Bonnie has sent this message from her home in California -
it's a long one
Good morning Alan and Rosie,
I dove right in to the work pile last week and am just now surfacing,
shaking my head and blinking and trying to put some thoughts together.
Not easy, given the circumstances here--and there.
Adrian said they'd found antibodies in Devon (as the kids say here, Duh...!)
going to happen? I wonder if that's what Tom Lowther sniffed out in the
meeting w David King et all where they hinted about action about to happen
I remember when your bloodtests came back negative some wondered if you were
going to continue your letter and you said, Yes. Good thing! I think the
information you're handing now is essential--getting to the core of it all.
This is a crucial time. Each letter now is so rich I want to take the
afternoon off to question and comment. Lucky for you, I can't do that!
Here, in no particular order, are the thought-pockets I have:
Re yesterday's letter from Lawrence on bioterrorism: "No one even mentioned
foot and mouth disease -"
I think the similarities between the terrorism we've just suffered over here
and the scourge of foot and mouth disease lay not in the possible causes or
perpetrators but in the way the problem is dealt with. In both cases,
draconian authoritarian is being applied. Tough language. Stamp out.
Eradicate. War. Ego rages: Bush's first name for the retaliation (the
nature of which no one yet seems to know) was "Infinite Justice." As an
excuse for destroying millions of healthy animals instead of vaccinating,
Andrew King reminds us that vaccination would leave the UK "the dirty man of
the developed World." Rather be the cruel man, I guess. More manly. More
When George Bush argues to bend laws allowing measures that dubiously
constitutiona--wiretapping, detaining on suspicion--he says, "I am angry. I
am upset. We are at war." So that excuses that. And down the road, when we
are not at "war" the draconian measures may be legally applied to citizens
who find they have lost their freedoms, if not their lives, as result of the
War on Terrorism.
On the irrationality of response: From your letter: "Economists at the Meat
and Livestock Commission yesterday predicted that the UK may have to import
about a third of its red meat because of shortages caused by the
foot-and-mouth crisis, which has seen 720,000 cattle culled
this summer." Having just been attacked, the US, I can report, is
experiencing a kind of "togetherness" I've not really seen in my adult life.
Currently, people are being urged to "Buy American," and the interviews on
the street are all in favor. So I am wondering...if the UK alies itself
with the US and agrees that there is a force out there which endangers all
free people, should it not put its head up above ground and Buy British? (I
can't write this sentiment, as an American, to an English paper, so I'm
venting steam here) One thing the NYC catastrophe has shown us is that when
there's an outward danger, we stop jabbing and damaging and undermining each
other. Couldn't the British government be persuaded to look beyond the
"dirty man" complex (which is so petty) and support ALL Britons, including
farmers?! Do any of us really have the luxury to undermine and waste not
only healthy animals, but whole segments of our population? Further, if
we're facing a world recession, can any self-respecting person tolerate, in
conscience, the destruction and waste of healthy animals? This is morally
repugnant and to my mind should be protested in as loud a voice that all the
numbers of your readers can muster.
As far as Val's question of What can we do? People are asking that now,
here. A columnist for example, wrote about being turned away from the only
thing he knew to do -- donate blood. (Problem was, those who survived
walked away. The others, all 6,000 some of them, are in bits and pieces.
The emergency rooms were eerily quiet in the day and days following the
attack... A young doctor who found himself on the spot had totally new
questions to ask, such as, Does each collected body part get a separate body
bag?) I have my own thing I am doing, the film, but it will not get done
soon enough to change events for hill farmers, for example, now. In the
meanwhile, what I want to do is lend my voice to what I hope is a ROAR of
specific protest: let no lie, by Ben Gill or anyone else, go un-challenged.
Specifically, how is this roar to be activated?
Here's what I see.
There are numbers of people who feel outrage, but they don't know
whom to call, write or what to say. The time for saying it to each other is
past. What's needed now is MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY.
If it's not already somewhere, I'd hope there to be an up-to-date service
(website or simply a posting, such as your own) offering the e-mail and fax
addresses of every newspaper, with the name of the senior editor and updated
w the name of the reporter of the article which features "errors" (I have
many of these already). Second, there should be a list of typical "errors"
(go to any quotation by Ben Gill or David King or the dreaded Mrs Beckett)
and answers to them w scientist's attributes, i.e., quotes from Fred Brown
or Sutmuller, etc. Eg. To the question of antibodies, I found an answer on
Jane Baribal's site:
By Peter Poll, PhD, DVM, On Antibodies -
When an animal's body is invaded by the virus the body recognises that the
virus is Oforeign9 material - in other words it9s Onot me9 - and this
triggers the body9s defense mechanisms known as the immune system which
seeks to rid the body of this Oforeign material.
One part of the body9s immune system response to Oforeign9 material is the
production of antibodies.
