Bureaucracy gone baaaa-my


Winter’s approaching rapidly, the grass growth is diminishing daily – except on my lawn – and with the stocking restrictions placed on the grazing marshes around Rye by English Nature, it’s the time of year when many thousands of sheep are leaving the area for the winter.

We are selling 200 lambs each week during the autumn months, which until recently was a straightforward task. By all accounts it was far too easy, so the pen-pushing bureaucrats that sit in their ivory towers of the concrete jungle decided to complicate the issue. All sheep now need to have an ear tag – two tags if you are unlucky enough to be a female sheep – with an individually numbered computer chip on each tag.

This has to be recorded every time the sheep moves and reams of paperwork must accompany each movement and copies sent to the respective government department. Getting this paperwork incorrect is classified as a heinous crime, with the subsequent fine far exceeding any that would be dished out if you were to go down Rye High Street and mug an old granny for her pension money!

If that wasn’t bad enough, if you decide to purchase any of these lambs you won’t be able to sell any other livestock from your farm for a week. How many other businesses would tolerate not being able to trade for seven days each time they purchased stock?

So it appears that this country can locate the abode of every single cow and sheep, together with their entire life-time movements, but hasn’t a clue where every criminal or illegal immigrant is living, or for that matter even how many people live in the UK!

Is food any safer for the fact that every farmer is spending thousands of pounds on tags and countless hours on filling up paperwork? I think that was answered by a supermarket last year when its “beef” meals galloped off the shelves and turned out to be made from the winner of the 4:30 at Kempton the previous spring!

On the arable side of the farm, the winter crops have been planted and are beginning to germinate after the recent rain. Providing the slugs don’t gorge themselves too heavily, next year’s wheat crop has started its cycle while this year’s harvest is still sitting in storage waiting for the price to rise.

Finally, to the person around Icklesham who has progressed from not shutting my field gate to tying it open, allowing my cattle to escape on to the A259: WHY? There is no Right Of Way through the gate and it has been only luck that no major accident has occurred on the three occasions this year that the cattle have deliberately been let out. Maybe the bureaucrats aren’t the only ones that need their heads examining after all!

* Simon Wright is a farmer at East Guldeford where he and his wife Anne also run a holiday cottages business. Click here to visit their website



Photo: Simon Wright

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