Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has shamefacedly admitted to Parliament that it’s managed to lose 20,979 cows. Apparently they were supposed to be logged on to its Cattle Tracing System, introduced after the BSE and foot-and-mouth epidemics, but have somehow disappeared without trace. At the same time, another 1000 were loaded onto cattle trucks – and never seen again. It’s easy to feel some sympathy for the hapless civil servant who loses 20,000 names on a memory stick. But cows?
Given that the Government’s in the process of taking control of vast swathes of the financial sector, its recent track record on data management (bovine or otherwise) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. In the last year it’s already managed to mislay details of prisoners, child benefit claimants, bank account holders and learner drivers, plus some confidential dossiers on the war in Afghanistan. Only last week, some Armed Forces personal data went missing. But even by these standards, losing 20,000 cattle is a pretty remarkable achievement.
It also begs the question: where have all these cows gone? Was it a computer glitch, or is there a big herd wandering around without a farm to call their own? Could it even be that somehow out there, an army of Guernseys and Jerseys is now in training, secretly preparing itself for the revolution?
Possibly in an attempt to bury this bad news, Defra is this morning trumpeting a possible solution to the perennial problem of Japanese knotweed, a weed so potent that it destroys everything its path and can even grow through concrete. Apparently scientists have identified a Japanese insect that attacks it by sucking out its sap, thus allowing the weed to be kept under control. This sounds like a dangerous idea to us: normally when we introduce predators to kill things, they end up destroying the delicate ecosystem and killing all sorts of other things besides.
Unless of course this is Defra’s plan – after all, they’ll need to get rid of that army of marauding cattle somehow...
In today's bulletin:
RBS humbled in massive state bail-out
Mission Impossible for Iceland?
Editor's blog: Green shoots of recovery for Baugur
MT's Little Ray of Sunshine: Herd mentality at DEFRA
Asian Jewels in the crown?