Here is your Smallholders Online newsletter no. 64

 

LINKS

Visit the "Smallholders Online" website at www.smallholders.org

To comment on any items in this newsletter, click on this link comment@smallholders.org


  

EDITORIAL

 Mary Marshall has e-mailed us regarding the last "special edition" newsletter:

"Thanks for the nice lead-in.  One correction: I now live in Herefordshire"

Our apologies for the error Mary, that's what happens when we rely on memory instead of checking the facts . . . . hey, maybe we should apply for a job with DEFRA?

Don't forget to let us have your comments on future standstill arrangements.

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Ron Skingley, our webmaster, has been working hard transferring the Smallholders Online website onto a new server.  He's already made a number of changes and updates to the site, while more are in the pipeline.  But one unintentional result has been that some of the forwarding links haven't been working for the last few weeks; this includes the "comment" link at the head of the newsletter.  The fault is now fixed, but if you have sent a message via this link recently and received no response, please re-send it to make sure it has reached us.  We value your input and would not knowingly ignore you!  Our apologies for any inconvenience so caused.

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Further on within this newsletter you will find the welcome news that Mary Critchley has relented and decided not to close down her Warmwell website after all; welcome, because Mary and her site have been pivotal to the informal, non-political and unfinanced campaign to uncover the truth - simply, the truth - on the many aspects of the FMD crisis and its aftermath.  That only last week we found ourselves countering deliberate deception on these issues yet again by New Labour euro-politicians (see below) reminds us all that the job is far from complete.

Boxing day is traditionally a time for rewarding those who have served us faithfully throughout the year.  We invite you to include Mary in your thoughts this year.  She has given so much to us all.  Please buy a CD of the complete website, to give yourself an invaluable reference resource, and to provide much-needed funding for its continuation - details below.

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Now to the main topic of the week - the debate and vote of adoption on the Final Report of the Temporary Committee on FMD in the European parliament.  As you know, there was a concerted last-minute attempt by Labour MEPs to remove or dilute the central tenets of the report in a cynical party-political manoeuvre.  The other diverse political groupings drew together to negotiate a common position against this.  After considerable behind-the-scenes work, most of the Labour amendments were deservedly defeated, while some additional positive changes were incorporated, as Caroline Lucas (Green MEP) explains:

 

"A good result in the FMD vote!  With the exception of Amendment 11 on Uruguay (not one of the most important ones), every single one of the Labour amendments were defeated! 

All the PPE ones went through, and there was a mixed result on the Greens - we lost our attempt to strengthen the wording on the illegality of the cull (but at least Gordon Adam lost his attempt to weaken it as well!), but we won stronger wording on animal welfare and on the human trauma caused by the handling of the crisis.   Sadly, we also lost amendments on carrier animals (making the case that risk of transmission has never been demonstrated), and on access to automated computerised virus laboratories (Professor Ruth Watkins' proposal).

 Nevertheless, the overall result is very good -  it was passed with 481 votes in favour, and only 32 against - including many UK Labour MEPs who voted against the final report.   They also accused me during the debate of having made an intervention which was "full of factual errors."   I've attached it for information.  If I have made errors, please let me know - it certainly wasn't intentional."

 Thanks again to everyone - let's hope tomorrow's Commission Directive will reflect the very clear steer from the Parliament that we must pursue vaccination in any future outbreak."

 

Caroline's intervention (speech) was factually and scientifically accurate, in sharp contrast to the myths and distortions put forward by Gordon Adam.

 

 Perhaps, like us, you feel that party politics should have no place in such matters.  Realistically, there has been party bias on all sides of the inquiry, but you might expect this to balance out fairly evenly across the political spectrum.  It's interesting therefore to note that the final voting figures given above represent a comprehensive endorsement of the final report by a surprisingly large majority of many disparate groups, all finding common ground on this issue.  In fact, the only party to vote alongside Labour MEPs were the French far-right extremists of Jean-Marie le Pen  - strange bed-fellows indeed!

The truth is that the UK government and their equivalent MEPs are completely isolated within Europe in their continued denial of events during 2001.  This inquiry has provided the only independent examination of the facts to have taken place; its findings are a damning indictment of the mass slaughter policy and a powerful call for vaccination-to-live to be used at an early stage of any future outbreak.  In short, it is a vindication of the stance that we have adopted from the earliest days of the 2001 epidemic.

Read the full report here:  Final Report of the European Parliament Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease

Just one day later, the draft of a new EU Directive on FMD control policy was published (see news report below).  On initial examination, this long-awaited document was not quite what we had expected, as our e-mail response to Caroline Lucas shows:

 

"On a very quick scan through (there's a lot of it!) I note considerable positive progress on the use of emergency vaccination and diagnostics, BUT what jumps out at me is the apparent authorisation for pre-emptive slaughter on contiguous, "firebreak" or any other premises that a member state chooses. 

