For FREE legal advice especially on this crisis or to put in an appeal:
Burges-Salmon 01179 392000 [24 hours] - Contact Judi Bell or Simon Leach
Very useful contact numbers for advice, support, help, media contacts, vet contacts etc:
Julia Currie (01453764367 or 07977215715)
OTHER: Jane Barriball 01361 - 850 282
Very helpful websites for all Internet users:
Unity Group in Wales (Very helpful advice from farmers' group) 01938 559000
Many farmers have been caught out by the speed of MAFF/DEFRA's action and have had their healthy animals killed without really knowing what's hit them and what action they could have taken. If your animals are healthy, you may want some TIME to consider your options. Time to talk to family, friends and to your neighbours who may also be affected.
DONT .......wait until it is too late
DONT .......wait until MAFF/DEFRA are coming up your drive
DONT ..... Leave anything to chance
BE PREPARED.............. a) Make sure you know what area your farm or holding currently falls into (ie ... infected area, 10km protection zone, 3km zone, contiguous or neighbouring farm, direct contact or 'adjoining fields). If you do not know then contact MAFF/DEFRA to find out what your exact position is.
b) Keep this help pack with the list of telephone numbers by your telephone and store the important numbers in your mobile telephone as well for speed and ease of use.
c) Telephone Burgess Salmon (solicitors), one of the other listed solicitors or your own personal lawyer for advice sooner rather than later. Making contact and getting good FREE advice before anything untoward happens is this most sensible approach.
d) Make sure you have Foot & Mouth signs on all you gates and entrances.
e) Biosecurity is the current MAF/DEFRA buzz word for ensuring that you take every precaution you can to protect your animals from becoming infected. The most important of these is to ensure that you have disinfectant at all entrances and that everyone entering is properly disinfected on entry along with their vehicle. Unless it is absolutely necessary all vehicles should be left outside the gates.
f) If possible restrict access to your farm or holding to one entrance only.
g) Secure and lock all entrance gates. This may not be convenient but it is much better to face a little inconvenience than losing all your stock.
h} Park a farm vehicle of tractor in your farm entrance to stop vehicles driving up. It is perfectly legal to blockade your entrance. It is part of your biosecurity measures to help protect your animals from catching the Foot & Mouth virus.
95% of all animals slaughtered were healthy. The 3km -zone cull [EU directive 85/511] was devised by our own MAFF/DEFRA officials without scientific justification.
Whatever you decide to do don't be bullied or blackmailed. You may be accused of being UN-neighbourly. There are rumours of threats that by delaying you will not receive 'compensation' [compulsory purchase] or that if you decide to appeal and your animals get Foot & Mouth later, you are liable for the slaughter and disposal costs. This is just intimidation and your legal rights will be unaffected. You have no legal obligation to sign their documents.
How to Handle the MAFF/DEFRA Visit
If your stock is NOT PROVEN to be infected.
This is contiguous culling, on suspicion culling and dangerous contact culling where there is NO PROVEN signs of FMD. Proven indicators include positive blood test results, blisters on tongue, in mouth or on gums, blisters on snout and around coronary band (pigs), severe lameness (in conjunction with other indicators). It is notoriously difficult to spot FMD in sheep by clinical examination alone and blood testing may be the only way to confirm that FMD is present. Pigs and cattle show much clearer signs and the spread of the FMD virus among cattle and pigs is very quick (eg One with signs in the morning will result in around 70% showing signs in the afternoon.)
Each individual farmer or stock keeper has the legal right to decide for themselves if they wish to have their stock culled or not with or without PROVEN signs in any of the above situations. The choice is yours.
If you DO NOT want your stock to be culled by MAFF/DEFRA and they are not PROVEN to have FMD then it is your legal right to refuse entry to the officials who want to cull your stock. THEY HAVE NO LEGAL RIGHT TO ENTER YOUR PREMISES TO KILL YOUR STOCK WITHOUT YOUR PERMISSION. They do however have a right to enter your premises to examine your stock......BUT ONLY TO EXAMINE.
Some farmers have found it invaluable to have the support of the press (local and/or national) plus television/radio etc. whilst others prefer to do it alone. In the majority of successful cases the media have played a very important part but it is a personal choice. I f you want media coverage then you can either contact them yourselves or contact 01938 559000 (unity in Wales) who will help you or Jane Barriball 01361 850282.
You should react as follows:
Before they come it is advisable to park your tractor or farm vehicle across your entrance to make the clear point that entry is being refused to all vehicles as part of your own bio-security measures to protect your stock. You have every legal right to do all you can to protect your healthy stock. Then when they arrive..........
Firstly .............Be courteous, be friendly, be polite, shake hands, be co-operative with any reasonable request, be welcoming but BE FIRM Do not use bad language, be abusive or put yourself in any position that would enable them to take the upper hand.
