Lawrence and Karen Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
Lee
Ilfracombe
Devon EX34 8LS

 

12th March, 2002

 

 

Introduction.

 

Middle Campscott Farm is our small Organic farm, situated between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe; about 2 miles from the Atlantic Ocean [to the West] and about 1 mile from the Bristol Channel [to the North].. The area of the farm is currently about 42 acres. Just before the FMD outbreak was made public, we had agreed to buy a neighbouring 36 acres. We eventually took possession of this additional land on 28th of September, bringing our total area up to about 88 acres. We have about 180 sheep and 15 Polled Devon cattle [Ruby Reds], 5 goats, a pig and some poultry.

 

Our main enterprise involves milking sheep and making and selling cheese. Most of our sheep are kept for milking. The milk from our goats, [one of our own and four others which belong to a friend who looks after them and milks them] is also used for making cheese. Additionally we have a small flock of coloured Shetland sheep, kept primarily for their wool. The Devon cattle are registered with the Devon Cattle Breeders' Association and are kept mainly for breeding. Our flocks and herds are all 'closed' and kept to full Organic Standards. The farm is fully 'Organic', and we are licensed as producers and processors by the Soil Association. Our new land is "under conversion" to organic status. We have applied to the Organic Aid Scheme, on 11th January. We have not yet been told whether our application will be successful.

 

Karen [my wife] and I run the farm. I do most of the farmwork, and the milking. Karen is the cheesemaker and does most of the selling of our wares from the local pannier markets. We have a daughter who is taking a 'Design Crafts' degree at Hereford, and a son who is taking his A levels at Grenville College in Bideford. We came here from Islington [N7] in 1992, [having both formally practised as Architects for about 20 years] - and more or less started from scratch

 

We fitted out the sheep milking parlour and cheesemaking dairy ourselves, while learning how to make cheese, look after the animals, deliver lambs, etc. From the outset we aimed to turn as much of our produce as possible into goods for direct sale, and to sell as much as possible locally. We make hard pressed cheeses named after the farm, 'Campscott Ewes' Milk Cheese', 'Campscott Speciality', 'Campscott Cumin', 'Campscott Goat'. We do not enter many competitions, but we usually win a Bronze in the British Cheese Awards, in the year before the official start of the outbreak of FMD we had won a Silver in the World Cheese Awards. We have been twice'commended' in the Organic Food Awards, including last year. Our own [organically farmed] wool is spun for double knit knitting [the Shetland wool being naturally coloured] or woven into blankets ['throws'].

 

We participate in the Country Stewardship Scheme, restoring the Devon hedgebanks, providing, before FMD, a permissive right of way and 'educational access'.

 

We are farmers, and specialist cheesemakers. We sell from the local pannier markets; and by producing interesting local specialities, we contribute to and benefit from the local tourist industry. We are proud that all that we produce and sell, comes from the farm and is locally distinctive.

 

General

 

The way in which the foot and mouth disease was handled has had a very damaging effect on our business and our lifestyle. It has changed our attitude to those who govern us, the scientific establishment and the law.

 

When the outbreak of foot and mouth disease first was made public in February and March, information about it was very hard to obtain: but we understood that the disease was very highly infective, that it could spread by direct animal to animal contact, by indirect contact, involving persons, vehicles, feed, wild birds, animals and insects, for example; and on the wind or by means of smoke and fragments carried by the wind.

 

We were obliged by law to keep our animals susceptible to the disease; and forbidden by law from protecting our animals by vaccination. We were told by MAFF that our animals would be compulsorily purchased from us and killed if they became infected [or if tests suggested that they might have been infected] or if they had been in any form of contact with other infected animals or even if animals on the farms with which we shared a boundary or even, possibly, animals within 3km of our farm became infected. We were told that there might be the glimmer of an opportunity to appeal against the summary slaughter of our cattle, but there would be no opportunity to appeal against the slaughter of our sheep, if this were to be ordered by the MAFF.

 

Since our main enterprise depended on our sheep, and since we had been selectively breeding our sheep for the nine years we have been here, and since it would be very difficult indeed to replace them [there are very few other Organic milking flocks in the whole of the UK - perhaps four or five at most] - and since we are very fond of all our animals, we viewed this situation with the greatest concern. Our anxiety was increased by the lack of information from MAFF, and the way in which the disease progressed obviously and by MAFF's own definitions, 'out of control' while the Minister of Agriculture and Chief vet. made bland statements that the disease was 'under control'.

 

We took the steps available to us to minimise the risk of introducing the infection to the farm and to provide a basis for legal resistance to any attempt by MAFF to kill our animals for any reason other than that they had been proved to have contracted the disease. In our former careers as Architects, we had worked on clean room suites and laboratories for the production of vaccines; so we had knowledge of the requirements for full biosecurity to contain or exclude dangerous infections. It seemed very apparent to us that the value of the measures available to a farm for disinfecting visitors and visiting vehicles would be likely to be little more than cosmetic. We also heard reports that indicated that MAFF personel, and later the army and the police paid scant regard to the requirements of biosecurity. Accordingly, we excluded all visitors and vehicles [including those of postman and customers] from the farm; and kept our own journeys off the farm to a minimum. As the Infected Area overtook first Bideford and then Barnstaple, we ceased to go the Pannier Markets to sell our produce. When we were ourselves included in the Infected Area, we restricted ourselves to travel no further than to Ilfracombe, for essential supplies. Our son, Bennet, continued to attend his school, travelling to Bideford on a school bus. When he returned home in the evening, he was driven as close as possible to the house, and would go directly to change his clothes and have a bath. Only Karen travelled off the farm; and the car was sprayed with disinfectant on leaving and returning [causing we notice, seven months later, accelerated rust damage around the wheel arches]. I was the only person to handle our animals and I did not leave the farm from March until mid August. There were two exceptions when I was obliged to collect my son from Barnstaple. In each case I remained in my car all the time I was outside the farm. Particularly, I avoided any contact with other farms, farmers and their animals.

 

Social

 

This regime caused us to be isolated from our normal range of friends and customers [and to prevent us from our usual participation in any local community activities - like the village fete, singing in the Church choir, etc.]. We usually welcome a succession of visitors coming to buy our products, watch the sheep being milked, or learn how to make cheese. We were obliged to ban all such visits and instead of welcoming users of the two footpaths which cross the farm, we were obliged to close the footpaths.

 

All this added to the sense of emergency and isolation, while we learned by local rumour, from the Radio and the Internet of the most outrageous actions being carried out by the servants and employees of MAFF [such as breaches of biosecurity, unreasonable interpretations of the contiguous culling policy, careless and cruel treatment of animals and their owners and abuse of the law by the Authorities.

 

 

 

Effects on the Farm

 

The closing of the farm also deprived us of help with farm work. We had arranged that a friend and neighbour should use his JCB and tipping trailer to do the earth moving involved in the hedgebank building to which we had committed ourselves by our Country Stewardship Agreement. Having been prevented from making progress during a very wet winter and spring, work had just re-commenced when FMD came to Devon. I have been obliged to apply for a full year's extension of time for the completion of my work under my Country Stewardship Agreement. I have still not received formal approval to this; and the extraordinarily stupid provisions of the Country Stewardship Agreement forbids me from proceeding with any of the Stewardship work until this approval is given - so my work schedule is being delayed further. We have lost the turnover from the Stewardship work from our accounts to 2001. At the same time, we had taken delivery of many tons of soil, stone and hardcore to be used in the bank reconstructions. The appallingly wet winter had prevented lorry access to the site of the hedgebanks involved. Consequently we had been obliged to allow the material to be dropped in the parts of the fields to which lorry access was possible: and when these became inaccessible, in our farmyard and then in any area accessible from a hard surface. The farm remained cluttered with this material, throughout 2001, presenting a depressing prospect and inconveniencing normal working.

 

We had commenced work on the extending of the milking parlour. Rather than bring in builders and an engineer to carry out the work, I was obliged to complete it myself - building and rendering the blockwork walls and cutting and welding the yoke and feeder. This had the advantage of saving money in the short term, but was an unwelcome addition to the work load at lambing time. It delayed the start of milking and resulted in five ewes which had lost their lambs and would normally have been milked early, being dried off and their milk lost. [approx 1,000 ltrs of milk or 200 cheeses: retail value about #3,000]

 

We belong to an organisation called 'World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms' [WWOOF] which enables interested visitors to stay with us on the farm and assist with the work. We rely on help from this source at times of particular need, like at lambing, the start of milking, and shearing. We felt obliged to cancel all visitors from this source - and had a very testing work programme as a result. Eventually, in July we found a German student who submitted to the same regime as me and gave essential help at shearing time. We have recently heard from the organisers of WWOOF that DEFRA is seeking to require that all the volunteers in the WWOOF scheme must be paid the minimum wage. This would of course destroy the scheme. DEFRA does not seem to intend to apply these requirements to the similar schemes run by the National Trust and the British Conservation Trust for Volunteers - and the move seems typical of DEFRA's and the Governments intent to destroy small family farms and individual care for the countryside.

 

Other problems arising in the farming side of the business were that we could not take sheep or lambs requiring attention to the veterinary hospital. If vet's attention was unavoidably required, we are now obliged to ask for a farm visit - more expensive than taking the animal to the vet. Vets' fees are now considerably out of scale with the economics of farming. They relate to the salaries of urban pet owners with individually and expensively insured pets.

 

We were unable to sell our last year's wether lambs or new crop lambs - or even to have any killed for our own consumption. We were obliged to maintain too many superannuated beasts eating our pastures. As a result we ended the year with more animals than intended and less winter feed than planned.

 

Whether due to the widespread purchasing of straw for use in pyres or by the RSPCA for welfare needs, there has been a dearth of bedding straw on the market - and prices have been very high. We have not been able to find or afford bedding straw for the winter housing of our animals. As a result we have been obliged to leave our cattle outside; causing damage to the pastures which will cause other difficulties in the coming year.

