New Defra rules mean that farmers who charge an entry fee for public access onto farms to view and interconnect with livestock, now have to get permission from their local authority and pay for a license, to comply with the latest animal welfare laws.
Farmers such as the Passmore family who have for 40 years welcomed over half a million members of the public onto their farm near Lancing, during the six weeks of lambing, must now apply for a ‘performing animal’ licence, at a cost of around £260.
In addition they must install extra hand washing facilities, put up barriers to separate the public from the livestock, and employ additional staff to prevent interaction between lambs and the children.
Farmers who have been welcoming the public for generations must now pass an inspection to ensure their premises are suitable for ‘exhibiting’ animals to the public.
Jenny, who is Mary Passmore’s daughter, whose long life we recently celebrated at Coombes Farm, is battling bureaucracy. Mary would be so proud of her feisty daughter as she highlights the stupidity of these new regulations, dreamt up by some boffin at Defra.
Farmers like Jenny and her family who invite the public to experience lambing and calving, at a time when children in particular, have little opportunity to see first-hand farm life in the raw, are now being penalised for their efforts to involve their local community and educate children.
At Coombes Farm children watch calves and lambs being born, hold them in their arms, and marvel to see them suckling from their mothers, without coming to harm.
The public and Defra should remember that the countryside matters. Farms are where our food comes from, and children need to connect with nature, food production, and understand how much we owe farmers like Jenny.
There is no better place for children to learn about the ‘birds and the bees’, than down on the farm, and that is what thousands of children, and their families have been doing while visiting Coombes Farm which first opened its barn doors to the public at lambing time, over 40 years ago.
Now thanks to ‘elf & safety’, and Defra’s decision to implement regulations which regard the natural process of lambing or calving as a ‘performance’, similar to a seal balancing a ball on its nose to entertain, farmers like Jenny will decide the stress and bother of jumping through hoops dreamt up by bureaucrats, and coping with red tape, is really not worth it.
The public are the losers as the barriers between town and country grow ever taller. Perhaps Mr Gove when he realises he is not leadership material for the Conservative Party, will concentrate on standing up for farmers, and adding this to his ever growing list of bad decisions coming out of Defra.
Jenny is quite rightly standing her ground and making a very good job of it while explaining to the wider world just what a ridiculous situation has been created.
A lame excuse is that officials must check farms to ensure the animals are not being abused. Surely the public would be the first to raise any issues of mistreatment, and they would vote with their feet if open farms were not up to scratch.
It is encouraging that hundreds of local families who have visited are supporting Jenny and her family, although this is not just about Coombes Farm.
Let us hope common sense prevails and we can return to normality, leaving sensible farmers to get on with farming, and the bureaucrats to return to their isolated ivory towers.