So, that’s it for petting farms, then. In today’s Daily Mail it is reported that some of the parents of the kids who became ill having contracted E.coli from (presumably) Godstone petting farm intend to sue for negligence. Whether they win or lose – and you have no idea how much I hope they lose – the mere existence of such an action will whack up the insurance premiums at every such institution in the country. This will lead to one of two things: no petting farms at all or, at best, petting farms which are nothing to do with farms, as distanced from farms as it is possible to get, where the kids view the occasional captive llama and goat safely behind glass and the entire place is hygienically sealed for your protection and about as much fun as a night in watching Strictly Come Dancing with Patricia Hewitt. Apologies for the repetition – I blogged about this yesterday, after having taken my daughter to one such farm in Wiltshire at the weekend (she had a great time and she’s not dead) – but I wasn’t aware then of the legal action. And I know that an absence of petting farms is not an enormous loss in the grand scheme of things. But a loss it will be and it is indicative of a society which has become paranoically risk averse – and, worse, whenever even the mildest danger raises its head, one reaches almost instinctively for one’s lawyer. Obviously, one hopes the children affected recover quickly and that no lasting damage is done. And just as obviously one feels for their parents, up to the point at which they took legal advice, when the feeling somehow evaporated.
I don’t think I’m overstating the case, incidentally; the farm I went to was already hovering before an uncertain future simply as a consequence of the E.coli hysteria. I wonder what, in the future, our children will be allowed to do, other than watch tv and learn about Mary Seacole.
Still, the whole business fits in rather nicely with my long-held Quantity Theory of Scary Illness; I doubt that E.coli would have raised much of an alarm if swine flu had afflicted us even one hundredth as badly as Private Frazer, or Sir Liam Donaldson as some call him, had warned us it was going to be. We would still be wandering around in those stupid bloody face masks and gazing with fear and loathing at our companions on the tube.