March 2009: The farting tax

You’ll have heard about the Goose that lays the Golden Egg. How about the Cow that lays the Golden Fart? And you think that that harmless looking animal in that field over yonder could never hurt you? You’re wrong. That cow, despite its innocent looking chewing-the-cud look, is planning the destruction of this planet. If you don’t believe me, ask the environmentally-terrified minister, Jolly Green Gormley.

All this talk about Cowen’s Cow Tax- otherwise, no doubt, to be known as the Farting Tax in less polite company- is getting a little out of control, if you ask me. I never thought I’d see the day that we’d have to pay a Farting Tax; fart in this instance, standing for Flatulence and Recession Tax. What else did you think I meant?

Anyway, the Jolly Green Party’s suggestion for this new tax, following prompting from the bright boys in Brussels, nearly made me explode (if you’ll pardon the expression) with laughter. One should always be wary of people who invent new ways of taxing people ….or animals, for that matter.

Okay, maybe John Gormley can claim that this is not a new tax, as such, given that the English used to tax the Irish peasant for having a pig in his kitchen. And, indeed, unlike the Smoking Ban, Ireland will not be able to claim to be first in subjecting the country to a Farting Tax. Estonians have been paying through their noses, as it were, for this since last year.

Of course, if they try and lumber the farmers with this new tax, there will be the usual tractors of protest outside the Dáil. And in no time at all, you’ll have a few of the boys claiming tax relief as compensation on the basis that they live downwind of the Big Farmer who has a four hundred head dairy herd and therefore have to suffer enough without their own single cow and calf being taxed for their innocuous efforts. This proposal brings a whole new meaning to the term wind-farm.

Scientists around the world have known for years that animal wind could be a problem closely related to global warming. The real question is though; how much of a problem is it? As you can imagine, it’s very difficult to measure just how much methane an animal is farting out in any one silage session.

Even if scientists manage to measure the size of the farts, they then have to work out how much gas they contain. We all know that there are different types of farts and, logically, different levels of methane therein. If we transfer, for argument’s sake, the cow-tax to humans, you can imagine what I mean.

The tax payable on a soft, apologetic lady’s fart should be far less than that payable by a man we lets off after sinking eight pints of the black stuff. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? Cows obviously work in the same way. A big bullock could chew his way through a bunch of clover to discover he was farting like a street-singer’s accordion whereas Daisy the dairy cow might munch quietly in a newly-mown meadow with nary a sound at all. So how do they do it then? (Take measurements of methane levels, I mean, not how do they fart)

As you probably know from school science lessons it’s very important to take accurate measurements when you’re running an experiment. Otherwise, other scientists won’t take your results seriously. So how might you capture farts, without hurting yourself or the animals and whilst making sure the conditions were similar to their natural environment of the field, where they can fart away to their heart’s content without interference from busybody scientists. And how would these clever-clogs know that the cow was not holding onto its farts until after they left? Or sneaking a quick blast when they weren’t looking or listening? It’s all a bit of a mystery to me.


Consider this though. The tax is not going to save the ozone layer or stop global warming from happening. After all, you cannot rely on cows farting less just because they know that their owners are being charged for them. I mean, would you dare to fart less if you were a cow being subjected to eating half-rotten hay that they call silage?  This new tax is like paying money to offset your cow’s carbon hoof-print. Except you have no control over improving the climate while paying it. It is not a deterring tax. One cannot hold a fart forever, as some old wise man once should have said.

So what will they turn their thoughts to next to get the country out of debt?  You can be damn sure the human race is next on their hit list for the Farting Tax, and they’ll squeeze us until we can pay no more. What about cats and dogs? Do birds fart? If they do, does each species have a different sound? Can you buy CDs and tapes titled; ‘The Farting Songs of Irish Birds and How to Recognise Them’? And how would you explain this to your children: ‘No Johnny we can’t get a dog, we can’t afford the Farting Tax.’


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