Families see MAFF kill cow in canal

Sunday Express May 27, 2001

SINCE the foot-and-mouth outbreak devastated the countryside there have been many harrowing scenes.

The sickening sight of burning pyres. Piles of dead sheep and cows being bulldozed into vast graves. But the horrific scene that confronted families enjoying the evening sunshine outside their village pub was astonishing.

Drinkers watched in disbelief as a Man from the Ministry slaughtered a terrified cow before their eyes. The frightened animal had made a desperate bolt for freedom as Ministry of Agriculture officials culled a herd of cows suspected of carrying foot-and-mouth in a nearby field.

It crashed through a hedge, but in its panic slipped into the canal that runs through the picturesque village of Worsley on the outskirts of Manchester which was once home to football stars David Beckham and Ryan Giggs.

Seemingly oblivious to the children playing on the village green with their parents, the eager slaughterman plunged waist-deep into the canal with his gun. As he waded towards the floundering animal a couple of angry locals tried in vain to stop him and then chased him into the Bridgewater

Hotel where there was a fight and the man was head-butted.

But the slaughter of the animal only led to further trouble. Blood from the dead cow spread across the canal, horrifying onlookers who could hardly believe what they had seen.

The fire brigade was called but were unable to lift the carcass out of the canal. So the Army was sent for. It took them two hours to arrive, by which time serious concern was being expressed about pollution to the canal.

Experts yesterday were still assessing the contamination risks.

Pub regular Peter McCarthy, who was enjoying a pint and reading his newspaper, said: "It was one of the most bizarre sights I have ever seen. Suddenly this man soaked to the skin and wearing blue overalls and green wellies rushed in.

"He was chased by a young man calling him an evil so-and-so. There was a scuffle and the man in overalls was head-butted."

The vigilante animal lover and his friends fled before police arrived. But villagers defended their actions. One woman, who saw the incident, said: "The poor cow was running for its life and the slaughterman just didn’t seem to care. It was very distressing that he killed the animal in the water and left the carcass.

"I’m sure he could have captured the beast calmly and led it away instead of getting it all worked up and terrified before it died. It was a lovely sunny day and there were lots of children and families."

An Agriculture Ministry spokesman said last night: "This is terrible and must have been extremely distressing for the people who saw it. We are very sorry

"We do not take matters like this lightly and there will be a full investigation to find out why the slaughterman acted this way. He was certainly not following guidelines set down by us.

"As far as contamination from the blood affecting other animals, that is remote. The foot-and-mouth virus is not robust and would not survive very long in water in sunlight and would soon become very diluted and killed off.

"That does not mean that we approve in any way of killing the animal in the canal. But we need to find out why it was done."

Police said they were investigating the assault.