Annexe X in particular details the introduction of emergency vaccination as triggered by failure to meet slaughter times of 24 hours on IPs and 48 hours on CPs for two consecutive days.  That leaves plenty of scope for killing on a large scale, and acts as an incentive to establish efficient contingency plans based on rapid slaughter.  It is clearly based upon UK policy during 2001 yet no independent assessment of the 24/48 hour culling has yet been carried out, as specifically called for by the Royal Society report among many others, while many experts have argued that such culling was, and is, unnecessary.

 I also note the contradictions between clear requirements for confirmation of disease before slaughter, by clinical signs or laboratory test (Annexe I) and monitoring of contact premises (Article 19); against the authorisation in other sections for pre-emptive killing i.e. without testing or clinical signs (article 8, 14).  Surely "pre-emptive" slaughter is unjustified given the available pen-side rapid diagnostics now available?  Why not pre-emptive vaccination instead?

 Sorry this is hasty, but if there is any opportunity to debate or question today, these serious issues require urgent clarification."

 

Caroline has taken up these points with the Commission and at the time of writing we await their reply.  Apparently there is scope for amendments to be made, and now that the report of the Temporary Committee has been adopted by parliament, it will be difficult for the Commission not to take account of its findings.  David Byrne's statements have been very positive about vaccination-to-live being moved to the forefront of control policy, so we will be among those pressing for the new Directive to properly reflect this position, instead of the ambiguous and contradictory clauses of the draft document.

We just hope this isn't the start of yet another long campaign . . . . . .

 

Oh, we almost forgot . . . .  Merry Christmas!


 

NEWS

 

For a full news round-up, remember to visit www.warmwell.com

 

Dec 14 ~ Cow Manure in beef, not spotted by inspectors, causes MacDonald's UK to terminate contract with ABP (Anglo Beef Processors).

    Cow excreta was found in beef supplied by beef baron Larry Goodman's ABP from their plant in Shrewsbury. The ABP/McKeys/MacDonalds contract was estimated to be worth in excess of #75 million per year. The spokesperson at MacDonald's did not mention at what stage of the food production chain this contaminated beef was found.

 

Dec 14 ~ "it would be unthinkable that such a responsible and influential scientist as Sir John Krebs could be acting not in the public interest, but in the interest of the global agribusiness interests that want to use GMs and patented seeds to "corner" the world food market."

    To the extract above, Lawrence adds " Non farmers might be a little confused about the use of "manures" - so I should perhaps explain that the Soil Association imposes strict conditions on the use of manures on Organic Farms. The total amount of manure may not exceed 170kg nitrogen per year per hectare of the agricultural area used. "Where necessary the total stocking density shall be reduced to avoid exceeding this limit."
    On horticultural holdings where aerated slurry is applied to the land, there must be at least a year's interval before a harvest is taken. If fresh manure is applied, the interval must be at least 6 months. If manure stacked for 3 months [if from an organic holding] or 6 or 12 months [if not from an organic holding] is applied, the interval must be at least 3 months. If manure composted for 2 months [if from an organic holding] or 3 or 6 months [if not from an organic holding] is applied, the interval must be at least 2 months.
    On pasture land, composted manures may only be applied "whilst nutrient uptake is actively taking place" - and there are many more requirements, to protect pollution of watercourses etc.
    I keep trying to remind myself that it would be unthinkable that such a responsible and influential scientist as Sir John could be acting not in the public interest, but in the interest of the global agribusiness interests that want to use GMs and patented seeds to "corner" the world food market. Absolutely unthinkable - surely?

     

Dec 14 ~"The FSA need to distance itself from Sir John Krebs's personal and idiosyncratic views" Peter Melchett.

    Lawrence writes, "More about Sir John Krebs who was the surprise appointment as the chairman of the Food Standards Agency, who was involved in the choice by Government of the Imperial College statisticians who invented and caused the mass cull of 11 million farm animals last year, who promotes GM crops and whose agency has been involved in the closure of so many small abattoirs and small food producers":
    From the Soil Association's "Organic Farming" magazine, winter 2002/3 edition

      Dear John...
      The Soil Association sees no point in further talks with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on organic food quality issues
      According to the Independent on Sunday, Sir John Krebs, chairman of the FSA, has stepped up his attacks on organic farming.
      Following a lecture in which he said that manure caused much more pollution than chemical fertilisers, Krebs revealed that his purpose had been to "undermine" the belief that organic farming is more environmentally friendly than non-organic agriculture. This contradicts the views of the government, the RSPB, English Nature and the Environment Agency.
      Michael Meacher, the minister for the environment, has written to Sir John Krebs asking him to explain why the FSA has failed to issue a statement endorsing the environmental benefits of organic food. Michael Meacher said: "I am very surprised that Sir John finds it so difficult to come forward with a view on organic farming that so many other prestigious and authoritative voices have endorsed so warmly and forcefully."
      "Sir John Krebs continues to ignore the scientific evidence about the benefits of organic food and agriculture" commented Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director. These benefits were recently published in the government's Action Plan to Develop Organic Food and Farming in England, which states that organic farming is better for wildlife, causes lower pollution from sprays, produces less carbon dioxide - the main global warming gas - and less dangerous wastes, promotes high animal welfare and increases rural employment opportunities.
      "The FSA need to distance itself from Sir John Krebs's personal and idiosyncratic views" added Peter Melchett.
      "Unless they demonstrate that they are adopting an even-handed rather than political approach to the organic sector, we think a more neutral body should be responsible for commissioning research on the health, food quality or environmental differences between organic and non-organic food and agriculture." Organic Farming Magazine

