SATURDAY APRIL 21 2001
carcasses lie across Devon
BY SIMON DE BRUXELLES http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,2-117964,00.html
THE Ministry of Agriculture was accused of causing a public potential health crisis after
it was revealed that of 174,660 carcasses in Devon, thousands are to remain unburied for a
further two weeks.
Officials said yesterday that the mass burial site at Ash Moor, near Meeth, North Devon,
will not be ready for at least 14 days, leaving nowhere to dispose of the 174,660 dead
animals now lying around fields and farmyards in Devon.
The Government has boasted of having overcome the disposal problem in Cumbria but in Devon
it is growing daily and farmers leaders say that the situation is critical and out
of control. In the past three days alone 53,946 animals have been culled but only 13,611
disposed of through rendering or fires.
This means the backlog is growing by an average of 13,445 a day and is likely to continue
doing so until the mass burial site is ready in two weeks time.
Many of the carcasses have been lying in fields for well over a week and are already in
the advanced stages of decomposition. The stench of rotting animals hangs over a huge area
of North Devon.
The National Farmers Union regional director Anthony Gibson said that the Government must
overrule the Environment Agency and order the burial of carcasses on farms to solve the
crisis. He said: What is going on at the moment is a scandal. It is disgusting and
disgraceful. I have driven through the area and the stench of rotting flesh was
overpowering and utterly revolting.
Large parts of Devon are becoming uninhabitable and there must be a risk to public
health with so many rotting carcasses lying around. Unless something is done soon there
will be a great deal of public unrest.One farmer who had 2,000 sheep killed at Umberleigh
offered to have a burn on his land to get rid of them but has not heard back from the
MAFFs director of operations in Devon, Andy Lebrecht, reacted angrily to suggestions
that by the time the specially constructed burial site at Ash Moor is opened most of the
carcasses will be too decomposed to be moved there. He said: If you have a better
suggestion I would like to hear it. We are pursuing other means but we want to bury a
large proportion of the carcasses. We will continue slaughtering as long as there are
further infections and contiguous premises.
We are looking at the option to taking carcasses off farms and storing them
centrally but we have not got things firmed up. We want to dispose of carcasses by all
methods available .
Mr Lebrecht said he hoped the mass burn site at South Arscott, near Holsworthy, would ease
the problem when the wind direction allows the first of two fires to be lit. Each will
consume about 14,000 carcasses.