Today was blood test day at the Bridge Mill.
Our own vet, Richard, arrived as arranged at 10 am, clutching a sheaf of
paperwork and a box of sample tubes. Our sheep were penned up ready and
waiting. We agreed that each blood sample would be identified with a unique
number traceable to each individual animal, and set to work. It took about
an hour to collect and label the samples, followed by another half-an-hour
filling in the forms (and drinking tea). We have known Richard for some
years and naturally we chatted away about foot and mouth during this time.
His views as expressed to us were as follows:
Form D restrictions and the accompanying regular veterinary inspections are
a waste of time - 98% of all FMD cases are reported by livestock owners
The TVI's would have been far better employed where they were needed -
dealing with real infections, not ineffective monitoring.
If local vets like himself had been used for monitoring visits, instead of
TVI's from outside the area (or country!), their local knowledge of owners
and livestock would have been usefully employed. In this epidemic, MAFF had
not contacted his practice once for advice.
Central control/inflexibility/inconsistency of movement restrictions has
caused so many unnecessary hardships and welfare problems that local
veterinary input could have solved.
He opposed contiguous culling without positive blood test results from the
He gave a number of examples of poor management practice by MAFF.
You might feel that he was saying these things for our benefit, but knowing
Richard, we don't think so, he speaks as he finds and calls a spade a
spade - so it was interesting to find that as an experienced vet, he held a
poor view of MAFF and of their management of this epidemic.
When asked to check that our personal details were entered correctly on the
paperwork that MAFF had issued, we were amused to read on the front page
under "general comments" the following words:
"One vet only allowed on site. Face mask must be worn!!!" The three
exclamation marks said more than the comment.
Now we have a fortnight or so to wait for the test results.
# # #
Bob Dearnley of Burpham Court Farm rang from Surrey to inform us of the
nightmare situation that he finds himself in as a result of the general
movement restrictions. He runs his 76 acres as a rare breeds farm and
derives more than 90% of his income from the visiting public - at least, he
did before the foot and mouth epidemic. But he had to close his gates for
six weeks at the beginning and soon ran into financial trouble with one
hundred stock to feed and no income. He approached the Rare Breeds Survival
Trust for assistance and after a lot of persistence, finally persuaded
representatives to visit him to assess the situation for themselves. They
saw that he could not continue and suggested that he entered all his stock
for the welfare cull, took a holiday then restocked next year when it was
Bob was disgusted by this and set about solving his own problems. The local
paper ran a front-page article on his plight and launched an appeal that
brought in #8,000, a fantastic response that kept him afloat for a while
longer. Although he has been allowed to re-open, there are still
restrictions on how he can operate - no visitor within 3 weeks of contact
with other farm animals, no visitor allowed closer than 12 feet to his
animals and definitely not allowed to touch any animals (which of course is
what they come for). He gets round this by quizzing entrants at the farm
gate, then driving them round in a tractor and trailer, but obviously
visitor numbers are seriously down and all school visits are cancelled by
order of the County Council. There are no cases anywhere in his area and
therefore no risk of infection spreading - there is no infection, only
So he has been forced to drastically reduce his livestock numbers and use
the welfare cull payments to subsidise those remaining. Whitefaced Woodland
sheep from 14 down to 4 breeding ewes, Soays from 30 down to 4, Manx
Loughtan from 20 down to 4, and so on. Even so he fears that the winter
will finish him unless some form of financial aid is forthcoming. He has
asked everywhere that he can think of but no "consequential loss" payments
seem to be on anyone's agenda, least of all the government's.
If you have any ideas or know of any sources, Bob's number is 01483 576089.