 

We were unable to sell our superfluous animals. We had two requests to sell or hire rams to smallholders but the complicated procedure for obtaining a licence and the cost of disinfecting and sealing the transport caused these to be cancelled. I transcribed a message from one of these would be customers from my telephone answering machine: "I sent off for my licence and I've been informed that I needed to get my vehicle inspected and sealed over at South Molton [my note: about 21 miles from us, about 25 miles from her: thus making the full trip about 66 miles] - and I needed to get a vet at your place. All these things I have to pay for and - umm - I decided its just too much extraordinary hassle; and also our trailer probably wouldn't get passed because its got quite a lot of rotten wood in it. So I just wanted to say - thank you for all you've done - all the looking out for rams and all that sort of stuff." The redundant rams remained on our pasture.

 

We have been unable to buy-in replacement cows. Last year we had, unusually, lost one of our cows in a disastrous calving, and one to magnesium deficiency. Being prevented from replacing these losses caused difficulty in keeping our small suckler cow quota.

 

The continuing restrictions on the movement of animals [not only round the country in the hands of dealers and traders, but between local farms, holdings, shows, veterinary hospitals, etc.] are causing the small scale fabric of rural life to decay. Keeping a pet pig and arranging a visit from or to a boar; taking the goat to the billie, the ram to the smallholder's flock are all now fraught with major difficulty - to what real end?

 

Effects on the Cheesemaking Business and other retail sales [wool, etc.]

 

The enforced protective isolation of the farm first reduced and eventually cut off completely our main normal sales outlets: the local Pannier Markets and Farmers' Markets - and sales from the farm itself. We are very grateful to the management of the Barnstaple and Bideford Pannier Markets for their understanding and forbearance in keeping our normal sales pitches for us without charge - but we lost most of or summer sales to tourists and visitors; and we have needed to win back regular customers who have lost touch during our long absence. We also lost the opportunity to sell our wares and introduce ourselves to new customers at the North Devon Show, Bratton Fleming and Tiverton Farmers Market and various events organised by the Exmoor Producers' Association.

 

A second cause of damage to our cheesemaking enterprise arose from a 'forgotten' provision of the Dairy Products [Hygiene] Regulations [Part V, 9, (11)] which states that: "In the case of any dairy products which have been handled in an infected area, they may be sold for human consumption if the milk used in the production of such dairy products has been heat treated."

 

All our cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk: and this provision threatened to prevent us from making any cheese at all during the time we were within the 'infected area'; and from selling even the finished cheeses in the maturing room The Environmental Health Officer wrote to us and advised us to this effect shortly before the infected area was extended to include our farm in March. Initially the ban was to apply to all unpasteurised milk, including our frozen stocks, which had been milked from our sheep in May and June in the preceding year.

 

The requirement seemed particularly irksome because:

7       The FMD virus poses no threat to humans.

7       The hard cheesemaking process increases the acidity of the milk, lowering the pH below 6. This would neutralise any FMD virus present.

7       Our frozen milk, taken from the sheep long before the earliest date for the start of the outbreak, could not carry any infection from FMD virus. Pasteurising it would, if anything have increased the risk of its picking up infection.

7       The cheeses in the maturing room had been made from last year's milk taken from the sheep before the inception of FMD. Many of the cheeses had been made before this date - and whether or not the milk had been pasteurised would have been completely irrelevant to the danger of FMDv being carried by them.

7       Nothing prevented cheeses from the same batches being sold for human consumption provided they had already been delivered to wholesalers or shop - whether or not the wholesalers or shops were located within an infected area!

7       Nothing prevented Supermarkets from importing cheeses, handling them and selling them, pasteurised or not - while we were being closed down by our unhelpful Authorities.

 

After much time spent on telephone calls, letters and e-mails, and much confusion and anxiety, we received the concession that we could continue to sell the cheeses already made, and to be made from the frozen stocks of milk produced before 28th February.

 

We were told by the Specialist Cheesemakers Association that the Food Standards Authority recognised the absurdity of the requirement - but that it would be 'too expensive' for the FSA to write a letter to set matters to rights

 

We did not have the capacity to freeze and store the new season's milk, nor did we have the assurance that we could use it to make cheese. Faced with this uncertainty and overwhelmed by farm tasks and the efforts necessary to find answers to these questions, the advance of the disease, etc., I took steps to start to dry off the ewes and thus reduce milk production. Once the milk production from the ewes has dropped, it does not recover during that lactation; so we lost about half the expected production the year. [The other restrictions and the handling of farm business by DEFRA and the Government ensured that our costs would be higher than normal.]

 

When a Farm Business Advisor [who came in connection with an application for a grant towards improvements we had been planning before the onset of FMD] reviewed our farm business in mid August, he assessed that our turnover would be reduced by at least #10,000 as a result of FMD. When a Business Link Advisor reviewed the effects on the retail sales of cheese and wool, he identified a decline in income over the four months from April to July as #2,580 or 60% during that period This did not take account of the further decline in income which will result from the lack of milk in store: nor does it indicate the increase in income anticipated for 2001. February and March 2001 had shown an increase of #744 or 57% over the income for the same months in 2000.

 

Learning of the existence of a 'SW Business Recovery Fund' from the RDA website, we applied for assistance. We explained the nature of our business by telephone to the Business Link contact. They initially told us that all the fund had been allocated: but then they contacted us by telephone, informed us that we would qualify for a grant under the fund and arranged for an advisor to visit us. The advisor came, identified the decline in our income as noted above and told us that we would be likely to receive a grant in the region of #2,500. Since then I have been told by a different section of Business Link, that we do not qualify for consideration for the grant because we are engaged in agricultural production. The following E-mails to the editor of the warmwell.com website illustrate this:

 

Dear Mary,

 

I am so angry that I have to get this off my chest despite a long list of farm jobs still waiting to be done!

 

I have just had two phone calls in quick succession. The first from someone wanting to sell us space in a 'Good Cheese Guide' associated with this year's World Cheese Awards [we won a Silver in last year's Awards]. I gave her our address and so on, but warned her not to expect us to fork out for an entry because our production has been so reduced by the way our Government has handled Foot and Mouth Disease. She told me that she is hearing the same story again and again. The demand for cheese seems to be rising and 'the multiples' are increasing production by 2.5%: but the small independent producers and retailers are being put out of business. She agreed that this seems to be the aim of government policy.

 

Next call was from a helpful advisor from 'Business Link', the body administering the South West Region Recovery Fund - which provides help for small businesses that have been damaged by the Way Foot and Mouth Disease has been handled.

 

We had applied to the Fund, been accepted, had a visit from a Business Link Advisor who had looked at the evidence of damage to our small on-farm cheesemaking enterprise and the associated organic wool products enterprise, and told us that we were likely to be offered a grant in the region of #2,500. We signed all his papers, so that he will be paid for his visit and report - and awaited results.

 

Then we heard from a friend who runs an on-farm business selling meat, excellent sausages, etc. made from the rare breeds animals [mainly pigs] which he raises, to very high standards, on his small farm. He has a licensed butcher's shop on the farm, and sells practically everything he produces from the farm and from local farmers' markets. He works incredibly hard, his business was just starting to take off and he has been crippled by the restrictions which came with foot and mouth disease. Like us, he must have been under the constant stress caused by the threat that at any moment he might be confronted with the demand to cull his animals - but he has higher overheads and was of course prevented from sending the pigs to be slaughtered. So he rapidly became overstocked and starved of income. He, like us, had to cope with the dilemma of whether to go out to the markets and risk bringing back FMD, all the amateur biosecurity notwithstanding. His pens became overloaded with too many, too fat pigs, and broke. His insurance refused to pay because, they said, the cause of the damage was not 'impact' or 'accident' but Foot and Mouth Disease, which he wasn't insured against! Extraordinary that FMD can even break pig pens! He is under such stress with the worry of keeping everything going, coping with all the Byzantine complexities of movement restrictions, and doing the work to food hygiene requirements, animal welfare needs, etc., etc. that he has crashed two cars in the last week or so. [He drives his produce to the markets and sells them himself.] I expect the insurer will refuse to pay because the accidents were caused by foot and mouth disease.

 

He had been accepted for the Fund, inspected, had an accountant draw up a business recovery plan and had been offered a grant in the region of #12,000. Then he received a 'phone call telling him that he is a farm - so he doesn't qualify for anything! The mixture of nice man, nasty man treatment had practically stretched him to breaking point.

 

So I started making enquiries - and my second 'phone call was from a very helpful member of the Business Link staff. He told me that my foreboding are justified. My on-farm, organic, specialist cheesemaking business cannot receive assistance from the SW Recovery Fund. This fund is administered under EU rules and the EU rules guide the giving of aid by defining 'sectors'. The 'Transport' and 'Primary Agriculture' sectors are excluded from receiving the aid. Because my friend fattens his own pigs and subsequently butchers them himself and sells the meat himself, he is classified under 'primary agriculture'. It was suggested that if he bought in the slaughtered pigs from elsewhere and sold them, he would qualify for aid. It doesn't matter that his farm income comes almost exclusively from selling meat direct to the public, like a shop with a top farm assurance supply, he is classified under 'primary agriculture'. Similarly with us. Because we raise the sheep ourselves, milk them ourselves and make our cheese exclusively from our own production of milk, we are classified under 'primary agriculture'. It doesn't matter that we sell most of the cheese ourselves from the local pannier markets, from the farm direct to customers or by mail order. If we bought in someone else's cheese and sold only 10% of our own, we were told, it would be different. Similarly, if we provided agricultural services - like our silage contractor, or the AI man, we would be eligible for assistance!