       

Dec 16 ~ " waiting for the perfect vaccine should not be used as an excuse for not using what is currently available, when it comes to controlling any new outbreak of FMD"

    UBI has successfully developed a synthetic Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine for swine using its unique UBITh . synthetic peptide technology. (See press release of Dec 9 2002) "The synthetic vaccine has been designed to confront a broad array of pandemic FMD viruses from serotype O and can be readily re-designed for potency against the other six serotypes of FMD virus. The UBI vaccine for FMD virus has protected over 200 swine from experimental infection during laboratory vaccine trials. UBI has recently reported on one of these studies in the journal Vaccine. In this.publication, "Effective synthetic peptide vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease in swine" by CY Wang, TY Chang, AM Walfield, et al. (Vaccine, 2002; 20: 2603-2610)
    20 out of 21 peptide-immunized pigs were protected from infection. The vaccine was effective at small doses in formulations that can be readily manufactured at low cost, comparable to those of the killed virus vaccines. Field and regional trials have recently been completed for the UBI FMD vaccine as part of the procedure to receive official registrations by national regulatory agencies."
    We are grateful to Dr James Irvine's Land Care website for news of this breakthrough. Read his editorial about it Extract: "...It should however be remembered that effective FMD vaccines have been available for many years, and especially since 1997. Although they may have some imperfections, waiting for the perfect vaccine should not be used as an excuse for not using what is currently available, when it comes to controlling any new outbreak of FMD."

     

Dec 17 ~"I believe that people would have a lot more respect for the government if it could just bring itself to admit that it got things wrong."

    writes the MEP Caroline Lucas in this "intervention".. " For as long as it doesn't, then there can be no guarantee that - in the event of any other outbreak - the government won't act in the same way again.
    I hope this Report will be another step in the process of ensuring that such devastation can never be allowed to happen again - either in the United Kingdom, or anywhere else in the European Union..." Read more

     

Dec 17 ~ The Government traumatized farmers, damaged health and the rural environment and broke animal welfare rules during its handling of last year's foot and mouth outbreak, according to a report adopted by the European Parliament today.

    See press release from the Green Party. "Vaccination should replace the disastrous contiguous cull as the response of first choice in any future outbreak, the report also concludes.
    The report was adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg today after almost a year of meetings, sifting evidence and visiting affected rural communities by members of a specially appointed Temporary Committee into the outbreak. The committee's Vice-President, Green MEP Caroline Lucas, welcomed the report.
    She told the Strasbourg Parliament: "It is quite clear from the evidence we received and the communities we visited that much of the blame for the devastation which followed the outbreak lies at the door of the British government."
    Dr Lucas added: "I'm particularly pleased that the Parliament has rejected attempts by Labour to water down the report and to re-write history. "Their efforts to pretend that their were no violations of animal welfare, no intimidation of farmers, no health or environmental effects from pyres and burial sites were a cynical attempt to whitewash the past with no basis in fact." (more)

     

Dec 18 ~ Neil Parish MEP, Conservative Agriculture Spokesman in the European Parliament, said: "This government is incapable of facing up to its responsibilities.

    By voting against this report, Labour MEPs have sent a clear message to all those recovering from the outbreak that it doesn't care and it has no intention of listening. The government has learnt nothing - having taken evidence for a whole year and having travelled the country to hear passionate cries for help, it beggars belief that it can ignore those millions affected by voting against the report.
    It just goes to show that Labour is isolated, arrogant and it still doesn't care. This report, supported by Socialists from across the EU, shames the government and stands as a lasting testimony to its catastrophic handling of the crisis." See full press release

     

Dec 20 ~ "The award for the "most brazen performance of the year in the face of hostile evidence"........to Professor David King

December 19, 2002 in the Times

A bovine attempt to vaccinate us against the truth
by Magnus Linklater

My award for most brazen performance of the year in the face of hostile
evidence, goes not to Peter Foster, who claimed that his advice to Cherie
Blair was nothing more than “a little help from your friends”, but to
Professor David King, the Government’s chief scientific adviser. He
described the handling of last year’s foot-and-mouth epidemic as “quite an
achievement . . . a magnificent record”. He told the Today programme
yesterday
(Dec 18) that securing Britain’s status as an FMD-free country was a cause
for “celebration”.
This is taking presentation beyond mere spin. It is the steamroller approach
to bad news — you simply flatten it into the ground and roll on as if
nothing had happened. The fact that it comes from a scientist rather than a
politician is rather shocking. It suggests that, here too, factual evidence
is less important than defending positions. Professor King was reacting to
the European Parliament’s report on how Britain had dealt with the outbreak.
It concluded that the Government had been ill-prepared, slow and inefficient
in its response, that the mass culling of healthy animals had been
“unacceptable”, and that the slaughter had caused enormous suffering and
social dislocation, resulting in massive financial losses to tourism and
sport, as well as farming.

