May 12 2001 Becks Farm, Langholm, and other matters

Earlier this week Becks Farm was culled of 1100 healthy breeding ewes in spite of the fact that the nearby farm Murthorn had its suspected FMD livestock culled almost 10 WEEKS before. See Magnus Linklaters article in The Times, May 10 ( and also letter from Earl of Dalkeith in todays Telegraph. Although he does not mention the farms name, I am certain he is referring to Becks Farm (it is part of the Buccleuch estates).

The Dumfries slaughter veterinary team which is concerned with Becks Farm, Mossburn, Carolyn Hoffe, Andy Hirst and Colin Stokes (see John Gouriets Killing Machine on sheepdrove), is headed by Charles Milne (mobile no. given to me by Dumfries office: 07879 890879). The team has included Bill Carstairs, Victoria Cleghorn, Catriona Ritchie, Dr Thomson (an expert from South Africa), Mr Kerr (Carr?) and many others.

I have spoken with Mr Carstairs (details in my earlier message) and Dr Thomson regarding the cull of healthy livestock with particular reference to the above. As I was not happy with the answers, I telephoned Roger Windsor to ask his advice. He is an eminent vet in Dumfries and was one of the principle signatories of a letter to Tony Blair from 40 vets in Dumfries protesting against the cull of healthy animals (see for copy of letter, and also see article Illegal Killing by Jane Barribal, also on

From Janes article it is obvious that Roger Windsor is concerned about vets acting against their professional code of conduct and that false certificates are being issued. His view is that a MAFF vet is a vet first and a civil servant second, and that a vet has to view all his actions in the context of the veterinary oath. If he acts for government it has to be within the context of the oath. If he breaks the oath he can be investigated by the Preliminary Investigations Committee of the RCVS, and ultimately struck off the register if guilty. The veterinary oath contains such phrases as uprightness of conduct, maintaining and practising the interests of the RCVS and constant endeavour to promote the welfare of animals committed to ones care.

Roger Windsor suggested that if I was unhappy about the slaughter policy I should contact Charles Milne, head of the slaughter team, and if I was still unhappy about the answers I received, I should write to J S Ware BVM&S, Preliminary Investigations Committee, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AF. He suggests that any member of the public who feels they have a genuine concern about how vets have acted should write in as soon as possible. He himself is on the Disciplinary Committee, so cannot bring a complaint himself.

I then spoke to Charles Milne on Friday 11 May concerning the cull of healthy animals with particular reference to the above farms. I was not satisfied with the response. He basically said he was following government policy and the best scientific advice, that he would continue to do so, that there was absolutely no conflict between the healthy cull policy and the veterinary oath. It seemed that if government policy dictated something then it would be carried out, almost come what may, and that the government was responsible for his activities. I indicated that I thought that if he personally was signing forms saying sheep were to be culled because they were infected, and they were in fact healthy, then he personally as a vet was responsible and that his actions should be viewed in the light of the veterinary oath. He stated that he had fulfilled the animal welfare part of the oath by having a vet at the farm to ensure humane slaughter. He also said, we have done our utmost to minimise the human distress. He said, we never leave any carcasses lying around overnight after the slaughter. He also justified the cull at 10 weeks because after an outbreak another farm has often gone down 7 to 8 weeks later.

He was not particularly pleasant during the phone call and adopted a brick wall attitude. He was obviously irritated that I had managed to contact him. I had been ringing and leaving messages for him all day. He seemed arrogant and very satisfied indeed with his achievements to date.

I gather the Emergency FMD Centre at Dumfries is transferring to Ayr (the Head Office), so these individuals may be difficult to contact now. Dumfries tel. no: 01382 26000.

If individuals really feel there are genuine concerns (as indeed vets in Dumfries, Devon and elsewhere have indicated), please ring Charles Milne (or one of his team) to satisfy yourself his reasons for the scorched earth policy, and note down his answers. If you are still unhappy please contact the RCVS now.