Over the Gate by Jeff Swift

Inquiry questions still floating around...

In reminding you that Anderson said in his foot-and-mouth inquiry report, "we were unable to determine whether the contiguous cull was legal or not," I should also tell you that the European Committee, after looking into the handling of foot-and-mouth in the United Kingdom, also had doubts about the legality of the contiguous cull.

Then when you think about the suggestion that in 1967/68, more than 90 per cent of animals slaughtered had been confirmed as having foot-and-mouth, and that in 2001 more than 90 per cent did NOT have foot-and-mouth - what do you make of it all?

Was that yet another reason the Government refused a public inquiry? It goes without saying that I am no lawyer, but if the cull was already legal why try to get authority in the new Animal Health Act to kill whatever animal it is deemed necessary to kill in any future outbreak? So there you have it, and I'm afraid I can not give you the answer.

Make of it what you will.

Mind you, it would be helpful to know how the last epidemic started.

We know it has to be a virus and we were told it was an Asian strain - what we don't know is how it got here, did it come from infected meat or did it come out of a bottle as some folk believe?

As ever I'm saying nowt, but you can't stop folk from thinking, unless of course we have a public inquiry which is what farmers want.

When a government fights shy of something it hardly ever does an about-turn.

I hope the NFU is still pushing for a public inquiry for, as I remember President Wooley used to say: "The impossible we do every day, miracles take a little longer."

When cattle plague raged from 1745 to 1757 restrictions were placed on the movement of cattle into Westmorland.

Certificates were issued by justices, clergymen and others, presumably against entry.

But owing to laxness it became necessary in 1750 to impose a fine upon them of ?20 for issuing wrongful certificates.

I take as my authority for the above The History of Westmorland Agriculture, by Garnett, and guess what, he was a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Now could it be that wrongful certificates were issued - such as any sending healthy animals for slaughter or refusing to allow healthy animals to return home where blood tests showed there had been no disease; and also for refusing to reimburse for the cost of keeping them outside the county?

Of course justices and clergymen did not issue any such certificates during last year's epidemic, but somebody did.

Two questions - firstly, what would a ?20 fine in 1750 add up to today? Secondly, who should one send the bill to? Perhaps a no win no fee lawyer could advise.

Maybe someone will come up with the answer as to what ?20 in 1750 would translate into today, just in case one was to discover who was liable.

Finally, did 2001 produce a cock-up theory or a conspiracy theory? You know me, I only ask the questions.

Dialect word: Oddly - meaning quite well.

Thought for the day: Farmer to Junior Minister - Do you help to solve problems or are you one of them?