The silence of the lambs has an eerie feeling

Chris Evans sees first hand the problems of the Welfare scheme

Brecon & Radnor Express 17 May 2001

THE countryside around us all is changing, and sadly people, it’s not for the better.

Here in the heart of Wales we see great swathes of Breconshire now completely devoid of stock, no bleating of lambs, no calling of cattle - all’s eerily quiet.

Unbeknown to us, we are all witnessing the slow and crippling death of a whole culture and time honoured way of life - it’s just vanishing before our eyes.

From high above Brecon down to Talgarth and beyond are mile upon mile of green empty fields. I’m sick with worry as to how, where and when this is ever going to end?

We are all facing yet another government imposed problem; as well as mass slaughter due to foot and mouth, we are now suffering a great many problems due to animal welfare. The notices served on infected areas have made life so very difficult for us all.

As anyone who has managed to get on the welfare scheme will tell you, the whole slow and painful process is frustrating and completely demoralising - it’s sickening to offer your own stock up for slaughter because of the horrendous circumstances forced upon us.

Only last week, we here at Gilestone experienced first hand the lack of communication and mismanagement of the scheme run by the Intervention Board.

So badly run is the scheme that carcasses of 70 sheep and 25 lambs slaughtered on farm last Thursday afternoon still lay in our shed, rotting and smelling, attracting foxes and vermin. No-one has yet bothered to collect them, even though I’ve made at least 15 phone calls to the ‘casualty slaughter helpline’ - at any other time we would be prosecuted for this barbaric treatment of stock, but no-one cares any more.

On Radio Wales yesterday, it was very interesting to hear the comments of Mr Andrew Scott who’s vice president of the British Veterinary Association. He openly admitted that there is a great worry amongst his colleges that the numbers of new cases of infection are not being correctly counted, due to a ‘change in method’!

Carwyn Jones told the Welsh Assembly only last week that the weekly updates in the Welsh Assembly of foot and mouth figures were no longer required!! How subtle of him!!

More worrying than even the manipulation of numbers is the high risk possibility of us becoming re-infected with this dreaded virus, which is as we speak being hosted in a variety of wild-life. Deer in particular are causing great concern to our vets at the moment.

Only last week Geraint had a chat with a livestock haulier who told him of a deer being knocked down in Devon who was completely full of the foot and mouth virus.

If this is occuring in the wild, then when farmers come to re-stock surely the infection will be passed right back to the ‘clean’ animals again - and the whole awful cycle will resume.

What is needed now is a total rethink of a way forward for agriculture. They want us to be custodians of the countryside - funny but I thought that’s what we always have been.

We need good, solid and experienced representation in Brussels, Whitehall and the Welsh Assembly, we need people to lead us who actually know what they’re talking about, and most of all we need to gain our ability to trade once again on a fair playing field - we need to achieve a good price for our first class products.