 

Words fail me. Both our friends' business and ours are what we are told the government wants farm businesses to be. We know that they are what our customers want. But we can't expand and contract at short notice like a merchant trader or professional consultant - and we have been tied hand and foot by government policy. We have been starved and squeezed and injured. And now we find that we aren't small businesses that can be helped recover, unlike all the other businesses which to some extent benefit from our efforts, like hotels, B &Bs, self catering caravan keepers, agricultural engineers, feed merchants - and of course the damned Business Advisors who administer the Fund - who can't find out what the fundamental rules are before they have gone out on their visits, written their reports and collected their fees...

 

To give him credit, the chap who telephoned was evidently equally incensed about the situation and encouraged me to take it up with my MP and MEP... I will of course, if I can find time - and I won't wonder why our Ministers of Double speak haven't done anything about this yet. It all helps the 'multiples' build up their 'market share' after all - and helps get rid of the small independent farms and food producers.

 

Every man in the street 'knows' how much farmers have been 'compensated for foot and mouth'. The truth is completely different. A lot of farms had their animal compulsorily purchased by the State and killed - thereby bringing their businesses to a complete halt. Most have been hamstrung by restrictions and loaded with costs - and when it comes to the recovery aid, farms, unlike other Rural businesses are, in fact, excluded from the little compensation that is available.

 

Now I'll go and feed last year's [no longer lambs] wethers which are eating-up the grass with this years lambs in Higher Homer Meadow.

 

With best wishes,

 

Lawrence.

 

And then in a different communication:

 

I have received, by post [as promised] a copy of the advice note given to the Business Link Advisor with whom I discussed the SW Business Recovery Fund. It is typed as the transcript below, on a plain piece of paper, with no names or identifying details. I have also been sent a copy of Annex 1 to the Treaty establishing the European Community: a list of what is referred to in Article 32 of the Treaty. I assume that this defines 'agricultural activities'.

 

I note that it includes: 'meat and edible meat offal', 'fish crustaceans and molluscs', 'dairy produce; birds' eggs; natural honey', edible vegetables and certain roots and tubers', edible fruit and nuts; peel of melons and citrus fruit', 'coffee, tea and spices', 'products of the milling industry; malt and starches; gluten; insulin', 'preparations of meat, of fish, of crustaceans or molluscs', 'cocoa beans, whole or broken, raw or roasted', 'preparations of vegetables, fruit or other parts of plants', 'wine of fresh grapes; grape must with fermentation arrested by the addition of alcohol', other fermented beverages [for example, cider perry and mead].

 

This, it seems to me, could potentially rule out from the recovery fund, restaurants, pubs serving food and wine, bed and breakfast and practically any kind of food shop... I hope that they aren't only discriminating against farm based businesses - and if they can weave their way through the rules for non farm based businesses - why not the farm based businesses too? I haven't been able to discuss it any further with 'Business Link' - Alan Berry wasn't available and a woman I tried to question became increasingly tetchy and referred me to a Government Department

- but couldn't suggest which one. She suggested I should ask my MP at one of his surgeries!

 

The advice note runs as follows:

 

"I have now checked with my legal advisor, Sue Spence, and I am afraid she agrees with me that the retail of bedding plants would be regarded as an agricultural activity which would make this applicant ineligible under your scheme. Agricultural activity extends to the marketing of agricultural products and live plants are included in the definition of agricultural products. It makes no difference that the normal activities of this company are non agricultural nor that they are only planning to market plants and not grow them.

 

The only way this applicant could receive grant would be if a specific scheme was drawn up for agricultural products which was notified to and approved by the European Commission. As you know, this government has so far not decided to do this. The Head of the Defra policy division is ...... you need to discuss this further.

 

I'm afraid I have absolutely no discretion in this. The Commission takes the view that any aid in the agricultural sector, however small, could distort trade and it therefore insists on agricultural schemes being notified and approved.

 

As I said on the telephone, if you go ahead and pay this applicant under your scheme then you would be paying an illegal state aid. If the Commission discovers this then they could ask the UK to recover the aid with interest. Ultimately they could bring a case against us before the European Court of Justice. The risk of this might be small for one individual case but if we disregard the rules on a large enough scale other Member States could well complain to the Commission leading them to investigate. I realise it is unpalatable to turn down applicants who are suffering hardship but it would be even more unpleasant in the long run to have to recover aid after it had been granted."

I found out subsequently that our High Street Butcher had gone through a similar sequence of events, also being refused on principle after the reporting process had been completed. Higher Hacknell Farm [organic beef box scheme, organic food awards prize winners and winners of some sustainable agriculture award associated with Prince Charles] has received exactly the same treatment as Neil Robyns' business.

Having gone through the process of scrutiny of accounts, Business Link Report and promise of a grant in the order of #15,000 a farm which sells organic beef and lamb was told by telephone that they did not qualify, due to the nature of their business. The proprietor asked Business Link to confirm their refusal by letter - so that she could take the matter up with her MP. They refused

 

The main points that occur to me are

1. These farm food and farm related businesses are those hardest hit by the way FMD has been handled. And they are the type of farm diversifications that the Government purports to support.

2. The Government - RDAs or what/whoever is responsible should have foreseen the problem and should have been aware that their aid package wouldn't help these businesses - and should have found a different formula that did do the job.

3. The RDA and Business Link should be capable of finding an alternative way of giving aid to these businesses - either one of the previously agreed schemes, aided 100% instead of 50% - or they should be capable of interpreting the rules to achieve the purpose. For example - butchers services or cheesemakers services being aided instead of meat or dairy production. I am sure that where there's a will there's a way!

4. The actions of Business Link seem to have amounted to gross negligence - in incurring all the costs of processing the applications [I believe the consultants are paid #400 per day and each application clocks up #1,000!] before rejecting the applications on a matter of basic principle. It looks to be an unusually blatant example of the way all the funds are channelled to the men in suits rather than those for whom the aid is intended. Alternatively, it could be part of a covert scheme for obtaining sensitive information from businesses like ours, in order to further the campaign which seems to be being waged against us.

 

Alun Michael, responding to my MP on this matter, emphasised how the State Aid Rules are important and are supported by our government because they protect competition. The Rt Hon. Michael and the government he is part of seem not to realise the effect of their measures associated with FMD on the competitive position of farms and Rural Businesses like ours! We were not infected with FMD. We were obliged to stop trading, and to incur extra costs 'in the public interest' - while our local competitors, the Supermarkets and our overseas competitors were able to benefit from 'unfair' competition. Surely action to restore our competitive position ought to be justifiable and 'fair'?

 

 

Misinformation

 

From the outset we found that we could not obtain the information we needed. For example, I emailed our MP, the Rt Hon Nick Harvey in March as follows:

Subj: Foot and Mouth

Date: 24/03/01

To: harveyn@parliament.uk

 

Dear Nick,

 

Thanks for your reply.

 

Since my last message, I have been trying to find out what restrictions apply within a foot and mouth 'infected area'. To my astonishment I have spent hours of searching the Internet and several phone calls to the MAFF helpline (which couldn't help at all) and to the NFU helpline, which managed to find a summary of the SI.1983/1950 restrictions (via a search engine on the MAFF 'open government' site!). The actual Foot and Mouth Disease Order 1983 does not appear to be available on the Internet at all. I don't understand how we can be expected to comply with regulations which are not made available and which also apply to areas which are not marked by roadsigns etc. on the ground. I should be grateful if you would ask for the Order and Regulations to be made easily available.

 

We have a particular reason for wanting to know the precise content of the Order, because we find that the government has instructed EHOs to apply the provision in the Dairy Products (Hygiene) Regulations which prevents the sale for human consumption of dairy products made from unpasteurised milk which have been 'handled'' in an infected area... Our cheese like the cheese made by many other specialist cheesemakers has all been made from unpasteurised milk dating well before the start of the foot and mouth outbreak - so just as clear of infection as any pasteurised milk. The EHOs have been advised to refer to the Divisional Vet for guidance, but although we have explained that the milk used in our cheese is just as safe as regards foot and mouth disease as any pasteurised milk would be, the first reply from the Divisional Vet has been that there are to be no exceptions! This could of course render all our stocks of cheese valueless - for no logical reason. Meanwhile, any retailer in the infected area, from the local Deli to Tescos can handle unpasteurised milk cheeses, including ours if they have them, to their heart's content and still sell them! We are still in the early stages of this unexpected setback; but with so many other problems pressing down on us as a result of the calamity we are very angry to be saddled with this unnecessary bureaucratic attack. From telephoning other cheesemakers, I learn that the implementation of this nonsense is very inconsistent. One in North Cornwall had heard nothing, while others in Herefordshire have been obliged to destroy stocks of cheese. We are likely to need to ask your help in this matter if common sense does not prevail. Meanwhile I tell you this to add to the picture of the situation facing small farm producers like us. We dare not bring customers and tourists (if there are any) on to our farm to buy any of our products and we dare not travel to our stalls in the local pannier markets. At any moment we may be told that our milking flock is to be destroyed. We are lambing, without outside help because it is too dangerous to bring outsiders (WWOOFers etc.) onto the farm. And the government wants to stop us from selling our perfectly safe cheeses to other retailers. I wonder if there will be any small farms and local food producers left after this disaster.

 

A final thought which keeps reoccurring to me is that all the reports of the outbreak seem to be made in terms of 'numbers of outbreaks'. Since 1967 the number of holdings has decreased greatly and the size of holding has increased. Each outbreak to date has involved the killing of about 1,000 animals on average. If the outbreak is predicted to affect at least 4,000 holdings, it will involve the slaughter of about 4,000,000 animals. If the animals on the holdings neighbouring these outbreaks are to be killed too (never mind those within a 3Km radius) it is likely that each outbreak will involve killing the animals on at least two other farms - which would mean a further 8,000 holdings and a further 8,000,000 animals. At least 12,000 farms and 12,000,000 animals. Is this really what we can expect - and what proportion of the UK livestock industry will this represent? Even the infotainment media seem to be very coy about facing this. I wonder how many small farms and local food producers will be left.

