Heart ofFMD Countryside Support Group. Galloway
Open Meeting 18.6.01.
The group welcomed over 60 people from all walks of life in
Dumfriesand Gallowayand from as far away as Lochmaben.
After an excellent introductory talk by
Alistair McConnachie, farmers son, journalist and anti-slaughter campaigner, he explained how the policy for the control for Foot and Mouth Disease had been ill conceived and had not taken into account best scientific advice, leading to widespread, devastating affects for rural communities and economies.
The meeting then spent over 2 hours discussing concerns and suggesting ways to move issues forward.
Among concerns raised was the high level of negative blood tests returned in the Wigtownshire area. Over 80% of the tests have returned negative in a policy that has seen 90,000 animals in Wigtownshire destroyed, of which 12,000 were deemed to have been infected.
The news that day of Mystery Blisters found in the mouths of sheep and cattle first found in the south of Scotland that may have been diagnosed as Foot and Mouth Disease was now revealed as unconnected with the epidemic (The Daily Telegraph, 18.6.01) cast further doubt on the true extent of Foot and Mouth in the area.
It was recognized that there was not a strong, coherent voice for rural people and current organizations where not necessarily representative of a broad section of country dwellers.
There was a strong feeling of the need for more freedom of action of the individual in deciding
his/her own destiny and concern that Brussels (EEC) has too much control over our lives.
It was suggested that in the future people should have more freedom of choice to protect their stock with vaccination and other alternatives thus allowing the countryside to function as normal.
Because FMD was still raging in other parts of the country, returning to parts that thought they were finished with the disease and springing up in new areas, peoples lack of confidence and fear for the future, led to a feeling that the only way to restore that confidence was to vaccinate.
There was great concern for the cost to the tax payer of the present FMD control policy.
There were calls for DEFRA and the government to be more open and transparent in their handling of policies that have dramatic affects on people.
There was a strong feeling of the need for support for local sustainable food production with local abattoirs and local markets for produce.
There were great concerns for people/businesses that were in financial difficulties, i.e. farmers who had not been culled but had movement restrictions imposed on them, tourist businesses that had no customers, etc. and dismay at the response from government agencies regarding help that was on offer. It was felt that these people should not have to rely on charities for help to overcome the problems that had been created by an ill conceived government policy.
There were calls for a more sensible and locally coordinated policy to be adopted in relation to opening up the countryside. Paths and walkways that had no contact with farm land remained closed and as well as being bad for the tourist trade, the public would lose respect for signs and restrictions and that would have a detrimental affect on paths that needed to remain closed for the good of livestock.
There was unanimity on the need for a public enquiry into the handling of the crisis.
Heart of' Galloway
Low Craiglemine Organic
Low Craiglemine Organic Farm