Mad cows and Englishmen

I had to present my donkey farm paperwork today for the annual check at the Ministerio de Agricultura (devolved here to the autonomous Valencia Generalitat as “OCAPA”.)

The process is normally a two-hour wait for a twenty-minute paperwork session, so I went armed with a computer and USB stick (to access the internet and work online if possible) and a backup plan in case of no signal, to read the first half of Tolstoy’s “War & Peace.”

We have a new form to fill in this year, detailing how many kilos of donkey manure goes off the field each week, and where it goes: i.e. into storage for six months before being used on the fields, or off-site with collection, and where it goes when collected. Yes, that sort of paperwork… 🙃

Well at the end of the interview, like any conversation in Spain these days, it turned to Brexit. What did I make of it all? Where to begin…? Ah. This is a Ministry of Agriculture official: start with Mad Cow Disease.


So, I began on a detailed summary of the Irish backstop and the movement of animals across the border, and how the EU had to guard against disease – particularly animal born disease – and the example of Mad Cow Disease was a good one. Then there was the possibility that social and political conflict could re-start if a border was introduced, and that would also damage the economy, though greatly please the old-time smugglers…. etc. etc.

His eyes glazed over, and for the first time I could see what it must be like to be the EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier.


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