The Killing Fields by John Gouriet  (3rd May)

Fresh from condemning the intended extermination of all sheep within a two hundred square mile block centred on the Forest of Dean and advising 350 angry farmers and residents there how legally to resist Maff’s mass slaughter of healthy animals, I travelled north to address a similar meeting in Lockerbie on Monday night.

The mood was dour but determined, despite the barrage of bullying, dire threats and misinformation by Maff and local NFU officials, to which many of the audience had been subjected. Local residents who had survived the catastrophic crash of PanAm 103 onto this close-knit border town more than a decade earlier, vividly described their living hell in recent weeks.

The stench and the smoke from pits and pyres close by the town had created a nauseous cocktail that was inescapable even in their own homes. It permeated every nook and cranny, clinging to curtains and carpets as does stale cigarette smoke the next day after a party. Except this was no party and the stench remained long after the last carcass had been buried or burned. It was so unbearable that even the strongest stomachs turned, people retched and coughed. Those with respiratory and cardiac problems suffered the most, and no expert can yet predict the long terms effects on human health from dioxyns, chemicals in wood used in the pyres and BSE prions released into the atmosphere. There is still a pit within easy inhaling distance of Lockerbie. It is being stuffed with the carcasses of healthy stock as Maff continues its merciless eradication policy. Thank God the wind was blowing away from the hall on Monday evening. For having caught a whiff on my way, I cannot imagine how the people of Lockerbie or any other village downwind of similar pits could endure such a smell for a minute, let alone live with it!

I had to be in Glasgow for a vital fundraising meeting the following morning. At first the train meandered through a sheepless countryside, but gradually an air of springtime normality began to return. Lambs gambolled and sunbathed while woolly ewes cropped the fresh green grass as their ancestors have done for hundreds of years, oblivious to the fate that had befallen their cousins further south. My meeting had gone well, and I was relaxing with a mug of soup on the return journey when my mobile rang for the umpteenth time.

The message was urgent. Maff were about to move in on a farm adjacent to Rabbie Burns’ farm north of Dumfries. Colin Stokes, a wool weaver and organic farmer, had been developing a new breed of sheep he called Brayland for the last fifteen years. They were not only unique, but famed for their quality of coloured wool that provided some of the finest weaves in the world. Colin’s flock numbered 200. He’d just enjoyed one of his best lambing seasons ever. The flock was fit and resistant to FMD, being organic and on Borax 30.

No other flocks remained alive within miles. His misfortune was to be situated on the very edge of a Maff 3km culling zone. Maff were determined to take his sheep and applied their usual tactics; “Your neighbours will never forgive you. You will be public enemy number one. You have no right to resist and we will stop your compensation if you hold us up. Every other farm has been culled – so why should your sheep survive?” The Maff killing machine is as relentless as Rommel.

The train was still nearly an hour from Lockerbie, but for once Virgin were excelling themselves and as we rattled along, I arranged to be met at Lockerbie and driven across country to Laggan Burn on the Holywood road. Unfortunately our directions were poor. Suddenly we came upon a Maff killing squad halted on the main road, but several miles short of our destination. I commented; “Pity we haven’t time to help that poor fellow, we’d better push on so that we can be prepared. At least they will be held up for a while there.”

We drove on. Laggan Burn Farm was nowhere to be found and no one had heard of Mr. Stokes. Precious minutes ticked by. At last we were redirected back towards Burns’ old farm, where to my horror we realised that Laggan Burn was the very farm where we had seen Maff preparing forty minutes earlier. A small convoy of military and freight vehicles stood by.

By now Maff had started their grisly work. Three or four men in white overalls from the Dumfries dole-queue were manning a spray lorry at the entrance. I stormed up the track, having had my shoes sprayed. A further seven soldiers and slaughtermen, also clad in white overalls, lounged against a gate or prowled the track. An attractive young blonde was bending over a small pen of chocolate to beige coloured lambs, all bleating piteously, as she systematically jabbed them with a long and lethal needle, and left them to stagger aimlessly until they collapsed beside their fellows. A growing pile of limp, flattened little figures lay beside the pen. Two other pens were crammed so tightly with sheep that it was not immediately obvious the occupants of the furthest pen were already dead.
 The slaughter stopped abruptly on my arrival. I demanded to know who was in charge and explained that under both UK and EU law the cull of healthy stock was illegal. The young blonde vet, Catrina, shocked me. She was flushed and smiling. She was clearly enjoying her work and might have been engaged in quite another activity! But pity any man who climbs into bed with such a werewolf! I asked her if she could prove these sheep were infected, and if not why was she killing them? Her response was “Can you prove they are not infected?” to which I replied that it was her responsibility to prove infection before culling, and if she persisted criminal proceedings would be launched against her personally.

She stalked off to give the spray-man a rocket for not apprehending me, and ordered him to spray me from the waist down when I left as a reprisal. She refused to give her name or speak after that. Meanwhile a young and chirpy slaughterer told me that “Vaccination is a waste of time and doesn’t work. The only way is kill everything. That’s government policy and we are just obeying orders.” He was arrogant enough to try to deride the reputation of Professor Fred Brown and other world experts on FMD who have consistently advocated vaccination and confirmed that FMD is neither fatal to stock nor dangerous for human consumption. “Do you realise these sheep are unique?” I asked. “No difference to me mate, a sheep’s a sheep!” was the chilling reply.

Corporal Smith of the Highlanders, in charge of the killing squad, informed me that Colin Stokes, the owner had given permission for the cull in exchange for keeping one ram, four ewes and five lambs. I therefore had to concede that they were legally at liberty to continue, although I have no doubt whatever that Colin had been intimidated. He however had left his property, too distraught to witness his life’s unique work being destroyed so cruelly and wantonly. I did remain for a while, although the Police had been summoned to remove me. The captive bolt pistols were soon popping around the pen. But they did not always stun or kill instantaneously. One prime ewe remained obstinately alive, its horn caught in a rail as it struggled, another with blood oozing out of the back of its head fixed me with a bright amber eye, appealingly. I had to ask that they be put out of their misery immediately. Then I left, appalled by what I had seen.

The spray-man was not foolhardy enough to try to spray me from the waist down! As we drove off to instruct Braidwoods, our solicitors in Dumfries, a call came through to say Carolyn Hoffe at Whithorn was still holding out with her five rare pet sheep safely barricaded in her sitting-room at my suggestion. A police car passed us going in the opposite direction.

Scenes like this are being repeated up and down the country. Farmers fear Maff more than FMD. They fear the telephone just as Jews feared a knock on the door sixty years ago in Europe. It is reminiscent of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Treblinka. As then it is evil and unnecessary. The only differences are that today it is animals that are being burned, and farmers can and should appeal.

To help them fight for the survival of their healthy animals, please donate whatever you can afford to the Legal Fund, Freedom in Action 32 Addison Grove London W4 1ER. We have succeeded on Anglesey and in the Forest of Dean, but we cannot be sure from one day to the next when Maff will try a different tactic to achieve their goal of extermination, aided and abetted by the NFU.