OK, so Phoenix has risen - now Porky looks set to hog the limelight
By Gill Whibley Friday 27 April 2001

A POT-BELLIED pig called Porky looks set to become the latest animal to grab the public's imagination as his owners fight to save him from a death sentence.

As the wave of euphoria continues to sweep the country following the survival of Phoenix the calf, residents in a small Scottish village have begun a high-profile campaign to spare the 10-year old pig.

Porky is due to be killed under the pre-emptive cull policy because George and Sadie Stone's bungalow in Ruthwell Station, Dumfries and Galloway, falls within 3km of an infected farm.

Mr and Mrs Stone, who are devastated at the prospect of losing their pet, appealed on the grounds that Porky lives indoors and has had no contact with farm animals.

Porky has been checked by a vet and has no signs of foot-and-mouth disease, according to their daughter Georgie Cartner, 39, who bought the pet for her father 10 years ago.

On Wednesday, officials from the Scottish Executive's Rural Affairs Department arrived at the Stones' home on Wednesday but were refused entry.

Mrs Cartner, who lives next door to her parents, said: "We don't see why he should be killed, he's kept in the kitchen because he had pneumonia as a baby and the farm which is infected is two miles away and it was infected seven weeks ago.

Phoenix the all-white Charolais heifer calf became a symbol of hope for the nation after weeks of the most depressing headlines farming had seen for years.

"Saved by the nation...Phoenix, a symbol of hope for everyone who has suffered in this crisis," read yesterday's full-page Mirror headline. "Phoenix will live" said the Daily Express. Voice of the Mirror claimed the whole foot and mouth crisis had come down to one small symbol, a tiny white calf.

The Daily Telegraph switchboard took calls all day from people wanting the animal to be saved.

'The family there, in a straw filled garage, with an almost biblical animal.'

Tony Blair announced the major change in culling police shortly before 10pm on Wednesday, coincidentally enabling this symbol of hope to be saved in time for Thursday morning's newspaper headlines.

The week running up to the announcement had been turbulent. Demonstrators in Devon had attempted to stop a funeral pyre as evidence about the affects on human health of mass burning gathered. After first announcing that there was no risk to public health, warnings to asthmatics were issued.

Whether to vaccinate or not has been highly contentious and a source of embarrassment for Government. They were poised to announce a u-turn and introduce a policy of selective vaccination, when a report from the Government's scientific advisers, written a fortnight previously, was leaked.

It said that vaccination would not be 100 per cent effective and could threaten food exports. The next day, the Government's Chief Scientist, Professor David King, announced that the disease was now under control. Farmers' leaders across the country immediately poured scorn on this claim

Now, thanks to some swift manouvering by the Government, they contrived to announce their change in policy, so that cattle weren't automatically killed on farms next to infected premises - just in time to appear the heroes who saved Phoenix. Downing Street denied the decision to "refine" the slaughter policy had anything to do with the publicity about Phoenix and that the decision to spare her had been taken by Maff officials at the scene.

Ian Johnson, National Farmers' Union spokesman in the South-West, visited Phoenix at its home on Clarence Farm, near Axminister in Devon where it was being looked after by farmer Fred Board and his family.

Mr Johnson said: "It was almost a quasi-biblical scene. The family there, in a straw filled garage, with an almost biblical animal. I have never known such a docile, well-tempered animal."

He said that Phoenix can be held up as a symbol of hope and change, that at last common sense has prevailed. The Government have agreed to halt the compulsory killing of healthy cattle on contiguous farms, but he warns, this doesn't automatically mean an end to the death.

Local NFU spokesman on livestock, Richard Haddock, said it was too soon to say that foot and mouth is over. He said: "Phoenix is very lucky to be alive, marks on it suggest it did receive the injection."

Four the past four weeks, they have had the backing of vets in the area supporting an end to the cull of healthy cattle, he says. But he added: "I'm nervous about the way the sheep have been hiding and carrying the disease. I think that all sheep in the country should be blood tested for the disease. It has been in the sheep for a long time, possibly since November or December."

Andrew Tyler, director of the radical Animal Aid organisation, was understandably unimpressed with the Phoenix coverage, describing the public reaction as "gruesome sentimentality".

He said: The fate of calves is miserable; they have a short, wretched existence, they're simply a waste by-product of the dairy industry. The only hope for animals like Phoenix is if people stop eating their dead bodies."