Drifting towards the rocks.

Drifting towards the rocks.

It is increasingly apparent that the left has abandoned its originators. It was through the struggles of the working class that many of the present left wing organisations were born. These movements had their roots in the organisations formed by the working class to protect their interest and promote their advancement. The trade unions were the stalwarts of the Labour Party in Britain, and to a degree remain important today, but few on the left today have more than a vague awareness that the other strand which pushed the development of the left was Christian thinking. As Morgan Phillips, when General Secretary of the Labour Party said “the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than Marxism“. In any event, any link between the Labour Party and working class organizations and culture has largely atrophied and disappeared. Now, like many organisations on the left, is more concerned with identity politics and intersectional theory than with any class struggle.

Thoughts on this subject were stirred last night MV5BMzc1MDY3NDIwMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzkwNzU0MzI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_when I went to see the Swedish film “The Square” which won the Palm D’or Award at Cannes. I’d heartily recommend this film to anyone who has not yet seen it as it is a biting, vicious satire which is genuinely funny but also very thought provoking. Although the main target is the “Art World” it also takes aim at the progressive elite who run our charities, government quangos,  health boards, government enquiries and generally wield a large part of the day-to-day power in our society. These people talk the talk of inclusion, accessibility, sharing and caring and empowering the powerless, but rarely do they walk the walk. As the film reveals they often have a deep seated fear of the poor and have much more interest in satisfying their own needs. In the film they create art to show they care for their fellow man but fail to recognise their fellow man in need when they pass them in the street.

On the left the politics of identity and intersectionality may have been able to help some groups. Although the womens’ struggle and the fight against racism seemed to be being fought with success before this new theory took the high ground, and it is arguable how much added benefit these theories have had in advancing the causes of women and minorities in western societies. Sometimes the focus on cultural issues, and cultural identity, has indeed been counterproductive when one considers the struggles of women, or homosexuals,  in Islamic countries where a blind eye has been turned to horrific events and support has been denied to those struggling for liberation. But there has been also an unintended negative  consequence of these theories. Now there is a problem of what to do with white working class men and boys.

These individuals have found that ‘class‘ does not count in the hierarchy of victimhood. Poverty and powerlessness do not, in themselves, interest the left. Their struggles are no longer what drives the progressives and their culture no longer has any interest to them. When they think of white working class men they think of brutes, loud scary people with opinions they reject, the wrong ideas on Brexit and immigration. often with attachment to old fashioned cultural constructs and morals. They just don’t fit. In the world of the media and the arts they have all but disappeared. Working class men make up a third of the population but they will not be seen in our plays, films or television series except as in small roles as bigot No#1 or possibly as a wifebeater. In between the programmes on television, the adverts will show every demographic possible with the exception of white working class men. They are an embarrassment which will hurt sales, best to hide them away.

We have a culture that despises them, as Frederick Mount in his book “Mind the Gap” reported they have been “subjected to a sustained programme of social contempt and institutional erosion which has persisted through many different governments and several political fashions”. They have no political project promoting their aims and therefore is is no surprise  that as a group they are suffering badly.   In education, according to the 2016 report by the Sutton Trust, white pupils on free school meals achieve the lowest grades of any ethnic group. In employment and housing they are also steadily failing. These effects should have been anticipated.

The final, probably unintended, consequence of these changes should worry us all. These people who have a proud tradition of fighting for equality and for the moral good have shown themselves able to transform society. Their rejection by the left and progressive movements creates a vacuum. We can hope that new movements will form and pick up the struggle for social improvement. However, recent experience in Europe and America makes me fearful that other political movements will move to fill this vacuum. I fear it is easy to sell a project based on hate and anger to a group that has been marginalised, alienated and held in contempt. Vengeance is a powerful motivating force !

