My son and I have in the last year been through the experience of being told that his mother had breast cancer with all that that might, if things went badly, have encompassed. Fortunately, and to cut a long story short, things went as well as one might have hoped. I was very proud of my son, who maintained his sang froid pretty well, which is more than I managed, in private I hasten to add. None of this Continental mawkishness that sprang into our lives with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Like Spike in the Tom & Jerry cartoons, it was a case of ‘that’s my boy!’.


I reflected on this as the FMD crisis has unfolded. Over the last fifteen years or so we have had to put down five much loved dogs, four labradors and a beagle. I cannot get used to it. Every time I am in terrible state of distress. I am now, just thinking of it. I always know that it is for the best and that one has to spare these fine creatures any unnecessary pain and suffering. Yet the fact of the matter is that they are part of the family and they are your friends and killing your friends is simply the pits, however good the motive.


For that reason I find the exercise almost unbearable every time it happens. My distress is always private but it is always utterly devastating. It takes me weeks to get over it. When the Truffle Hound’s time comes to go to the Great Hunting Field in the sky, I know it will be the same.


Which is why I have been so moved at the sight of grown men describing how they have had to watch the animals they have tended and nurtured for years be slaughtered by the men from the ministry. Their distress is there for all to see and their tears are real, their self-control an example to us all for how to face real adversity. One gentleman broke down at the thought of his best bull being killed. It was awful to watch.


Not one of these men is the greedy industrial farmer that seems to fill the perceptions of our Metropolitan elite. Instead they are the very modern model of the yeoman farmer, who may no longer call his cows ‘Buttercup’ or ‘Daisy’ but who nevertheless knows each one and their foibles, and for which he cares deeply that, until their time comes, as it must, they live as good a life as possible.


How great a contrast then were the motley crew of the BBC programme ‘Mock the Week’ last night. Normally I am a great fan of this programme but I am afraid that their opening salvos last night, a vicious tirade against farmers, was about as insensitive a piece of television that I have ever seen and demeaned them.


They should all be made to go and stand with the next farmer whose herd and livelihood is being destroyed and watch his reaction as the bolt guns go off. Then we shall see if they think this is all quite so funny.


The programme, if you have the stomach, is repeated tonight.

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