Living under the Shadow of the Effects of Disease.
Extracts from Robbie Robinsons article in "The Valley", magazine for the Ribble Valley, Lancashire
The countryside was just waiting, rhythmic, to be reborn. It was not dead, but unlike previous years, it would be by the end of Summer. Foot and mouth was already here.
The view was soon coloured by fires. Diseased animals, slaughtered by hastily gathered teams, were piled high and burned. My father, a military man of considerable experience, asked why the army had not been called in. The country was horrified by scenes portrayed by a mainstream media news of the latest killings.
The government attempted its well-oiled stage-managed spin
The government attempted its well-oiled stage-managed spin, but, to an old soldier who knew how to spell 'logistics', the answer was to act swiftly and immediately. He shouted at the television for weeks before the army was called upon. It was too late.
A government in panic ignored the vaccination experts and refused to change what seemed to me the senseless reason for the mass extermination of animals, the end of small farms and the destructive losses to countryside businesses.
Maff men who were stunned by his reaction
Spring seemed to be in hiding, despite the daffodils. Newly turned out ewes lambed into cold fields. At Chaigley, the newborns and mothers were separated from the main flock and my parents counted the lively white scraps of life on the brightening green. My brother Paul, who lives near Dumfries, was visited and told his sheep and those of a farmer grazing Paul's land, were to be culled. Scottish law meant that a different type of killing could cleanse the border countries. A 'fire-break' slaughter involved brutal treatment of people and their stock, quickly achieved this.
Paul resisted the police and the Maff men who were stunned by his reaction. They were used to quiet, resilient, shocked farmers, not an ex-paratrooper familiar with modern warfare. The authorities backed off. They realised their error. It was not the first: they had already killed his neighbours flocks - by mistake.
The government didn't listen
We were told by world scientists that vaccination worked, was the only way to control the outbreak, would stop the killing and would allow tourism and normality to return. The government didn't listen. Pro-vaccination activists began to gather.
lambs died hungry and were born into mud.
In the valley, lambs shivered in the wet. The Ribble rose, fields were flooded, sheep were marooned by movement restrictions. In Cumbria lambs died hungry and were born into mud.
By now, though, people were talking of a hidden agenda, and were furious at the NFU which was claimed in some quarters to be supporting Maff rather than farm communities.
People were starting to worry.. There was no money coming into the pubs, mountain sports centres, hotels, small shops, and farm suppliers and engineers. Everyone was affected.
'we are only doing our jobs, what we are told to do.' How many times in history have we heard that?"
Not everyone, though, was troubled.
There was big money to be made driving a lorry full of dead livelihoods and crushed dreams. There were claims of people chasing calves until they collapsed with exhaustion, swinging lambs into a wall to crush their skulls, standing with a rifle and shooting grazing cows....
Military style bases were set up at Hellifield and Gisburn for hundreds of vehicles and Maff operatives. Activists said; " I can't get my head round the way these people think. They tell me; 'we are only doing our jobs, what we are told to do.' How many times in history have we heard that?"
"Mourning the Death of Sheep and Democracy"
MAFF became DEFRA. A column of vehicles, one bearing placards "Mourning the Death of Sheep and Democracy" and "Cull Defra" crept along the A59 jamming traffic. In the hot streets of Skipton, old stone buildings glowed gold as the protestors in their decorated cars crawled past, horns blaring. Yorkshire folk, not renowned for public outbursts of emotion, cheered and applauded; the streets were lined with them. One old lady, tears rolling down her cheeks, told a protestor, "Thank God someone's doing something" Many said, "I've never protested in my life. It's time to start."
Posters appeared in Clitheroe shop windows "Silent Vigil. Gisburn Auction Mart."
The Minister herself demanded that no filming take place with protestors visible.
Defra minister Margaret Beckett visited and spoke to farmers and the press at Gisburn.
The national newspapers stayed away, the BBC barely covered it and south of Pendle hill, townspeople thought the disease long gone. The Minister herself demanded that no filming take place with protestors visible. The BBC complied. Protesters roared their disapproval.
Little do they know that factory farms and tourist attractions will take the place of small farms.
The dust cleared from the auction mart car park and the police went back to their beats. Margaret Beckett had listened, had gone back to London, and nothing changed.
Some narrow-minded writers filled the pages of the city dailies saying how wonderful it is that the meadows are back, that the effluent from farms will be reduced, that we can all eat more healthily, that the farmers never helped the miners and cotton workers. Little do they know of the more solitary life of the farm and village people do not clock off at the end of the shift, who cannot rush off to man picket lines. Little do they know that factory farms and tourist attractions will take the place of small farms. Little do they know of the pain caused to those who live close to the land.
... Many people will be forced to move, without humanity, without compassion, to the cities for employment. Like the islanders of St Kilda who were softly forced from their country, it will be an alien land. ...