 

With best wishes

 

Lawrence.

We noticed that early in the outbreak, the reporting of cases, contiguous farms and numbers of animals became obscure and suspect. I made many attempts to obtain clarification from the FMD helplines. Eventually I was telephoned by a Neville Lane from MAFF Exeter who informed me that the numbers of animals killed being reported by MAFF was only those killed on confirmed cases and not those on the contiguous or 'firebreak' farms. The numbers of these were at least as great as those killed on confirmed cases. We never subsequently trusted the public reporting by government spokesmen. We have since read the paper delivered by Lawrence Alderson [Rare Breeds International, 6 Harnage, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY5 6EJ, UK alderson@clltd.demon.co.uk] to the RBI/EAAP/FAO meeting in Budapest on 23 August 2001: "Foot-and-Mouth Disease in the United Kingdom 2001; its cause, course, control and consequences" This enlarged on the points that: "The epidemic of Pan-Asian 'O' type FMD in 2001 was the first major outbreak in UK for 34 years. The cause is not understood at this time, but it spread rapidly through many areas. Discrepancies between official and unofficial statistics impede a clear understanding of the development of the disease, but probably up to 10 million animals were slaughtered during the first five months. Control measures relied on mass slaughter, but the slow initial response allowed the disease to become widespread. Expert opinion criticised the control measures and advocated the use of vaccination, and the legality of the control measures was challenged. The cost of the outbreak is estimated in the region of #20 billion, and may be increased by future compensation claims. The impact on the livestock industry in UK has been severe."

 

As the disaster unfolded we attempted to understand what was being perpetrated by our 'Authorities'

For example we e-mailed our MP on 8th August:

 

Dear Nick,

 

Further to our e-mail sent earlier today, BBC Radio Devon is, this evening, reporting that, while there are 117 confirmed cases in Devon, the number of farms on which the animals are being slaughtered as dangerous contacts (because they happen to share a boundary with a farm where the disease has been confirmed) is over 500 and rising. Our tiny 40 acre farm has five neighbours: and larger farms with parcels of land away from the home unit must have ten or more so it can be expected that this collateral damage will increase rapidly and disastrously.

 

MAFF do not publish the numbers of farms being destroyed as 'dangerous contacts' and neither do they report the numbers of animals killed on these farms. Thus they are able to conceal the true scale of the slaughter from farmers and the public at large. It appears that the number of cases is dropping, but in fact it is concealed within this far greater number of farms and animals killed and not reported.

 

This must be happening all over Britain. Whereas over a thousand cases are reported and over a million animals slaughtered or awaiting slaughter, the real figures of farms with stock killed, including those called dangerous contacts or firebreaks, must be more like six thousand and the numbers of animals killed, or awaiting slaughter must be over six million and this number can be expected to rise proportionately.

 

Please confirm if this is indeed the case: and please ensure that these horrific figures are properly reported by MAFF with their daily report of confirmed cases They must not continue to be concealed.

 

With thanks and best wishes

 

Lawrence Wright

 

When cases within 10 km of our farm were announced we tried to find out how close was the nearest infected farm. The information on the official MAFF website were not sufficiently detailed. In particular, the 'interactive map' which promised to provide precise local detail for ones own farm, by map reference, holding number or postcode was dangerously misleading - and inconvenient to use, taking a long time to load the response to any question. Neither were any of the helplines able or willing to provide information. We knew from telephone conversations with friends, that the farms listed by MAFF, had animals on parcels of land distant from the home farm address. These animals had been killed as infected or as dangerous contacts - and we could not find out how close these threats were to our own farm.

 

For example, on the evening of Good Friday we were disturbed by the stink of rotting carcasses and on the following day, the misty drizzle carried with it the smell of burning flesh. We believe this emanated from animals killed at Keypitts, about 4 miles from us. But no one on the helplines could or would confirm this.

 

We notice that misinformation and lack of information continues to characterise the DEFRA website since the official 'end' of the outbreak. The figures of animals killed and the reasons why are vague, apparently massaged and unreliable. We have noted the questions raised by the National Foot and Mouth Group and the lack of answers.

 

The killing of animals and the burning of carcasses

 

As participants in the tourist industry ourselves, we noted with fury that any visitors who had taken the government's misguided advice that the 'countryside was open' and come to visit Ilfracombe would

have been exposed to these disgusting experiences; likely to ensure that they left the area and never returned!

 

We heard from neighbours who were travelling into Barnstaple, of animals being killed in plain view of holiday cottages and rotting carcasses left lying beside the A361 road - all making for the most disastrous impact on this season's tourist trade and likely to affect future trade.

 

On the weekend following Easter [22-23rd April] the wind direction was from the SSE and we were assailed by an insistent smell of burning carcasses. Having worked outside for an hour or so, I found that my breathing was affected. The sensation of soreness in my throat and windpipes unlike the effects of any previous experience of farm bonfires, persisted throughout the following day. We could not discover the origin of the smoke nor plans for future carcass burning. I made my objections to the Environmental Health Officer service, which seemed to have been as starved of information as we were. We also heard worrying accounts of conditions affecting friends in Bideford. All this contributed to our growing disgust, objection to what was being forced upon us and apprehension.

 

 

Vaccination.

 

In the early days of the outbreak Karen and I accepted the official advice that the outbreak of FMD would be controlled in the way of previous practice, by a limited scale slaughter policy. We were, however very apprehensive, because we had been aware of the devastating effect of the outbreak in 1967, which had started from a single source. As it rapidly became clear that in this outbreak, there were not one, but many sources of infection, distributed at strategic intervals throughout the UK, we became increasingly apprehensive. As we heard news reports indicating that the advice [about speed of diagnosis, slaughter and carcass disposal] derived from the 1967 outbreak was being ignored - or that the resources available could not implement the advice, we rapidly lost confidence in MAFF and our Government. When, in March, we heard Peter Kindersley interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 'Today Programme', we began use the Internet to better inform ourselves and to reassess our understanding of the options available. We soon became convinced that intelligent use of vaccination would offer a far less damaging way of bringing the disease under control. Our understanding mirrored that described by the Soil Association, when they wrote to us on 9th April that "Judging by the number of calls being made to the Soil Association opposing the slaughter of uninfected livestock through the extended slaughter programme, I suspect that many farmers, concerned individuals and organisations are experiencing a growing sense of opposition and despair at the destruction of valuable, rare and sometimes irreplaceable livestock. In addition, the associated movement restrictions are resulting in serious financial difficulties for many livestock producers, as well as wider rural businesses." They advocated "a limited short-term programme in order to achieve eradication/natural die back of the virus." Despite continuing misinformation from such as the NFU, and more culpably, from the Government's Chief Scientist, Prof David King, we have become more and more strongly convinced that vaccination could have been used and should still be used. I am horrified that even as late as 22nd September a listener sending an email to BBC Radio 4's Farming Today did not know that the vaccine available is a killed vaccine, safe enough to be administered by any competent stockman; and that the presenters of the programme did not explain that this is the case.

 

On the basis of my increasing knowledge I participated in several BBC Radio programmes, including [with Karen] the 'Food Programme', the 'Today Programme', 'Any Answers', 'You and Yours' and 'PM' and 'Good Morning Devon'. We have also contributed to a number of article in the press, and participated in discussion via the Internet.

 

On 10th July, I made a formal application to vaccinate the susceptible animals on our farm. I enclose the my letter and its reply

 

Middle Campscott Farm

Lee

Ilfracombe

Devon EX34 8LS

Tel/Fax 01270 864621

e-mail mcampscott@aol.com

 

 

To Mr John Fitzgerald

Director of Policy

Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Woodham Lane

New Haw

Addlestone

Surrey KT15 3LS.

10th July 2001

 

Dear Mr Fitzgerald,

 

Request to use FMD vaccine for our sheep, goats, cattle and pig in North Devon.

 

I request permission to use vaccination to protect my sheep, goats, cattle and sow from foot and mouth disease (FMD). I would like to carry out the vaccination as soon as possible in view of the imminent Summer Holiday period. Here in Devon, Devon County Council, pressed to do so by central government, are seeking to re-open the public rights of way. We and our neighbours wish to open our farms to visitors. Our farms are to a large extent dependent on tourists and summer visitors for their income and we are an important part of the attraction which brings holiday visitors to North Devon. At the same time it is clear from the application of common sense and from the advice issued by DEFRA (for example in the Guidance for Growers of Crops and Grass - which is dealing with access to farmland by persons not necessarily involved in livestock handling - see ACD/FMD 1, DEFRA 22nd June2001) that access to our farms by visitors and members of the public who are able to walk unsupervised from farm to farm through fields overstocked with separate flocks and herds of susceptible grazing animals must significantly increase the risk of the spread of FMD. The Government's and Devon County Council's wish to open the countryside and our need to bring visitors onto our farms is incompatible with the precautions advised to prevent spread of FMD. The solution to this problem is to ensure that our stock is not susceptible to FMD. Consequently, I ask permission to vaccinate my stock and I request permission likewise for others in the same position as myself.

 

In making this request, I take note that the Minister has the power, under Section 16 of the Animal Health Act 1981 to cause to be treated with serum or vaccine, or both, any animal which has been in contact with a diseased animal or which appears to have been in any way exposed to infection or is in an infected area (we are in an Infected Area); and that the reproduction factor for this outbreak, having previously fallen, has recently risen towards 1.