Antibodies are special proteins that are part of the body's immune system.
White blood cells make antibodies to neutralize harmful germs or other
foreign substances, called antigens. Antibodies are "good guys" that fight
inside the body, offering protection from "bad guys" like bacteria, viruses,
pollen grains (that make you sneeze) and other foreign substances. Antibody
production is just one immune response that protects animals - and human9s -
Antibodies attach to virus particles rendering them incapable of invading
cells - and thus preventing the virus from replicating.
There are different types of antibodies produced at different intervals
following infection. These antibodies may not be produced rapidly enough to
prevent clinical disease but typically ultimately neutralise the virus and
Osee off9 the infection. By the time signs of clinical foot and mouth
disease appear the animal is past the peak of infectiousness and will
typically be infectious for only a few more days.
Animals that recover from FMD are typically immune from re-infection for
some time due to the continuing presence of antibodies in their blood.
However the amount of antibody in the blood decreases over time - unless the
animal comes into contact with the virus again - and in a matter of months
there will be no antibody remaining in the blood and the animal will again
be wholly susceptible to infection.
Antibody is also present in milk produced in the early stages of lactation
and can provide some protection for new born animals which can absorb
antibodies from milk into their blood circulation.
Some animals will remain persistently infected at a very low level for a
while following recovery from the disease - these are the so-called
Ocarriers9. Up to 50% of an affected group of sheep may be persistently
infected for a few months. Cattle can also be persistently infected and this
can last longer in cattle - up to three years in extreme cases.
"However in the case of FMD these persistently infected - so-called
Ocarrier9 -animals are NOT infectious."
Shouldn't this be hammered again and again so that the public finally can
Third, and in short, people should know exactly where to go and what button
to push every time they read or hear an "error." Editors should receive
MASSIVE response to each lie they print, w ccs to Tony Blair.
It seems to me that people who are busy, or feel inarticulate, or unsure of
their own scientific ground, should be able to draw instantly on a reliable
source (even pre-printed) and an accurate address and can fire off a
response in 5 minutes. The key is simplicity and ease for enough people to
do it. And this information source should be known about throughout England
and Wales. The groups representing their counties must get together in
What do you think, Alan? Easy for me to say from here? Is it possible? You
know I will do anything I can from here to help.
Our comment: This is powerful stuff and we would really value your
reactions and opinions to this - do let us know if you think this is
feasible, if you can help, if you have media contacts already - what do YOU
think can be done?
# # #
From the Farmers Weekly website:
27 September 2001
Defra concern at latest virus outbreak
By Isabel Davies
GOVERNMENT officials in Cumbria have expressed their concern about a new
outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the south of the county but promised
to hit it "hard and fast".
Tough new foot-and-mouth restrictions have been imposed following the
discovery of the case on a farm near Kirkby Lonsdale on Wednesday (26
The area, until now, had been free of the disease with the nearest cases
over 10 miles away in the Penrith Spur.
"Blue box" restrictions have now been extended from the Penrith Spur so they
now apply to premises as far south as Carnforth in Lancashire.
Five compulsory cleansing and disinfection points have been set up around
the village of Barbon and a further five mobile units are in operation in
All restrictions came into force at 12.00 on Thursday morning (27
Ray Anderson, Defra's regional operations director in Cumbria, said: "This
is a very worrying development and we are determined to hit it hard and
"We would request the patience and support of local people for the measures
we have put in place and for people outside not to visit the village of
Barbon unless absolutely necessary."
Following confirmation of the disease at Low Bank House Farm, Barbon more
than 800 animals have been slaughtered.
Three other premises have been identified as dangerous contacts.
Our comment: We thought that DEFRA had been trying to "hit it hard and
fast" for seven bloody months now without success?
27 September 2001
GM threat to maize gene bank
By FWi staff
GREENPEACE has urged Mexico to adopt emergency measures to combat the first
serious outbreak of genetic "pollution" in the gene bank of maize, in the
state of Oaxaca.
Testing of maize varieties from 22 communities in the area has revealed
genetic contamination in 15.
Thirteen of these samples show between 3-10% contamination with the
remaining two at higher levels.
The contamination originates from genetically engineered (GE) maize grains
imported from the USA to Mexico to be used for food.
Bacillus thuringiensis genes have since been found in varieties in Oaxaca,
and Greenpeace is concerned the toxin may affect beneficial insects.
Greenpeace has appealed to governments participating in the next meeting of
the Biosafety Protocol in Nairobi, Kenya, to help Mexico protect the food
crop and speed the implementation of protocol.
Raul Benet, executive director of Greenpeace Mexico said, "Mexico is the
steward of global maize diversity.
"It is Mexico's responsibility to take all necessary measures to protect
"This diversity ensures global food security now and in the future. We
cannot afford any more delays," he added.
