Was ‘contiguous cull’ illegal?

Solicitors consider mass claim

by John Powell

The Ross on Wye Review, 1 june 2001

FARMERS and smallholders in and around the Forest of Dean who believe the massive foot and mouth cull cost them animals and income unnecessarily could join together to bring an action against The Ministry of Agricultural Fisheries and Food.

The possibility of a huge claim for compensation is being explored by Ross-on-Wye solicitors Jordans.

Action would probably focus on whether or not the "contiguous cull" was legal under EU Law and whether or not MAFF had the power to slaughter uninfected animals.

The firm is already representing a number of local people who feel they have been dealt with unfairly by MAFF.

Partner Barbara Jordan explained: "All of the action that Government is entitled to take in dealing with the foot and mouth outbreak is covered by The Animal Health Act of 1981, European legislation and guidelines and policy statements issued since the outbreak began, by this administration.

"However we have been increasingly concerned that many of our clients have reported that representatives of MAFF have been attempting to take action in an autocratic and even intimidatory way, and of course the situation is not helped by the fact that the A Notices and D Notices that are issued contain no information at all about what people should do if they do not feel that these notices should apply to them, nor contain any information at all about peoples’ rights."

Ms Jordan said that because of the time lapse since the last cull of infected animals she now believed remaining stock could not be culled unless they showed clear clinical signs of the disease or have had blood tests which proved they were or had been infected.

She said her company and clients were well aware or we seriousness of foot and mouth and everyone agreed to the slaughter of infected stock, but the case was now compelling for testing and monitoring, especially in the Forest where deer and other animals could be infected and sensible discussion about vaccination must be considered if the tradition of free-roaming sheep was to survive.

"Local people have to date been highly effective in working together and offering peaceful protest in the face of MAFF action and this, together with legal representation, has had the effect of changing the policy of the local MAFF office. It began with ‘slaughter first test next’, but is now, we think, more reasonable."

Ms Jordan said she believed there could be number of farmers and smallholders in the area who had lost animals and incomes unnecessarily "as a result of precipitate and inappropriate action by MAFF"

The company was now considering a joint action on behalf of clients.