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Howard's End: Britain's Awful Luck

Britons and Europeans are starting to ask that they've done to offend the heavens as a catalogue of dire warnings and a plague of Biblical proportions seems to have descended upon them. I'm glad I live in paradise. John Howard writes.

A bowl of cornflakes can kill you - not to mention a ham sandwich or a T-bone steak. Getting vaccinated can kill you as can flying economy class. The rubber duckie in your bath club can kill you, and put that cell phone down before it kills you too. Then there's the fear generated from genetically modified organisms in food.

These are just some of the dire warnings that Britons and Europeans confront almost weekly as the Continent reels from one crisis to another.

Another train crash in Britain, the third in less than a year. National parks, horse racing and the Wales-Ireland rugby match are all closed. The stench of funeral pyres rise above the bleak countryside as slaughtered sheep and cattle are burned by the thousands.

Hundreds of motorists spent last night in their cars as storms blocked the Glasgow-Edinburgh motorway. Trains to Scotland were cancelled. And Ireland and Northern Ireland were trying to restore power to thousands of homes while sealing their ports against the latest threat from an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

Farmers, vets and Governments' are grappling desperately to save what's left of national herds as the outbreak of foot and mouth disease takes hold. Just five years ago Britain spent $10 billion in compensation for the last great slaughter of animals after the outbreak of mad cow disease.

Having adapted its farming to Europe's Common Agricultural Policy and its industrialisation of the food chain, Britain finds it is fighting this latest foot and mouth epidemic almost alone. Of all the plagues falling on Britain this northern winter, the sense of isolation may have the longest effect.

Some Europeans are now saying that Britain is the farming pariah of Europe. But the British Sun newspaper wrote, "Those who say that Britain is the farming pariah of Europe are wrong....the real problem is that Britain is more honest than most countries. When we have a problem, we don't try to hide it."

Today the ports of Europe are sealed again as British sheep and cattle burn in Calais, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.

So go on, send an email or pick up the phone and tell a Brit you're thinking of them and that Kiwi's care.

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