Next ......... Be as equally welcoming to any army officer or police officer that they may bring with them
Next ......... Explain that if they wish to enter to kill your livestock you are refusing them entry which is your legal right. If they wish to do so then they have to get a court order. They must inform you if that is what they intend to do and this must be in writing with details of the court they are going to use and the date of application. They must do this to ensure that you have reasonable time to brief your solicitors and prepare your defence.
Next ............ make it clear that you are fully prepared to co-operate with the examination of your animals. Explain you are prepared to give permission for a qualified vet to enter your premises alone for such purposes PROVIDED.....they are correctly dressed and disinfected including a new paper suit (straight from its sealed bag) plus gloves and respirator. They must disinfect thoroughly in your presence and sign the attached form confirming that they have NOT been in contact with any FMD stock or on any farm that is suspected of having FMD in the last 72 hours. IT IS VITAL THAT WHOEVER ENTERS YOUR FARM SIGNS TO SAY THEY ARE CLEAN. They must do this every time they visit and if you have any resistance to this then solicitors are standing by.......Phone Judy Bell or William Neville at Burgess Salmon 01179 392000 [24 hours]. Explain that you expect as a result of your co-operation that you will receive a WRITTEN report indicating the result of their examination. This is known as an FMD Tracing report form(FM61) and you require a copy of one of these every time they examine your stock (within 24hrs)
Next ............ Confirm you are willing and keen to have a blood test carried out but explain you require a separate file of blood from each animal tested for your own analysis.
Next ......... Check their identification and qualifications ensuring that the signature on your form agrees with the signature on their identification.
Next ........... Let the vet on to your farm and accompany him/her everywhere giving your fullest co-operation at all times to all reasonable requests
Next .......... Thank them for their time, their courtesy and co-operation and let them know they are welcome back any time during reasonable hours (8.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.) to examine your animals again under the same conditions and given notice of intent to visit so you can be present. End by explaining that you will be the first to co-operate if FMD is proven to be present in your stock.
Finally ............... accompany the vet to the entrance and request his gloves, paper suit and respirator be left with you for burning (a biosecurity requirement) and ensure he full disinfects/cleans boots before leaving to protect your neighbours and other farmers he might visit.
Thank and army officers or police that are still waiting at the gate for their co-operation and make sure that everybody gets in their cars and leaves. Any doubts, any problems, any fears phone Burgess Salmon of your solicitors immediately.
TO GET MORE TIME - IT'S YOUR STOCK - YOUR LIVELIHOOD
If you have a camera, camcorder or tape recorder, use them and record everything. Be accompanied by friend[s] to provide eyewitness evidence. You may wish to prosecute later on.
Keep all entries to your farm, yards or buildings locked. Ask the officials why they are there. Ask for identification with ID photos from everyone. Write down details and check signatures. If not satisfied ask them to come back.
Make sure they provide a grid reference and check it is the right one! Fatal mistakes have been made.
When ID is OK and if they insist on entering the farm ask to see all official documents, copy them and WRITE DOWN details if necessary. Ask each official for written proof that they have not visited infected premises in the preceding 48 hours. [F&M virus can survive in the human lungs for 36 hours] Ask them what disinfection precautions do they intend to carry out to themselves and to their vehicles prior to entering your farm.
BE PREPARED TO CHALLENGE MAFF/DEFRA AUTHORITY if they demand slaughter of your healthy animals. Insist on a comprehensive "Risk assessment" for the animals in question, in their separate locations, in writing. This must cover all factors, i.e. distance from nearest case, proof that FOM was confirmed there, time elapsed since then, tests, wind direction, exposure to vehicle and human movement, animal resistance levels, rarity [hefted flock], isolation capacity like fells, roads, river, walls etc. Demand that any action is delayed until a blood test has been carried out by an independent vet and until you have seen the laboratory results. BUT remember it is an offence to conceal or treat symptoms of FMC or resist cull of FMC stock.
Remember help is always there if you need it.
Other Useful Numbers:
Addlesham Booth & Co (Contact Stuart Jackson) - Solicitors - Yorkshire 0113 209 2391
Jordans Solicitors (Barbara Jordan) Ross on Wye 01989 566111
The National F&M Group GROUND FORCE:
Practical Help; Rapid Response, Link Point & Media Coverage
Val Sinclair 07721-416 739
FURTHER HELP and ADVICE
Get exact knowledge of what local outbreaks are confirmed and which premises are being culled.
Organise some local people, friends, family, neighbours who will be prepared to rally round and witness for you preferably with video camera or camera or tape recorder (or even a notebook!) If served with an A notice you have a right of appeal by law. No farmer should allow himself to be intimidated into accepting a cull before his stock has been inspected, and before his Appeal has been determined.
