From the Heart of Cumbria website

The Destruction of Rural Britain

The destruction of rural Britain whereby sections of the population have been segregated and subjected to compulsory purchase of their animals by MAFF/DEFRA officials is ruining the farming industry.

High prices have been offered to de-populate the national herd. Farmers have been subjected to separate settlements far higher than they would normally have got at an auction mart.

Farmers are a group of people who can sustain themselves by being self sufficient living off their own labour. Their own piece of fertile land gives them the freedom and pride of being independent to be their own boss. Only making enough to survive, is, or was, thanks enough.

The rules, regulations and endless paperwork have taken the pleasure out of traditional farming, as we once knew it. Foot and mouth disease has claimed millions of innocent healthy animals through the contiguous culling policy.

MAFF/DEFRA has become the farmers worst nightmare; they live in fear of that dreaded phone call to say they are coming to cull all their animals.

We must help the animals that are left in this country for the sake of their health and well being and our own. Animal welfare is already a problem with farmers unable to tend to them properly because of licences, but that is nothing compared to the problems that will occur this coming winter. There is nothing more distressing for a farmer when he has animals stranded in remote areas suffering through lack of food or harsh weather conditions as we get in the Lakeland hills or on the Pennines.

The solution to this is vaccination; it is the only way to a full recovery of farming and rural business. It is time for the barbaric killing of healthy animals to stop. Since this disease first started, the Government has dangled the vaccination carrot to lull us into a false security, into thinking they would allow it to go ahead. What we have been given is misinformation about vaccination, that has done nothing but confuse everyone concerned which was, I believe, their intention.

For farming and tourism to survive in rural areas we have to vaccinate. Life would get back to normal for the farmers who would once again be able to move livestock, machinery and fodder without licences. The infected stock would still have to be killed but the contiguous cull would stop. With proper testing facilities and vaccination, we could probably be exporting in a couple of years. Other countries vaccinate against FMD and export to this country; it does not kill humans when they eat it. We eat chickens vaccinated against salmonella and eat their eggs, so what is the problem? Farmers are quite used to giving their animals injections for various ailments, they would be able to vaccinate without the need for teams of people at great expense having to be trained to do the job. The farmer could work with his or her own vet who would do the testing.

Think of the cost compared to killing and disposing of thousands of animals. All that money saved could go towards re-building our rural areas that were hit hard due to lack of tourists. It is no good Mr Blair coming for a quick trip down Lake Ulswater and then saying business in the Lake District is back up to 80%; it is far from that figure.

The shops, hotels, holiday cottages and activity centres will never recover what they lost at Easter and the following months. Part of the pleasure of coming to Cumbria is to see the Herdwick sheep on the fells, especially in the spring when the lambs have just been born. Many children have enjoyed bottle feeding a lamb when they have their farm house holiday, if they have not gone already due to FMD. They could all be dead by next spring if we do not vaccinate and save them.

Where are all the Animal Rights people? They seem to disappear - they made a big noise over fox hunting but do not squeak over the barbaric slaughtering of innocent cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, horses etc. The hounds will be next as there are no casualty stock to feed them and also zoo animals; the knock on effect of FMD affects so many innocent lives. As things stand the disease will spread far and wide, the disinfectant points that are supposed to be manned 24 hours a day are not, it is not compulsory that you have your car spayed so it is not going to stop the spread of disease. It is also daft that the farmer needs a licence to go onto his land yet the footpath is open to the public. Quite a few people even refuse to put their dog on a lead, yet if the farmers sheep got out onto the road they would probably be killed by MAFF/DEFRA for straying.

As for the vets working for MAFF/DEFRA thy must feel quite guilty on the 3K culls. All those years they trained to care for the health and well being of animals, and they had to swear on an oath as all other UK vets have to. The oath is as follows: I promise above all that I will pursue the work of my profession with uprightness of conduct and that my constant endeavour will be to ensure the welfare of the animals committed to my care.

The methods used by the slaughter teams leave much to be desired, the vets standing over them supervising the killing are there to see it is carried out as humanely as possible. Why then do we constantly hear of the botched cowboy killings, the van driving around a field with a man shooting bullocks on the run, injuring them but not killing outright. Or of the case where the cows ran away terrified, leaving their calves to the mercy of the so called marksman, who shot them in their legs to make their mothers come back as the calves cried out, then shot the mothers also. How can a vet stand by and let this happen?

Our local vets have lost a lot of work through the amount of animals that have been killed. They have had phone calls from many farmers with live animal welfare problems and in many cases there is nothing they can do to help. The chief MAFF/DEFRA vets have to do as they are told; they are not paid to form opinions as this Government controls them.

Mr Blair has a lot to answer to and that is why he does not want a Public Enquiry. The farmers leaders have let us down in their support so far, only at this stage are they saying they will back a full enquiry, yet they will not commit themselves as far as vaccination goes. They have misled the farmers by saying that all vaccinated stock would have to be slaughtered yet that is not true, only the infected animals have to be killed, the healthy animals vaccinated - live.

We are going to learn the truth about this virus, how it spreads and how vaccination can stop it. For Cumbria to recover from this holocaust it is the only way, for the sake of our farming industry in Britain, it is the only way forward. If we do nothing and let this Government carry on the way it is now, we will end up with large collective farms, GM crops and inferior imported meat and dairy produce that is probably vaccinated against foot and mouth anyway.

This country was once called the breeding ground for the rest of Europe, who decided to change that I wonder?

We are having a northern march on 20th October in London to present our petition for a full Public Enquiry into the handling of the outbreak. Since March I have been in contact with farmers all over the country, sending out help packs and letters of support. I got a petition going like a chain letter all over Great Britain and we should get back thousands of signatures to hand in. Farmers for Action in Yorkshire also has the petition going strong. They are a great bunch of people who like the Cumbrians have worked so hard to get this petition under way. As far north as Dumfriesshire and across to Northumbria, who have all been hit hard by FMD also have petitions on going and we will all march in London together. Of course, the farmers who are still on restriction of 20th October will still be on their farms but I am sure their relatives will march on their behalf. We will also have people from Wales and Devon joining us who are able to do so, they also have supported the petition. As patron for the Heart of Britain, I would like to thank everyone who has supported the campaign for a full and Public Enquiry and I hope we get the same response for vaccination.


Viscountess Elizabeth Lowther