# # #
Had an interesting chat with Michaela on the phone today, she is an animal
scientist so we asked about the sheep on a Devon farm found to have an 80%
positive response on blood testing. The messages coming out from DEFRA are
suggesting that these sheep could pass on infection, but could they? Don't
antibodies mean that they have had exposure to the disease, responded to it
and cleared the virus from their systems? Michaela confirmed that virus
could be present at a very low level in the throat glands, but this was
normally countered by enzymes in the saliva and that there is no scientific
or statistical evidence that such carrier animals can pass on the infection
to others. It is true that stress (such as shearing) can trigger or
increase the prescence of such low-level virus, but again the confirmation
of live virus by thoat swabs (probang test) does not mean that these animals
are infective to others. This, however, is the clear implication being
given out by DEFRA. It's the same old story, a theoretical risk assumed to
be real without any scientific evidence to prove it. She made the point
that here was an opportunity to improve our knowledge, by keeping these
sheep alive and monitoring them with appropriate safeguards against spread
beyond the farm. Sadly such commonsense seems beyond the authorities in
charge at the moment.
She also sent us the following addendum to her report of the public meeting
in Wales yesterday:
The best part of the evening was in the pub afterwards and I felt privileged
to be there. Had I not been in the company of farmers I would not have been
privy to the conversation. It was eleven when we arrived, with a closed
sign on the door, but the place was obviously open. In the room we were in,
were half a dozen old farmers, the oldest being 82. The conversation was
gentle and witty, and with a command of language that is just not heard any
more. Talk obviously turned to foot and mouth with a couple of interesting
anecdotes. In 1967 sheep were disposed of by stacking with layers of quick
lime in mine shafts
In 1940 there was an outbreak on a local farm as a result of feeding swill
from an army camp. Only the pigs (small number) were slaughtered, an
fence was erected a 'reasonable' distance around the farm, some sheep fell
the radius, the rest outwith (1000+), the old bull was very unwell but
recovered. Quarantine of the farm for one month was imposed and there was
no spread of the disease.
# # #
More on the situation in Holland with another exchange of messages:
>Yet more questions - were only cattle vaccinated in Holland? If so, were
>the non-vaccinated sheep/pigs/goats also slaughtered alongside the
>vaccinated cattle, or were these left alive?
No, all animals were vaccinated, pigs, sheep, goats, and every vaccinated
animal was killed. The thing was, if vaccinated, they were taken away and
brought to the slaughterhouse, if not, they were killed on the premises.
Actually, they were better off being killed on the premises, more 'humane'!
So in this vaccinated triangle there are no more animals, exept infected
deer! (they pretend this is not true, but we have video's of sick deer)
# # #
19 June 2001
HEART OF GALLOWAY GROUP
HOLDS PUBLIC MEETING IN WIGTOWN
Over 60 people attended the first public meeting of the new Heart of
Galloway - FMD Countryside Support Group in Wigtown County Buildings on
Monday 18th June.
Linked to new rural concern organisation Heart of Britain
(www.HeartofBritain.com), the meeting was called by Galloway organic farmer
Andy Hurst, with the aim of bringing together all those affected by the Foot
and Mouth crisis.
After an introductory talk by anti-slaughter campaigner, and journalist,
Alistair McConnachie, who argued that the science behind the 3km contiguous
cull was flawed, the meeting spent over 2 hours raising concerns and
suggesting ways to move the issues forward.
Among local concerns raised was the high level of negative blood tests which
have been returned in the Wigtownshire area. Over 80% of tests have been
returned negative in a policy which has seen 90,000 animals in Wigtownshire
destroyed - of which 12,000 were deemed to have been "infected".
The news that day that the "mystery blisters" from sheep in the south of
Scotland which had originally been diagnosed as "Foot and Mouth" were now
revealed as "unconnected with the epidemic" (The Daily Telegraph, 18-6-01,
p. 8) cast further doubt on the true extent of Foot and Mouth in the area.
Other concerns involved the continued closure of forest paths and other
walkways in areas which were completely unrelated to farmland or animals. It
was felt that such restrictions could be lifted, at least, on a case by case
basis. It was pointed out that the public would lose respect for signs for
which there was no apparent need.
