They were constantly preaching bio-security and hounding anyone in the business of moving animals

During the Swine Fever outbreak, the writer became steadily disenchanted with the performance of MAFF and, in particular, of the State Veterinary Service. They were hopelessly incompetent and they were faking blood tests. They swaggered through the countryside like a plague of locusts, living at the best hotels and intimidating anyone unable to fight back.

They were constantly preaching bio-security and hounding anyone in the business of moving animals, but I was still foolish enough to believe that CSF was being spread by people and vehicles, as they said.

Despite all the other problems, it became clear that MAFF were badly ill informed. Not only did they not know the area, not even having a list of pig farms, but they were underestimating the risk (according to their pronouncements) of carrying CSF to Holland and Belgium and possibly further afield.

They were unaware of the links between farms, haulage and seaport and some of their vets did not even know what TIR on the back of a vehicle meant.

Many of the owner-drivers were already in financial trouble and had been mixed up in the Fuel Protests a month or two before. Some had even been arrested and convicted for trying to blockade the port.

As a shipbroker who had founded, owned and run a haulier. I knew the risks, and tried to tell MAFF, but it fell on deaf ears. They were not interested.

Finally, on 4 December 2000 , we got a phone call from MAFF to say that Alick Simmons (yes, the professor on the platform at Exeter) a DVM allocated to East Anglia, at the time, was on his way.

I thought he might be coming to apologise, as a consequence of my complaint to the Select Committee about MAFF's faking of blood tests and misbehaviour at our home. I knew that he was informed about the matter by Trading Standards.

I rushed to put together a quick confidential paper (to be published on warmwell shortly), firmly believing that I was helping keep our neighbours on the Continent clear of disease

Not a bit of it. Simmons was more interested in making sure we could not speak about anything he decided was not on the agenda. He was exceptionally rude to my wife, when she tried to speak. MAFF's crimes were not to be discussed.

"We will have no raised voices in this house!" said Simmons, when she tried quietly to interrupt his monologue on what he was insisting we were to domost was actually illegal. He was comfortably ensconced in my chair in our drawing room at the time. (and yes, I'm not just relying on our evidence, I had two witnesses listening outside at the time.)

I handed him the paper, nevertheless and made a brief verbal report outlining the risks. It was not well received. He was not interested, but he did seem concerned that the man with him - an Animal Health Officer should have received a copy.

Some while ago, our Prime Minister Mr Blair made a speech telling us it was our duty now to be loyal to Europe. It did not take loyalty to try to warn MAFF that, according to what they were saying about CSF, there was an unevaluated risk of infecting the Continent. It was common sense.

I have now come to realise that CSF was not carried on vehicles, or in the air. They were lying. Simmons knew that there was no risk. That is why they were not worried about their vets faking blood tests. It simply did not matter.

Alas, a familiar story: most of the pigs did not have Swine Fever and it was not being spread by lax biosecurity.

They wanted them out of the way. Just as in FMD, the animals simply did not have the illness.

It is ironic that MAFF should try to blame the Chinese, when they too have suffered loss of business from the incompetent handling of animal disease in Britain.

The great British success story of Felixstowe now risks decline, partly because of Britain's devious livestock Ministry.

BACKGROUND

The news today (april 24 )that P & O are to close their ferry services from Felixstowe to the Continent because of losses, many of which were as a result of the foot and mouth epidemic, brought a strange series of co-incidences to mind.

These services were started way back in the 60s, when Felixstowe was merely a muddy forgotten backwater. They used the technology developed for the D Day landings to provide the first roll on/ roll off services.

Their closure will spark the loss of many hundreds of jobs in East Anglia, many within the extended farming community.

Originally, the ferries traded under the name Atlantic Steam Navigation, and the ships all had names ending in "ic." It was one of the last sad remnants of something proud but also sad and sinister - White Star Line and its infamous "Titanic."

These little ships sparked one of Britain's greatest success stories - the jewel in Margaret Thatcher's crown - the massive exponential growth of the private Port of Felixstowe. Now after many changes Felixstowe's growth has slowed. Felixstowe is now owned by Chinese interests, and P & O, the current owners of the ferry service, have thrown in their hand partly due to the chaos caused by Foot and Mouth.

The writer was intimately involved in the story of Felixstowe from those early beginnings, actually having his office in a pub "The Little Ships Hotel" overlooking the ferry.

Felixstowe, its port and its services always enjoyed an intimate and complex relationship with the surrounding countryside.

Many of the early port workers came from local agriculture - a far cry from the dockers of London and Liverpool. Often Conservative with both big and little "c", they were resolute non-strikers that kept Britain fed during the labour troubles of the 60s and 70s, just as they had on the family farm.

The hauliers were the same. Many were based on the small farms; part time owner-drivers, part-time farmers. This became even more common when the pig industry expanded. Some even ventured abroad. It became a common sight - a TIR trailer parked on the small converted pig farms.

Many will lose their jobs and businesses now as an indirect result of the closure of the ferries and of foot and mouth. They lost their pigs as a result of Swine Fever and received no compensation since they did not own the actual animals.