'For evil to triumph all that is required is that good men do nothing'
Mrs. E. Jane. M. Barribal & Associates.
2 - Howpark Farm Cottages - Grantshouse - Duns - Berwickshire - TD11 3RP
The Cuckoo's Nest - 15th June 200
I beg your indulgence if the following seems to be a little 'off the wall' but it's my birthday today and as for most of us, when another birthday arrives each year, I'm wondering where the last year has gone; time has sped by so quickly. On birthdays we all look forward to cards arriving from distant friends and relatives or perhaps even a party. The older we get such delights may not materialize in vast number but just as at Christmas and New Year, we have hopes and dreams for the year to come. We never know what's around the corner, our lives a kaleidoscope of variety, triumphs and tragedies intermingled. For me, the last few months have been unbelievably crazy and I've made dozens of new friends whom I've never met and probably never will.
Since February this year the weeks have been traumatic for so many and the whole country bewildered and uncertain as a result of Foot and Mouth Disease. As for me, my daily routine has changed beyond all recognition. I no longer visit my friends; walk my dogs in the hills or tramp for miles along the coast. My house is degenerating into something resembling the Hilton Hotel for spiders and I request rare visitors not to write in the dust! My garden is overgrown with weeds and I'm hoping the Annual Village Flower Show will have a class for prize thistles, as I'm sure I could win! Of course, unless a miracle occurs, I won't be going or exhibiting anything. I'm stuck here, in this small room, with two telephones and a computer all because of an Internet site called 'Farmtalking'. I know it's all my own fault, it's something I 'started' and so now I will have stay to 'the finish', my problem is - when will that be?
The Government's mishandling of the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis is legendary. Like so many I've hoped they would learn from their mistakes and wish they would make the appropriate changes but it seems they have no intention of making my wish come true. In fact they are increasing their incompetent policy measures, as the Americans say, 'in strides'
Of course it's our family and friends who know us best and I'm all too well aware, as most of mine are 'not backwards in coming forwards', that I'm considered a' little bit odd' and something of 'a lone wolf eccentric'! I was comforted to realize that they don't actually consider me to be 'completely barking' when my sister-in-law called me a few days ago. Having recounted a few tales of the MAFF/DEVRA incompetence I've run into over the past few weeks, she said, 'You must feel as if you're living in a lunatic asylum and you're the only sane one there!'
On reflection there was considerable truth in her statement. The feeling I'm taking part in some bizarre re-run of 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest' grows daily. I am, however, fortunate to be sharing my asylum with a few like-minded individuals who help to keep me going.
As each new plan is announced, I, and my friends, endeavour to discover exactly what the MAFF/DEVRA intend to do, and why and how. Then we try to translate it into 'plain English' to inform the farmers and pet owners how best to co-operate within the law, with the Government's requirements.
It was way back in late March early April that I was in conversation with Vets working out of the Dumfries Bunker. It became obvious that they had serious doubts about the accuracy of their diagnosis of FMD. I put it to them that as we had a very wet winter all over the country, the incidence of Foot Rot and Orf in the sheep flock was extremely high. I suggested that possibly these afflictions were being diagnosed as Foot & Mouth, especially by small animal Vets, drafted in, who would be unfamiliar with these conditions in farm animals. At that time they did not vehemently disagree with my opinion and in some instances agreed positively. Last week, the Veterinary record published their OMAGOD article. After reading this article, Veterinary Surgeons have told me they find it 'scary'.
Of little comfort to those who have lost their livestock and surely proof of shaken
confidence in a Vet's ability to 'clinically diagnose' FMD. Why did it take the best part of three months to publicly disclose this realization? I'm not a Vet but still feel guilty that I didn't shout louder about my doubts concerning 'clinical diagnosis'. Above all why was not diagnosis confirmed in every case by blood test samples prior to slaughter? No man walks this earth that could persuade me there was a legitimate reason for taking the life of a healthy animal without such a positive test result, be his reason financial, political or medical.
Crazy Contiguous Culls!
