Monday, October 17, 2005

Cows in the lap of luxury

Larry Elliott writes in today's Guardian about agricultural subsidies and free trade:

The story of Europe's pampered cows is a familiar one but always worth retelling. Each head of cattle in Europe gets a subsidy from the taxpayer worth $2.20 a day at a time when half the world's population - 3 billion people in all - scrapes by on an income of less that that. Rightly, the comparison has been a cause of outrage, and is one of the reasons why the European Union has been under pressure in the current round of global trade talks to make deep inroads into its absurd protectionist regime for agriculture.

Well, here's the stop press: the cows have had a pay rise. Calculations by Oxfam's Duncan Green for 2003 show that the average cow in the Dordogne or Lower Saxony can expect to have $2.62 a day lavished on it. The latest figures for 2003 show that the number of cows is down by 2 million but the total support for producers is up by $1bn to almost $19bn (£10.7bn).

I am reminded of Lord Bonkers' take on the subject (see Friday):
Did you know that each European cow is subsidised to the tune of $3 a day? As a Liberal I insist that this money is paid directly to the beasts themselves, and that has made a great difference to the rural economy in these parts with many cows now owning their owns sheds, running small businesses and enjoying holidays abroad.
And then there was Eddie Izzard's short-lived comedy series about a group of cows who lived in a barn conversion. It used to be a cottage but they converted it into a barn.

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