 

Before making this request, I have read and understood the submission for permission to use vaccination by Dr Ruth Watkins and to support my application I have attached a note which she has compiled on the properties and efficacy of the vaccine (see enclosure A). Dr Watkins has used her knowledge as a clinical virologist to assemble information from a number of sources expert in FMD, such as Professor Fred Brown, Dr Paul Kitching, Dr Simon Barteling, Dr Paul Sutmoller, Dr Noel Mowat and Dr Gareth Davies. I note that discussion with Dr John Beale has confirmed her conviction that vaccination is the logical and effective way to control this outbreak of FMD and eradicate the virus from our country again.

 

I understand that the FMD vaccine is available commercially from Merial (Merial supply the antigen to Pirbright to manufacture their high potency vaccine) and is licensed for use in the UK: that it appears to be a highly efficacious vaccine and that there appears to be no veterinary reason to slaughter vaccinated animals.

 

Notes on the local circumstances are summarised in enclosure B. I have nine years' experience of livestock farming and have vaccinated my flock against clostridial diseases. Vaccination and the administering of injectables is a technique familiar to me and to all livestock farmers. I and my neighbouring farmers would be able to assist our vets in administering vaccination and in marking, tagging and numbering all vaccinated sheep. My own sheep and lambs are all tagged and individually numbered, as are my cattle.

 

In the absence of any formal way to make my application to use the FMD vaccine, I trust you will find it acceptable to consider my letter and the enclosures sent with it. I look forward to your considered reply.

 

 

Yours sincerely ,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawrence Wright MA (Cantab), MA Hons (UCL), Dip TP.

 

 

 

 

Copy sent to Dr David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

 

Enclosed:

A: information supplied by Dr Ruth Watkins about the Foot and Mouth vaccine licensed for use in the UK

B: notes on the local circumstances in North Devon.

 

 

 

 

 


Enclosure A: The FMD Vaccine

 

FMD serotype-O vaccine

The current epidemic of FMD is caused by a serotype-O virus, subtype Pan Asia, that emerged from the Indian subcontinent in the early 1990s. This virus has spread out from its origin, across continents both east and west, replacing other circulating serotypes and strains of FMD virus. The epidemic virus in Britain was sequenced at an early stage in the epidemic and was shown to be very closely related to other presently circulating strains of the serotype-O Pan Asia virus in other parts of the world. The serotype-O vaccine, using a Manisa strain because the Pan Asia strain has not yet been adapted for vaccine production, is so similar to the Pan Asia strain that it is expected to give rise to a protective immune response. Indeed this was proven to be so in Holland 2001. Vaccination was highly effective there; no further FMD outbreaks occurred 5 days after ring vaccination was completed around the identified cases, infected farms. It is necessary only to use vaccine containing the single serotype, that of the epidemic virus.

The serotypes of FMD are stable (quite unlike influenza virus for example). The serotype O vaccine in use has been shown to protect against all field isolates of the Pan Asia subtype to date.

 

Safety

The killed (inactivated) vaccine for FMD has been used since the 1950s. Billions of animals have been vaccinated and humans have consumed these animals and drunk their milk with no adverse effect. Humans continue to consume the products of these animals all over the world wherever the vaccine is used. The modern vaccine is safer to use than that manufactured in the 1980s because the inactivation step is quicker and more complete than that used for the first 30 years the vaccine was made. Binary-ethylene-imine (BEI) is used now to inactivate FMD virus in vaccine manufacture in preference to formaldehyde. This, together with modern quality control guarantees that the vaccine does not contain live (infectious) virus. The FMD vaccine is licensed for use in the UK providing the relevant authorities in the UK and Europe allow it to be given. Permission has already been obtained from the EU for Cumbria and Devon.

A vaccinated animal is not infected with FMD virus by vaccination. There is no veterinary reason to slaughter out vaccinated animals.

 

Efficacy

The killed FMD vaccine is efficacious. If oil-based vaccine is used virtually 100% of domestic animals respond, this applies to pigs, sheep, goats and cattle. The vaccine protects against disease. An animal responds to vaccine by making antibodies, some of which are 'neutralising antibodies' to the coat proteins of the serotype in the vaccine and these are protective. Vaccination, in the case of FMD, is the inoculation of the animal with viral protein to elicit a protective immune response.

You may say 'a vaccinated animal can be infected if exposed to a very large dose of virus, such as shed from pigs with acute FMD lesions'. This could happen with any vaccine that is used, in animals and humans, yet vaccines have had spectacular success in controlling and eradicating virus infections such as smallpox, measles, hepatitis B, and polio for example in humans, and rinderpest in animals. The infection in this case is modified by the possession of prior immunity and disease is prevented. Also in these cases the titre of virus shed is low and the virus is coated in neutralising antibody and thus not able to infect another animal, whether vaccinated or not.

The vaccinated animal, subsequently exposed to and infected by a large dose of virus, may not clear the infection within three weeks but become persistently infected, remain a carrier. This has been shown to occur in the case of vaccinated cattle but has not been shown to be the case in sheep as yet. FMD research has demonstrated that generalisations cannot be safely made for different serotypes or subtypes of virus between different species of animal. Virus is shed from the upper respiratory tract and mouth from a persistently infected animal. Unlike the acute infection, virus is not present in the blood, nor in other parts of the body such as muscle, nor in secretions such as milk. However the period of persistent infection in vaccinated cattle is shorter overall when compared to naturally infected carrier cattle. Carrier animals, and specifically cattle, that have arisen due to infection subsequent to successful vaccination, have never been shown to be the source of infection for another animal, whether that other animal has been vaccinated or not. There is some historical evidence linking natural carriers to a small number of outbreaks in unvaccinated animals (the rare occurrence that is quoted as a 'one in a million chance'). There is no historical evidence to link vaccinated carrier animals, infected subsequent to vaccination, with the occurrence of any outbreak in unvaccinated animals. Under experimental conditions neither vaccinated nor unvaccinated (natural) carriers can be proven to spread infection.

The FMD vaccine has been and is currently used to control epidemics of FMD infection and to eradicate the virus both from populations of animals and from countries (the most recent example is Holland where pigs, sheep, goats, and cattle were vaccinated). Vaccination in Europe allowed FMD-free status to be regained in 1991. The FMD virus used to cause 100,000s outbreaks annually in Europe. Latterly slaughter was used as an adjunct to vaccination when outbreaks were localised in the 1970s and 1980s. These were epidemics arising from the reintroduction of virus. In a few instances this was caused by the administration of improperly inactivated vaccine with formaldehyde, or by poor quality control allowing subsequent contamination of vaccine with live virus, or escape of virus from laboratories. The current production of FMD vaccine provides a safe product.

 

Use

The vaccine is normally given in two doses about one month apart to induce a good level of protective antibody. A booster may be required 6 months later in order to sustain a good level of antibody for at least one year. There are vaccines that can give protection after one dose because they contain a 'high payload' of inactivated virus, viral antigen, and these are held in stock by Pirbright. There are two formulations licensed in the UK, each with different adjuvants to suit either pigs or cattle, goats and sheep. The inoculation is made intramuscularly in the case of oil based vaccines (~100% of vaccinees respond to oil based vaccines). Other types of adjuvant vaccine can be given subcutaneously as well.

The vaccine can be used on young animals, from the first week of life. Both vaccines are effective if there are no maternal antibodies passed to the offspring. If the mother has antibodies then the oil-based vaccine is preferable, as it is most likely to stimulate the immune system in the presence of low levels of antibodies (maternal antibodies last a few months only before they disappear completely). The special vaccine product from Pirbright, the high potency formulation, can induce a good level of protective antibody after one dose. This is useful when required in emergency for the quickest possible protection. The commercially available vaccine can be used as part of a measured response to control or eradicate FMD infection. The latter is the substance of my application for the hill flock in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Vaccine non-responders are very infrequent to oil based vaccine. A 90% response rate to vaccination in a population of animals would be more than sufficient to ensure that further spread of virus is prevented. It has been estimated that the number of immune animals need be only 70-80% in order for the virus to 'die out', in other words to fail to find any receptive animal to cause an acute infection. Acute infections cease where there is high herd immunity. The epidemic is halted.

 

Dr RPF Watkins 20/6/2001


Enclosure B

 

Vaccination of sheep, goats, cattle and pig at Middle Campscott Farm in Devon.

 

Middle Campscott Farm is a small farm of about 17 hectares. (In February, we had agreed to buy a further 16 hectares but the transaction has been delayed as a result of side effects of foot and mouth disease). It is within the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Coastal Heritage Area above the village of Lee, between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe. Apart from a small area of steep woodland, the farm consists of permanent pasture: and all our enterprises are based on our own livestock. We have a flock of milking sheep, a flock of coloured Shetland sheep ( normally, all told about 130 sheep), five dairy goats, a small herd of polled Devon cattle (registered with the Devon Cattle Breeders Association), normally about 15 beasts including followers, and a pet Oxford Sandy and Black sow. All our farm animals are unusual and would be very difficult to replace by reason of their rarity and the requirements of organic licencing. In particular, our sheep are the product of nine year's breeding; in the case of the milking sheep, we have included British Friesland, Poll Dorset and Shetland strains to develop a flock which is suited to milk production under organic management in our local conditions. In the case of our Shetlands, we have bred to produce a variety of natural colours in the wool.

 

Our business depends on 'adding value' to our farm products and processing our produce for retail sale and we have been developing it for nine years. We are licenced by the Soil Association (UK5) as Organic producers and processors; and are one of very few producers of organic ewes' milk in the UK (we were aware of only about three others before the outbreak of FMD). We use our own production of milk exclusively to make one of the few organic ewes' milk cheeses in the UK. We also produce organic goats cheese and organically farmed wool, processed to be sold as naturally coloured knitting wool and woven blankets under organic licence. Our cheeses are distinctive and well received; having had success in the British Cheese Awards, the World Cheese Awards and the Organic Food Awards. We are members of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association and the Exmoor Producers Association.

