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Chronology. Sick pigs, sick sheep and who were the Scapegoats?

"although it was politically convenient to identify pig swill as the cause of the epidemic (the government would later introduce severe restrictions on feeding swill to pigs), no proof that this was the original infectious agent was ever produced." (Private Eye's Not the Foot and Mouth Report)


What follows is warmwell's own compilation of the sequence of events, taken from sources that are reliable.

  • On 24th January 2001 Bobby Waugh's farm was visited by a MAFF vet, Jim Dring, accompanied by a Trading Standards officer, for a routine inspection. There were 114 pig pens on the farm of which 5 pens were examined and declared satisfactory.

  • Dr Paul Kitching, in his evidence to the EU, mentioned "..the index case in the UK which had involved 500 adult pigs infected for at least 3 weeks" If he is right, then pigs at Burnside were incubating the disease from the last week in January.

  • On the 13th February, sheep at Ponteland, five miles from Burnside farm at Heddon on the Wall, were found to be infected and it was assumed that Waugh's pigs were the source - but for several days at that time, the prevailing wind had been North Westerly. Alex Donaldson's paper shows that it is unlikely that the relevant virus strain could have travelled in the air such a distance. The diseased sheep from Ponteland went to Hexham market where they mixed with other sheep and from there to Longtown market, where they mixed with others.

  • On 15th February 2001 pigs from Bobby Waugh's farm were taken by lorry to Cheale Meats abattoir in Essex. They were slaughtered on Friday the 16th. At the weekend, the pigs from the Isle of Wight and Buckinghamshire arrived.

  • On 19 February 2001, Craig Kirby an official veterinary surgeon working for the government's Meat Hygiene Service at the abattoir saw blisters on pigs from the Isle of Wight and Buckinghamshire, which had arrived at the lairage at the weekend, and suspected FMD. The following day, tests at Pirbright officially confirmed that this was indeed foot-and-mouth. It was decided to inspect Burnside Farm. A five mile exclusion zone was established around Bobby Waugh's farm on 23 February 2001 when FMD was pronounced (by Mr Dring) to be in the pigs.

  • 19th February When being informed by telephone that a disease had been confirmed at the slaughter house, Mr Waugh was told that his own pigs had passed the inspection of the official vet at the abattoir and had been duly slaughtered on Friday, the 16th February. He was then telephoned again the next day, 20 February, and told that the disease was FMD. (See account of trial by Bruce Jobson)

  • February 2001 At Heddon on the Wall, pigswill was collected and prepared by Bobby's neighbour, Jimmy Brown, who also fed the same swill to his own pigs. Mr Brown's pigs were not infected.
    However, after FMD was confirmed at Burnside, they were slaughtered too as Dangerous Contacts. CNN reported: " The UK's Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) said investigators trying to trace the source of the potentially devastating livestock disease were concentrating on a pig farm in Northumberland, in northern England. "

  • On February 23 the MAFF vet, Jim Dring, told Mr Waugh that his pigs had been infected for the past four weeks. He replied: "Well, that puts you right in it, Jim. You were here 4 weeks ago, why didn't you find it then?"
    In the report that has just come to light, Mr Dring refers to his inspection "a mere ten days before foot and mouth virus was introduced into this pig herd." It is hard to see how he could have been so certain of the date.

  • March 21 ~ The Today Programme interviewed Fran Talbot, whose husband ran a timber company at Wootton in Staffordshire, who reported that she had been called by MAFF at the beginning of February. Another timber merchant, Mike Littlehales, of Seighford, near Stafford, had had a similar call from MAFF, asking whether he could "supply timber in case of foot-and-mouth", because they had wanted to"update their records". When two weeks later the first outbreaks were reported on the news, Mr Littlehales recalled saying to his wife "that seems very strange, that lady phoning me up a couple of weeks ago about the timber for foot-and-mouth. I wonder if they already knew then"
    When challenged about the fact that MAFF officials had contacted a timber merchant in Stafford inquiring about the availability of railway sleepers for funeral pyres for foot-and-mouth infected carcasses, Nick Brown said the notion that the government had known about the existence of FMD before February 19th was an "urban legend" (Hansard) He assertedBut Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge) persisted