Dr Doreen Stabinsky from Greenpeace USA this contamination of traditional
varieties as "only the tip of the iceberg".
"All maize affected by genetic contamination, including wild plants, needs
to be identified."
"The international community must now agree on immediate preventative
measures to avoid further outbreaks of contamination into other centres of
diversity," added Dr Stabinsky.
If Mexico accepts Greenpeace's plea, the first step in eliminating the
source of contamination would involve banning all GE and GE-contaminated
maize imports to the country.
Our comment: This has nothing to do with the FMD crisis - yet at the same
time, it has everything to do with it, being symptomatic of the same
devastating consequences of the power now exercised by global multinational
interests at the expense of just about everyone and everything else on this
27 September 2001
National cull if sheep get BSE
By FWi staff
GOVERNMENT options if BSE is found in sheep include a mass cull of the
national sheep flock, according to a contingency plan published by Defra on
Thursday (27 September)
But this is the very worst-case scenario, and is extremely unlikely to
happen, Animal Health Minister Elliott Morley told journalists in London.
Mr Morley said the government has compiled a contingency plan in response to
the Philips Report into BSE, which calls for more openness in government.
He insisted lots of other options will be considered as well as the mass
cull, which could involve 40 million sheep.
The contingency plan identifies using diagnostic testing or genotyping to
identify sheep that could be allowed into the human food chain.
But the plan also considers the possibility of extending Specified Risk
Material (SRM) controls.
It also looks at limiting how the problem could be limited to particular
areas or flocks within the UK.
"There is a theoretical possibility of sheep getting BSE because sheep have
been given the disease by feeding them BSE brain material in laboratory
conditions," Mr Morley said.
He said that there were two independent studies looking for BSE in sheep
affected with scrapie, but he insisted they had not yet identified BSE.
The need to slaughter would be reduced by the fact that the government has
already launched a National Scrapie Eradication programme.
This aims to identify and breed from animals that are resistant to scrapie.
It is believed that if BSE is present in sheep it is currently masked by
The government has also published its response to the BSE inquiry.
The response identifies the most important issues raised in the report.
The way in which the government uses scientific advisory committees and
The importance of a consistent and proportionate approach to risk
The conduct of government.
Mr Morley said: "The government accepts just about every Philips
recommendation - a lot of them have already been put in place."
Our comment: So if the FMD slaughter doesn't get them, then the BSE cull
probably will . . . . . . Rosie has steam coming out of her ears at this
27 September 2001
Virus tests negative at Ross market
By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent
INITIAL blood test results for foot-and-mouth disease in lambs slaughtered
at a Herefordshire collection centre are negative.
On Tuesday (25 September), staff at Ross-on-Wye market spotted possible
foot-and-mouth symptoms in a batch of 170 prime lambs from a Monmouthshire
Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
ordered immediate slaughter as a precaution.
A Defra spokesman later reported that the first results were good.
But the all-clear would depend on tests at the home farm that could take up
to a week, and until then normal suspect-case restrictions would be imposed.
But Thursday (27 September) farming union officials in Monmouthshire were
still trying to find out exactly what this would mean for members.
Swansea-based National Farmers' Union policy adviser Sian Roberts-Davies
described the news as a severe blow to farmers.
They had hoped that Monmouthshire would soon get more favourable
foot-and-mouth risk status.
Sion Aeron, the Farmers' Union of Wales's representative at the National
Assembly, said news of the incident had sent shock waves through an area
where farmers had high hopes that movement restrictions would be eased.
"The first negative results are very welcome but the scare, and recent new
cases in Cumbria, remind us all that the disease is still around and we have
to take biosecurity very seriously."
According to the union, the hangover from the epidemic has created a
It says that animals could starve on hill farms unless away wintering land
can be found, and the movement licensing system is made more flexible within
at-risk and high-risk counties.
The FUW hopes that farmers in these areas, who plan to delay re-stocking,
will be able to relieve pressure on upland farms.
These farms are carrying too many animals because of disruption of normal
marketing and problems with the Over Thirty Months Scheme.
From the Warmwell website:
Sept 27 ~ Carnforth in Lancashire is briefly reported as a "confirmed case"
but is not mentioned on the DEFRA site - not apparently updated since Sept
The 'new' outbreak is at Barbon which is about 11 miles from Carnforth and 8
miles from Sedburgh. It is becoming more and more difficult to get up to
date information officially. Thousands of animals are being killed weekly
but figures are misreported - and have never included the young animals
slaughtered. Even when farmers report to Defra that their official figures
are wrong, they are not corrected. Rumours abound that the strain of the
virus has changed so that infected cattle show few signs and cases come to
light only as a result of tests. The only certain thing is that this
outbreak shows no sign of coming to an end.
