20 June 1997

Pining for things to be the same again

THE stance of Graham Harveys impassioned book* is stated loud and clear before the end of even the first paragraph. Mr Harvey is already cranking up the nostalgia factor with references to green mantles, grasses and herbs, flickering butterflies, etc.

Readers looking for a rational and sophisticated analysis of modern UK farming in the circumstances of the late 20th century neednt bother opening its pages. By page 2 we are told of dairy farmers feeding cattle carcasses back to cattle as though they compounded their own feed. But every sector of the industry receives its share of the lash in due course.

Modern farming is killing off the rural landscape as it was and it is just about everybodys fault – farmers, politicians, industrialists and Press.

Back to the chalk grasslands, blue butterflies, etc, Mr Harvey exalts in the blissful life of "a rural child growing up in southern Britain as recently as the last war". Writing as a rural child who grew up in southern Britain as recently as the last war, my memories are of hunger, cold, rickets, ringworm, and general deprivation. I didnt seem to notice the bees, butterflies and fragrant herbs.

This journal is quoted widely although the author can never resist putting in his own bias. farmers weekly never reports the facts but always "roars", announces "triumphantly", "crows" and "complains".

Of course, the mainstream agricultural Press is completely in thrall to the forces of evil and eagerly contributes to the ruination of Britain in order to sell magazines and advertising.

But wait. Could this be the same Graham Harvey who worked for farmers weekly and then Farming News and, as far as we know, happily took his pay-cheques from the dark destroyers? Unless I skipped a page or two he doesnt mention it.

If anyone seriously wants to read about the state of farming as it is in the real world and not wallow in a nostalgic bath wearing fritillary-coloured spectacles, dont waste £17 on this. Buy FW for three months instead. JE

*The Killing of the Countryside by Graham Harvey. Jonathan Cape (£16.99).