19 June 2001
HEART OF GALLOWAY GROUP
HOLDS PUBLIC MEETING IN WIGTOWN
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.
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