"I couldn't sleep last night--all I could see was the slaughterman"
Ceris Land at her grandparents' farm in Trellech, Monmouthshire.

The Western Mail  http://icwales.ic24.com/

Apr 24 2001

Ceris Land is nine years old, and every night she dreams about her grandparents' farm being visited by slaughtermen in white overalls to kill the animals she loves.

If ever there was evidence that the foot-and-mouth crisis is still gripping the country then her poignant tale is enough, encapsulating the continuing agony of farming families up and down the country.

'My grandad has a small farm and I have been lambing as much as I can after school,' she says.

'We have reared some on a bottle, and these were going to be my starter flock for next year.

'But I keep wondering how long it will be before the men in white suits come to take them.

'I couldn't sleep last night because each time I closed my eyes I saw that picture of the slaughterman holding a gun to a cow's head.

'My mum milks her cow, Lily, every day and the other day I saw her sitting there crying.

'When I asked her what was wrong she just picked her bucket up and went into the house, saying 'Nobody knows!'

'Later I heard her telling dad that my grandad keeps bursting into tears.'

Even at nine years old Ceris wants to be a farmer, but her parents, both from farming families, say that although they are proud of her ambition they can see no future for the industry as the foot-and-mouth crisis drags on.

Ceris says she can see the strain her family are under but finds it difficult to understand.

She has now written a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking him to help her save the animals she has grown up with.

Last night she told of the effects the crisis was having on her family and said she could not stop thinking about the slaughtermen coming to shoot all the animals on her grandparents' farm at Trellech in Monmouthshire.

The farm is encircled by foot-and-mouth cases and the fear that it will strike there too has been with them for more than two months.

It is a small farm. The children have given all the animals names.

Ceris and her younger brothers have not seen their other set of grandparents for two and a half months, even though they run a dairy farm less than three miles away.

The family are terrified that they could spread the disease even with one visit. 'Does Mr Blair know how many families are upset like mine?' Ceris asks.

And the terrible prospect of a mass slaughter fills her with horror.

'All the cows at granny's have names and all the animals come up to you to be loved,' she says.

'Imagining someone holding a gun to their heads makes me cry. Fields without animals - is this the future?

'I watched Panorama the other night even though my television was meant to be switched off. It showed big sheds with thousands of pigs being fattened in them. This must be the future. Mr Blair, please help me save our animals.'

Mrs Land said her daughter had been deeply affected by the terrible images of the cull which had been shown on television and in news-papers in the past month.

'We are all from farming families and she has lived most of her life alongside animals,' she said.

'She has a wonderful rapport with them. Recently we were in Chepstow and she could smell the burning, and it really frightened her. It's hard for young children especially, because they can see what is going on but don't really understand it.'