Now, the next tranche of "Jane's Diary" to bring you almost up-to-date:
2 September 01
Today the number of cases hit 2,000 with three new infected farms in
Cumbria. It's hard to believe that when we can genetically modify crops,
clone sheep, produce body parts in laboratories and communicate with people
anywhere in the world in a split second, the government of this country of
so-called animal-lovers can continue blindly ordering the massacre of
millions and millions of perfectly healthy animals, by increasingly horrific
and illegal methods, against the wishes, pleas and logical reasoning of
their owners, in the full and incredulous gaze of the rest of the world, all
the while increasing and exacerbating the very problem that they are feebly
claiming to be resolving. I am ashamed of my country, and I am ashamed of
being governed by a cowardly, light-weight ignoramus who hasn't got the guts
to admit he's got it wrong. I don't believe he will get away with it; I
think the truth will eventually come out, and when it does one load of
smooth-talking politicians will inevitably be replaced by another, probably
just as odious, rabble for whom money is only marginally more important than
keeping their backs well covered. But the price we will have paid for that
to happen will be too great for there to be any satisfaction for those of us
who have been trying to change this ridiculous policy from the beginning. I
believe the jargon is a "no-win situation". There is no good news to be had
from this. Still no results from our blood tests (the DEFRA ones) despite it
now being two weeks' wait. A positive anti-body test near Tiverton last week
meant that slaughter returned to Devon ( for no reason, the sheep were
perfectly healthy of course). I was telephoned for advice by a DASH member
today who had just had the dreaded call from DEFRA demanding that they blood
test her 10 year old daughter's four goats. As they share the farm with
cattle, it's hardly likely that FMD would have slipped in and out without
anyone noticing. She wanted advice on if she could refuse. I explained how I
had worked it through in my own mind, and had eventually decided to agree as
long as it was done on my terms, and I gave her the phone number of my
friends in Bridgerule who can fill her in on many more aspects, but I said
she had to take the decision herself. I hope that was right. I've had to
turn down the offer of a nice friendly Jacob ram from Arlington - apparently
he's a real sweetie - because I just don't feel ready to bring in any
animal, especially not from within a 3 kilometre zone, at the moment. I
shall probably regret it, but who knows what this autumn will bring. I have
bought some straw from the friend who makes our hay, just in case I need to
bed animals indoors again this winter. At least this time I'll be prepared.
(It came from a farm that hasn't had animals on it for 2 years). Didn't
write yesterday as I was exhausted after the gymkhana, having been roped in
as a runner at one point (in wellies, in a sand school, for heaven's sake),
but at least the day was enjoyed by all who took part, and we returned with
an interestingly coloured range of rosettes! Another ride today on Puzzle
went very well, though she still has a slight problem in her back leg which
might need a second tweak from the chiropractor. She's a much much happier
pony now though. First day of term tomorrow, so back to making packed
lunches, and the long walk to the bus. Was that the summer?
4 September 01
Hugh was researching through some old Country Life magazines today and came
across a piece which has made us both rather sad. It is from the issue dated
January 15th 1943, and is about the foot and mouth outbreak that was
happening at the time. It describes the disturbing features of the outbreak,
and ponders the possible causes. Fresh meat and wrapping materials from the
continent were "ruled out automatically" (presumably there weren't any
during wartime?), unboiled swill was exempted (only three outbreaks involved
pigs), the conclusion being drawn that it must be something to do with "the
promiscuous movement of troops, increased movement of livestock to distant
markets, and the rapid expansion of dairy herds leading to lower resistance"
and also "there are the suspect birds". It ends "The general conclusion must
be that increased expenditure on research will not only be money well
invested but, in view of the evidence pointing to the failure of the
slaughter policy since 1930, is now absolutely necessary." We haven't learnt
much in 60 years have we?
5 September 2001
This government has now slaughtered more animals since February than the
number slaughtered in any outbreak, anywhere else in the world, ever. If
they are going for a place in the record books, perhaps now they have got
there they could just get on and vaccinate instead? According to the Western
Morning News today, with Devon just twelve days away from being declared FMD
free, the chief vet Jim Scudamore has decided that now he'd like to blood
test all the sheep in Devon instead of his "random" sample. This is reckoned
to take until January (when most of the animals will probably have starved
to death over the winter) at the earliest. Why on earth didn't they just
test some of the big farms properly, not waste their time with smallholders
like us so that they would actually have a representative sample by now? Is
all the bloodtesting they've done up to now considered to be invalid? If
they can change their minds so often about how they do this job then why the
hell can't they change them once and for all and vaccinate???? Still haven't
had the results of our test here, despite it now being 16 days ago. Are they
bringing it on foot? Long after the PTA meeting at school tonight a worried
knot of farmers were standing in the dark and drizzle discussing the
staggering lack of common sense, co-ordination or efficiency shown during
this whole shebang. "Fun Day" on Sunday to raise funds for the school is now
forecast to be extremely wet. Claudia and I are doing the pony rides (as
usual), though I've also been volunteered to make scones for the cream teas.