On the scientific side, it said that the UK’s contingency planning for
vaccination had been minimal, and was a serious policy flaw. Far from being
unworkable, as Professor King and his colleagues have consistently claimed,
vaccination would have enabled Britain to control the outbreak more quickly,
without the killing and burning which caused such damage. “In future,” it
recommended, “when an outbreak occurs, emergency vaccination, with the aim
of allowing animals to live for normal use, should no longer be regarded as
a last resort for controlling FMD, but must be considered as a first-choice
option from the outset.”

One might have thought that this conclusion, flying as it does in the face
of government policy, would have provoked a vigorous response from Professor
King. But no. Pressed to say how Britain would respond if there were another
outbreak, he talked about the importance of restricting animal movements.
The 20-day ban on moving newly purchased sheep or cattle meant that the
epidemic “should never happen again”. In short, controlling the disease is
now in the hands of farmers rather than scientists. It is not an encouraging
prospect.

I find Professor King’s obduracy almost impossible to comprehend. In
Uruguay, recently, a full-scale FMD outbreak was brought under control after
all its ten million cattle had been vaccinated. The disease was eradicated
in 15 weeks, and fewer than 7,000 animals were killed. Uruguay is once again
exporting meat to the EU. It has to de-bone and hang it first, but that
seems a modest price to pay, compared to the multibillion- pound cost of our
own epidemic.

Why, then, is that route not open to Britain? Professor King argues that one
of the barriers against vaccination is that there are no “validated” tests
to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals — so there is a risk
of spreading, rather than containing, the disease. He must know that there
are perfectly good tests available, and the only reason for the delay is
that the OIE, the Paris-based organisation whose approval is needed, suffers
from ice-bound bureaucracy. Why is Britain not loudly complaining about the
delays? Why are we not, in the words of the EU report, “expanding research
into vaccines” and taking the lead in science, rather than waiting for
European bureaucrats to tell us what to do? Why are we choosing to protect
farm exports at all costs, instead of using every opportunity to make the
case for good science and humane practice?

I wish that Professor King would tell us.


 

Dec 20 ~ Feakins Judgement - another cause for deep gloom

    In the long-awaited judgement in the Feakins v. DEFRA case, the Judge has seen fit to rule that disposal of all the contaminated material to landfill is lawful.
    "Lawful".
    This is because, he has ruled, the Animal By-Products orders do not "bind the Crown"; in other words, the Animal Waste Directive has a derogation when there is a lack of incineration/rendering capacity due to an epizootic disease (FMD)
    We are struggling quite hard to follow his thought process here. Today, at the end of 2002 there is a "lack of incineration/rendering capacity due to an epizootic disease"? Which disease would that be?
    The EU TSE Regulation has a similar derogation, which the Ministry can also take advantage of; and although the UK TSE Regulation does not have a derogation, we are told that that doesn't matter because the EU derogation is directly applicable in the UK and can be relied on by the Ministry. This is gobbledegook and just confirms our deepening gloom about the extinction of common sense in recent legislation.
    Permission to appeal was refused. Mr Feakins' courageous stand looks likely to result in very heavy financial loss on costs.
    Where is there justice here? If anyone can see the sense of this we should be happy to print what they have to say. It looks to us as though money and power and political clout is what buys the result in cases where DEFRA or the government feels threatened. It is a disgraceful and iniquitous start to the Christmas season - and if we had not already decided to continue the website, this sort of thing would have strengthened our resolve to carry on.

     

Warmwell to continue
Following the generous words - and plea - contained in the editorial in Country Life (see below) as well as the kind messages received from many people, it has been decided to continue the unfunded and independent warmwell website for the time being after a short break for Christmas. Readers who have asked about the CD Rom: the CD of the full website up until December 18th will still be produced over the Christmas break. Please don't forget to send an email here with the full postal address to which you would like the CD Rom to be sent.

 

     From Country Life Dec 19th 2002 - Editorial

LOOK OUT FOR THE COMPOST POLICE

Anyone who has wanted up-to-the-minute, authoritative information on the foot-and-mouth outbreak, in all its administative chaos and rural horror, could find it at the click of a mouse, by visiting http://www.warmwell.com

This website has served as a rapier, puncturing the bladder of Government obfuscation, by publishing a highly informed, topical digest of news about the topic. This was the place to follow the debates, legal actions, ministerial pronouncements and newspaper articles related to foot-and-mouth, not to mention the inquests and inquiries that have come afterwards. We salute Mary Critchley, the organising genius behind warmwell.com, and marvel at how this former teacher, now living in France, has been able to do it. Like warmwell's other regular visitors, we are saddened to read that the site may close down this week.

Perhaps a saviour for warmwell.com may yet be found. It is a sad reflection of our legislators' lack of grip on rural subjects--not least the laws and directives emanating from Brussels--that warmwell.com remains as useful as ever. This is all too vividly illustrated by a recent posting on the unlikely subject of compost. One might have thought that compost could never be a subject of controversy, beyond that generated by the gardening pages of COUNTRY LIFE. It does not belong to the world of sub-committees and legislation, but to the slow-moving, wholesome world of Mr McGregor and Peter Rabbit. People can be passionate about compost: but they are not generally politicians or law makers. It was too good to last.

