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Reprinted from "The Lantern" October 2005 - with kind permission of the Editor Our thanks to the Editor of The Lantern, Stella Masters, for allowing warmwell to reproduce the article below.

    If you eat bacon then read this

    He nearly lost his life. His wife lost a baby. He lost his herd of prize pigs. His business went bust. Now farmer Phil Brown is set to lose his farm and family home.

    There are not many people who could be said to have a passion for pigs. Phil Brown of Inskip near Preston in Lancashire is one of them. In 2004 his prize boar "Snob' was 3rd at the final of the pig of the year male section in the Great Yorkshire Show in Harrogate. Phil Brown was a proud man when he collected his award. "I hadn't shown for twenty years, you think you'll do OK, but you never know, to get through to the finals and then finish 3rd was marvellous."

    Yet behind the smiles was the heartache of knowing that, unless there is a miracle, Phil Brown and his wife, Diane are unlikely to be able to maintain their much reduced stock of pedigree pigs as their bank, Nat West PLC, are poised to re-possess the couple's small farm and their home because of mortgage arrears.

    The story behind their plight is a heartbreaking one stretching back nearly two decades, starting with Phil Brown, then aged just 44 years starting to feel unwell and becoming aware of his own lack of energy in the afternoons. Then on April 1st 1988 he woke up and found he "could not breathe and had severe pains in my chest." The visiting doctor had Phil Brown admitted to the Royal Preston Hospital where "I was put on oxygen and given blood thinning drugs." The hospital discovered that he had large blood clots on his lungs, for which it took around two years to treat although even then he claims, "whenever I had a cold it went straight to my lungs and left me completely exhausted and unable to work properly." Between 1988 and 1996 Phil Brown was dependent on a range of drugs including Diazepam, Marevan, Prozac and Co-proxamal.

    In 1988 Phil Brown had one of the top herds of pigs in Britain, composed of pedigree Large White and Landrace Pigs. After following his father's advice to learn a trade when he left school, he subsequently became a farmer at the age of 36, and bought the Lancashire farm in 1980.

    His herd had 100 breeding females, drawn from 17 different family lines. He had 10 stock boars. Artificial insemination was used to bring new blood into the herd and the herd was a closed nucleus-breeding unit, kept under strict Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food regulations. At the time there were only 2 herds of pigs in Lancashire in the MAFF health scheme, of which Phil Brown's was the larger.

    "We did not use any medication or drugs, the herd was completely free of disease" and the "Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food [MAFF, now DEFRA] vet, Alan Shuttleworth, who looked after the herd told us that we had one of the cleanest herds in the Ministry Pig Health Scheme in the country." State of the art technology was employed on the farm. Phil Brown himself built the pens, the farrowing and finishing house, concreted the pavements outside and ensured that the conditions the pigs were kept in were as clean and hygienic as possible. Computers were used to ensure that the correct amount of feed of 2.5 kg a day was fed to each pig. "We were 15 years ahead of our time" Phil Brown proudly claims.

    Breeders and producers of pigs came from all over Britain and from as far a field as Japan to purchase stock. Fifty pigs per week were also sent for slaughter, these being approximately 65 kg dead weight that went into the Morrison's supermarket chain.

    In 1989 Phil Brown was therefore shocked to find that pigs started being born with "patches of flesh like raw meat all over their bodies." These healed up before they went to slaughter. "MAFF could not understand why the pigs were born like that," he says. In June 1990 he noticed that the food being delivered for the pigs had "a soap powder like smell" and "I asked the representative, Norman Edmondson, of our food suppliers, the South West Lancashire Farmers Co-op based in Skelmersdale about the smell." He told me to ring the office, where I spoke to John Higham, who was at the time the assistant manager."

    Phil Brown claims that he was told that the Co-op "was using a product called BIO-SURE." John Higham disputes this. However as revealed below the company certainly were using Bio-sure by the end of the year.

    Phil Brown claims he asked why South West Lancs Farmers Co-op had changed the food ingredients, especially as "the rules were that any change in food, buildings or management had to be cleared with MAFF before it was changed." He is now convinced that the company didn't have a product licence and "were engaging in an experiment". His fears grew when several weeks later his sows started giving birth to dead and mummified young.

    " My vet, who took a great deal of interest in the herd, sent them to MAFF for tests, they all came back negative, and both MAFF and ourselves were at a loss as to the cause of the problem" he says.

    The loss in trade and the resulting cash flow problems meant that Phil Brown had no alternative in the Spring of 1991 other than to halve the hours and pay of his one full-time employee. His wife, Diane, stepped into fill the gap, helping Phil in the afternoons.

    Diane Brown became pregnant in May 1991 and they were both looking forward to the arrival of their fourth child. A series of technical problems at their local hospital meant that when Diane Brown did eventually have a scan at St Mary's in Manchester it was past the legal termination date for having an abortion.

    It was found that the baby was to be born with no frontal brain, its heart inside out and intestines outside the body. The mother had to undergo a live birth on October 29th 1991 but "the child thankfully died an hour later" says Phil. Both they and their other children were devastated, Diane Brown is clearly still traumatised by the experience. The picture of the baby is a distressing sight and would bring even the hardest of people to tears.

