Farm politics, feisty talk and a massive 1980s perm

I loved the interview that anti-badger cull campaigner Brian May gave to Jane King in Farmers Weekly.

My own columns aside, I think that it was one of the best things to ever appear in the magazine and on this website.

It combined some of my favourite things in life: farm politics, waning celebrity, feisty talk, a massive 1980s perm and a clash between two cultural icons.

It reminded me more than a little bit of the scrap between Alexis Colby and Krystal Carrington in Dynasty. But better. Because it involved agricultural policy.

I have friends under TB restrictions who find Dr May quite annoying. They don’t share his views on badger-related matters. They think he is wrong, basically. My own view is that if you can walk about with your shirt unbuttoned and with hair like Louis the XIV and STILL be taken seriously then you are probably saying something of interest.

It is important that Farmers Weekly gives a voice to people who oppose particular agricultural practices. This helps farmers understand the concerns of others and take them on board if it’s appropriate.

Dr May isn’t uninformed. He isn’t anti-farming. He doesn’t want to destroy the dairy industry in the UK. I am glad that he is addressing his concerns directly to farmers rather than just to the public. We should respect that and respond to it positively.


Brian May at Farmers Weekly


Sadly we have an impasse. My friends believe that a badger cull could help to eliminate TB, Dr May doesn’t. Ultimately they both want the same outcome, they just believe that it will be achieved via different routes. Very different routes. And they each hold their beliefs very passionately.

Unfortunately, it looks increasingly likely that the story will end up played out in the national press. I can see it all now. The Guardian will be able to dig out some old fox hunting stories and pictures of David Cameron in plus fours. The Telegraph will find heart-wrenching examples of farmers affected by TB. The Daily Mail will suggest that the badger cull will raise mortgage rates and The Sun will get a young woman half-dressed as a sexy badger.

As ever, the people who support farming will support it even more and those who don’t will continue to be annoyed by it.

I have to declare a vested interest in the debate. Dr May says that he prefers to see farmers producing vegetables rather than meat. Our farm produces vegetables. The trade has never properly caught up with the price inflation in other sectors and could do with a bit of a boost.

If Brian could persuade more people to cook Anita’s recipe for cauliflower cheese then we would all be better off. Apart from dairy farmers, of course. Anita’s recipe for cauliflower cheese doesn’t actually have any cheese in it.

This is supposed to be an opinion column, but I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to give an opinion on such an emotive issue, particularly one that doesn’t directly affect me.

My instinct is usually to side with the good sense of other farmers, but I also find myself respecting Dr May’s conviction and passion. He sounds a little idealistic but so would we be if we were still living off the royalties from a tonne of wheat that we sold in the 1970s.

Dr May says that most of all he wants to be remembered for his animal rights work. When a man with such a memorable hairdo says that, he deserves to be taken very seriously indeed.



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