Compost has now come under the Government spotlight. People who own farm animals--be it so much as a pet pig--will no longer be able to compost on their own premises. Kitchen waste will have to be sent for composting at an approved site alsewhere. 'No person', states the proposed statutory instrument, in language worthy of Leviticus, 'shall... allow any livestock, other than wild birds,' access to his or her compost heap: presumably, wild animals will observe the prohibition by themselves.

Imagine the response of a provincial French farmer or smallholder to prohibition on composting. But in mainland Europe, of course, the regulations will be less severe. In Britain, by contrast, a whole new cadre of compost police, capable of inspecting every smallholding in the country, will be needed if the law is to be properly enforced. The proposal on composting is typical of the Animals By-Products Regulation, due to come into force on April 30, 2003. This also bans the burying of farm animals which have died of natural causes on farms: all well and good, if only the Government were not also proposing to ban hunts, which at present offer the only economical service to collect and dispose of such fallen stock.

Choicest of all is the regulation that will require all blood from abattoirs to be collected and treated at an approved rendering, composting or biogas plant. Quite apart from the cost, particularly to small abattoirs, of transporting blood to an approved plant, there is as yet no rendering plant in Britain capable of doing the job to the new specifications. How is it that British negotiators in Brussels are not able to spot these absurdities, which could be disastrous to small rural businesses, before they hit the statute book? Perhaps because of the civil-service practice of moving personnel between departments every few years, our representatives never acquire the specialist knowledge possessed by their counterparts elsewhere in Europe. Warmwell.com, we need you more than ever.

 

 

Forwarded by Pat Gardiner:

 

http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/story.jsp?story=362006

Economic ghost towns 'are price of supermarket expansion'

Leading article: Apocalypse Not Yet for Britain's ghost towns

The decline of neighbourhood shops and services is set to accelerate rapidly
and could turn many communities into economic "ghost towns" within 10 years,
a leading think-tank warns today.

Local economies in rural and urban areas are in such a perilous condition
that they are reaching the "tipping point", under which the number of small
outlets will crash, it says.

Pat's Comment :A reference to FMD seems to have been removed from this
article. It originally included the phrase;

"the "tipping point" – already a widely recognised phenomenon in
international finance – may have come in the #20bn cost of the recent
foot-and-mouth ..."

Without getting into the realms of fantasy, an increasing number of articles
are either being lost to the internet or are being amended to remove
references to fmd. Can recipients keep their eyes peeled?

 

http://portal.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;$sessionid$GK2JV3BBLJLR1QFIQMF
SFFWAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2002/12/16/nhunt16.xml&sSheet=/news/2002/12/16/ixhom
e.html

Taxpayer will foot bill for groups to oppose hunts
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor
(Filed: 16/12/2002)


Animal welfare groups would be paid by the Government to contest the right
of anyone who wishes to hunt with dogs under a clause of the Hunting Bill
which has its Second Reading in the Commons today.

Plans to make grants to prescribed animal organisations, hidden in the small
print of the Bill, aroused fierce criticism last night from Opposition MPs
and from hunts, which will have to pay to be registered under the Bill to
use dogs for pest control.

The provision could mean that the Royal Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals, the League Against Cruel Sports or the International
Fund for Animal Welfare would be paid by the state to contest every
application to register to carry out hunting legally under the Bill.
Applications are expected not only from the 201 fox hunts in England and
Wales but also from tens of thousands of individuals who want to be able to
hunt vermin with dogs.

 

http://www.npa-uk.net/

New foot and mouth powers

Most elements of the Animal Health Act (2002) are to come into force on
January 14. An order for the commencement of the Act was signed by Animal
Health and Welfare Minister Elliot Morley this week.

The legislation, which received Royal Assent on November 7, gives the
Government increased ability to deal swiftly with outbreaks of animal
disease by new powers of entry to farms for vaccination, serology or
slaughter.

It also provides additional powers to cull animals to prevent the spread of
disease in the event of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease.

Slaughter, enforcement and the scrapie powers linked to the Act are due to
come into force at this time.

 

http://www.npa-uk.net/

New PRRS threat to UK pigs

Senior pig specialists at breeding and genetics company ACMC have raised
concerns about what action can be taken to prevent the new American strains
of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome taking a devastating hold
in the UK pig herd.

With over 20 strains identified in the US and some of these now evident in
Europe, UK producers cannot afford to be complacent about infection, say
ACMC.

They believe an increasing number of imported boars standing at some AI
studs means that diseases such as the US strain of PRRS could rapidly spread
across the entire sector.

A similar problem has already been encountered in the cattle sector with the
introduction of a new variation on Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) through, it
is thought, embryos not being washed properly prior to dispatch from the
USA.

Infertility problems are also being reported by UK pig producers with
irregular service returns and farrowing rates as low as 40% now being seen.
The cause is as yet unknown.

