Wrong end of the stick

by Black Sheep, 23rd March 2017

That's another fine mess the NFU have got farmers into

Farmers. What have the National Farmers Union done for you?  Okay, yeah, they sort out your insurance. But apart from that? Oh, and that Countryside magazine they send out. Yeah, that’s nice. And they give MPs a hard time. Of course. But what else?

Um… legal stuff, yeah. They’ll conduct legal challenges for you. That’s true. They do that. And then there’s the 25-year TB eradication strategy. We know. That goes without saying.

But apart from the insurance, the magazine, the MP bashing, the legal support and the 25-year TB eradication strategy, what have the NFU ever done for you?

Well I’ll tell you what they haven’t done. They haven’t exactly done a very good job of marketing the farming brand.

After eons of dining out on their produce, there can be little doubt that half the country still views farmers with suspicion, and even fear. The “gerorff my land” perception of grumpy country guardians with baler twine for belts and contradictory bank accounts the size of Angelsey persists to this day, despite decades of flag waving by the NFU, as they try to raise the popularity of farmers above that of hedge-fund managers in the eyes of city folk.

Yet still the media team don’t do farmers any favours. Take the recent hoo-ha over doggie bags - by which I mean those plastic things designed to help dispose of poo, not something you put your dinner leftovers in. Quite rightly, an MP has raised the whiffy issue of dog owners increasingly ‘bagging and hanging’ instead of ‘bagging and binning’.

I started banging on about this seven years ago, but things take a while to trickle down to London. Still, the honourable member for St Albans has finally become as incensed as yours truly at the sight of the countryside becoming increasingly festooned with bags of dog do hung from branches in woodland by imbeciles who must believe in poo fairies.

“Walkers, cyclists and families out with small children are greeted by a lump of faeces wrapped in plastic dangling from trees,” she told a Commons debate earlier this month, adding that cyclists have even been known to ride headlong into the squishy suspect packages swinging low and not very sweet.

The advice? A “pragmatic poo strategy”, as our bag lady MP put her full support behind the Forestry Commission’s campaign to ‘stick it and flick it’, which is great advice for visitors. For country folk, of course, it's like telling us not to wear high heels whilst rambling.

Alas, predictably, clueless city organisations such as the Kennel Club and Keep Britain Tidy have railed against such common sense and insist that us dog owners should always bag and bin, wherever we are, forgetting that there aren’t bins on the corner of every green lane.

It’s at this point you might have hoped the National Farmers Union would have pointed out such an oversight. But no. Citing the fact that dog faeces can cause livestock to abort, a spokesman insisted, “the most responsible thing for dog walkers to do is pick it up in the countryside, bag it, and bin it.”

"And whilst they're about it, gerorff my land," he might as well have added. Setting aside the fact that said spokesman sounded like he’d never been to “the countryside”, the statement proved to be yet another own goal for the farming image, for one simple reason which you can almost hear being bandied around dinner parties in Islington right now.

How many times have you ever seen a farmer clear up after his sheep dog?

A mutton for punishment, Black Sheep welcomes all comments. Email to air your points of view

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