With the full permission of the Author,Jenny Flemming, I reproduce in full her article which appeared in this week's "Our Cats" magazine. It is worth reading.
I live in a hamlet consisting of two cottages, and one very large farm which has the benefit of two farmhouses.
Our cottage is 50 yards up an unmade track off a quiet country road. Outside the front door is a 250 acre field let on an annual basis to a farmer in Longtown. A more lidyllic position would be hard to find within seven miles of the city centre of Carlisle.
On 28 February I visited our local vet in Longtown to be told that Foot and Mouth disease [FMD] had been detected in that village - this was just a few days after the original outbreak at Heddon-on-the-Wall in Northumberland - just 50 miles along ` the wall` from our home. A general feeling of doom and gloom sets in for we all realise the implications.
On 1 March MAFF arrive at the front door and tell me that all the household moggies have to be kept indoors and the dogs can only be exercised in the garden.
The dogs were sent to kennels for a week, by which time it had been confirmed that cats were not likely to spread FMD and could be allowed out. Dogs could be walked on tarmac roads but not on fields.
Notices were posted everywhere closing off all the footpaths including the Roman wall which is probably the first time it has been closed to walkers since the Romans left.
TO BE CULLED!
The first weekend in March I was off to Belfast for the Northern Ireland Show, the usual food, drink and fun. I arrived home to discover that the 250 assorted sheep gaily eating the turnips in the field in front of the house are to be culled.
They belong to a farmer in Longtown who has the disease in his stock. The sheep came off a Scottish hillside and had been purchased at Longtown mart a few days earlier. The sheep were culled on 7 March and were removed immediately because the Department of the Environment would not allow burning adjacent to the Roman Wall. The sheep lay at the Longtown farm for a week before being incinerated!
On 27 March I attended a protest meeting organised by "Farmers for Action" at the Shepherds Inn, Carlisle. The meeting was addressed byDr Richard North, the Independent Parties Epidemiologist from Brussels who advocates the vaccination of cattle and allowing the sheep contracting the disease to be left alone. This would increase the antibodies in those sheep and make them less susceptible to contracting the disease in the future. He described the MAFF as "...the ministry of death who were advocating culling because they didn't know what else to do and didn't have the logistics to carry it out if they had."
OUT OF WORK !
Co-incidentally, on this same day the army were called in and set up a huge portacabin complex at the Rosehill Auction Mart. Armstrong Watson, Chartered Accountants, and my husband's employers, made 25 farm secretaries available to assist, along with the use of a computer database.MAFF didn't have either the technology or the ability to set one up.
Two days later I telephoned the MAFF helpline to inquire why lethal injections were not being used to kill ewes in lamb. I was told that there was a shortage of injections and time to administer.
The gun is quicker and kills the sheep but unborn lambs can survive for up to three days. I was given the UK National Press office telephone number. I phoned three times but, on each occasion I was answered by a DHSS officer who knew nothing about FMD!
I telephoned the RSPCA. Eventually I got through to the Chief Vetinary Officer who advised me that that very day he had spoken to the pharmaceutical firms about supplies of the lethal injections. They were trying to obtain them from Europe but there were almost no stocks in the UK. He asked me to log all events that I witnessed.
1050 GUN SHOTS!
On 31 March, the day we had all been dreading, there was scheduled to be a precautionary culling of 1000 sheep and 50 head of cattle at "our farm". The ewes and lambs were penned in a crush for 13 hours before culling with no food or water. The lambs escaped onto the road and a neighbour and myself had to return them to the field as the farmer and his wife had gone away for the day as they couldn't face the culling-I had to-1050 gun shots.
The cattle were shot in front of one another (at a slaughter house no animal sees another being killed). One beast jumped over the barriers and bonnet of an army Landover and legged it down the road to the next village and on to another farmer's land. It was driven all the way back and then shot.
Ewes in lamb and young lambs were not given lethal injections. Dead sheep and lambs lay in the field for three days. Cattle lay in the lonning where they were killed for six days. Blood,urine and other liquids ran down the lonning and across the main road. No-one cleaned up. The smell of pyres was like lavender water compared to the stink of dead animals.
On 2 April a friend telephoned but could hardly speak as she had walked past a field filled with culled sheep from the previous day. She had spotted movements inthe abdomen of sheep which showed that the lambs were still alive even though their mothers were dead. The sheep had been shot with the bolt but had not been pithed - a relatively quick way of killing unborn lambs by cutting off the oxygen supply. Lethal injections were still not available.
In a letter to the local newspaper a farmer's wife wrote of a barn she had passed containing carcases of slaughtered cattle culled the previous day. One was dragging itself across the floor still alive. The RSPCA were called in.
At another local farm, cattle carcases were left for seven days. A pyre was built but the animals could not be burned as it was infested with rats and the environmental health inspector would not allow burning until the rodent population was destroyed. If animals were put on the pyre the rats would just run away. The smell 14 days after death was unimaginable.
Today it was announced that, in North Cumbria only, limited vaccination of cattle at risk has been approved by MAFF. There were no guarantees that the milk or subsequent meat will be fit for human consumption. Farmers are in disarray and do not know who or what to believe.
In a report in The Times covering Parliament on its last day of sitting before the Easter recess, it was stated that a Labour MP described the Government's policy of culling healthy animals was "based on voodoo rather than science". He went on to say that "the slaughter seems to have nothing to do with animal welfare - it is all about commercial viability".
Tony Banks, the MP concerned, urged Ministers to set up a farms inspectorate to examine standards of husbandry and get rid of "rogue farmers". Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture,Fisheries and Food had "Fouled up big time". In the same article Tony Blair, in a written reply, said that he now estimated that 2 million sheep movements took place in February before movement restrictions were imposed.
Perhaps the most fitting epitaph for the whole episode are the posters now appearing on traffic signs throughout the county "cull the MAFF".
Farmers, local authorities, vets and all businesses connected with the tourist trade are totally convinced that what has been,no doubt, the most serious economic disaster to hit Cumbria this century, has been made unbelievably worse by a government department that was totally incompetent to act in the emergency caused by this epidemic.