So Hilary Benn is the new head of DEFRA. Is Gordon Brown kidding? Has he not been listening to the rural community?

Tony Blair made huge mistakes when it came to our green and pleasant land. I thought surely Gordon would not follow Blair into further risking the destruction of our countryside. I was wrong!

Hilary Benn will, among other things, be in charge of lobbying for British meat farmers. Yet he is a full-on vegetarian. How hard will he try when he believes we should all be eating beans?

The countryside is in crisis. For it to thrive, we must have a balance between the environment, the economy and local experience. The guardians of the countryside (our farmers) have been hit with nightmare after nightmare - BSE, foot-and-mouth, rural payments fiasco, the hunting ban, 4x4 tax increases, rocketing rural house prices, cutbacks in local rural services. to name but a few.

And what does good old Gordon do? He gives the job of sorting out Blair's mess to a sandal- wearing vegetarian who hasn't a clue about how the countryside really works.

Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against vegetarians, I'm sure one will summon the energy to respond. This appointment is clearly wrong. It is just two fingers up from Labour to all rural folk yet again.

PETE LACY, Shirley, Southampton.