Insist on comprehensive Risk Assessment for animals in question. This must cover all factors eg;
d0 Whether the farm is contiguous to infected premises .......Distance between the livestock units on the two farms ....Whether livestock are housed .......Whether there has been any contact within infected animals .......Time elapsed since that outbreak......Bio-security measures taken by the farmer .......Blood tests.........Wind direction and prevailing winds...... Habitat.........Location........Exposure to vehicle and human movement.... Animal resistance levels..........Whether the livestock are pedigree or from a rare breed
Insist on independent veterinary inspection if there is any doubt, or suspicion of symptoms. If threatened by MAFF/DEFRA, demand that their threats are confirmed in writing.
Record all contact/discussions with MAFF/DEFRA, preferably with Video or tape-recorder, and accompanied by friend(s) to provide eye-witness evidence. Refuse entry if the time is unreasonable (before 8am or after 6pm ). Get names.
Be prepared to challenge MAFF/DEFRA authority and demands to slaughter, insisting on reasons in writing if animals are healthy.
Insist on your own specialist valuer AND do NOT allow the valuer in AT ALL unless you have decided that your animals ARE to be killed
Remember, it is an offence to conceal or treat the symptoms of FMD infected Livestock.
It is not an offence to take precautions to prevent FMD.
Legal Loophole Saves 100 Herds Matt Born
Electronic Telegraph - 12th May 2001
Alayne Addy, who had only been in her job for three weeks when the epidemic began, is estimated to have saved more than 20,000 animals after finding evidence to suggest that up to two-thirds of those culled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food might have been killed illegally.
Miss Addy's discovery might mean the Government having to pay huge damages to farmers whose herds were illegally culled. The 35-year-old joined the Exeter law firm Stephens and Scown on Feb 1, a day after being made redundant from her job as a legal adviser at the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, she said she was amazed to have found that Maff/defra had apparently rushed ahead with the culls without consulting lawyers. Miss Addy started questioning the legality of the culls after being asked for advice by an organic farmer whose herd was facing death.
"We consulted with a barrister who advised us that the policy of contiguous culling was unlawful in both UK and EU law," she said. The EU directive allows for compulsory culling of all stock on a farm which tests positive for foot and mouth, but not the slaughter of animals on adjoining holdings. Meanwhile, the two pieces of domestic law which Maff/defra had used to defend the culls were incompatible with the EU law, which took precedence, she said. Miss Addy acknowledged that her arguments have not yet been tested before a judge. But that is because in each of the 106 cases in which she has intervened, Maff/defra has backed off.
"It suggests they are unsure of the legal basis of the contiguous culls," she said. Miss Addy, who was born in Cheshire, gained a post-graduate diploma in law at Nottingham Trent University, while working as a farm secretary. She joined the NFU in 1995.
Of the 7,000 properties on which culls have taken place, more than 5,000 were contiguous cases. Miss Addy's discovery is likely to prompt a deluge of compensation claims from farmers, with legal action likely to go on for years.
Owners of Healthy Animals May Resist Their Slaughter from Hugo Charlton, Barrister at Law
There is no legal authority to enforce a precautionary culling policy. The only basis upon which MAFF/DEFRA can slaughter healthy animals without the permission of the owner is if an animal "is a suspected of being affected........., or has been exposed to the infection, in the same field or otherwise in contact with affected animals, or it seems to the minister that an animal has been in anyway exposed....".
MAFF/DEFRA slaughter is based on the "in any way exposed" argument, and indeed MAFF/DEFRA vets have produced an argument that any animal within a 3 km radius has been so exposed. In my opinion the legislation does not authorise precautionary culling on this basis, and any attempt to do so would be illegal. The phrase "in anyway exposed" has not been defined at law, and in my opinion is not meant to include the remoter risk of long-distance airborne exposure. On this basis a 3 km limit is purely arbitrary.
In any event each case must be considered on an individual basis, and a specific decision in each case by an appropriately qualified official (i.e. a vet). The vet (acting on behalf of the minister if properly authorised) must satisfy himself that the animals in question have indeed been "exposed". Simple enforcement of the 3 km " zone" is not an adequate reason.
In the absence of a specific court order owners of cattle would be entitled to use such force as is necessary to remove trespassers from their land. MAFF/DEFRA officials may enter property to inspect animals, but not to slaughter them unless the conditions outlined above have been met.
In the event that an owner of animals is of the opinion that they have not been "exposed" it is anticipated the police would support his refusal to allow MAFF/DEFRA officials on his land to carry out a slaughter until a court order had been obtained by MAFF/DEFRA.
Hugo Charlton Barrister at law
How much will it cost?
Experienced Solicitors in England, Scotland and Wales are very willing to help in this situation. The advice they will give you in the initial telephone consultation will be FREE.
Burgess Salmon (Judy Bell or William Neville) will give FREE telephone advice and are experts in this field with everything you may want to know at their fingertips.
01179 392000 [24 hours]
On a lighter Note:
Q:- How many MAFF/DEFRA personnel does it take to change a light bulb?
A:- Two. One to tell you it`s all under control and the other one to plug it in to a TAP....