"The fate of agriculture is intimately bound up with the fate of democracy itself....no civilisation has ever survived the loss of its agricultural base" concludes Dr North at the end of a most worrying, informed and penetrating survey of the legislation that has led to the situation British rural communities now find themselves in.
Dr North knows intimately the ways of successive bureaucracies who have managed, by a combination of well meaning bungling and carelessly imposed regulatory burdens, to put British farming at a disadvantage. Although known to be an energetic and witty Eurosceptic, Dr North does not lay very much of the blame for the plight of British agriculture at the feet of the EU Commission. It is, to our shame, Britain itself that has so mismanaged food scares, EU regulation, the CAP and - especially - the recent animal diseases.
The book is both depressing and exhilarating. Dr North is under no illusions about the many sad mistakes to have hit the farming industry but he also has sensible suggestions for avoiding complete catastrophe. He writes in an accessible manner which avoids any kind of sensationalism. Far from jumping on bandwagons, he looks closely and critically at the many conspiracy theories of recent months and debunks them, seeing much more to worry about in the narrow self-interests of scientists, big business and empire building government departments. Criticisms of current farming practices are looked at very coolly, as are the complaints about unfairness from the supermarkets. Even MAFF/DEFRA, the department who so grotesquely mishandled disease control, is dealt with fairly - although he pulls no punches when looking at, for example, the dirty dealing that led to the loss of so many British slaughterhouses.
If anyone still wonders why so many thousands of concerned people in Britain have been calling out for a proper public inquiry into the government's handling of the foot and mouth crisis they need only read this book. They will then see the foot and mouth crisis to have been just the latest in a long line of tragic errors - a final straw that cannot be ignored.