We've done it in the pouring rain before, so I daresay we'll cope.
6 September 2001
The letter has come at last. The result? Negative!! Thank god for that, but
I can't honestly say I'm surprised. It may be difficult to detect in sheep,
and I may be a relatively inexperienced shepherd, but I've been in such
close contact with them that I could never believe that they'd have it and I
wouldn't know. Met my 'over the river' neighbour when I was walking up to
the school bus this afternoon: some of his have been tested, but not all -
he seemed to think that was a fairly daft way of going about it - if they
were testing any then they should test them all. His also came back
negative; quite a relief in view of the odd forays from there across the
river by a few of his more adventurous ewes! Two new cases in the north
today, bringing the terrible total up to 2006 now. Winter is coming, the
food is running out, when is the vaccination going to start? When all the
animals are dead? Managed to whizz over to the stables at midday and catch
up with the chiropractor whilst she treated Puzzle. It was absolutely
fascinating to see her at work. Puzzle seemed to enjoy the attention apart
from one or two bits that were a bit painful - even so she only shifted
about a bit, and made no attempt to get away. She had also had her teeth
checked out this morning, so has pretty much had the full MOT now. It's
wonderful to see her so relaxed and happy now that she is no longer in pain.
7 September 2001
According to Farmer's Weekly the government is about to impose the sort of
animal movement restrictions they have in place in Northumberland on all the
"old" hotspots which are due to flare up again. This includes Brecon and
Devon. So one day we are just twelve days away from being declared FMD free,
and then within the space of 48 hours the risks are suddenly so great again
that restrictions infinitely greater than those we are under now have to be
introduced. So which is it? Are we nearly over it here, or is it expected to
start all over again as soon as autumn arrives? The government "haven't
ruled out vaccination"......it's just they want yet another flare-up before
they actually use it. So when all the animals are dead we will vaccinate? I
can hardly believe that this endless vacillation and stupidity is still
going on after nearly SEVEN MONTHS.
8 September 01
The one thing this whole desperate FMD episode has done is to throw up some
very unlikely heros, and to show up many so-called leaders and experts as
not just stupid, but as liars and cowards. Retiring, shy and often
tongue-tied people have emerged as brave and tireless and highly effective
ambassadors for animal welfare, human rights and common sense when those who
have frequently pushed themselves into the limelight in the past have
chickened out, buried their heads in the sand and been of no use to anyone.
There have been solitary farmers whose humanity, compassion and decency has
shone out under the most abysmal treatment and there have been many people
in the public eye who despite their claims to these traits have shown
themselves to be self-preserving scum. I suppose we should gain strength
from the fact that there is an indomitable spirit in some people that
perhaps they are unaware of until something truly dreadful happens to them
and they find they can reach inside themselves and discover resources they
never knew were there. There have been spectacularly selfish actions - the
few who have undoubtedly imported the disease deliberately to solve their
financial desperation, and who will probably be haunted now by the damage
they will have done to their neighbours and local areas, and there are those
who have taken huge risks themselves to defend total strangers because they
are so incensed by the abuses of both human and animal rights during
pointless and evil culls of healthy animals. I have been thinking about how
a crisis brings out the best and the worst in people lately because of the
pathetic arguments that are being flung about in our own local smallholders
organisation in Devon. It has bumped along for 14 years or so, starting in a
small way, and by the time we joined about ten years ago there were about
400 members. The monthly newsletter contains details of training courses,
items and livestock for sale or barter and the whole organisation acts as a
reservoir of useful information that any member can use. If you need advice,
there is a member who will know the answer to your questions. It now has
about 2,000 members, in Devon and beyond, encompassing a huge range of
interests - from urban flat-dwellers with a dream to proper farmers with
several hundred acres. There are people who keep all manner of livestock
from a few hens to whole flocks of alpacas, organic meat producers and goats
cheese makers, spinners, growers, cider-makers, woodturners etc., the list
is endless. But FMD is threatening the whole wonderfully diverse association
because the committee has decided that we must make a "Representation on
FMD" and has come up with a list of proposals with which we are all supposed
to agree. As their attitude seems to be entirely in tune with the NFU it
has, not surprisingly infuriated a lot of members who certainly don't want
to be "represented" by the sort of pro-meat export, anti-vaccination
comments that have been put forward without (as yet) any sort of
questionnaire having been circulated to assess what the members opinions
actually are! Those of us who have bothered to write and point this out (in
response to a request for our letters and comments) have been maligned in
the newsletter as "a vociferous minority" and labelled as trouble-makers
and in one case, ludicrously "banned for life"!!!). How very sad it is at a
time when we all need eachothers support and help that the one outfit that
was in a perfect position to assist this has chosen only to voice the (often
ill-informed) opinions of a few committee members in an entirely
undemocratic way, and completely ignore the vast majority of ordinary
members. There is to be an AGM in late October, and I now find that I have
inadvertently become a sort of spokesman for many members who have contacted
me as a result of my complaining about the committees actions in the
newsletter. What the hell do I do about this? I loathe the petty power
struggles that the officers of small organisations seem to indulge in and I
refuse to be drawn into the playground politics they thrive on, but there is
a real, albeit small, abuse of power here and I really do resent it that
someone claiming to speak for me ( and many others) is talking such ignorant
drivel. I could just resign, but that implies that they are in the right,
and it seems a pathetic solution. I rarely argue with other people (except
Hugh of course) and will usually get away from a subject that seems to be
getting heated, so I just don't know how I am going to face up to this one.