    During the summer of 1991 the pigs did start to have better litters but by late summer "the sows were eating up to 4kg of food per day when 2.5 should have done. (The feed firm tried to challenge his truthfulness on this, but with his advanced computerised feed system, the printouts proved it.) They could not feed their young as they had lumps in their udders and the milk did not seem right. " I rang the feed firm again and they said that they were using a new enzyme. We had to get rid of about 30 females and nearly all the boars, as they would not breed."

    After he again complained, he claims that the Co-op then altered the formulation of the food such that "the pigs then went from not breeding to being nymphomaniacs." At this point in December 1991 he then decided that enough was enough and he changed his feed company. "The last 3 months of 91 had seen pigs born with deformities but nothing was to prepare us for what was about to happen in the spring of 1992" he says.

    The sows had been eating the food from the Co-op for 4 months between September and December of what is a 115 days gestation period. In 1992 when they gave birth the pigs had umbilical cords coming out of their heads, some were born twin sexed, some had legs longer on one side, intestines outside the body, deformed heads and tongues about 100 mm long.

    "The sows started to give birth but then gave up as they had no energy and had to be assisted to get the young out of them. Once born the pigs were unviable and just faded away. One of the big problems was that the young were born white, and although iron was given at birth it was of no use."

    A report from MAFF vet Bruce Wilson stated that the pigs had a low PCV [packed cell volume] and high white cell count. Bruce Wilson wouldn't comment on Phil Brown's question as to whether "the large lumps in their udders was cancer and the white pigs leukaemia" but his own vet at the time, Per Ostergaard, confirmed that this was the case.

    MAFF told Phil Brown to get rid of all the females with the large lumps in their udders and keep 40 young females. These were kept next to the boars but none ever came into a breeding cycle. Vets took blood of three of them at random, they were killed and their ovaries removed and taken by MAFF for tests. The results showed that the female's ovaries were of no use. (He says, "The eggs looked like frog spawn.") All 40 females had been in the Wombs of the sows that had eaten the enzymes. All 40 had to be put down.

    After further attempts at breeding, including bringing in new females and boars there was little improvement before "vets said that the whole herd's DNA had been altered" and that "we must get rid of all the animals." Years of hard work to build up a successful business had been destroyed.

    In February 1992 Phil and Diane Brown began legal action against his suppliers South West Lancashire Farmers Co-op, the producers of the feed who were British Petroleum PLC, and the company responsible for its importation BP Nutrition [UK] Limited. The action was also taken on behalf of their dead son, Robert.

    The manager of their local branch of Nat West had taken Phil Brown to meet a solicitor from Napthan Horton and Craven in Garstang, the National Farmers Union solicitors. Phil Brown became increasingly dissatisfied with their actions and in 1995 he transferred to Owen White solicitors, before 18 months later deciding to employ Ward Hadaway Solicitors based in Newcastle.

    When Phil Brown's solicitors asked for documents to be disclosed they obtained documents about the introduction of Biosure to Britain in the middle of October 1990 by BP. A press release for September 24th 1990 was to be prepared by Peter Evans for a product described as "The 3 in 1 formula for extra performance' recommending pig farmers add a 2kg pack of Biosure to each tonne of feed to be given to sows, a 3kg pack to the piglet starter feed and a 2kg pack per tonne in the pig grower feed. The reason for adding this was supposedly to soften the cellulose so as to make the bran more digestible.

    Also contained in the documents was a report that revealed that the development of the new product had taken place in the U.S.A and no laboratory tests had been undertaken in Britain before it was introduced here. Alltech Ireland, the manufacturers of BP Nutrition Biosure TCN had "no laboratory test data available' and "no formal system for carrying out internal quality audits.'

    The list of ingredients in Biosure was found to include dried bacillus subtilis [interestingly they advertise it incorrectly as sublisis] a proteolytic enzyme. An enzyme acts as a catalyst and every one of the tens of thousands of successive complex bio-chemical reactions that take place every second in all living things is either triggered or accelerated or slowed down or inhibited by a particular enzyme, acting as a catalyst.

    This enzyme is the active ingredient in biological soap powders and it is claimed to "digest protein stains". It actually catalyses the breaking down of certain kinds of stains into soluble molecular fragments which can then be washed away by normal detergent action. The first official mention that health problems existed in connection with proteolytic enzymes occurred on June 14th 1969 when "The Lancet' magazine published two articles and an editorial concerning the appearance of lung disease in workmen who had inhaled enzyme detergent dust. About seven hours after inhalation, the men suffered breathing problems.

    Paul Brodeur, writing in "The New Yorker' magazine of January 16th 1971 revealed that Professor Dubos, who was then directing the Department of Environmental Biomedicine of Rockerfeller University had as long ago as 1939 tested a strain of bacillus brewis, which he argued was "very similar to the bacillus subtilis' strain.