 

All our products are unusual and contribute to the variety of local produce. In normal circumstances we sell as much as possible locally, from our own farm gate and through the traditional 'pannier markets' in Barnstaple and Bideford. We also sell our products from local farmers' markets and local Agricultural Shows (North Devon Show, Dunster Show, etc.) We are at the same time, farmers and part of the rural attraction of North Devon, producing some of the speciality foods and craft products which make North Devon an interesting and enjoyable place for residents and visitors. In particular our cheeses have achieved success in the British Cheese Awards and the Organic Food Awards and you may have heard them praised in a recent BBC Radio 4 'Food Programme'. We depend on and contribute to the rural economy here, including the tourist industry.

 

In normal circumstances we welcome visitors onto our farm: for their enjoyment and recreation and to buy products from us. We normally have a sign on the farm gate inviting people to visit, we have two public rights of way which cross our land and we are participating in the Country Stewardship scheme, restoring traditional features of the landscape and providing educational access and a permissive right of way.

 

The policy for the eradication of foot and mouth disease by culling presents us with irreconcilable difficulties. On the one hand, we are obliged to exercise the most rigorous biosecurity and exclude visitors and external contacts from our farm; on the other, we need to open the farm in order to earn our income - and survive.

 

Since the announcement of the first cases of foot and mouth disease, we have implemented the tightest biosecurity on our farm. If our animals were to be killed as a result of contracting FMD the effect on our business (not to mention our chosen lifestyle) would be catastrophic. We would be out of production for at least two years and would probably not recover. Thus, because I deal with the animals, milking the sheep daily, I have hardly left the farm since the first cases of the disease were reported; and no visitors have been allowed near our animals. We have ceased attending the local markets and the local Agricultural Shows have been cancelled. We have noted that the Government Chief Vet continues to reiterate his exhortation to farmers not to relax their biosecurity measures - particularly in light of the recent, new and virulent outbreaks here in North Devon/Somerset and in the Brecon Beacons. Our conduct in this context is also important because if we became a contiguous farm to an outbreak on any of the five livestock farms neighbouring ours, our defence against the culling of our animals would be in the standard of biosecurity we have maintained.

 

The effect on our income has been devastating. Our income for the quarter up to the end of May this year was 25% of that for the equivalent period last year. We cannot remedy our situation while we are obliged to keep our animals susceptible to FMD and threatened by the culling policy. We are forced to keep our farm closed or risk losing it entirely.

 

We wish to vaccinate our animals, rendering them no longer susceptible to FMD, in order that we can open again for business and for the enjoyment of our customers, friends and neighbours.

 

In this matter, we share a common interest with the whole local community in this part of North Devon. The driving force behind the local economy is tourism. Those businesses which are not directly involved in tourism are employed by those which are; in a complex network of interdependence. Almost all our farming neighbours are to some extent participants in the tourist industry. One near neighbour has a large, well established camping and caravan site. Another, a Caravan Club 'certified location'; another normally gives very impressive and skilled sheepdog handling demonstrations; another has holiday cottages, bed and breakfast guests and serves cream teas. All are confronted with the same dilemma and all are suffering as a result of the need to protect susceptible livestock.

 

Even the non farming businesses are threatened by the situation. Our tiny village of Lee boasts two teashops, a craft shop and public house and shop. All are aware that if one farm were to succumb, the resultant scenes of slaughter would drive all holidaymakers away, probably for ever; and the resultant closures would destroy us all. A cluster of cases like that at Clayhanger would probably close Ilfracombe and Woolacombe too.

 

Devon County Council, coerced by the Government, are confronted by the same dilemma. They seem, however, to be casting prudence aside by proposing to open local public rights of way. This action will undermine all our protective measures. We, and all other local farms are currently carrying more stock than usual, as a result of the movement restrictions: so more fields have higher densities of stock than normal. Most local footpaths run through these fields overcrowded with susceptible animals and users of the paths will cross from farm to farm and flock to herd to flock. Common sense and DEFRA advice indicates that it is a recipe for disaster. The effectiveness of the biosecurity measures available to us in practice is very questionable: it is for this reason that I have avoided outside contact as far as I am able. It is unlikely that a casual walker will be aware of what may and may not represent dangerous contact with animals.

 

DEFRA advises for "all farms, all areas" that:

 

"in order to safeguard all types of farming operations and to ensure movements can be traced, should this become necessary as a result of subsequent developments, all farmers are advised to observe the following basic precautions:

 

"it is imperative that you only allow access to your farm with prior permission. It is strongly recommended that visits are arranged in advance by telephone, fax or e-mail and that you advise any contractors or suppliers accordingly;

 

"keep the number of visitors to the farm to the minimum necessary to do the job. Do not let children to come on the farm unless absolutely necessary;

 

"keep any visitors away from fields where susceptible livestock have been, are or will be;

 

"if people or machinery coming on to your farm (particularly contractors) are visiting more than one farm in a day, it is in your interest to ensure that they leave visits to holdings with susceptible livestock until last and that you are aware of other visits they may have made;

 

"diaries should be kept recording details of all visitors, where possible noting the time of visit, which fields were entered, the route taken to the farm and the fields and operations carried out. The proximity to susceptible livestock should be noted. Anyone who visits different farm premises during the course of their work should be encouraged to keep similar records;"

 

None of these common sense precautions can be applied to the unregulated, unobserved and unrecorded users of footpaths. We are informed that no outbreak has ever been recorded as being caused by a walker: but since the passage of walkers is generally unobserved and unrecorded and their past and future movements are likewise unrecorded and untraced it is practically impossible that an outbreak could ever be thus linked. It is, however patently apparent that the user of a footpath which crosses farm boundaries and passes through different flocks and herds in succession, will carry fresh dung and possibly other means of transmission of disease from one group of susceptible animals to another.

 

I note that the infecting Pan Asia strain of virus is 'adapted to sheep' in comparison with other strains and serotypes of FMD virus. It frequently causes asymptomatic infection and therefore spreads silently in sheep flocks as an acute infection. Also this strain is shed in lower titre than other virus strains and serotypes so that aerosol infection over any distance has not occurred in this epidemic, certainly not in the case of sheep which anyway shed lower titres of virus in acute infection than cattle or pigs. Thus the most important routes of spread have been direct and indirect contact between acutely infected animals particularly between sheep.

 

The virus has spread widely amongst sheep, and there is evidence that it can exist undetected even by regular veterinary inspection as at Clapperdown Farm, Bondleigh, North Tawton - and that it has spread outside the immediate areas where outbreaks have been published: as occurred at Clayhanger.

 

With the opening of footpaths the flocks and herds in this part of Coastal North Devon will become interlinked and any FMD infection, existing or introduced, is likely to be spread throughout the area. The only safe solution is to vaccinate the animals and thus render them no longer susceptible.

 

In summary: I would like to vaccinate the animals on my farm, in order that I can safeguard against the effects of the opening of the local footpaths, reopen my farm to visitors (including tourists) and re-commence trading and playing my part in the local community. I would like permission for my neighbours to do likewise.

 

 

Lawrence Wright. 5/7/2001

 

 

 

DEFRA

Room 602a, 1a Page Street, London SW1P 4PQ

Tel: 020 7904 6000 GTN: 3290 6212

Direct Line: 0207 7904 6212 FAX: 020 7904 6552

E-mail: Keri.R.Torney@gsi.defra.gov.uk

 

Our reference: DEV 302

 

Mr Lawrence Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
Lee
Ilfracombe
Devon
EX34 8LS

21 July 2001

 

Dear Mr Wright,

 

FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE - VACCINATION

 

Thank you for your letter of 10th July 2001, requesting permission to vaccinate your animals against foot and mouth disease, which has been passed to me by John Fitzgerald of the VMD.

 

I understand your wish to protect your animals, and can assure you that vaccination is still an option in the Government's fight against the disease. However, voluntary vaccination by individual farmers without any form of governmental control is not permitted.

 

Vaccination against foot and mouth disease is covered by the provisions of Council Directive 85/511/EEC, which requires member states to prohibit vaccination. However, the Directive does provide for limited recourse to emergency vaccination in a specified area, in accordance with plans which must be authorised by the European Commission, working through the European Standing Veterinary Committee.

 

The rules governing the use of vaccine are stringent and far-reaching. The precise conditions vary according to the details of the proposed vaccination campaign, but broadly they involve a ban on all livestock movements within the vaccination zone for 30 days following the last vaccination. Other restrictions then apply to the movement and trading of vaccinated animals and their products for a minimum of 12 months. As you are aware, vaccinated animals must also be specifically identified and registered.

 

A decision to vaccinate against FMD must, therefore, be taken at a national level and must take into account the views and wishes of all interested parties that would be affected by a vaccination programme.

 

During the early stage of the UK outbreak, we obtained two Commission Decisions to permit vaccination in limited circumstances. In the event, having examined the options carefully, it was decided not to pursue either of these vaccination strategies, at least for the time being.

 

A Commission Decision of 30th March permitted the UK to vaccinate cattle in certain counties, including Cumbria and Devon. In April the Chief Scientific Advisor and Chief Veterinary Officer advised that vaccination of cattle in North Cumbria should be carried out, provided the programme had the substantial support of farmers, veterinarians, consumers and the food trade. The level of support required to make the programme work was not there, and as the numbers of new cases fell, it became clear that it would not be achieved at that time.

 

A second Commission Decision of 12th April allowed member states to vaccinate to protect endangered species in zoos, but only in very restricted circumstances. For example, the zoo in question must lie within 25 km of a confirmed case of foot and mouth disease, there must be a real disease risk, and stringent biosecurity measures must be put in place first. Various conditions would apply after use of vaccination, and prior to any vaccination programme being adopted, details of the animals involved and their location would have to be notified to the Commission and other EU Member States. It was decided not to pursue the vaccination of endangered species, at least for the time being, for a number of reasons. In particular, few zoos actually met the criteria; recommended biosecurity measures should in themselves offer a high degree of protections; and unwelcome restraints continue after vaccination.