ACMC executive chairman Stephen Curtis has repeated his call, made earlier
in 2002, for the livestock sector to implement its own system to protect the
health of the national herd in mainland Britain.

He said, "We believe that it is only a matter of time before these new
American strains of PRRS find their way onto the mainland and action must be
taken now to limit our risks from this and the many bio-hazards widespread
around the world.

"We are unnecessarily putting our industry at risk from imported breeding
stock when we have sufficiently genetically advanced breeding animals to
meet our own needs."

Pat's Comment:

I'm sure Mr Curtis is absolutely right, as I reported he said as much
earlier in the year, although it is exceptional to see
this view in print and on the NPA site.

The pig corporations are really on the run now. Not a mention of imported
diseased meat you notice. Suddenly, quite suddenly, the whole tempo changes.
They are about to come clean, dumping the RCVS and Defra on the way.

"Wasn't my fault Guv, I took appropriate professional advice before robbing
the taxpayer and killing 400,000 pigs."

"I didn't actually say it was imported meat, I just hadn't thought it might
be semen, embryos or live imports. I didn't know they could carry disease."

"I took the advice of the NPA"

Let's face it, CSF and FMD were British disasters brought on by greed,
sleaze and a complete lack of ethical standards in our veterinary industry.

There will soon come a time when  British vets will  rank below
timeshare salesmen or an Oz conman in the public estimation.

Shame, that it had to take an EU audit.

 

 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3047518&thesection=news&t
hesubsection=genera
l

Danger lurks as pest control found wanting

New Zealand's ability to police its borders for potentially disastrous
disease and pest incursions has again come under fire.

The Government-appointed biosecurity council yesterday released its verdict
on New Zealand's biosecurity, echoing the same concerns the Auditor-General
raised in his report last month.

In putting together a biosecurity strategy, the council found gaps in the
system. It says Government agencies are not fully prepared for even a small
outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, potentially costing this country $4
billion.

That would reduce New Zealander's standard of living by 25 per cent.

 ...The council recommends more spending on passenger clearances, cargo and
container clearances and ships, saying surveillance is inconsistent.

Pat's Comment: This is the vets trying to extend their empire. They are
making the same mistake as many in the UK - confusing random checks, that
are not necessarily random, with inconsistent checks. I've no doubt the NZ
customs are grinning into their tea too, whilst they step up surveillance of
veterinarians. I would not like to be travelling on a passport that said
"occupation: veterinary surgeon."

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2582389.stm

UK buys 'safe' blood supply for NHS

Clean blood supplies need to be secured

The British government has spent nearly #50m buying up a private American
firm in an attempt to secure a safe long-term supply of blood plasma for the
NHS, the BBC has learnt.

Britain cannot use its own supplies, because it is feared they may be
contaminated by variant CJD, BBC Radio 4's Today programme reported.

The UK government was advised its supplies could be threatened

Pat's Comment: I wonder if I'm the only one that recalls a time when
Britain's authorities was contemptuous of US blood collection arrangements,
regarding US blood as "unsafe". How the arrogant and self-deluded have
fallen!

 

http://www.thisisexeter.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=101955&command=displayC
ontent&sourceNode=99871&contentPK=3266790

FARMERS DEMAND MORE RESEARCH ON VACCINATION POLICY

17 December 2002

 Devon's farmers want the Government to carry out more research into
foot-and-mouth vaccination before it introduces such a policy.

John Daw, chair of National Farmers' Union in Devon, was speaking in
response to a new report criticising the Government's handling of the crisis
which is to be adopted by Euro-MPs today.

A European Parliament committee of inquiry blames officialdom for adding to
farmers' woes with red tape and bureaucratic delays in disposing of
slaughtered animals.

It warned a mass cull on the scale conducted by the Government during the
2001 crisis "will not be publicly acceptable again".

And it said in any future crisis, emergency vaccination must be a first
choice option and not a last resort - something the Government has already
conceded.

But Mr Daw, who lost 160 cattle and 650 sheep from his Crediton farm in a
contiguous cull, said: "Vaccination still needs to be researched and more
money should be put into it. Otherwise, if we had a foot-and-mouth outbreak
tomorrow, we may have a vaccination but would we know that it would work?
What if we were to vaccinate our meat and the retailers don't accept meat or
products from these animals?

"What the Government got wrong was the speed of its response. But we have
got a Government taking money away from the state veterinary service when it
really should be drawn more into focus in farming life.

"The building of the Ash Moor pit for culled animals was absolutely
ludicrous and was a sign of Government at its worse in the handling of
foot-and-mouth. What was needed was incineration.

"Meat is also still brought into this country which needs to be tested and
checked. Foot-and-mouth was not from this country to start with."

Pat's Comment: Same old line - same old lies - from the same old tired organisation.

 

http://www.npa-uk.net/

Pat's Comment. These two extracts from adjacent articles caught my eye

"There will be NO price drop in January and February, promise Tesco

Tesco have undertaken to hold the price they pay for British pork through
January and February, reported NPA producer group chairman Stewart Houston
tonight.

