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The benefits of breeding like a rabbit

Why I’m happy to have six children (and why I think the Pope’s on my side)

31 January 2015

9:00 AM

31 January 2015

9:00 AM

Let’s face it. Whatever Pope Francis actually means when his head is in the clouds during those in-flight press conferences of his, we Europeans need to breed like rabbits if we want to preserve Europe. That is not why I have bred like a rabbit, but it is the brutal truth.

I have five children aged 11 down to three — because until the age of 40 I thought I was infertile and did not think I could breed at all, let alone like a rabbit; and because though I am a devout agnostic, I am married to Carla, a devout Catholic, who is much younger than me and refuses to use contraception.

Indeed, I still do fear that I am infertile and that all these conceptions, if not immaculate, are at least miraculous. I am 56, after all. And guess what? Carla is pregnant again, with our sixth child. This terrifies me for all the usual reasons — partly financial but mainly existential. How dare I condemn an innocent child to live in this world which is so appalling and then consign them forever, after death, to the abyss known as nothing?

The only other people with so many children in my neck of the woods here on Dante’s Beach, near Ravenna, are the gypsies (or whatever we are allowed to call them these days). Not even the Muslims (can we call them that any more?), as far as I can tell, have five, let alone six. Italy — where it is still common to meet old men called ‘-Decimo’ (Tenth) — has for decades now had the lowest birthrate in the world, more or less, at just over one child per woman.

But the situation is little better elsewhere in Europe. No European country’s birthrate is much above two children per woman. Indeed, the birthrate is so low and the age of death so high that there is absolutely no way Europe — especially Italy — can afford to pay for the health care and the pensions of its old without massive immigration, and those costs are just the tip of the iceberg.

So while overpopulation might well be an issue in somewhere like Mumbai, and everyone talks about that ad nauseam, in Europe the issue is the opposite and yet no one talks about it. Let’s not bugger about the bush here: European society nowadays is geared — culturally, socially and economically — only to promote its suicide. The extended family which used to provide so much back-up is dead, and the state has not replaced it in any useful way except perhaps in France, where the bill gets ever more unsustainable.


I have just read in the newspaperof an unemployed British woman who has 11 children and a 12th on the way and gets £38,000 a year in benefit. Not bad — not bad at all — all things considered. But in Italy, where I am self-employed, I am not entitled to a single euro of state help, or so they tell me, though I do get the odd pathetic tax break. I am sorely tempted to return to Britain and never work again. The one thing that puts me off is that a packet of 20 cigarettes now costs £8.50 in Britain, compared with £3.90 in Italy, where wine costs less than water.

Here’s the funny thing. During his latest in-flight utterance, en route from Manila to Rome, what Pope Francis actually expressed was a concern at the lack of children in Europe, especially in Italy. He said:‘I think the number of three children per family that you mentioned — it makes me suffer — I think it is the number experts say is important to keep the population going. Three per couple. When this decreases, the other extreme happens, like what is happening in Italy. I have heard, I do not know if it is true, that in 2024 there will be no money to pay pensioners because of the fall in population.’

It was then that he mentioned a Filipina woman whom he had met, who was expecting her eighth child after seven Caesarians; and said: ‘But does she want to leave the seven as orphans? This is to tempt God.’

He went on to describe children as ‘a treasure’, but also said: ‘God gives you methods to be responsible. Some think that — excuse the word — in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups … and I know so many ways that are licit.’

Well, I wish I did! But anyway, in my case, it is now of course too late. The dire deed is done. I try to convince myself that all my children are a resource, or even in my wildest moments an investment, and regardless of the money side I cannot deny that they are a treasure. Anyway, here’s a small example of why I just might be right, although I cannot for the life of me work out how it might translate into an every-day money-spinner unless I become a 21st-century version of Fagin.

Last summer, I was on the terrace in front of our small seaside house when my second daughter Magdalena, aged seven, came up to me and whispered in my ear: ‘Papa, a man has just opened the door of la Land- Rover and taken your macchina fotografica, look there he is.’ Our seven-seater Land Rover Defender was parked right opposite the house — no more than 20 yards away.