O.K. so we've all now established that according to the best scientific advice, the killing of healthy livestock on contiguous premises and in 3km zones was unnecessary. Nevertheless, contiguous culling continues. It would also seem from study of the EU and U.K. legislation, (failing a Court Judgment to the contrary), that the killing of healthy stock is illegal. If in time it is proven to be legal, surely it shouldn't be so.
Thousands of farmers have lost their livestock simply because they lived next door to an 'unconfirmed' outbreak condemned on 'clinical diagnosis' alone. Many of those fortunate enough to have had a blood-test taken at the time, have had a 'negative' result returned, many more will never know if their stock was infected or not. Nevertheless they have been given an 'A' Form, signed by a Vet as a 'false certificate', and designated an Infected Premises. Today they endure all the restrictions that come with that as a package. The signing of a Form 'A' for the slaughter of healthy stock renders it a false certificate. An offence for which a Veterinary Surgeon may be struck off the Register. I firmly believe we are all responsible for our own actions. Veterinary Surgeons swear an oath on qualification, which has been broken by hundreds of them signing such certificates. For professional men and women to have adopted such a cavalier attitude to the lives of innocent animals at the behest of Government is unforgivable. They should lose their right to practice but I wonder how many will.
Fibs for Fear!
The threats and intimidation levelled at farmers by MAFF officials is well documented and illegal. Though warned against it, they continue and the use of the Police force is abused. The Police themselves, seemingly unable to interpret the law as they should and act accordingly. Fear and despair have driven some farmers to suicide, abandoning wives and children. Children are frequently traumatized and made physically sick. The mental scars inflicted by this holocaust will last a lifetime for many of the population. Trust in the Government is severely shaken if not non-existent. Environmental protection laws have been broken, peaceful demonstrators manhandled, threatened and arrested. Farmers have been accused of breaking their bio-security while MAFF vehicles have driven around completely' unclean' without any precautions being observed. Law abiding country people are fearful and frightened every day waiting for that knock on the door or telephone call from 'The MAFF'. They are no longer fearful of a disease but fearful of their fellow citizens and in many cases rightly so. If you don't believe me - just come and listen to the telephone calls I receive every day.
The Government failed to provide a link between the IACS, Passport Records and the MAFF bunkers. Computers and formats apparently non-compatible. As a result, a farmer in an infected area was asked if he wanted his milk collected when he hadn't been a dairy farmer for forty years, another dairy farmer was asked if they still had animals. It transpired MAFF was working from a ten-year-old list. Worst and most tragic of all, farms were culled 'by mistake'. By comparison, Heath Robinson looks well organized.
We now come to the Government's desire to blood test all flocks residing in areas deemed to be, or have been, 'at risk'. A Government employee has told me they are only sending a 'clean Vet' to farms for blood-testing if the farmer insists upon it, simply because they do not have enough 'clean Vets' to do the job. So, it's not all right for me to visit my farming friends for tea and cake but perfectly O.K. for a Vet to trail from farm to farm, risking spread of disease. In fact I'm hearing more reports of Vets and slaughter men failing to follow correct disinfecting procedure, almost daily.
I am advised that for these blood tests to be valid, the proportion of the flock to be tested must represent the whole flock and not simply be taken from the group of animals that happen to graze closest to home. This is not happening and so invalidates the whole procedure. On the 11th June it was announced that Local Vets would be employed for blood-testing and monitoring farms in their immediate area. Supervised by the Divisional Veterinary Officer and paid for their services by DEVRA. It has been reported that one Vet was supposed to simultaneously supervise the slaughter on up to ten farms, fortunately, this impossibility was noted and it didn't happen. I have to suggest this may well have been more by luck than good judgement. It seems fair to presume that the employment of local Vets will free those in the Ministry's employ to attend such massacres.
