PRESS RELEASE: 26 July 2001
BRECON BEACONS CULL BRINGS DEVASTATION TO WELSH HILLS
The Welsh Hills, farmers, tourism and the rural economy face devastation with
the decision of the Welsh Assembly late yesterday evening to cull 4,000 sheep
on the Brecon Beacons. Many more sheep await testing and more results are
Nationally, 1.4 million sheep are to be tested, only 300,000 have been
tested so far.
Despite reassurances from the Chief Vet for Wales, Tony Edwards, that there
would be a "proportionate response" to the number of anti-bodies found in the
sheep, the Welsh Assembly have condemned the 4,000 sheep because anitbodies
were found in 112.
The results confirm the views of many that the disease has already passed
through the hill flocks, silently, unobserved and unnoticed. The infection
has left in its wake a number of anti-body positive sheep. If the remainder
of the flocks are vaccinated now then this would prevent any further animals
fom becoming infected, halt the onward spread of the disease and allow time
for the anti-body positives to be identified and removed.
It should be remembered that in the '67 outbreak animals that were antibody
positive were not killed. If this is to be the draconian response of the
Assembly to the testing now underway on the Beacons, and later to all the
other hill sheep in Wales, then by the Autumn there may be no sheep from
Abergavenny to Carmarthen, and the mountains from the Beacons to Prescelli in
the west, and Snowdon to the north could be cleared.
In addition these condemned flocks will also take out many contiguous culls.
These Welsh hill farms define the culture and tradition of Welsh farming.
They support a major tourism industry. Tourism is the second largest economy
in Wales. The landscape and environment that this type of farming sustains,
underpins much of the employment and income of mid Wales. The Assembly's
response, reached at an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon, will have
repercussions that will be felt long after FMD has finally gone.
If vaccination had been used to protect these animals it would have cost
#2000 , approx 50p a shot. Compensation alone will cost #480,000 - the
massive premium being offered for the hefted ewes being #120 per ewe. With
no income and no end in sight to the epidemic this financial package offers a
swift and welcome way out. The cost of slaughter, disposal and
transportation will all add to the figure. In addition there is the massive
and disproportionate loss to the tourism industry and the immense effect on
the rural economy.
If this is the policy the Assembly are to apply all through the hill farms
the exchequer and the tax payer face massive bills from this decision, and
many businesses face ruin.
Since the 22 June the National Foot and Mouth Group have been requesting a
meeting with Carwyn Jones - the WA Rural Affairs Minister, to discuss
vaccination proposals by Dr Ruth Watkins, a clinical virologist who also
farms sheep near Carmarthen. This followed a meeting in Builth Wells on the
19 June where Dr Watkins outlined her proposals on vaccination before 650
farmers and in the presence of the Welsh CVO.
At that meeting the CVO deferred to Dr Watkins as knowing far more about
virology than he ever would (see Farmers Guardian - 22.06.01) but still
the Assembly refuses to countenance or consider any alternative. Dr Watkins
implementation plan has now been sent to Jim Scudamore and is due for
despatch to the EU.
The Vaccination Plan still offers the modern, scientific solution to this
crisis. The hefted hill flocks (Cynefin) are an irreplaceable and fundamental
part of Welsh farming. If they are lost, Wales loses not only its farms and
its sheep, but its identity. For many the death knell has sounded on more
than a 1,000 years of Welsh farming and tradition.
Dr Watkins Vaccination Plan is sent as an attached file with this Press
Contacts: Janet Bayley - 01285 644319 / 01285 656812
Dr Ruth Watkins - please contact via Janet Bayley
Edwin Harris - Brecon Graziers Assocn - 01874 623614 /
Ashford Price - tourism figures - 01639 730284
Colin Evans - Hill farmer and holiday business - 07977