 

Vaccination would only be effective in the battle to eradicate foot and mouth disease if used in conjunction with other measures, such as effective biosecurity and movement controls. No country has ever eradicated foot and mouth disease by vaccination alone. The Government believes strongly that biosecurity is vitally important in controlling and eradicating disease. I can understand your concerns about re-opening public rights of way. However, a balance must be struck between the need to control foot and mouth disease and the need to do no more damage than is necessary to other essential industries. Regulatory controls over public access to the countryside must be proportionate to the risk of spreading FMD, taking account of the prevailing disease situation. The risks of spreading FMD through using rights of way have diminished since the early days of the outbreak as the amount of infection in circulation has reduced significantly, and virus survival times on land are now shorter. The Veterinary Risk Assessment (No. 4) was revised to reflect this, which is why the restrictions were relaxed.

 

In summary, I appreciate your concerns and understand the views put forward by you and other proponents of vaccination. These, and the views of those against vaccination, are taken into consideration. Vaccination remains an option, and is continually reassessed in the light of changing circumstances and knowledge about the disease. However, we would only vaccinate if that were the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer (as was the case in North Cumbria) and our advisors have not made any recommendations for a vaccination campaign in the current situation.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like any further information.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Dr Keri Torney

Vaccination Team AHD

 

 

I attended the FMD Forum at Bristol University on 15th September. Speakers included some of the World's leading experts in FMD and the veterinary practicalities of controlling FMD outbreaks, Professor Fred Brown OBE, FRS, Dr Simon Barteling, and Dr Paul Sutmoller. Their presentations confirmed what we had come to believe in March. The presentations at the Forum are succinctly summarised in Alan and Rosie Beat's Newsletters of 16th September

 

"We attended the Forum for FMD Control in Bristol and what follows is our own

record of the proceedings.

 

The audience numbered more than one hundred (our estimate) and comprimised a

mix of vets, farmers and concerned members of the public. The first speaker

was Ken Tyrrell, a senior vet in Cheshire during the last major outbreak in

1967. As this current epidemic had unfolded, he declared himself

"infuriated, ashamed and horrified" by the government response to it. The

lessons learned, and detailed by the Northumberland Report, had been

ignored. He estimated that the impact of this epidemic could, and should,

have been reduced by 70 to 80% if this report had been implemented. He

highlighted especially the welfare issues caused by the refusal of movement

licenses for lambing ewes etc. He believed that vaccination should have

been employed at around day 7 of the epidemic when its widespread nature

became clear.

 

Peter Poll followed with his personal account of experience in the 2001

Netherlands outbreak. As a practising vet, he volunteered to work in the

diseased area but after 14 days became so sickened by it that he could not

carry on. He stated his belief that the slaughter of vaccinated animals was

morally wrong and emphasised that the Dutch farmers had been misled;

originally the vaccination had been designated as "preventative" so that

livestock would live, but one week after the outbreak was over, they had

changed this to "suppressive" leading to slaughter. Dr. Poll spoke

passionately against the morality of this policy and said that they (farmers

and vets) had tried all other methods to change the policy of their

government including debate, lobbying and protesting, but these had failed.

The only remaining option was for the vets themselves to refuse to enforce

such a policy i.e. to strike, and he has proposed such a motion to the Dutch

veterinary profession's organisation for debate and vote at the next full

meeting. He explained that the non-vaccination policy had been introduced

in 1991 on the basis of several assumptions, all of which had turned out to

be seriously flawed; for example, that there would be one outbreak in ten

years, now looking questionable; that 2 to 2.5 contact farms would be

slaughtered for each infected farm, now shown to be 100; and that the direct

cost of slaughter would be cheaper than vaccination, now shown to be wrong

(our notes have omitted the figures, but he gave them to show that this one

outbreak has cost considerably more than ten years of vaccination). He

finished by calling on UK vets to join with them to force a change in

policy.

 

Fred Brown introduced himself by saying that he started work on the FMD

virus in 1955 at Pirbright. He showed slides of the virus itself, outlined

its properties, and put forward his vision that the world could eradicate FMD

by a programme of vaccination, just as smallpox had been, with polio almost

there. He said it was essential to diagnose FMD by laboratory test because

there were several other conditions with which the clinical signs could be

confused. In the USA, fear of bioterrorism had led to a development

programme for a portable specific testing device. The result was the

machine that he displayed, developed to detect viral protein that was

specific to FMD in all seven strains. A simple throat swab taken from

suspect livestock is processed close to the farm to provide a result in less

than two hours with very high sensitivity (only ten virions needed) - this

is much faster and more sensitive than existing tests needing a dedicated

laboratory facility. Use of this machine would enable earlier detection of

disease to permit more effective control and to avoid slaughter of

uninfected animals. He said that he would still use vaccination now in the

UK around the remaining hotspots to speed up and guarantee elimination of

disease.

 

Simon Barteling spoke on the "sticky" properties of the FMD virus due to the

protein structure, emphasising that it will cling to most surfaces. He

attributed most spread to mechanical means in this way, by

animal/footwear/vehicle etc. and said that the disease was unlikely to

spread across "barriers" such as canals, rivers, highways or railways. He

detailed the advantages of a vaccination programme compared to slaughter,

summarised as:

# small number of trained staff (2 to 4 per farm)

# rapid containment, working from the outside inwards

# cheap enough to implement much larger rings, so more effective

# rapid re-stocking of slaughtered (infected) farms with vaccinated stock

# no trauma for farmers

# normal life resumes after two weeks

He went on to outline recent experiences in Bulgaria (94), Albania and

Macedonia (96), South Africa (2000) and the Netherlands (2001), in all cases

FMD had been eliminated by vaccination. He pointed out that the EU had been

quick to encourage vaccination in those countries on its borders, and had

also supplied the vaccine. In Holland, the vaccinates had been slaughtered

because FMD-free status requires livestock free of antibodies - but he

estimated that there were 20,000 old dairy cows still in Holland that had

been vaccinated before 1991, and in France perhaps 100,000, to emphasise the

double-standard here. All vaccinates would shed the antibodies after twelve

months if allowed to live.

He moved on to "carrier" animals and stated there was not a single

documented case of a vaccinated animal creating new disease. If there was

any risk at all from carrier vaccinates, it was as near-zero as possible.

In Uruguay, a country roughly the size of the UK, the cattle population of

10 million was vaccinated but not the 40 million sheep. FMD was quickly

eliminated, showing that the disease was not self-sustaining in sheep.

Politically, in terms of trade, he believed that ring-vaccination should

have the same consequences as slaughter.

 

Paul Sutmoller outlined the development of the modern oil-based vaccines and

compared their improved performance to those previously available. He

detailed the response in terms of antibody production in the major livestock

species. There was excellent response in pigs, such that fattening pigs

were protected by a single dose for their short lives, and sows by an annual

dose. He gave an example of vaccinating 5000 pigs on a farm with endemic

disease to stop any further outbreak within five days. By definition, some

of these pigs were incubating disease, but vaccination still worked. Sheep

responded better than cattle, with higher antibody levels and better

resistance to FMD challenge. Cattle over two years old require an annual

injection, younger stock twice yearly.

In the historical development of the new vaccines, an outbreak in Brazil in

1977 was significant. In a field trial, 23 farms holding 36,000 cattle were

vaccinated in a ring around infected farms; none of these animals became

infected. Farmers were impressed. Up to this point, FMD control had used:

# vaccine of poor quality

# poor management

# low vaccination coverage of population (without farmer co-operation)

This maintained the status quo at best, and many of the current

misconceptions date from this earlier time. Once farmers had seen the new

vaccines act effectively, they demanded their use and FMD morbidity in

cattle fell dramatically, e.g. from 19.9 per 10,000 head in 1981 down to

zero by 1995 (Argentina). In Uruquay, a two year vaccination programme (in

cattle only )eliminated FMD, vaccination ceased and there followed six years

without any disease. The same pattern was repeated in Brazil and Argentina.

He conducted research that sought to prove transmission from carrier animals

to healthy ones. An extensive series of elaborate experiments, far more

challenging than any farm situation, was unable to show that such

transmission occurred in cattle or sheep, while pigs do not become carriers.

He said, quote "All experimental evidence of FMD virus transmission by

carrier sheep is negative". He went on to say that vaccinated carriers had

posed no problems during FMD eradication in South America. Finally, he

pointed out that scientifically there was no risk of exporting FMD in

vaccinated meat, whereas FMD-free status meat carried the risk of undetected

disease.

 

There followed a lengthy question and discussion period. The panel was

asked whether airborne spread took place; Fred Brown said no, it's a myth;

Simon Barteling said there were large differences between the strains. The

panel was asked should vaccination be introduced in the UK even at this late

stage; all agreed that yes, it should be used. There was much more that our

notes do not cover.

 

Afterwards, Alan approached Paul Sutmoller and asked him specifically about

FMD in sheep. Paul confirmed that the disease is not self-sustaining in

sheep; that left alone, it will simply peter out; and that sheep carrying

antibodies present no risk of disease transmission to other livestock. When

pressed on the terms used during this epidemic of "old disease" and "silent

shedders", he dismissed these as nonsense and repeated that there was no

risk from either carrier or recovered sheep. There was no scientific reason

to slaughter such animals, only the "no antibody" rule for FMD-free status

When asked about the current UK epidemic, he said that his strategy would

have been to vaccinate only the cattle across the country." Alan and Rosie Beat 16/9/01

 

 

and I fully agree with their comments in their Newsletter of 17th September:

 

"It was wonderful to meet in person so many people whom we have "known" for

so long as E-mail contacts. We won't list everyone here but it really helps

to be able to put faces to names! So the informal discussions were valuable

for this alone. The same applies to the speakers, whose names are so

familiar to us and whose work we have read avidly; to meet them and hear

them in person was to complete the experience.