On the wider issues, there was unanimity on the need for a Public Enquiry
into the handling of the crisis. Concerns were voiced that the animal and
human movement restrictions, the slump in local trade, and the environmental
and animal welfare abuses which were occurring were a direct result of the
In future it was suggested that farmers should have the freedom of choice to
protect their stock with vaccination and also homeopathic remedies. Such an
alternative would allow the countryside to function as normal. There was
also a call for Serad/Defra and government agencies to be open, accountable
and transparent in their policies.
There was support for a general move towards a localised agricultural
economy with local abattoirs and local farmers markets and there was felt to
be a need for an organisation which could represent people in the
countryside from all walks of life.
The need to educate people on the alternatives to the present FMD policy,
and the need to stimulate debate were considered priorities in order to move
the issues forward.
The meeting voted unanimously to immediately ask regional MSP, Alex
Fergusson, who attended the first half of the meeting, to ask some pointed
questions on behalf of the group, to the Scottish Executive.
Low Craiglemine Farm
Tel/Fax: 01988 500730
# # #
From Jane Barribal - Farmtalking.com:
Attached is a letter I have written and sent to the President of the
It is forwarded for your information and publication if you wish.
20th June 2001
Dear Mr Eddy,
You may not be aware that a horrific cull of farm livestock involving cows,
calves and sheep, took place at Skipton, Yorkshire, last evening and early
I have spoken by telephone to two of at least four local residents, who
witnessed the atrocity and have reported it to the R.S.P.C.A. They have
photographic evidence and are willing to appear in Court to give evidence.
What they told me beggers belief. For a full description, may I suggest you
visit the Message Board on http://www.farmtalking.com. I understand that the
Vet in charge of this operation was, Reuben Whitaker BVSc., M.R.C.V.S.
I have been in touch with John Avizienzius at R.S.P.C.A. Headquarters this
morning. He has told me an Inspector is on the scene now to interview
eyewitnesses. To my horror he also told me that he has received a report of
a similar incident involving calves in Cumbria. Immediately after speaking
to him I received information that another witness has photographic evidence
of an incident at Bracewell a week ago. I have of course passed the details
on to the R.S.P.C.A.
I am aware that you issued a cautionary warning to Vets, published in the
form of a letter in the Veterinary Record, (9th June), and drawing their
attention to the Guide for Professional Conduct with reference to signing
the 'A' forms for the slaughter of healthy stock. However, it would seem
little notice is being taken of your advice to date.
I am informed that DEFRA are instructing foreign vets, who have been
resident in this country for longer, to inform farmers that they have only
been in the Country for three days in an effort to persuade farmers to allow
them access for testing/examination/monitoring purposes. I am further
informed that DEFRA are only sending a 'clean vet' on farm visits if the
farmer insists upon it, that Vet traveling to other farms afterwards, as
indeed was the case when animals were blood tested on the farm here, a
couple of weeks ago. It would seem that DEFRA are quick enough to accuse
farmers of poor bio-security but have little or no regard for it themselves.
As also evidenced by the complete lack of any disinfecting procedures at the
DEFRA vehicle park in Gisbourne, Yorkshire.
You will also, no doubt be aware that DEFRA have issued new instructions to
RDO's concerning the advice to be given to their officers and Vets. (I
attach the article I wrote concerning this matter and sent to the Press last
Monday.). This brief would appear to incite Vets and officials to intimidate
farmers not to resist the cull of their healthy livestock.
I would like to know if the R.C.V.S. now condones that fact that Veterinary
Surgeons in the Government's employ are to be used as arresting Policemen?
May I also request that you protest to Government, in the strongest terms
concerning their incitement to such intimidation and deception? I would like
you to assure me that any complaints the College receives regarding the
conduct of Vets employed by DEFRA, will be dealt with immediately and if
proven negligent or party to cruelty, they will suffer the severest penalty
the College can deliver.
Jane Barribal - Farmtalking.com
# # #
from Alan & Rosie