  • 27 March 2001 every news organization in the UK was reporting that Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, was expected to announce a possible link between the start of Foot and Mouth disease and pigswill from a Chinese restaurant. The Times suggested pigswill from a Chinese restaurant, using illegally imported meat carrying the virus, had been given to pigs on a farm at Heddon-on-theWall. The story was not denied by MAFF. The Times later claimed the source was "someone close to the agriculture minister, Nick Brown"
    1,000 chanting Chinese protesters from all over the country descended on the MAFF’s Westminster’ headquarters demanding an apology. The Minister, holding a megaphone to be heard over the din, shouted reassurance to the protesters and issued a categorical denial. This was followed with a £20,000 payout of compensation. The Times story has disappeared from the internet but the URL remains http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-105434,00.html

  • April 2001 Dr Stuart Renton, a ministry vet in Newcastle said that he and his colleagues had come across old foot-and-mouth sores indicating the disease was present in sheep before February : "Long-standing foot-and-mouth lesions are being found in sheep nationally, indicating the disease was probably present before the initial outbreak in Heddon. We are still getting pockets of infection in sheep which we cannot trace back to Heddon."
    Following Dr Renton's remarks, on April 28 2001 Maff 's spokeswoman claimed MAFF had never said the outbreak "definitely started" at Mr. Waugh's pig farm. "We only said it was the likely source and were not pointing fingers." Northern Echo

  • When (14th May 2002) Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Lord Whitty "Whether the tests for foot and mouth disease carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs veterinarians in February 2001 at Mr Bobby Waugh's farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, were positive or negative; and whether the results of those tests have been made public.[HL4130]" Lord Whitty replied "The results of the tests for foot and mouth virus in February 2001 at Bobby Waugh's farm are likely to form part of the evidence at the current trial."
    The question - even now - does not seem to have been answered. Mr Waugh was given the "A" form to signify an infected premises by Mr Dring on Friday morning, after a telephone conversation between Mr Dring and London (sic) confirmed FMD on the premises. (see notes on the trial) The form had been signed and dated by Mr Hine, a third MAFF official, on the previous day.
    The same reason of pre-trial confidentiality was given by DEFRA to explain why Mr Dring's signed statement was not processed by the Anderson Inquiry. This too is a question that now needs to be addressed.


    Additional comments from Private Eye's Not the Foot and Mouth Report

    "....On January 31 2001, Hugues Inizan, a Breton-born dealer living near Plymouth, used the 'farmers' ferry' to transport 402 sheep from around Abergavenny, Crickhowell and Builth Wells in south and mid-Wales to Normandy. After the first reports of foot-and-mouth in Britain, Marc Nozin, a French farmer who had bought half the sheep, asked the French authorities to test them. Seven of 31 sheep sampled showed up as 'highly positive' for foot-and-mouth. On March 7 all the animals on M.Nozin's farm were slaughtered. Yet these were sheep which had been transported to France, with health certificates signed by Welsh Assembly vets, nearly three weeks before FMD was officially identified....
    ...circumstantial evidence increasingly suggested that the epidemic had not originated at Heddon at all; that foot-and-mouth had probably been around for months before it infected the Waughs' pigs; and that the species initially infected had been sheep, in which the signs of FMD are often hard to detect."

    "The condition of Mr Waugh's pigs in mid-February does not explain how at least two shipments of sheep in January from Brecon and Ross-on- Wye to France bore foot-and-mouth antibodies before the outbreak officially began. 31 sheep were tested. 21 of those sheep proved negative, but 10 proved positive, with 7 testing highly positive. Maff suggested it was possible the French tests produced a false result." (This was strongly denied by the French at the time.)

    "Although MAFF continued to refer to the Waugh's pig farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall as the original source of the outbreak, it was never able to produce conclusive evidence to support this. For political purposes it was convenient to identify Burnside farm as the source, not least because it was an intensive pig unit which had aroused intense criticism on both hygiene and welfare grounds (MAFF was eventually to bring a series of criminal charges against the Waughs, for the way they had allegedly run their 'dirty farm').

    ....There was equally no evidence to support the view, also fostered by MAFF, that the pigs had become infected by eating swill containing contaminated meat imported from abroad, obtained either from Chinese restaurants in Newcastle, or from a nearby British army barracks. The Albemarle barracks did use meat from Uruguay (a country with FMD), under EU procurement rules which require the British army to buy meat from the cheapest, usually non-British sources. But although it was politically convenient to identify pig swill as the cause of the epidemic (the government would later introduce severe restrictions on feeding swill to pigs), no proof that this was the original infectious agent was ever produced"