"That's why the vet came out, to put pressure on me to agree to it all- without making any more fuss..." Mrs KremersThe recording of Farming Today (Wednesday January 4th 2006) contains the interview with the farmer Nicola Morris about the refusal of the authorities to allow a second test on her reactors - at her own expense.
Anna Hill - Nicola went before a judge to decide on the fate of the cattle. She explained that her defence was very similar to that used by Sheilagh Kremers.
Nicola Morris - The line we used then was that the test was not very accurate and it was showing that about 70% of the animals tested, once they were slaughtered, had no sign of disease at all. Now the judge was very good and he picked that up and he was quite bemused that the tests appeared to be so inaccurate, but he said basically that it is the EU test and it's DEFRA's test and we have to go along with it. But he sort of said that if he'd been in the same position as us he'd have done exactly the same - which was really nice to hear, actually."
Anna Hill - And what actually happened after the post mortem examination? What was found?
Nicola Morris Right well one of the animals was completely clear and the other had one lesion the size of a marble which - although I could never get DEFRA to admit it - is probably what's called a latent infection which means that she could have gone on through the rest of her life with one lesion the size of a marble and no evidence that it had spread and obviously she hadn't passed it to the other animals she'd been in contact with in isolation - that whole time they'd been in isolation for about 155 days
Anna Hill -Is it possible for anyone to actually disobey a slaughter warrant?
Nicola Morris No. The situation with the other case (Sheilagh Kremers) is she has been issued with a Form B. Now you are under no obligation to go along with Form B. What Trading Standards will have to do now is actually apply for a slaughter warrant, which means they have got to go to a Magistrate's Court and get a judge or a magistrate to agree that a slaughter warrant should be issued. Once that slaughter warrant is issued, if you don't comply with that then you face a fine or even imprisonment
Anna Hill - How much is that fine?
Nicola Morris I think it's about £5000
Anna Hill - So it's quite a severe infringement if you don't comply with a warrant.
Nicola Morris Yes but it's like it's a legal notice it's a court document. Most people, when they received it, would realise that they have no choice. What DEFRA try and do though is to get people to go along with the Form B
Anna Hill - Well exactly. How much pressure were you put under?
Nicola Morris Oh horrendous. It was horrendous. They try to con you into thinking you've got no choice. We were threatened with imprisonment and a fine before the warrant was applied for - which we were pretty sure was wrong but we weren't 100% sure. We were the first case in the country for a slaughter warrant to be applied for under the new Animal Health legislation, that is the 2002 Act - and of course it's very difficult to get legal advice. You just have to go by the seat of your pants really and that is terrifying.
Anna Hill - As the Morrises have a closed herd where no animals are brought in from outside they also want DEFRA to identify the source of their infection. They believe if a record was kept of TB outbreaks on closed herds it might be easier to challenge the assumption that cattle movements are spreading bovine TB
Well Anthony Gibson is Director of the NFU in the South West. I asked him why they are supporting Mrs Kremers in Devon when her calf could pose a threat to other herds.
Anthony Gibson - Well, we couldn't support any farmer if that farmer was intent on breaking the law. But Mrs Kremers is not, at this stage at any rate, intent on breaking the law. If we reach that bridge then we'll cross it at that stage and as with any other NFU member she is perfectly entitled to apply for our assistance. It might be lobbying assistance, it might be legal assistance and her request would be dealt with on its merits but we haven't actually reached that stage yet.
I have applied to the Regional Veterinary Manager for Mrs Kremer's animal to be given a second test and as far as I'm aware - I haven't had a response to that yet - if we do get a No then clearly there will have to be further discussions.
Anna Hill -Mrs Kremers is doing this because she believes the government should take action against badgers which are known to harbour bovine tb. Could her stance threaten the government's possible acceptance of a badger cull?
Anthony Gibson -No I don't think it would put that in any sort of jeopardy at all. In many ways what she is doing is highlighting the imbalance of the present situation. She's got an animal that appears to have been infected, presumably from a wildlife source - that animal that is very dear to her heart is going to be taken away and slaughtered whilst the animals that have caused that disease nothing is being done about at all. She feels extremely bitter about that and wants to bring that to the attention of the wider world and in taking the stand she has done - however right or wrong that might be in animal disease terms - undoubtedly it will help bring to the attention of a much wider public to what is the single most difficult problem in the whole of British Agriculture at the moment.