Farms fail against profit

news: Farms fail against profit

Having visitors certainly brings one face to face with any shortcomings on the domestic front, but the spin off – like being dosed at school – leaves everything cleaner inside and out, for a limited period. One old friend has come and gone, last seen being frisked as she passed into departures at Faro Airport. The place was grid locked, with queues at every booking-in desk and more people arriving by the busload. It was total chaos – an ants’ nest after the Queen has flown. Inconsiderate folk charged through, with golf bags loaded broadside on their trolleys, cutting a swathe after the style of Boadicea during the Celtic revolt against the Romans. Small children ducked and dived among a forest of legs, oblivious of their parents’ anxiety, while sweating couriers did their courteous best to sort out the mess.

Two days later and we were airport bound again, this time to meet number one daughter, who is domiciled on the Isle of Wight. Ferries charge a swingeing 50 pounds to carry car and driver across the puddle to the south coast, and hold a monopoly for this service which takes only 25 minutes to complete. As a result, the population tends to be rather insular and a little behind the times and it takes newcomers some time to become accepted into the local hierarchy. The island is renowned for the high quality of its home produced garlic. A festival is held each year to display the versatility and health enhancing properties of this culinary necessity and it is exported worldwide – but I draw the line at garlic flavoured confectionery and ice cream.

We were grateful that daughter and Fred, the newly acquired mongrel, found immediate rapport. As a youngster, having been bitten by a German Shepherd and a Boxer, she has a healthy distrust of strange dogs even now, and it was fortunate that she was not here a little earlier when Fred brought home a long-dead chicken. Not content with that and with collusion from Bess, our other incumbent of long standing, next afternoon he laid the carcass of a young goat beneath my laden washing line. Assuming that it was thrown out after Portuguese neighbours had removed most of its flesh for the stew pot, there was still enough left to keep both dogs happy for several days. All that was missing was the head. This turned up 48 hours later, plus a beautiful curved black horn, impregnated with the unmistakable stink of a mature Billygoat. Whatever next?

It was Michaelmas Market a couple of weeks back in Odiáxere, but it was very disappointing because the usual assortment of farm animals was absent, with the exception of a few horses. Bearing in mind that agriculture is in decline in Portugal, as it is in the UK, maybe there is a shortage of livestock. While good farm land continues to disappear beneath a tide of concrete – someone must be making a profit, if only the banks – unless the population is breeding like rabbits, who will live in these high rise warrens and from where will their rations come unless imported from abroad. I cannot help feeling that the bubble of false prosperity has to burst, and sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, farmers might take an example from their French counterparts and create a little mayhem among the urban masses.

If sufficient people protest over unsafe legislation, as with the recent ban on hunting with dogs – made Law on September 9, after The House of Lords had blocked it and the Commons forced it through using the ancient Parliamentary Act (dormant for 400years) – maybe even at this late stage the voices of common sense will prevail.

What had been peaceful protests, covering all aspects of rural life by the Countryside Alliance during the past 18 months, have taken a turn for the worse. This is a direct consequence of government by Quango, whose members appear to have neither knowledge of rural life, nor the ability to listen to any but their own point of view.

Police across England will have their work cut out when the ban starts in 2006, if, as expected, the hunting fraternity ignores this law and carries on as it has since the 16th century. Senior officers and magistrates have expressed doubts about its enforcement and a considerable number of disaffected people from this thriving industry will be thrown on the scrapheap, along with highly trained animals, if the law is enforced.

And so the juggernaut rolls on. Peter Mandelson is back behind the scenes pressing buttons for Tony, the Cabinet has been given a face-lift and Gordon Brown, while appearing in total control of the country’s finances, is paddling like hell under the political stream, looking for a way to become premier after the next election. Surely, Tony Blair should be seeking to make peace with rural constituencies that have long supported the conservative ethos that he appears to favour, rather than alienating them en masse in an effort to woo the Socialist Left. To stand with a foot in each camp can be very painful when the crunch comes.