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As one of the 10,000 farmers who had all their healthy farm animals compulsorily slaughtered in the contiguous cull during the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, I would like to comment on the Agriculture Minister Ben Bradshaw's recent remarks about Operation Hornbeam, the FMD simulation carried out in Cornwall. Mr Bradshaw is reported as saying vaccination was a very useful tool.

Ray Anderson, the manager of Operation Hornbeam, also said vaccination was a very useful tool.

What a nice clean hymn sheet, nearly in unison though miles apart but on the same key. The mantra has been passed down the line okay and the order given, don't say anything which implies the immediate use of vaccination.

Mr Bradshaw said: "We hope to avoid contiguous culling but we have not ruled it out." Well you did not avoid it during Operation Hornbeam did you Ben? More than 17,300 animals slaughtered, and still counting.

The very strange question arises as to why Ben Bradshaw did not pull out his trump card, the sentinel theory, as practised and endorsed in Cornwall in April 2001 at the height of the FMD outbreak, and boasted of in his letter dated February 16, 2004, to Andrew George MP.

In this letter Ben Bradshaw writes about a large pig farm in North Cornwall which was contiguous to an infected premises. Some 2,800 pigs were slaughtered but 200 gilts plus 200 suckler cows were left unculled.

Quote: "On the advice of the epidemiology team . . . some "irreplaceable" young pigs (200) were allowed to remain because the owner's cattle (200) were in close proximity to these pigs, which would then have acted as sentinels.

"Because of the prompt notification and appropriate response to confirmed disease, there was no further spread of disease in the area."

I would like to ask Mr Bradshaw, as I am sure other farmers who were not given this option of leaving their animals unculled to act as sentinels would also like to ask him, why this simple and cost effective method which was decided by MAFF's own senior vets, was not used elsewhere during 2001, and why it will not be used again in any further outbreak of foot and mouth?

Why have you not mentioned this Mr Bradshaw? Does it work or was that letter you sent to Andrew George MP complete rubbish?


Higher Fonstone Farm, Warbstow.