside the law. The officials agreed in court that they had never used these powers on anything like such a scale before. It has not been claimed that Mr Dobbin's animals posed any health risk (BSE this year is down to a single case). His only alleged offence was "non-compliance" with complex bureaucratic procedures, to an extent which Defra still cannot specify. For this he has seen his livelihood go up in smoke, without a penny in compensation.

As Booker says, so far as I can tell none of the offences for which Mr Dobbin has been accused have been based on actual sick animals except one prosecution for "Cruelty to Animals" that appears to have been caused by his attempts to comply with the demands of the bureaucrats. He may, for all I know, be an nasty mad that mistreats his cows but seems more likely that he's a nice man who would rather actually look after his cows than spend his days filling in bits of paper.

Although this is the first time these regulations have been used to this extent, I am not convinced that this is one off or a first time offence. I cannot help but note that the dairy that got itself named specifically in EU laws - Bowland Dairy Products - is a mere 70 miles drive away according to Google. I don't know how DEFRA manages its inspectors but I can see that the two farms are in the same region for "Rural Development Programmes" and it seems plausible that the same power mad jobsworth is responsible for both these investigations and subsequent ruining of livelihoods. I wonder whether Booker or someone else will be able to make the appropriate Freeedom of Information enquiries to see if my suspicions have any basis in reality.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin