Jane Barribal of farmtalking.org sends these comments on the Cumberland News' extraordinarily waspish and unwarranted attack on some of the key players trying to help Cumbria in the fight against the government FMD policy.

Comments in response

A copy of a commentary published by the Cumberland News has been sent to me this morning and I feel compelled to respond as I find the report very sad.

Full of inaccuracies, not the least of which is crediting Nick Green with the ownership of Mike Doughty's 'Cull MAFF' website, it does the profession of journalism no service.

It is no more than the vain effort of 'a drowning man to clutch at straws'. This poor attempt to discredit such experts in their field as Drs. Ruth Watkins and Richard North is an abysmal failure.

The truth is known, understood and cannot be denied. Vaccination against FMD 'works' and works well, not only to control the disease but could be used successfully to eradicate it, not only from the UK but also the world. The lies and falsehoods fed to farmers and the public at large during 2001 by the NFU, politicians and their sycophantic followers, have been exposed as idiocy.

The failure to explain to the British public that the sole reason we were embarking on the 'barbaric and medieval' slaughter and burn Policy, to control the disease was to protect our FMD free status was a disgrace. This status was an ill thought agreement with our European partners that we believed would increase our markets abroad. We failed to properly assess the risks involved in maintaining the status and when the disease struck, not only ignored the recommendations of the 1967/8 Northumberland Report, but up to date scientific and medical knowledge, equipment and offers of assistance was also refused.

The statistics alone bear witness to the complete failure of Government to provide adequate testing facilities and properly trained veterinary surgeons for accurate diagnosis. As a result we know that over 10,000 farms lost their livestock, among which only 1,327 were diagnosed on laboratory tests as positively infected.

In an attempt to justify their action, those involved in conducting the operation say it's possible that the animals slaughtered but not tested, may well have been incubating disease. The opposite could also be true, so this attempt at justification is immediately discredited.

If there were any grounds to support the accuracy of the modeling team, the slaughter policy and the manner in which it was conducted, the Government would have no fear of an open public inquiry into their handling of the epidemic. Nor would MAFF/DEFRA and their employees have found it so impossible to justify their actions that they had to resort to lies, bullying and the intimidation of farmers and their allies.

I have been running a 24/7 telephone help-line and website since the 10th of March last year, publishing veterinary, scientific and legal information and trying to give help, advice and support to those affected. I have also frequently sent such information and articles I've written to the press and media, politicians and other organizations and individuals. The likes of Nick Green, Cull MAFF and others, have tried to do the same, sharing our research and information to publish it to as wide an audience as possible.

I have to ask, if what we have done and will continue to do, quite openly, not in a clandestine manner and freely available via the Internet, is so wrong, why does no one in authority bother to correct us? I have to draw the conclusion that we are right. We are the ones who bothered to seek out the advice of experts, understand the science and the law and share the information freely. Our detractors have availed themselves of this information and know we speak the truth. They are now ashamed of what they have done and many of those who took part including vets, slaughter men, army personnel, Government employees and politicians, are suffering mental torture as a result.

Some want retribution, a calling to account, a witch-hunt and punishment for those responsible. I do not.

The most appalling disaster has taken place and the villain of the piece is not disease but the man made policy to control it. To engage in a slanging match between sides is not the answer. Our energies should be directed towards reconstruction and the eradication of the disease, in a manner having the greatest consideration for animal welfare and our fellow citizens.

I make no secret of who I am, where I am and how I can be contacted. If anyone disagrees with my comments or beliefs I will be happy to listen to their opinions, share my knowledge and hopefully increase it!

Jane Barribal -Farmtalking