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Front page of the Western Morning News yesterday (Oct 5):

NFU leader admits inoculation may have contained epidemic. "We were wrong to oppose vaccines"

A WESTCOUNTRY farmers' leader last night admitted they may have been wrong to oppose the vaccination of cattle to control the foot and mouth epidemic.

South West regional director of the National Farmers' Union Anthony Gibson said: "With the benefit of hindsight we might have been wrong. "Like most most people, in the early stages of the disease we did not regard it as being on the agenda."

Mr Gibson said that despite opposition from his own and other farming organisations, it was clear from the scale of the cull that was attempted to control the world's worst foot and mouth outbreak that vaccination should have been considered early on in the epidemic.

"It was obvious within three days of the start of the outbreak that the system was not working and was breaking down," he said.

"This allowed the disease to spread, but no one thought of vaccination until it was too late."

Later in the article, it is reported that .... Reflecting a change of mood in the farming industry, that has deepened as the foot and mouth crisis has deepened, Mr Gibson said more farmers had belatedly recognised that they should consider vaccination. He said prejudice against vaccination was caused by "perfectly justified fears" that it might leave a lasting blight on the industry.

The article goes on to report on what was said in the BBC's 'Close Up' programme, quoting or reporting Prof Fred Brown, Ken Tyrrell and Patrick Holden variously calling for vaccination and deploring the cull; and closing with calls for a public enquiry. It includes a mention that 'the Animal Health Minister' [surely this must be a joke?!!], Elliot Morley told the programme that....yes... the Government had still not ruled out the possibility of using vaccination!!!

I didn't see the programme, not having a TV, so probably Anthony Gibson's comments came from it too and is now old news for all except regressive peasants like us.

I am, however, getting increasingly worried about the state of farming down here. Whoever I speak to says the same: the situation for farmers is worse now than it has been through the whole of the outbreak. No one can move stock or sell stock without crippling red tape and expense. The story of Hector Christie's piglets recounted in Alan and Rosie's Newsletter last night is repeated again and again throughout the farming community. Farmers already living on a shoestring have been prevented from selling anything much this year, have been loaded with extra cost after extra cost and they are becoming desperate. Everyone knows that the brave souls that resisted the cull are worse off by far than those whose stock was compulsorily purchased and slaughtered. And, of course the traders and dealers who brought the infected stock here and were moving animals all over the country are particularly well off, having been paid well for the stock which was slaughtered, and had their premises cleaned and repaired at public expense, having even been paid handsomely to do the work, they can now buy replacement stock at knock down prices from the desperate farmers that struggled to protect their animals. A friend from Combe Martin told me today how his neighbour had put his sheep into the welfare cull. When the local vet looked at them he found some sores in their mouths and called in the Ministry vet to say if it was foot and mouth disease. The Ministry vet said it wasn't foot and mouth - "but it can be if you want." The farmer said he didn't want and so my friend's sheep were not made contiguous. It would probably be a different story now.

Everybody believes that the government is out for the kill as far as independent family farms are concerned.

It is all very well to hear about the calls for vaccination now [my cynical instincts see the Pharmaceutical Companies preparing to achieve a great marketing coup: having wiped out the farmers of the Nation responsible for the 'no vaccination' policies world wide, and made the UK a terrible warning to the rest of the World...] the problem is really, what can we do to prevent total wipeout in Devon and I presume Cumbria, Yorkshire, the Welsh Borders - all the centres of our small livestock farms?

Apart from each of us deliberately buying local farm produce, asking for local produce and so on, we must press the Government to include farm businesses in their existing aid schemes. It is on this account that I have been exposing the nonsense of the South West Business Recovery Fund, publicising what is being done, sharing information with others who are experiencing the same treatment arguing with the administrators of the fund and asking our MP for help - and asking others who have been similarly treated to do the same . There must be other similar critical points where it is worth applying pressure. Farmers For Action are very direct and practical in tackling these problems and perhaps could help co-ordinate these efforts. [We joined Farmers For Action shortly after we heard about the first cases of foot and mouth disease and I am impressed by David Handley's understanding of the situation and grasp of what can be done.]

And there is public demonstration: like the march scheduled for 20th of this month. This needs, urgently, much, much more publicity, a wide remit - an expression of our anger at the destruction of our Rural Communities, Businesses, Farms, as well as calls for an end to killing and introduction of vaccination. It needs a higher level of organisation and co-ordination now.

Any more suggestions?

Lawrence

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