He said it was now NPA's task to ensure this helpful measure was reflected
one hundred per cent in the prices paid to producers by abattoirs in the New
Year.

In an informal meeting today, Tesco's Matt Simister sought to reassure
producers that Tesco remain committed to British fresh pork.

A formal meeting will be held with the retailer in January when his buying
team will see different pork cuts and presentation at MLC (particularly
shoulder cuts), and will tour Stotfold.

"Following our dialogue with Asda and Tesco during which both have made a
clear commitment to the British pig industry, we will now be talking to
other retailers to urge them to make an equivalent commitment," said Stewart
Houston tonight."

...and

"Tesco Global deal in Hungary

Hypermarket giant Tesco Global Stores will enter a long-term cooperation
agreement with Hungary meat processor Debrecen Meat next year. The deal will
allow Tesco to gradually cease trimming pork into its various cuts at each
of its stores individually. Instead, it will utilise the production capacity
of Debrecen Meat's boning and trimming complex, currently under
construction"

Pat's Comment: Exactly who is being mislead and by who/whom? Sorry the NPA
empty my mind of such irrelevances as grammar.

 

http://www.dailytelegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/12/18/nfnm18.
xml&sSheet=/news/2002/12/18/ixhome.html

EU blames Government over foot and mouth crisis
By Robert Uhlig Farming Correspondent
(Filed: 18/12/2002)

The European Parliament yesterday condemned the Government for traumatising
farmers, damaging health, wrecking the environment and breaching animal
welfare rules during its handling of last year's foot and mouth epidemic.

Voting in Strasbourg to adopt the report of the only independent inquiry
into the crisis, MEPs laid the blame squarely at the feet of Tony Blair's
team.

The report found the decision to operate a contiguous cull policy rather
than vaccination was taken to protect meat export markets, but resulted in a
far greater economic loss to affected communities through the collapse of
tourism and other industries.

As a result, vaccination must take precedence in dealing with any future
outbreak and compensation should go not just to farmers, but other affected
businesses, it said.

Caroline Lucas, vice-president of the inquiry committee, said: "It is quite
clear from the evidence we received and the communities we visited that much
of the blame for the devastation which followed the outbreak lies at the
door of the British Government." She said the contiguous cull "neither
worked, nor was it legal nor was it effective".

The report blamed officialdom for adding to farmers' problems with red tape
and bureaucratic delays during the disposing of slaughtered animals.

It warned that a mass cull on such a scale would "not be publicly acceptable
again".

Its primary recommendation - emergency vaccination should replace contiguous
culling as the first response - makes it likely that a vaccination policy
will be imposed throughout Europe when the European Commission publishes its
new foot and mouth directive today.

Gordon Adam, Labour agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, said
the report contained "unsubstantiated" opinions.

 

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/eu/story/0,9061,862035,00.html

Labour's foot and mouth rebuff

Andrew Osborn in Brussels
Wednesday December 18, 2002
The Guardian

The government yesterday tried and failed to water down a critical report
from the European parliament into its handling of last year's foot and mouth
outbreak, prompting claims it was seeking to rewrite history.

The cross-party report from the parliament was yesterday adopted by an
overwhelming majority of MEPs (481 for, 32 against) in Strasbourg.

It concluded that the government's handling of the crisis had traumatised
farmers, broken animal welfare laws, and generated miles of unnecessary red
tape, and that burning pyres and mass burial sites damaged the environment
and people's health.

But the British government claimed the report contained "serious errors of
fact" and told its MEPs to vote against it. Labour MEPs duly obliged and
tried unsuccessfully to introduce a host of amendments.

Caroline Lucas, the inquiry's vice-president and a British Green MEP, said
the government had behaved appallingly. "I am particularly pleased the
parliament has rejected attempts by Labour to water down the report and
rewrite history," she said.

 

http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=HR3PIO2XWEIZQCRBAEZSFF
A?type=topNews&storyID=1923643

EU blasts Britain on foot and mouth

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Parliament has blasted Britain
for its handling of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), saying governments need to
change the way they tackle outbreaks of the highly contagious disease.
Britain's response to its FMD crisis last year was badly organised and
bureaucratic, revealing a poor state of readiness to handle the outbreak,
the EU assembly said in a report adopted by a majority of members during a
session in Strasbourg.

Its hesitation in banning movements of FMD-susceptible animals helped
accelerate the spread of the disease, the report said. Britain slaughtered
some 6.5 million animals, turning much of the countryside into a no-go zone,
rather than use vaccines.

"The speed at which FMD...spread within the European Union, particularly the
United Kingdom, in 2001 was unprecedented in the history of FMD, as was the
scale of the outbreaks," it said on Tuesday.

But the report's author, Wolfgang Kreissl-Doerfler, told fellow MEPs the
disease was not just a British problem.

"We need a global strategy," he said. "There will be a foot-and-mouth
disease outbreak in the future. The question is where and when. We have to
be armed for such an outbreak."

European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Affairs David Byrne said he
was already planning to introduce some of the measures proposed in the
report, including new controls on the movement and identification of sheep.