Needless to say I had seen nothing. ‘Follow him, bella,’ I whispered. ‘And take Rita with you.’ I then shouted: ‘Francesco Winston!’ My eldest son (nine) arrived fairly pronto. ‘Go up on to the roof immediatamente and watch that man and where he goes.’ Incredibly, he agreed.

I then deployed my weapon of mass destruction: my wife, Carla. ‘Follow Magda and Rita, someone’s got my camera. They’re on his tail.’ Like a bat out of hell she shot off, while I remained seated on the terrace to direct operations with my glass of Sangiovese. ‘Francesco, where is he now?’ I shouted up. ‘He’s just turned right towards the piazza,’ Francesco shouted down for the benefit of my wife. And so on. Within five minutes my wife, Magdalena and Rita (aged six) were back with my camera. I did not have to deploy Caterina, 11, let alone Giovanni Maria (three).

My take on children is this: what are we on this planet for? When Caterina was born in August 2003, I wrote a column which began: ‘Dear Caterina, Nothing I have ever done in my life nor will ever do again in what remains of my life is as important to me as your birth.’ What else is there to say?

As for Europe, if Europeans do not start breeding like rabbits again, then that’s it, Europe is dog meat. It’s the economy, stupid. There exists only one alternative: mass immigration at levels that would cause a heart attack not just to Nigel Farage but to Europe as we know it.

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Show comments
  • polistra24

    Among the people I’ve kept up with over the years, there are exactly two types of family: Childless and BIG, as in 7 to 9 kids. There are no 2-child families, which were the norm in the previous generation.

    I think the BIG-family types have figured out a secret bit of knowledge, which used to be well-known. With 2 kids the parents are still doing most of the emotional and physical work. With 4 or more you can distribute the labor. Parents become more like CEOs and less like harried entrepreneurs.

    • StephanieJCW

      I am one of 4 and that is true. Although it really annoyed me having to adopt parental duties for my younger brothers.

      However I find most people I know who are having children, only plan to have 2 or 3. Only one of my friends has more than that (5).

      • fun-time freddie

        I have a cousin that was so annoyed at having her young years blighted by surrogate-parent duties that she refused ever to have children of her own. Do they think we’re stupid?

        • James Mayer

          She is a useless uterus and should be denied a pension and state healthcare in her latter years.

          http://minamarkham.dropmark.com/46061/2023250

          • Helen of Troy

            Spoken like a true Marxist.

          • rtj1211

            On the contrary, she has used up her emotional bank balance for mothering before time.

  • la catholic state

    Well done sir. Big families are a blessing. And as one elderly mum of 10 always says with a glint in her eye…..just wait until they are earning!

    • Helen of Troy

      I suppose an elderly mum of 10 must console herself with something.

      • Bonkim

        assume they sent her a tithe.

      • la catholic state

        What a nasty comment. Jealousy I guess. You will be elderly too one day…..though I doubt you will have the benefit of 10 children to look after and love you.

        • Helen of Troy

          Hilarious!

    • cartimandua

      Feckless breeders are relying on other people to pay for their children.

      • la catholic state

        Beautiful unselfish people…..contributing to the future….not to their own dead end bank balances.

        • Maureen O’Brien

          Contributing to the future??? If everyone breeds to max capacity, there will be no future. Look at the places where they have lots of kids — Africa, Pakistan, Mexico and Latin America, Haiti, Egypt, Bangladesh, rural India — all super great places to live, huh?

          • la catholic state

            We are not meant to stay on this one planet forever…..unless you are a luddite…which I strongly suspect you are. Please do not stop the onwards march of science and space colonisation. And we cannot do that with ageing ie dying societies. Dying societies are holding progress back. Let go please!

          • Maureen O’Brien

            Space colonization? Been having conversations with Captain Kirk again? Are you mad? How many scientists (or people who can write their own names for that matter) have been produced by breeder societies and cultures? How many Nobel Prizes have been awarded to the folks in Sudan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Haiti, etc. How many scientific achievements are there? If you want the human race to become extinct — keep breeding.

          • la catholic state

            Actually….most and the greatest scientists have been produced by Christian (and Jewish) societies. And always will. Especially if they produce large families. Islamic societies are not into science.
            As the Pope says…..children are a blessing. And history proves it.

  • StephanieJCW

    I have no kids and no plans to have them. *shrugs*

    • Bonkim

      Wise decision.

