Evidence from Robert Persey, Upcott Farm, Broadhembury, Honiton, Devon.
I am sure that you are overloaded with evidence of individual cases and so I shall not add too much to that overload. However, as the elected representative for the SW on the National Pig Association (NPA), I shall include some general points that are specific to the pig industry.
We had just over 3000 pigs on a grow on pig unit at Bradford Farm, Witheridge , Devon. Prior to FMD, approx 350 pigs @ 8 kgs were arriving each week from an outdoor breeding unit. The piglets would remain in straw yards at Bradford Farm for approx 8 weeks before travelling to Upcott Farm ( 30 miles away) for the final finishing. Just before FMD arrived in the area the manager and owner at Bradford Farm attempted suicide and we were forced to run Bradford Farm with stockmen travelling each day from Honiton. When movement restrictions were imposed we soon encountered welfare problems at Bradford Farm. Pigs grow up to 5 Kgs per week and because the pigs were prevented from moving to Upcott Farm and they continued to grow, we soon had pigs standing on top of each other and also eating their fellow pigs. This had been the lesson learned the previous year when Swine Fever had struck East Anglia when both the RSPCA and HMG turned a blind eye to horrendous animal suffering.
FMD arrived 2km away from Bradford Farm and Stella Bevan, senior MAFF vet at Exeter requested, at approx 11 am April 5th, that the pigs at Bradford Farm should be slaughtered because of the high risk of virus spread with such a large number of pigs. MAFF at Page Street refused her request. There was a problem because Bradford Farm was a new farm and it did not appear on the map. The local population at Witheridge were furious that the pigs were not being slaughtered and the local MEP, MR Neil Parish wrote to Mr Jim Scudamore about these pigs. Mrs Angela Browning MP requested a meeting with MR Elliot Morley MP. The meeting with Mr Morley took place at 3 pm on April 11. Coincidentally that was the day that FMD was confirmed at Essebere Farm, Witheridge which was less than a mile from Bradford Farm and at Bradford Farm one can look into the yard at Essebere Farm . Mr Morley agreed that the pigs at Bradford Farm should be slaughtered but MAFF at Exeter changed their minds and no longer wanted them slaughtered even though the pigs were now even closer to a FMD outbreak. I and the surrounding farming community believe that the pigs at Bradford Farm should have been slaughtered because of the following reasons -;
* Their proximity to Essebere farm of less than a mile.I appreciate that MAFF did not have the facilities to deal with 3000 pigs which was apparent when the stock at Essebere Farm and neighbouring farms were slaughtered and remained beside the road for many days with the juices from the corpses running onto the road.
* The potential of virus spread. Pigs emit the largest amounts of virus and there were in excess of 3000 pigs located on the brow of a hill.
* Stockmen were travelling each day from Honiton which was a clean area and there was a strong risk of spreading FMD into an intensive dairy area.
* The pigs were going to be slaughtered in any case under the belated Welfare Disposal Scheme, because they would not be allowed to move to other premises. Early slaughter would have stopped the ongoing suffering of the pigs and would have saved on the food required to prolong the horrendous lives of those pigs. Those pigs were eventually put out of their suffering in early May when they were slaughtered on Farm.
The above is just one of the many disasters that occurred around the country during FMD, however I would like to mention some issues that are specific to the pig industry.
In the summer of 2000 Classical Swine Fever arrived into East Anglia probably via infected pigmeat. During the lessons learned inquiry of that outbreak , one of the main conclusions was the importance of setting up a Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme. An early LWDS is important for two reasons-;
*Pigs grow very quickly and there can soon be horrendous welfare problems.Why did HMG ignore the lessons just learned during swine fever, by refusing requests to implement an early LWDS when FMD arrived?
*If there, is overcrowding, the density of stock assists the spread of disease because the stock are more vulnerable to virus because of the stress due to overcrowding.
During 1997 and1998 the policy of HMG was to support full market compensation for the disposal of pigs locked in surveillance and protection zones during Swine Fever in mainland Europe.
That is beyond dispute since the UK voted at Pigmeat Management Committee meetings in favour of the introduction and increased allocation for such measures 18 times alone and also many times in 1997. If that was not policy at the time, delegates would seem to have been in serious dereliction of duty by voting in that manner.
That this need had not changed was confirmed by the European Court of Auditors Special Report No1/2000 and the Commission replies to it and Robert Sturdy MEP who was told by a senior European Commission Official on August 2000 that 'the ministry can offer a compensation scheme paying up to full market value for pigs in the surveillance areas'
The above is drawn from evidence submitted by the East Anglian Pig Advisers Association to the Agricultural Select Committee 11 December 2000. Pig farmers objected to European pig farmers receiving full market support compensation when they had stock slaughtered on welfare grounds because of Swine Fever but UK farmers only received part compensation and some of that had to be paid for by other UK pig farmers . The diminishing UK pig industry still has to repay HMG £4 million as its share of helping to pay for LWDS in East Anglia during Swine Fever. HMG refused to apply to the EU for 'Exceptional Market Support' as other countries had done, because as a result of the 'Fontainbebleau rebate' HMG would have had to pay the bill. Ms Quinn said in evidence to the select committee (page 18) 'There is a responsibility on government to ensure that European rules are applied fairly and that our own pig industry does not suffer disproportionately compared to the situation regarding the implementation of European rules in other countries.'
During Swine Fever in mainland Europe pig farmers received full market compensation for stock killed on welfare grounds, whereas during FMD in the UK pig farmers only received partial compensation. Eg. cull sows which had a market value pre FMD of £100 only received £30 under LWDS. I am sure that you will disagree that 'European rules are applied fairly' (Ms Quinn's words) but unfortunately you do not have the power to rectify HMG decisions and the UK pig industry will continue its rapid decline.
I have mentioned that HMG ignored the lessons learned from the Swine fever outbreak with regard to the urgency of dealing with animal welfare just as they ignored the lessons learned from previous outbreaks of FMD and will probably ignore any lessons learned from the recent FMD outbreak when the next outbreak occurs.
When FMD arrived HMG forced registered swill feeders to close their businesses without compensation. These facilities which were environmentally friendly by recycling waste food under highly regulated conditions were apparently blamed for the introduction of FMD. Swill feeding will now go underground rather than through highly regulated and inspected facilities, thus allowing disease to keep popping up in pigs at the end of the garden especially if this country continues to allow infected meat into this country. Please could you ask why swill feeders were forced to close without compensation. Mink farmers received compensation, people owning hand guns received compensation so why did swill feeders not receive compensation?
I wish you well with your inquiry, however it will lack credibility because we will not know what questions( if any) you asked ministers and senior officials and what replies (if any) that you received. I am now an ex-pig farmer with FMD being the last straw forcing me to make my three excellent stockmen redundant. They have now left the industry which is in rapid decline. In the Dec 1997 census there were 805,000 breeding sows in the UK, by Dec 2002 it is anticipated that the breeding herd will be below 300,000. This massive reduction means that there will be vast amounts of pigmeat entering the UK opening up the opportunities for a lot more disease to enter the UK. Perhaps the logical way forward would be to make the UK an 'animal free zone' and then we would not have to worry about FMD or any other disease.