Military rule in Pembrokeshire?
I have never really understood the law. On the one hand, it appears to be based in commonsense, high moral principle and closely-argued reason, dissecting complex or troubling issues under a bright light. Yet its operation often seems opaque, perverse, unjust even.
I and others in the constituency am being asked in a creatively designed leaflet to vote next week for Ms Elin Jones AM, who professes to be the Agriculture Minister for the Welsh Assembly Government, and is currently the inexplicably popular Plaid Cymru candidate for Ceredigion, where I live.
Having moved toWalesten years ago, I still hope to vote for Plaid, as I think thatWalesought to have its own model of governance and representation. But somehow, they just don’t tick my box. I try to raise issues – education, wind turbines, local development, the appalling roads – with their canvassers in the street, and get the feeling that I am encountering the ghosts of amiable buffers from the 1950s, who have no idea what I am on about, but would like to bring back Sunday closing.
This Ms Jones has conceived a monstrous notion to slaughter all the badgers inWales, as she apparently believes they are an economic hindrance, a biological impediment to the commercial operations of Welsh dairy farmers – there are, what, two of them? I jest, just – as the carriers of bovine tuberculosis. Yet she has no grounds whatever for this belief, other than the voices in her head. All the evidence suggests that, while badgers can carry the disease, as indeed can cows, it is far from certain that they are the only, or even the main, vector. A ten-year-long study using culling in restricted test areas convinced even the UK agriculture ministry of the futility of culling as prevention. Yet farmers, reluctant to change their habits, want the easy fix.
Now, I happen to be the manager of a private estate, where there are more than a dozen badger setts. And I don’t want ‘my’ badgers to die, just to save 1p off the price of a pint of Daioni organic bluetop. Experts have told me that these networks of tunnels and chambers, in continuous use, may be a thousand years old. The sight and smell of a furry carcase by the roadside reminds us how pressured our native wildlife already is, without suffering anew, the murderous depradations of cider-fuelled rustics, armed with terriers, spades and searchlights.
Molesting badgers is generally, I believe, an offence under EU laws guaranteeing the protection of wildlife and biodiversity. This principle was upheld in both the High Court and theAppeal Court, in two judgments against Ms Jones last year. I must have fallen asleep or something, because, the next thing I know, Ms Jones has declared Pembrokeshire a badger-free zone, and has authorised the shooting, gassing or trapping and clubbing to death of all the badgers in the vicinity. How has this been allowed to happen, as it is so clearly illegal?
Not only that, but she has succeeded in inventing her own bubble of unreality to surround this barbaric and senseless programme, a version of military rule that is entirely at variance with the aforesaid commonsense, principle and reason supposedly underpinning the laws of England and Wales. She has, effectively, declared a state of emergency in Pembrokeshire, and suspended the normal conventions of civil liberty and freedom of expression. By what authority?
I had imagined that, as long as one did not cause a stampede in a crowded theatre, Britons were free to have opinions, to express them moderately, and to attempt to put forward rational, persuasive arguments based on clear scientific evidence and the rule of law. I had also imagined that, while contrary opinions do exist in our society, and must be recognised, nevertheless it is not considered acceptable to protect their more deranged proponents against the reasoned argument of objectors, at the point of a Heckler and Koch submachine-gun. I thought that sort of thing only happened inLibya,Bahrein,Syria, etcetera.
In leafy Pembrokeshire, however, I understand that, despite no threat of armed action having been issued, or taken up by the very many opponents of Ms Jones’ desperate policy, condemned by ADAS and the English courts alike, nevertheless armed police squads are to be detached to guard the officials delegated to carry out the illegal nighttime onslaught, against the unarmed, middle-aged, middle-class country dwellers most opposed to it; while it is now a criminal offence to protest against the cull, or even to ‘advise’ anyone against it, within the area designated.
I am reminded of the horrible events at the height of the foot-and-mouth ‘epidemic’ in 2001, when heavily armed soldiers and police battered down the door of a house in Scotland, dragged an elderly woman crofter’s pet sheep out on the lawn, and shot it dead in front of her, for no biological reason other than that she lived near a farm where animals were suspected to have (but ultimately found not to have) this easily preventable, nonlethal disease. As a smallholder myself, a democrat, and a human being, that was the moment I realised, with a sinking heart, that we do live in a police state, that it has come upon us by increments, behind a mask of conviviality, for our own protection, through much panic and incompetence no doubt; nevertheless, that we are all well-boiled little frogs now.
If Ms Elin Jones thinks that I, for one, am going to vote for her, and this, she is more vain and stupid than I have imagined her to be. Why would anyone vote for a politician who is virulently opposed to democracy and civil liberty, who plots to deprive people of their legal rights at gunpoint? Not even Oswald Mosley took fascism that far. A politician, so pliably in hock to the anencephalic Welsh farming lobby and their diminishing quota of votes, a mere cipher, who no more deserves to be made a member of the Assembly than I do?