    • James Mayer

      You have failed in evolutionary terms. Goodbye.

      • Jody Taylor

        Stupid comment.

    • Gwangi

      You should get a tax rebate as should all childless people, for being selfless and utterly green and environmentally friendly, ALL parents (even sanctimonious yummy mummy Green candidates) cause more damage to the world than non-parents.
      Every new baby in the world means more over-population and more stress on an overstressed planet.
      Sadly it is always stupid uneducated people who breed more – and religious nuts of course, which is why 10% of UK babies are now Muslim.

  • rob232

    It takes great generosity to have a large family. You will reap the rewards spending your life surrounded by so many people who love you.

    • StephanieJCW

      You can still do that without children.

      Conversely having lots of children is no guarantee that you will be “surrounded by people who love you…”

      • fun-time freddie

        No indeed. Have you seen the graphic (i.e. illustrated, but also graphic in the normal sense) memoir entitled Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?. In my own case, I can’t stand my mother, so she can’t count on me, and my dad is so darn self-sufficient that he doesn’t need to count on me, and anyway he willed all his money to his partner who is not my mother, and is ten years younger, and she and I are as close as a polar bear and a frangipani. So there goes that.

        I love the idea of family. I just don’t care for the one I was given.

        • Bonkim

          Many on you boat freddie – don’t despair.

        • Kennybhoy

          “I love the idea of family. I just don’t care for the one I was given.”

          Sorry to hear that. If it is of any comfort to you, you are in my prayers…

          • fun-time freddie

            Thanks, K. But not to worry: I have a rich life without ’em.

        • Jody Taylor

          There IS a GOD: it’s called a LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT!!!

      • Jody Taylor

        Agree!!

    • Bonkim

      Are you sure they will remember you in your care-home?

    • Jody Taylor

      Oh, if only this ideal was a reality. The most fractured relationships we can have in life are with family.

      The western/first world nations choose not to breed and that’s why we all have muslim immigration; these people have lots more than half a dozen kids. No good complaining about it now. Populate or perish.

      PS: Having dogs won’t cut it; these cannot talk, nor take responsibility for the cost of infrastructure (try telling the French, Swiss, Germans and Austrians that!!).

    • Maureen O’Brien

      Or not.

  • Zanderz

    I imagine if there was little immigration then the resident population would feel more inclined to have larger families. When life is rushed, crowded, costly and constantly competitive, why would one wish to have lots of children?

    Families need space and time, and those things don’t exist in this country unless one is very wealthy, or happy on benefits.

    • StephanieJCW

      Isn’t it just about money and time. I am not sure people choose not to have children because of immigration.

      • Zanderz

        Not directly, but overcrowding and the competition for resources does. I’m of the opinion there are probably 5-10million too many people in England.

        • Bonkim

          More like 40Million excess.

        • Gwangi

          Indeed. 35 years ago the population was 56 million. Now it’s nearly hitting 70 million. Mostly through immigration which has turned some parts of our country into alien enclaves really, where not a white face or a British person can be seen or heard. Why the F should we celebrate that diversity? It’s a Fking mess! And no-one asked to be invaded like that.

    • Bonkim

      True!

  • Bonkim

    Regrettably your dream will not come true regardless of the numbers of children you produce. The earth is overpopulated and regardless of Africa and Asia exploding out of control – all on earth are for a rude shock as the big battle will start soon for the remaining resources – our days are numbered – may be a century or two if not decades.

    • la catholic state

      Well ageing populations won’t fare well in the coming battle. Young populations are strong populations. Anyhow…just who said we are meant to stay on Planet Earth forever …and ever….?!

      • Bonkim

        I have already paid a human trafficker to take me to Mars. The real question is whether the Martian Government will grant me Asylum.

        • Jody Taylor

          When this happens you’ll wish you WERE in an asylum!

        • rtj1211

          Wouldn’t it be better to tell Branson et al to put sperm banks on board ship so you can be stored through time until you find a new planet to live on?

      • cartimandua

        Young populations create hells on earth witness the MENA region or the drug wars in the Catholic South America.

      • Trofim

        Easy peasy to start somewhere else. I understand that the nearest planet suitable for human habitation is only 70 years away, or is it 700 years, if you travel at the speed of light. What could go wrong?