More thought is needed.
9 September 01
Wrote too much last night, so tonight's entry needs to be brief. The "Fun
Day" held at our neighbour's campsite proved to be, well, fun and a good
fundraiser for the school. Cool and windy but at least dry. Claudia and I
did 26 rides in just over an hour, with each of us leading one of the
campsites own good-natured ponies. Claudia managed to buy herself three
rides and take them all unaccompanied! (Strictly against the general rules.)
There was also swimming, BBQ, cream teas, a produce stall (my runner beans
sold fast - amazing, I thought everyone had an excess this year) and a draw.
My number actually came up and I brought home a nice bottle of Vouvray. We
reckoned that about one person in four bothered to stop and spray their
wheels on the way in, despite the sign asking for their co-operation. The
miniature goats were being petted by all and sundry (although not us, I
hasten to add). It would be very easy to become paranoid about bio-security,
but maybe not as easy as it is to become complacent. Hugh has just seen the
news which reported two new suspected cases in Leicestershire - after a gap
of many months. Maybe my paranoia is the safer bet after all.
10 September 01
Autumn seems to be well on it's way as the nights are quite chilly. Had to
go out to an orchards meeting tonight - by the time I got home it was too
dark to see to disinfect, so had to leave the van by the sprayer to do in
the morning. Talked to a friend who was in the thick of the Chulmleigh
outbreaks. They had nine visits from MAFF in all as a result of the usual
endless cock-ups, but her biggest complaint was about the mishandling of the
culls and pyres that went on all around them. Her sheep are still OK.
11 September 01
Worked on the school garden this morning, which has suffered a great deal of
neglect since the start of FMD. Apart from the fact that I wasn't really
going out at all, the last place I wanted to be was the school, where a
large number of the children are from farms (including an infected one). A
working party will be in order to get some of the larger tasks tackled. Got
back into the van this afternoon to collect Claudia from her piano lesson,
but found it hard to drive as I heard the news breaking about the terrorist
attacks in America. What is happening to the world? We've had the worst ever
floods in Britain, the worst ever Foot and Mouth outbreak, the worst ever
terrorist attack - what the hell comes next? The worst ever Tsunami? Rang my
mother to find her depressed and despairing about it too. The TV news is on
overdrive, but seeing it all once was more than enough for me, so I'll avoid
12 September 01
The day seemed to have a pall of depression hanging over it after yesterdays
events. It was also cold, windy and unpleasant with a feeling that summer
has gone for good, and we've got a long winter to face with the threat of
new outbreaks flaring up and also a ridiculous number of animals stuck on
farms, especially in Devon, with no prospect of their being moved to new
quarters OR having enough food where they are. Watching livestock slowly
starve to death is probably even more appalling than seeing it slaughtered
and burnt. On a purely selfish level I am also acutely aware that hungry
animals break out of their fields very quickly, and we have more than enough
trespassers in a normal year. I don't suppose we can begin to stop the
influx this year, and apart from their wolfing down our precious food, there
is of course the ever-increasing risk that they are bringing in disease with
them. My big pony was lame again last night, so has spent the day inside
today, much to her disgust. It's a vicious circle - because I can't ride her
she gets too fat, so her feet get bad. Because her feet are bad I can't ride
her to get her weight down! She's currently getting less to eat than the
Shetland who is on permanent starvation rations, but you can't starve her
because horses get colic if you do, but she eats so fast that small amounts
of food are gone in a trice, and then she's so bored shut in with nothing to
do that she starts to go potty. She'll have to go out for just a couple of
hours tomorrow, if she can manoeuvre herself up the stony path to her field.
Claudia had a lesson on Puzzle at the stables this evening - she behaved
tolerably well though spooked at several heaps of sand left from work
towards getting lights up around the sand school, and did some silly little
hops whenever the wind gusted sand into her. It was reassuring to see that
the stable regulars behaved just as badly (if not worse) in the lesson after
Puzzle, so there must have been extenuating circumstances today.
