Contiguous Cull - NorthumberlandLocal endurance riders, Robert and Ann Armstrong from East Fourstones Farm near Hexham have been culled as they are next door to Denny Spence's Frankham Farm which was infected. The Armstrongs lost 160 cattle and 650 sheep (a flock of Blueface Leicesters founded by Robert's grandfather) and the Spences lost a pedigree milking herd of 560 cows. The total culled as a result of the Frankham outbreak was 990 cattle and 3,534 sheep and that is only what has happened around one of the recent cases.
Ann and Robert were interviewed by the Hexham Courant and both spoke from the heart. Robert is absolutely gutted feeling he has betrayed his family by not being able to protect the flock. He will never forgive himself for signing the form.
He is quoted as saying
'We tried so hard to get them vaccinated. Ours were the oldest flock of Blue faced Leicesters in the country but DEFRA told us that they were not rare enough to be considered a special case.'
Ann responded with anger. She spoke out strongly against Tony Blair and government policy saying 'I have been more and more frustrated at the way people who are trying to make a living here have been betrayed by the people who run the economy and the country. I look on it as a form of ethnic cleansing; they are trying to wipe us out.
It is like a fire. If the government had acted swifly in the first place they could have put it out, but it has got away from them now.'
When I spoke to Ann on the phone last evening she mentioned the farmers packs and said it had been very helpful. She also said that the actual slaughtering had been done quietly and efficiently without the stock being unduly stressed (so they were lucky in that respect.) But she was hopping mad with some teenage lads who hung around watching the whole grim process as entertainment. She chased them away and reported them to the police.
Ann's mother's farm in Cumbria lost their long established dairy herd earlier this year so this has been a double blow. She is tough and I am sure,will get over it in time but I fear for Robert, such a gentle, caring character who will bottle it all up and go over it again and again consuming himself with guilt.
There must be many like him, living lonely unhappy lives in the hills. I was interested to see leaflets in our post office from the mental health charity Mind on the effects of the FMD crisis. It gave warning signs of depression and many contacts for those at risk to get help.
So thank you to those who have prepared and distributed the farmers' packs and to those who have worked with Mind to help farmers suffering from mental torment as a result of the government's obstinacy concerning vaccination.