        • la catholic state

          No problem. With our brainy, boastful scientists….the speed of light can be cheated.

        • rtj1211

          Nothing once the era of stem cell regeneration is upon us. Plenty of research before that, of course, but I have no doubt you can be cloned in silico as part of God’s long-in-the-future plans……

  • DaHitman

    It’s certainly benefited Africa, the population there keeps rising and guess who’s paying for it. Next time you see starving Children there on the news remember you are the reason if you give them money via charities and the Lib-Lab-Con for giving them £13 billion in aid

    • la catholic state

      India has a population greater than the whole of Africa!

  • yojojo jojo

    well women want to work and I think two kids are enough

  • cartimandua

    And we have to pay for all this gee thanks.

  • Kennybhoy

    Many thanks for this lovely article Mister Farrell.

    God bless.

  • Gwangi

    Having children is a purely selfish act – and overpopulation will ultimately destroy the civilised world and make many species extinct. damn breeders. people everywhere with more than 2 kids should pay more tax forever. say, 2p in the pound.

    • i’d say it’s pretty selfish to let other people do the hard work of raising children so you’ve someone to provide for you when you’re old.

      • Gwangi

        Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you?
        Hard work? What, send the kids to school each day, cash your child benefit and count the piles of loot the taxes of hardworking childless people that went to you in maternity benefit and ‘pay’ (LOL!), then when the kids come home stick a ready meal in the microwave and slop it on a plate for them? Or maybe the au pair does that eh?
        But actually it’s immigrant care workers who look after the elderly in the UK as children when grown up will wheel you into a care home before you know it, granddad! So your attempt at emotional blackmail fell as flat as your stomach no doubt used to be before it sagged over your naughty bits…
        Plus, the childless pay massive tax to subsidise the breeding programs of others and, in fact, should get a tax rebate. But as 70%+ are parents, and we live in a dictatorship of democracy where the majority mob rules, that won’t happen. But it should.

        • (loads gun, aims in barrel)

          if only your parents thought the same way!

  • James Mayer

    Well said! I’m planning 4-5, personally. The west requires it…

    • rtj1211

      You’ve got the house and salary already have you?

  • Patrick Roy

    I do take your point. But they’re so expensive. Are you loaded? I couldn’t contemplate having more children – I’d be broke. But my standards are high. By the way low birthrate in Italy is a centuries-old issue, I think that over-breeding was a class thing. Women of means didn’t like to have more than one or two.

    • WalterSEllis

      Nick is one of Italy’s richest men. Berlusconi borrows money from him.

      • rtj1211

        Perhaps he’ll be borrowing his daughters soon too?

      • Patrick Roy

        Ah yes, I can imagine him bonking his young wife senseless. Good for him, making up for the rest of us. I actively encourage any decent Christian with their own money and a garden to breed like crazy. God bless, go forth and multiply.

  • Trofim

    Ofgem tells us they cannot guarantee sufficient electricity to provide for the current population in the next few years. They are already building desalinization plants in the south east due to forecast lack of water. We import 45% of our food using oil. Our flora and fauna is pale shadow of what it was 50 years ago, but to young people, this abnormality is the norm. Much of the work necessary will be done by robots in the future, obviating the need for excess production of humans. Anyone who has 5 children in this country should pay every penny of their upbringing without help from anyone. This is absolute, pure selfishness.

    • rtj1211

      They are building desalination plants to bung the Americans and Israelis. It is entirely nonsensical and utterly uncompetitive in cost terms.

      It just shows the gormless, brainless pea-for-brain public officials we lumber ourselves with.

  • inglese in italia

    You say you are sorely tempted to return to England for the benefits but cigarettes cost so much there and here in Italy wine costs less than water. I am at this moment drinking a Primitivo at 15% from Cassano delle Murgia which costs 70 pence a bottle and is better than any of the bordeauxs I drank in England. I have been here for over 30 years with a “typical” Italian family and I know that people in England laugh at us because of Berlusconi etcetera. I also support England when they play against Italy but nobody in England and I repeat nobody can understand the satisfaction and solidarity that you find within the Italian family, including all the warts. Most of the English people I know still live as ex-pats and do not appreciate what they have. If you can live as the Romans do when in Rome there is no doubt that you have gone to Heaven.

  • AM

    Any society that accepts feminism will die out.

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