13 September 01
Still wild and windy today. The big pony was fine this morning so put them
both out for a few hours. By the afternoon she was limping again, so she'll
have to be shut in again tomorrow. I hate to see her like that. She's so
gentle and patient, but also a terribly greedy pig. Fear the worst from the
international news. Now that anarchists are public enemy number one (in lieu
of any tangible enemy), no doubt those of us who have indulged in the odd
demonstration will now become a feature of some ridiculous blacklist
somewhere. It's a bit like living in the same block of flats as a bankrupt,
and suddenly finding you can't get credit any more. Feel more and more
alienated from the rest of the world, and pathetically grateful that we don'
t live in a city ourselves.
14 September 01
According to those in power, vaccination will not be considered, it was
never an option and the only policy is, and will continue to be, slaughter.
Isn't it strange that all the world's experts (as opposed to politicians)
say the complete and utter opposite? What are ordinary people supposed to
do? Follow our leaders, despite knowing they are wrong, or follow our
beliefs and be labelled trouble-makers and subversives? The temptation to
opt out of it all gets stronger by the day.
15 September 01
Three new cases today - one in Cumbria and two more in Northumberland where
the total is now about 24. It could so easily be Devon, especially as after
a three month gap we will be getting to the wintry weather that the disease
thrives on. We still have our disinfectant out, Hugh still parks at the top
of the hill (as do our rare visitors) and when I bring my van inside, it is
still disinfected, and if it has picked up any mud, washed down as well. We
are in a minority. Even the stables have stopped their disinfection regime,
and almost all farms appear to have given up. Are we just daft to carry on?
Somehow, I just don't think so. I'd rather be daft and safe than blase and
slaughtered any day. Puzzle finally joined in a full hours lesson with the
other ponies today, and behaved really well, though she was getting tired by
the end. Her back legs are still slightly uneven when she's on the right
rein (ie going clockwise) but she was jumping well and willingly. Just hope
that one more visit from the chiropractor will solve the problem for good.
Claudia was delighted: the smile said it all. A mother (whose child is in
the same class) and I have cajoled eachother into going for a lesson
ourselves when the children are all safely at school and we won't have an
audience. I feel I may regret this.......
16 September 01
Got the sheep in today for a check over. One ewe was limping a bit on her
front leg. Could find nothing wrong with her foot, but gave it a squirt of
blue spray just to be on the safe side. Everyone got vetrazined as well, as
the flies are still very bad, and I'm not taking any chances after all the
problems we've had just keeping a flock going this year. Walked them down
the lane to the lush grass of calves mead where they kicked their heels and
frolicked like silly lambs. They followed me (and the bucket, though I wasn'
t rattling it) through two more gates until they were all out in steep - the
first time they have been in there this year. It was lovely to see them able
to nose around finding their favourite plants - there is such a good choice
in there. It will be harder to check them out as there are many hiding
places, but I think the varied diet will do them good, and nothing has been
grazing in there since the ponies came out several weeks ago. On a more
mundane note, after several nights disturbed by rat noises from the roof
(above our bedroom) we were pleased that, after two days barking and
scrabbling down various holes, Toto managed to kill a very large rat this
afternoon - the fruit of many hours hard work. Let's hope that there was
just the one! (Unlikely, I'm afraid). After a conference in Bristol of the
world's recognised FMD experts, it has emerged that the government should
have vaccinated after 7 days at the start of it all, and that even now
vaccination would have a profound effect on the control of the disease.
Countries that have vaccinated just their cows have found that the disease
dies out naturally. If we could all vaccinate for a couple of years, Foot &
Mouth would just naturally become extinct. But then of course, the powers
that be wouldn't have the control they have now over the livestock industry,
and that is precisely what this whole fiasco has been from the beginning
17 September 01
Glorious, clear sunny day. Dartmoor looked as if it was close enough to
touch when we walked back from the school bus. Why is such a beautiful world
run by such vile, corrupt, greedy, aggressive and dishonest men (sorry,
chaps, but you must admit this is true)? Why is bombing people in New York
so wrong if doing the same in Afghanistan is perfectly OK? Do these people
in power never actually THINK about what they are doing? Why do we use
taxpayers money to slaughter, burn, bury healthy animals, and the same money
to BUY IN vaccinated meat from countries which deal with the disease with
admirable common sense? And why do we just put up with it? Sometimes I just
19 September 01
No new cases reported today, so maybe, just maybe, the end is in sight. Took
my van into the garage for a service today. Normally I'd take the dogs and
have a good walk for a couple of hours whilst they did it, but our dogs have
not been off the farm since February, and I still feel disinclined to walk
them down muddy lanes, and then bring them back here again. Am beginning to
wonder if I'll ever be able to let up on this bio-security lark. As it was,
a kind friend who lives near the garage took me in for the duration and
filled me in on all the local gossip. He has just acquired some land, and is
intending to have some of the lovely rare Northern Dairy Shorthorns that
would normally graze our culm grassland in the summer, but the logistics of
buying and moving what amounts to three cows are frightening. Despite having
seven acres (between 15 of them) my sheep are spending most of their time at
the highest point of the field they are in, taking advantage of the fine
views! This makes them easy to check, with a level walk along the top. Once
they start to roam all over, it's a very steep climb down and back, not to
mention detours around the gorse bushes and thickets which they enjoy hiding
behind. A dry day, but a distinctly wintry feel to it - and dark by 7.45
which is FAR too early for me. Claudia's lesson on Puzzle this evening went
well as both child and pony are gaining confidence together. There was a
slightly hairy moment when a van with an extremely rattly load of ladders on
its roofrack went past, but control was regained before any mishap! However,
Claudia was looking a bit wan afterwards.