    From the strain of bacillus brewis Professor Dubos had extracted two immensely powerful antibiotics and found that these had the "ability to destroy red blood cells, and to produce kidney lesions and other adverse renal effects.' (Mr Brown reports that the pigs' faeces stank more than is normal, and so did their urine, and he believes their kidneys were affected.)

    After further experimentation over many years Dubos had also come to the conclusion that "these enzymes are toxic to the white corpuscles that protect animals and human beings from infection."

    Food enzymes are not regulated in the United Kingdom other than by the 1970 Agricultural Act. As such there is no official listing or monitoring of feed enzymes.

    According to Phil Brown the Farmers Co-op claimed that he had asked for Biosure to be added to his packs, although the company does not have any records to prove that such a request took place.
    "I don't know anything about Biosure. I still hardly know anything about it, why would I request for it to be added to the animal's feedstuffs?" he asks.
    In an attempt to find out more about the product Phil Brown recently wrote to a Dr Ray Smith from the Animal Feed Unit at the Food Standards Agency who has commented that "Biosure appears to be composed mostly of a fermentation product' and whilst in 1990 the use of such a product per se would not appear to have been illegal he doubts whether "a product with a significant amount of fermentation products or substrate could be authorised today.' [1]

    Attempts to obtain information from BP itself on Biosure have proved to be unfruitful. Wendy Silcock from the company replied to a series of question by stating that the company "sold all of our nutrition interests back in the early 90s. The company [BP Nutrition] was split up into separate bits which were largely purchased by different companies/organisations'. [2]

    Apparently they have not retained any records of the product.

    Meanwhile, Phil Brown despairs at the fact that during the time when he was feeding his pigs between 1988 and 1991 that MAFF allowed 3 tonnes of contaminated meat to enter the food chain each week.

    In his long struggle for justice over £320,000 of legal aid money was spent on the case, before Legal Aid was withdrawn on December 21st 2000. When the case did reach Manchester Crown Court on Friday 9th March 2001, a request for a further adjournment and Legal Aid to employ a QC was thrown out by the Judge. Phil Brown himself was forced to appear before the Judge who instructed that the case should be settled by the two parties outside the court.

    Devastated by what had occurred, Phil Brown is angry at being "humiliatingly forced to accept my expenses for the day and conclude the case. What else could I do, I couldn't take on a QC if it went back to court, I had no legal aid and if I lost in court after a two week trial I would have owed around half a million pounds. Ward Hadaway did not properly prosecute my case. They never appeared to understand the case as they had all the ammunition to win it but appeared reluctant to fire the gun."

    These claims are disputed by Ian Collinson from the company who says that he "can understand why they [the Browns] are upset" but "if they are really saying that this was a consequence of my firm not understanding their case then they are being unreasonable. There is no basis for such a suggestion." Ian Collinson would not comment on claims that Phil Brown and his wife are considering suing them saying "I will only comment on such matters if I receive proper notification of an intended claim."

    These arguments aside, the fact is that Phil Brown and his wife have has exhausted their legal case against South West Lancashire Farmers Co-op, BP PLC and BP Nutrition [UK] Limited.

    Throughout his seventeen year struggle Phil Brown has tried to gather support from all the relevant authorities and despairs at what he believes has "been no will to conduct any thorough investigation by either MAFF, the Health and Safety Executive or the National Farmers Union."

    Just recently he also tried to obtain some support from his local MP, the RT. Hon Michael Jack, Conservative MP for the Flyde Constituency and he visited his surgery on July 8th 2005. Mr Jack was unable to provide Phil Brown with the names of ten people who he could send an earlier copy of this article to, neither was he willing to be photographed with Phil Brown for a possible "Big Issue' [*] article or to consider putting down an "Early Day Motion' in the House of Commons to highlight Phil Brown's plight.

    Mr Jack has however raised Phil Brown's case with Ray Smith at the Animal Feed Unit [3 ] and has promised to be back in touch when he receives a reply.

    Phil Brown claims that he has "lost a business worth in the region of £600,000" as well as "our son and as I have three teenage sons we will not know if they have also been damaged."

    "The herd I had was known both in this country and abroad, I myself was on the National Pig Breeders, Landrace breed Committee and Major Breeds Committee, being asked to judge pigs in this Country and Northern Ireland. "

    In 1994 Phil Brown's plight forced him to find work as an agricultural engineer for Collinson's in Garstang. Complications, which followed a hip replacement 18 months ago, means he is now on the sick and awaiting further treatment.

    In the meantime, although Phil Brown maintains a small herd, he is set to lose that as well as the farm, after his bank, NAT WEST, wrote to him on July 7th 2005 stating that "the bank's patience has been exhausted' and "should matters remain outstanding after October 30th 2005, we will pass the matter to our Solicitors to commence possession proceedings'. Phil Brown has wrote asking them to re-consider this decision and asking for more time to pay.

    1. Letter dated 29/03/2005 and available on request

    2.Email correspondence dated June 1st 2005

    3. Letter dated July 26 2005

(The editor of the Lantern wrote,