F&M farmers vow to fight plan for mass slaughter

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Foot-and-mouth Farmers vow to fight plan for mass slaughter


ROBERT BROUGH, a Cumbrian sheep farmer, does not know when the men from MAFF will come calling. He knows, however, that he will not allow his healthy sheep to be slaughtered without a fight.

The mood of farmers, caught inside the Government’s “cull zones” across Cumbria and the North, was turning yesterday from confusion to anger and defiance. They spoke of their horror at having to continue the lambing season as normal, knowing all the time that the newborn lambs were destined for slaughter.

Some said that they would physically prevent Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials from entering their land, others that they would lock their farm gates in an act of passive resistance. Police confiscated a shotgun from a farmer near Penrith after he made telephone threats.

Mr Brough, 78, is typical of farmers in the areas where what they call D-zone notices — the notices posted by MAFF inspectors restricting human and animal movement when exposure to infection is suspected — have been posted.

His farm at Bush-on-Lyne, just south of Longtown, in Cumbria is within the 3km-wide cull zone. It is a death sentence for his prize-winning flock of Blue-faced Leicesters. Like most of his colleagues, he has not heard from the Ministry of Agriculture and does not know when they will come to begin the culling. “A lot of people are going to resist,” he said. “Some are prepared to fight it and go to jail over it.

“There is talk among farmers that they are going to lock their gates and not let anyone on their farms. I shall try to resist them and at least tell them how I feel about it all.” Mr Brough had hoped to pass the cattle and fat sheep farm on to his son Andrew, 31. When the D-zone notice was posted, he knew at once that there may not be much to pass on.

It is an appalling situation when you have been in the job for so long and have worked so hard to stay clear of this disease,” he said. “Now they are going to take them anyway. Farming is is all I know and if it is taken away from me, I will not be able to do anything else. I will try my hardest to keep them (Maff) out if I can. I have become attached to my animals who have won show championships. It breaks my heart.”

Andrew Spence, a sheep farmer in Consett, Co Durham, said that the cull of hundreds of thousands of healthy pigs, sheep and cattle would cause a “rural revolt”. The regional co-ordinator for Farmers For Action, which was a powerful force in last year’s fuel protests, said that militant farmers were ready to blockade themselves into their farms if necessary.

Mr Spence said that he had been in touch with a number of farmers in Cumbria. He said that he was not prepared to reveal their identities or how they planned to resist the MAFF plans. “If anything happens, we do not want them (the authorities) forewarned,” Mr Spence said.

MAFF said that there may be between 200,000 and 300,000 sheep in the intended cull zones.

There was widespread criticism among farmers about the cull initiative. They say that slaughtered carcasses from foot-and-mouth infected herds are already being left in fields for some days before being incinerated or sent to rendering plants. The problem has become so pressing that MAFF has asked Cumbria County Council to make available landfill sites at Hespin Wood, north of Carlisle, and Flusco near Penrith.

Tucker Armstrong, a farmer and chairman of Longtown Auction Mart, said that in places carcasses had been left lying around, still sources of contamination, for four days before they were destroyed.

Mr Armstrong, who farms Sceugh Dyke Farm, in Calthwaite, Cumbria, is also in the cull zone. A neighbouring farm has infected stock. He said: “MAFF can hardly keep up without widening the cull. Are they going to devote extra resources to this cull? Has anyone thought about that? It is no good establishing this buffer zone if they are neglecting infected cases.”

There is speculation that it will take a month to complete the cull. Mr Armstrong said: “If they have to come and take my stock, my feelings are simply that I wish they would get here and get it done.”

James Turner, who manages the 5,500-acre Brackenburgh Estates, in Calthwaite, is critical of the Government for failing to grasp the size of impending crisis with sufficient speed. Resources were so stretched that surveillance for the virus was inadequate, infected herds were not being diagnosed early enough and there were the delays in destroying infected carcasses, Mr Turner said.

The estate has 15,000 breeding ewes. He said there was a danger of wiping out several generations of rare breeds such as Swaledales and Hardwicks. By the time the men from MAFF arrive, lambing for around 900 ewes will probably be over, he said. “Then we will have all the heartache of gathering up all our young lambs for slaughter.”

Copyright 2001

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), March 16, 2001



(note the last paragraph!!)

Saturday March 17 1:02 AM ET Nations Fight Foot-And-Mouth, Grains Threat Looms

By Mike Miller

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Across Europe, Asia and the Americas, nations scrambled to keep foot-and-mouth disease from their herds as the expanding crisis threatened on Saturday to spill into the world's huge grains trade.

Among the latest in a litany of restrictive trade moves, China banned meat imports from countries with outbreaks of the disease, including France and Argentina and Colombia suspended imports of meat from Britain -- the epicenter of the highly-contagious disease -- France and Argentina.

Bosnia banned imports of animals from Britain and France and Portugal prohibited imports of livestock and animal products from seven countries outside the European Union (news - web sites).

And Japan, one of the globe's biggest agricultural importers, reportedly began taking steps to stop buying grain from Argentina, which confirmed this week an outbreak of the highly contagious livestock disease.

Trade sources in the United States said on Friday that Japanese trading houses received e-mails from their Tokyo offices saying the outbreak in Argentina was a concern.

``What the Japanese are doing now is not buying any additional corn from Argentina,'' one source said.

Any steps by importers to restrict grain would deepen the crisis because the world grain market is even larger than trade in meat.

The head of the Paris-based world animal health organization, Office International des Epizooties, had tried earlier in the week to quell such restrictions by saying that the risk of spreading food-and-mouth disease on grain was close to zero.

The disease is not a threat to humans but causes blisters in the mouth and on the hooves of cloven-footed animals. The virus is easily transmitted from animal to animal and can also be carried on clothing and car tires and even on the wind.

An outbreak of foot-and-mouth was discovered in Britain last month and jumped to a cattle herd in France earlier this week.

Britain has decided to kill even healthy animals in a desperate effort to stamp out the disease -- a move that set off a rural revolt by some farmers who vowed not to allow death squads onto their land.

The head of a farmers' group in predicted the slaughter could lead to the death of 1 million animals in a mass cull expected to last several weeks.

Amid the drastic measures, a European Union official expressed hope the United States might scale back its broad ban on imports of EU raw meat and livestock.

The United States imposed the ban earlier this week after the disease spread from Britain to a herd of cattle in France.

The United States set new restrictions on imports of cats, dogs and horses from countries affected by foot-and-mouth. Although the animals cannot become infected with the disease, they can transmit it by carrying the virus on their feet, fur and bedding.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), March 17, 2001.

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