21 September 01
Yesterday and today have been like summer again, though the ponies have
spent most of the last two days inside because of their restricted diets.
Managed to get a homeopathic remedy to try which is supposed to ease
laminitis. Claudia was drooping after school yesterday, and by this morning
headachy, with sore throat and no appetite. It seems a bit early, but
apparently several children are off school already this term! I had to be in
Exmouth today, so she had to drag along as well, and spent most of the day
snoozing in the van. Hope she feels well enough to ride tomorrow or she'll
be deeply disappointed. I spoke too soon about the FMD in the last entry.
There is now a suspected case in Gloucestershire and they have just recently
found anti-bodies near Tiverton ( so of course are slaughtering healthy
sheep for no reason again). The downright lies and misinformation that is
appearing in the press at the moment from the governments side has to be
read to be believed. It seems extraordinary that they are still getting away
with this sort of behaviour when just about everyone else knows that what
they are doing is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! It also doesn't seem to have occurred
to anyone in power that if we are blindly lurching towards World War 3, it
would be quite prudent to make sure that we were actually able to produce
some food in this country, rather than putting so much effort into
annihilating the farming industry altogether. Importing food from abroad
just might not be so easy when we find that we're on the wrong side.
22 September 01
Claudia still poorly - coughing and feeling cold. Riding was out of the
question, and so was most other activity. It would have been a wholly
unsatisfactory day had I not found our first flowering bog asphodel when I
went down to check the sheep. This is one of the main indicator species of
culm grassland, but one that had been conspicuous by its absence. Our regime
of grazing by ponies followed by sheep seems to have worked wonders for the
flower population - there are carpets of them whereas normally they would be
eaten off by the cows who seem to just scoff everything. Wonder why our
Countryside Stewardship agreement is so keen to see cows used when all the
evidence here shows they graze the very plants we're trying to encourage.
The marsh fritillary isn't going to be attracted by the stumps where the
field scabious used to be is it? The sheep are spending much of their time
around a semi-prone willow tree which has a horizontal trunk just the height
of a sheep's back so they can at last scratch all those awkward places that
other trees cannot reach!
23 September 01
No outbreaks today, according to the DEFRA website, but I suspect that is
more to do with it being a weekend than anything else. No results about the
virus test at Chevithorne (Tiverton) available yet - just have to wait and
see. Don't know how people would react if there was another positive case in
Devon now. Well, actually, I can imagine, but I don't much want to. Took
Claudia over to the stables for a ride - Puzzle seemed on good form - but
the child was looking a bit shattered by the end of it. However, she seems
to be on the mend, so I hope she'll be back at school tomorrow (Monday). The
news is unwatchable at the moment - seems that as long as there is a
bloodbath, the powers that be are content. It doesn't seem to matter who's
blood, as long as they're foreign. Feel as if I am opting out of the world a
little bit more with each day that passes. However, it is strange that so
many other people seem to feel this way too. Does anyone actually agree with
how this country, their lives and the rest of the world are being run?
24 September 01
Completely exhausted this evening after spending virtually all of last night
listening to Claudia coughing in bed, alternating with various rat
scrabblings from the attic overhead. Am not sure that I actually went to
sleep at all. Spent the day in Exmouth (helping to sort out a house for the
N.T.) with the poor child in tow, drooping but uncomplaining. Came back with
two tortoises which have been running loose in the garden there, but who now
need supervision to hibernate safely. Will pop them over to the vet tomorrow
for an MOT, then spend the next month or so making sure they are well fed in
preparation. The intention is to return them to their home in the spring,
when the house will no longer be unoccupied. Toto (the terrier) completely
fascinated by these walking pudding bowls - she will have to be strictly
segregated from them until they are safely tucked up in their winter boxes!
Still no result from the Tiverton suspected FMD case - but perhaps no news
Finally, tonight's joke comes from son Martin:
Why did God create Adam before Eve?
To give him a chance to speak . . . .
from Alan & Rosie