Published in the Clitheroe News on July 6th

Extract "Our aim is to stop the slaughter of healthy animals and to see a policy of vaccination introduced which will lead to the whole countryside getting back to normal in the shortest possible time. The cull is barbaric and it isn't working. Vaccination does work. It's been proven throughout the world."

Silent vigil to end slaughter of healthy animals

PROTESTERS demanding an end to the Government's slaughter of healthy animals to control foot and mouth disease held a silent vigil at Gisburn on Saturday. After releasing black balloons carrying "stop the slaughter" petition cards addressed to the Prime Minister, they gathered along the mesh fence surrounding the DEFRA base on the auction mart car park. They then tied hundreds of black ribbons to the fence and stood quietly facing the vets, labourers and ministry operatives working on the other side. After the vigil, they drove slowly in a column of 50 vehicles to Clitheroe, via Whalley, where, to blaring horns, drivers and passengers distributed petition forms.

Mrs Jennifer Purcell said: "The Government has to realise that people will not put up with this any longer, when there is an alternative which will protect healthy animals and countryside businesses."

Mr Dave Robinson, a Clitheroe man who has been actively supporting farmers who wish to resist the culling policy, said: "We are not a bunch of nutters. Also, we are not just animal welfare protesters, which is what the BBC called us.

"Our aim is to stop the slaughter of healthy animals and to see a policy of vaccination introduced which will lead to the whole countryside getting back to normal in the shortest possible time. The cull is barbaric and it isn't working. Vaccination does work. It's been proven throughout the world."

A police spokesman said the protest had been very peaceful. "We had no major problems. There was some traffic congestion, but they kept moving at a reasonable speed. It was very well behaved."

The previous evening, people crowded into a church hall in Barnoldswick to hear leading clinical virologist Dr Ruth Watkins talk about the FMD virus and the effectiveness of control by vaccine.

She said that the introduction of a vaccination policy would not have closed down the countryside with its associated losses, as restrictions could have been lifted in a very short time, perhaps as quickly as five days.

Other speakers illustrated how pressure to blood test animals has led to the saving of farms and businesses in the Forest of Dean and Wales, and how vaccination can be used to save hill flocks, rare breeds and pets. The audience then put questions to Mr Gordon Prentice, the Pendle MP.

He said: "We have listened to these experts, but the Government has to take all the information and form a consensus, including the advice from its own scientists." One angry response claimed that the information has been available for the six months of the FMD crisis and that a well-informed scientific consensus should have been reached a long time ago.

Despite stating that vaccination is still considered as an option in the FMD crisis, Mrs Margaret Beckett, minister at DEFRA, has refused a meeting with Dr Watkins.