The laws that govern the humane slaughter of livestock have been ignored with almost total abandon in some cases. Those that govern the use of firearms and ammunition accompany them. Trigger happy idiots firing off rounds in an open space with impunity, causing extreme suffering and distress has occurred not once, but several times and who knows may well occur again. Discipline, self-control, compassion and above all a respect for the rule of law, conspicuous by their absence and witnesses too intimidated or gutless to report the matter to the R.S.P.C.A. and stand by their statements in Court. Questions concerning the contamination of the environment are legion. Burial pits leaking effluent and thousands of tons of contaminated ash awaiting costly disposal, not to mention the millions of gallons of disinfectant contaminating the land, rivers and streams. I know burial at sea has been considered and as I write, is rumoured to be, already underway. It is slaughter and destruction on a massive scale with no visible end in sight.
It may have seemed sensible to require farmers to apply for a license for the movement of sheep from winter to summer grazing or cattle from wintering sheds for the 'turn-out' in spring. That the applications had to be submitted several times, caused huge delays, the requests becoming more urgent daily on grounds of the animal's welfare. For the instruction to be received that a 'grovelling letter' should accompany the application smacks of intimidating, power-crazed officialdom and makes no sense at all.
The latest idiotic directive, forbids farmers wishing to make silage on infected 'A' premises, to store it in a clamp close to the buildings where their animals will be housed in winter. It has to be made and stored in large plastic covered bales and then left in the field. It is further directed that on lifting the bale when required for winter feed, it must be thoroughly disinfected. It is well known in agricultural circles that crows enjoy pecking through the plastic to indulge in a warm breakfast of fresh silage. Something tells me that cattle will not find a dressing of disinfectant sprinkled on their silage for supper, so palatable. We have a Ministry dictating measures and methods to farmers with no practical knowledge, little common sense and seemingly no desire to acquire any of either.
This week I have heard that farmers who have lost their stock are requested to sign a 'Contract for Services' form. This is to ensure they indemnify the Government when under contract with them to disinfect their own property, for which the farmers will be paid. Whether by accident or design a portion of this document, (No 17 - 1 to 4), was part of the Official Secrets Act. Apparently it has been included for years and over 400 farmers have signed it this year. I understand that Bobby Waugh's solicitor was the man who read the small print and noticed the anomaly. His client condemned by the Government whose intimation that FMD started in pig-swill at Bobby's farm, seems libelous, to say the least. The Government has now announced the removal of the Secrets Act portion the form. I have to ask, who was the bright spark that just dragged the form out of the bottom drawer and failed to have it checked as appropriate in 2001? Surely the simplest of minds cannot concede that de-contaminating a farmyard is likely to become a threat to National Security.
Am I mad? I don't think so! A lone wolf? - certainly! A touch eccentric? - Maybe!
Losing my marbles? - Probably! But to be fair, I'll leave the diagnosis open to public debate. The saddest part of this tale is that our Government are not mad either but too enamoured with self-importance to seek alternative opinions from world experts on FMD. Too deluded with grandeur to admit their mistakes and attempt to right the wrongs. Too blind to the suffering caused to their fellow men, which, even had their policy been correct, was too great a price to pay. Too ignorant to realize their abuse of innocent creatures will never be forgotten and is unlikely to be forgiven. Their redemption can only come from them. A change of policy, a change of status and a change of action, but above all a change of heart.
Meanwhile, I'll stay, stuck to my desk, in this 'cuckoo's nest', until as they say 'it's all over and the fat lady sings!' I sincerely hope her appropriate choice of song won't be 'Happy Birthday to you!' next year or, heaven forbid, the year after. If I'm lucky enough to get a birthday cake with candles, as I blow them out, I shall make a wish with all my heart and I'm sure you can guess what that wish will be.
To the farmers who are so brave, the lawyers who fight so hard, the vets and scientists who keep telling the truth and the hundreds of other friends who help me and continue to do their best to help others - It's not much but - Thank you very much!
O, and by the way - if anyone wants to send me a belated Birthday card? Thank you too! Displayed in my 'office' they will present a colourful disguise for the dust!
Jane Barribal Farmtalking.com
For the benefit of those who have been asleep for the past few months - the author, Jane Barribal runs a twenty-four hour/seven day a week Help Line and website for farmers, their families and those affected by the FMD crisis. She has done so non-stop, since 10th March 2001.