We need a progressive movement that includes everyone, particularly the majority of working class men and women who make up our society. We need to stop defining ourselves into smaller and smaller groups and trying to create our power bases and start defining what we want a good society to look like. We have to start to think we can change society and that we all have something to gain in the future. As Vance wrote in Hillbilly Elegy “We hillbillies need to wake the hell up.” – we all do  – because if we don’t Trump, Orban, and Le Pen are only the first glimpse of our future. We still have a chance to stop it.


Lets hear it for the puritans !

I find that unherd is rapidly becoming one of the best sites on the web for intelligent articles that promote thought and hopefully debate. As an example Giles Fraser’s February article Why does everyone have it in for the puritans makes excellent reading. Hopefully it will stimulate people to think what goals they have substituted to replace the aims of the puritans and perhaps cause us to consider what we have lost in the process.

Shaving carrots

Shaving carrots

I really was at a loss as how best approach the Daily Prompt today. My musical tastes tend to brand me a crank and there were few songs that I felt I could share without seriously damaging my reputation. I had spent much of the morning mulling over this problem when the solution came to me through the airwaves. I was sitting shaving carrots when the 10cc hit from 1976, “The things we do for love came on the air. This was the first hit that 10cc had made since Godley and Crème had left the band and it transported me back to my days as a student and the misery that was my romantic life at that time. But perhaps I should stick to the point and explain why I was shaving carrots !

Spring is our busiest season, the world starts to come alive after the winter hibernation and the new lives start to appear on the smallholding. We have had a very successful year with our ewes and lambs and our goats are also proving to be fecund as well. It is during this season that I often find myself thinking about vegetarians. I can understand many of the moral arguments for vegetarianism and also think that in terms of  efficiency, and from a green perspective, there are probably good reasons to support their decision (Although, in temperate climates, there may be a case for sustainable meat). But in their focus on the end of the animals life I fear that they fail to understand those of us who work with animals and develop warm and strong affectionate bonds with them.

During spring I will work harder than at any other time. Like any anxious parent I will be up many times a night, leaving my warm bed, to walk in the small hours (and usually the rain) to the barn to feed a weak lamb or to tend to a distressed ewe. The feed requirement of the animals is obviously much higher at this time of year, but the natural pasture for grazing has not yet arrived, so there are regular foraging and feeding expeditions. Conscious of the dangers of birth and the problems that can accompany delivery we need to check the animals round the clock, regardless of what other calls may be made on our time.

But this is also the best time. To see the new lambs at their mothers’ feet, or to watch them gambolling in the field, is a pleasure that little can surpass. The sense of achievement, and relief, when assisting successfully with a difficult birth is hard to explain but is one of the great pleasures one can experience.  Although dumb, animals do show their appreciation, and over the years they have clearly learnt to trust us. On occasion, when we lose a lamb, there is obviously the sadness which accompanies this but overall the emotional bonds that form between man and animal are felt best at this time of year and it is the reason to continue with this endeavour. To focus on the last minutes and to ignore all of the animals life misses the main point of animal husbandry.

It was an aspect of goat husbandry which chimed with me when I heard 10cc’s song. Our nanny goat gave birth to twins who were delivered awkwardly. The twins are doing fine and growing well. They did have a period when they would only nurse from one of their mother’s teats which left her lopsided and uncomfortable. This necessitated a 3 a.m. milking for a short period to balance her up, and avoid the risk of mastitis, until the kids improved their table manners. The nanny lost a lot of weight after the pregnancy and in addition to advice from the vet we are trying to build her up. We have bough her fancy ryegrass haylage, at which she has haughtily nibbled, but her favourite foods are banana skins and carrots. Unfortunately she does not like carrots whole or chopped, I think that there is too much chewing involved, she likes carrot peelings. That is the way she first encountered them when she was given the vegetable peelings from the kitchen. So now we buy 20kg sacks of carrots and peel them in 5kg batches. It is why I sit at the coffee break shaving carrots for my nanny goat. My wife complains that she does not get this degree of attention lavished upon her – but the goat needs building up – the things we do for love !