 

We have long held the view that the risk from carrier animals, or recovered

animals showing antibodies, is zero in practical terms. Yet our own UK

scientists are constantly describing this "threat" from sheep, using such

language as "silent shedders of virus" or attributing new outbreaks to "old

disease in sheep". We have repeatedly asked for scientific evidence to

support such statements but none has been produced, while there is plenty to

discount such accusations. At the Forum, it was made very clear that the

scientific evidence all points to only one conclusion - to quote Dr Paul

Sutmoller "All experimental evidence of FMD virus transmission by carrier

sheep is negative". We discussed this with him in person afterwards and he

dismissed such statements as "silent shedders" and "old disease" as

nonsense. He confirmed that the disease is not self-sustaining in sheep and

peters out naturally if left alone.

 

Once again, we are left asking the same questions - why are David King, Jim

Scudamore and other UK scientists telling deliberate lies? Why are they so

determined to eliminate sheep that cannot pose any threat of re-infection?

Why do they continue to refute the proven and documented efficiency of

vaccination? Why did they refuse to trial the "Smart Cycler" device for

rapid FMD diagnosis when Fred Brown offered it on 9th March? And so on . .

. . .

 

We don't have the answers to these questions but we are certain, now, about

one thing - the slaughter policy has nothing whatever to do with disease

control in the current epidemic. All the science is telling us that

vaccination should have been used at a very early stage of the epidemic, and

would certainly have dramatically reduced the scale of the slaughter, the

economic and environmental costs, the human and animal suffering, and the

duration of the outbreak. Instead, the slaughter policy was imposed by a

government that repeatedly claimed to be following "the best scientific

advice"; they, too, are liars to their own electorate, just as the Dutch

government deceived its people over the slaughter of vaccinates.

 

No thinking person attending this forum could have returned home without a

clear grasp of the basic science behind vaccination against FMD. It was all

presented in straightforward terms that anyone could understand. The

question/discussion session revealed the problems that this was causing to

some farmers, including NFU representatives, in the audience - their

deeply-entrenched prejudices had been challenged so effectively that they

could only bluster about the political consequences for trade. This, of

course, is the real issue, and has been all along. No-one can seriously

question that vaccination works, but the economic consequences within the EU

were deliberately set against its use in 1991. That is the issue which must

be addressed, not for next time, but right now." Alan and Rosie Beat 17/9/01

 

 

 

 

NFU

 

We have been members of the NFU for at least nine years. We have questioned the NFU support for the culling policy and challenged its claim to speak for its membership. We are now so despairing of its undemocratic structure and failure to represent small farms that we have discontinued our membership. We have joined 'Farmers For Action'.

 

Blood testing.

 

Confronted with the likelihood that MAFF/DEFRA officials might wish to blood test our animals, and alarmed by the rumours of poor biosecurity and the consequences of any mistake, I emailed the Divisional Vet. to clarify matters. It took considerable effort to find the email address for the Div. Vet. and it took a considerable time and several reminders to obtain a reply. Although the reply clarified the description of the procedures followed, I was alarmed to find that the officials conducting the tests do not carry a written checklist of their procedures with them for their own guidance and to inform the keeper of the animals - who cannot be assumed to be informed regarding the important finer points of biosecurity and consignment of blood samples. Ultimately, supervision of the DEFRA officials' conduct in these important matters, with such serious consequences in the event of any mistake, is left to the uninformed, untrained keepers of the livestock. I found and continue to find this completely unacceptable. I was also seriously misled concerning the justification of the tests. The Div Vet informed me that he was required to act by 'EU Directives'. When he, eventually stated which Directives he was relying on, I was able to point out that neither of the instruments he had quoted required blood testing in animals in the UK; and neither was the procedure described being followed. The response, on 1st August was to refer my questions to Page Street. I have, of course, heard nothing more.

 

Every aspect of this treatment fills us with anger. We were treated with careless lack of concern. We had to struggle to obtain the basic information which should have been provided to us without need to ask, we were expected to accept on trust [from those who have done nothing to earn other than deepest mistrust], actions which are of life and death importance to our farm; and when we received answers they were unreliable.

 

I have copies of the relevant correspondence and can supply them.

 

 

Rights of way

 

Early in the outbreak, Devon acted promptly, in accordance with the misguided policy being applied to the control of FMD, by closing the Public Rights of Way across farmland. Had a policy which allowed protection of susceptible animals by vaccination been applied, there would have been no need to exclude persons from the countryside. But the slaughter policy required containment, and the treatment of all livestock farms as biological containment units. This precluded uncontrolled access to all land associated with susceptible animals.

 

When the consequences of this policy for the rural economy as a whole became apparent, the government suggested relaxation of this policy, irrespective of the increased risk to livestock farms. The government guidance, however left the decisions relating to the opening of rights of way within Infected Areas to the discretion of the Local Authorities responsible.

 

The reaction of the Devon County council officers was to open all the footpaths in our vicinity, irrespective of our still being in an Infected Area, with, by definition, a high risk of undetected infection. We were given practically no notice of this pre-emptory decision. The letter informing us of the proposal to re-open the paths, dated 14th June 2001 was posted to us second class: and we were given only until 19th June to respond: effectively one working day, if we were lucky with the post. The Devon information website was closed over that intervening weekend.

 

Thanks to my access to e-mail, I was able to reply within the specified period. After vigorous objection and the intervention of my County Councillor, I was presented with a compromise: one of the paths traversing my farm was to be kept closed, the other was to be opened. My strongly argued objections, pointing out the care with which we were applying biosecurity measures to our farm; the risk resulting from opening a path which would result in walkers coming into close contact with a succession of susceptible flocks and herds on different farms; that while neither path was of critical importance to the enjoyment of visitors; if uncontrolled access caused an outbreak such as that recently extant at Clayhanger, the slaughter and closures which would be undertaken by DEFRA would have devastating effects on the whole area - potentially including Ilfracombe, Mortehoe and Woolacombe not to mention Lee and 'Fuchsia Valley'. I pointed out that the PROW officers could identify splendid local paths which did not cross grazing pastures generally overstocked as a result of the movement restrictions - or that they could agree with farmers where it would be possible to avoid stocking fields where the importance of a path made its opening desirable. The officers made no pretence of considering my arguments and dismissed them with contempt.

 

From 7th July Devon instructed us to open both the footpaths across our farm. Although we were still in the Infected Area, with all that it implied, the Devon website advertised our part of North Devon as free of access restrictions. My objections were again treated with contempt by an officer who misinformed me that he was obliged to open all our rights of way by order of Government [he had in fact been allowed discretion].

 

In normal times we have welcomed visitors onto our farm and provided a permissive access. As a result of our treatment in this instance we no longer trust the Devon CC PROW officers - or the Rights of Way Committee. We find them careless, irresponsible and high handed. We will not co-operate with them again - and we kept the footpaths across the farm as closed as we could.

 

 

 

Conclusions.

 

All the main deleterious effects of the FMD outbreak on us, our farm and our local community could have been avoided if we had been allowed to protect our livestock by immunisation. We should be allowed to protect our livestock by voluntary vaccination, which we could carry out ourselves, just as we can vaccinate our animals against other diseases. It would be absurd and unnecessary to require the vaccinated animals to be killed.

 

Had we been allowed, as we asked, to vaccinate our animals, the need to close the farm would have been avoided and the local tourist industry would not have been so damaged and it should have been possible for us to continue trading - not losing our competitive position.

 

The cruelties to man and beast, the waste, the trampling on our human rights would not have occurred.

 

After seven months during which the government has laid waste the livestock farms of Britain we are very angry and we have lost all trust in those who govern us and administer so called law and order. We are also aware that the Animal Health Bill currently being pushed so hastily and prematurely through parliament would allow worse malpractice in the future.

 

We notice that the method adopted for the eradication of foot and mouth disease has been that which could not but cause and continue to cause the maximum damage to rural communities, like those of Devon. It was incompetent and ignored the experience of the past.

 

The wonders of modern communication [like mobile 'phones and computers linked to the Internet], not available when previous outbreaks occurred, were used, not to enable intelligent action on the ground, but to enforce crude and careless actions by a centralised dictatorship - an awful warning about all aspects of government and control in our society.

 

We notice the background to the appointment of a group of scientists who are not best qualified to the management of the eradication of FMD. [see www.warmwell.com "MORE Important Pages" "Professor of Extermination?" - http://www.warmwell.com/andersongroup.html]. Furthermore, with the demise of 'public interest' research jobs for scientists, practically all research is commissioned selectively by 'private' interests - and all reporting of results carefully censored in the interests of these employers.

 

We notice that the policy which was adopted entailed measures that generously rewarded the farmers that had the infection break out on their farms, and a swathe of hangers-on to the continuance of the disease - like the DEFRA vets and slaughtermen, and the transport firms which transported the carcasses. At the same time, movement restrictions and closures persecuted and starved those farms which stay free of the infection: causing uncompensated damage to all the small local rural businesses and farms like ours - which have diversified into the sort of activity which the Government purports to encourage. Meanwhile supermarkets and global agribusiness firms benefited.

 

We notice that the activities of the research establishments from which the outbreak of FMD may have emanated continue to be shrouded in secrecy.

 

We notice that FMD has been studied as an agent of Biological warfare and that there are interests that are capable of introducing the infection and which have benefited from the way it was handled.

 

We notice that nothing effective has been done to protect our livestock from the reintroduction of FMD by illegal meat imports

 

We have no confidence in those who govern us.