On the horns of a dilemma.

On the horns of a dilemma.

I have been faced with a difficult decision and dilemma this week. I needed to decide whether to disbud our first two goat kids. This was a difficult decision as the issue of disbudding is quite evenly balanced with near equal weight on the sides of ‘pro’ and ‘con’. 

My first thoughts when these two were born was not to do anything but after two days the horn buds were noticeable and we had to make a decision. Unfortunately this decision has to be made against the clock. Any attempt to dehorn a goat after the horns have started to grow is a major procedure. It involves significant surgery and the opening of the skull into the sinus. This needs a lot of post-operative care and carries a reasonable degree of risk to the goat as well as potentially being a painful procedure. So, if you are going to deal with the horns, you need to stop them before they grow – this is the process of disbudding.

As I said my instincts were to allow the horns to grow but after research and conversations with other goat keepers I changed my mind. The pros for leaving the horns to grow include many aspects. It is obviously the way that nature intended that goat to be and one would also have to say that a horned goat can be a very handsome beast. The horns have a heavy blood supply (one of the reasons for the danger of surgery) and this blood supply allows the goat to use its horns as a way of temperature regulation in hot climates. The horns are useful appendages for the goat, they help them reach areas to scratch that otherwise might not be possible, and are also their weapon when fighting. In this regard they are a way to defend themselves against predators (including people). However, they also can act as “handles” to lead an obstreperous goat. I recall using them to steer our billy goat when he was insistent that he’d stay with the nanny goats although they felt that he had outstayed his welcome.

On the con side the horns are dangerous. In a herd with horned and un-horned animals there is an obvious danger that the horned animals may injure their unarmed fellows. We had experience of this last year when our billy ripped open the nose of a nanny when they were both trying to get their heads into a feed bucket. There are also reports of torn udders in dairy flocks. They are also dangerous to their handlers and family. Our previous billy goat was a British Alpine with a fine pair of horns and I do recall that it gave him the edge in our infrequent fights. During his teenage years he decided that I needed to be ousted from my top position in the hierarchy as he was clearly, in his mind, destined for that position. A surprise attack from behind certainly brings tears to the eye and even by accident there is a risk to handlers and family (especially children). The horns also risk the goat themselves as they can lead to them getting entangled in fences or feeding apparatus. Less important in the equation is the regulation that many shows will now allow you to enter horned goats (for safety reasons) and that it is much harder to sell a horned goat than one without horns – and a goat that can’t be sold may be a goat that is dispatched earlier than it should have been. We obviously bought a horned goat but you may have to wait a long time to get a buyer as foolish and inexperienced as we were.

As we have un-horned adult goats, as we plan to continue milking, as we have grandchildren on the farm, because we never live in anything approaching a hot climate, because I spend enough time disentangling stock from fences and because I only just won all my fights with the last billy, we decided to disbud our goats. We managed to make the decision just in time and the vet was happy to do this.

As the horns of a goat often have two nerve branches which supply sensation it is best to undertake this procedure under general anaesthesia. Our vet used propofol which gives about 5minutes of anaesthesia and a quick recovery,  via a painless injection. (As an aside this was the drug which was responsible for Michael Jackson’s death and its creamy white appearance has lead to its nickname “milk of amnesia“). While the kid is unconscious, the horn bud is removed by burning it out with a hot iron which also cauterises the area. This takes about two minutes but should not be rushed, despite the temptation, to ensure all the bud is removed. After removal the area is sprayed with an antiseptic compound to keep the area clean. The kids came round very promptly and, although they were groggy and subdued on the journey home, by lunchtime they appeared as it nothing untoward had happened to them. The only visible sign being the blue antiseptic and circular scars on their foreheads.

Back home, none the worse

This was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make. I hope I have chosen correctly and made life safer both for the goats and for us. In any event it seems that the kids don’t hold it against me.