He said the Commission wanted a major revision of the rules for staging
points, or places where animals in transit are rested. Poor conditions at
one staging point were blamed for an outbreak in the Netherlands, the report
found.

REPORT WATERED DOWN?

Byrne said the Commission would call for emergency vaccination as a priority
in the EU's response to any future FMD crisis. Britain had resisted pressure
for vaccination during its outbreak, which was declared at an end in January
this year.

Gordon Adam, agriculture spokesman for MEPs from Britain's Labour party,
said the report was strong on its recommendations for future controls but
weak in its descriptions of past events.

"No one pretends that there were not mistakes of policy and failures in
implementation," he said.

But a subsequent inquiry had shown the Labour government's decisions were
justified by the evidence available at the time, he added.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2584717.stm

Pig farmer has court costs reduced

A pig farmer at the centre of the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak has had his
court costs reduced.
Bobby Waugh was given six months to pay #10,000 towards the cost of bringing
a prosecution against him, when he was convicted in June 2002.

Waugh, who ran a pig fattening farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland,
was found guilty of concealing the fact his herd had contracted the
foot-and-mouth virus, and of animal health and cruelty charges.

But Sunderland magistrates have agreed to write off most of the bill, after
hearing he had an overdraft of more than #40,000.

The original prosecution had been heard at South East Northumberland
Magistrates' Court in Bedlington.

As well as has being banned from keeping livestock for 15 years, Waugh was
also subject to a three-month curfew, and ordered to pay prosecution costs
of #10,000.

However payment of costs was transferred to Sunderland Magistrates Court, as
being the closest court to Waugh's home in St Luke's Road, Pallion.

The costs bill has now been reduced by #9,480, leaving the 57-year-old to
find #520.

Waugh had denied 15 animal health and cruelty charges during his trial.

He was eventually convicted of five charges of failing to notify the
authorities of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth.

He was also convicted of two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to
pigs, and one each of feeding his animals unprocessed waste and failing to
dispose of animal by-products.

Pat's Comment: This case continues to worry me. Something is very wrong
here. Things don't add up.

 

(Then the next day . . . . )

http://www.sunderlandtoday.co.uk/fullstory.asp?storyid=6

court reverses its own decision to write off costs

MAGISTRATES have reversed their own decision to write off thousands of
pounds in court costs against the Wearside pig farmer at the centre of last
year's foot-and-mouth crisis.

The Echo revealed this week that the Sunderland court had agreed to remit
all but #520 of the #10,000 Bobby Waugh was ordered to pay when he was
convicted in June.

But now that decision has been reversed after the court was contacted by
lawyers acting for Northumberland County Council, which brought the original
case at Bedlington Magistrates' Court.

Chief clerk Peter Rowbottom revealed today the move had been reversed at a
fines court on Tuesday.

Full details of a direction on costs by District Judge James Prowse had not
been passed on to Sunderland, which was responsible for collecting the money
as the closest court to Waugh's home in St Luke's Road, Pallion.

"This information was not adequately communicated to Sunderland Magistrates'
Court when the costs were transferred," said Mr Rowbottom.
The court is now getting in touch with Bobby Waugh and his solicitors to
tell them about the change of mind.

"The court intends to liaise with District Judge Prowse in order for him to
attend court to consider the application to remit costs at a future hearing
date," said Mr Rowbottom.

Pat's Comment: Now, if I was in Italy, Poland, Ireland, Stepney, France,
Hackney  or somewhere disgusting where foreigners live, I might be tempted
to comment that someone has got the wind-up. But as it is Sunderland, I had
better say nothing.

 

http://www.thisisbath.com/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=71072&command=displayConten
t&sourceNode=70591&contentPK=3273722

20-DAY RULE IS FLOUTED

18 December 2002

Farmers are failing to meet animal movement restrictions imposed in the wake
of foot and mouth.

Somerset animal welfare inspectors are concerned livestock keepers are not
reporting movements of their animals. This means they are in breach of the
20-day movement restriction imposed by Government.

Officials said more than 300 breaches of the rules had been detected in the
county, many due to misunderstandings. Farmers can call the animal health
team on 01823 282218.

Pat's Comment: What's this all about?  Who are "animal welfare inspectors"?
What has welfare got to do with the 20 day rule?

 

http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c
=StoryFT&cid=1039523814967

Restaurant managers held over UK beef imports
By Martin Arnold in Paris
Published: December 19 2002 4:00

French prosecutors yesterday detained four senior managers of the Buffalo
Grill restaurant chain under suspicion of illegally importing British beef
infected with mad cow disease.


Among those being held in custody for questioning were Christian Picart,
chief executive. The others were the head of the company's purchasing arm
and two managers from its Districoupe unit, which supplies meat to the
group's 260 restaurants across Europe.

They were detained as part of a two-year judicial inquiry to investigate
complaints of "manslaughter, involuntary injury and placing the lives of
others in danger" from victims of CJD, the human variant of BSE, or mad cow
disease.

Four people have died from CJD in France, and a fifth person is believed to
have the disease. There have been 117 confirmed and probable deaths in
Britain from CJD.

France banned imports of British beef in 1996. The ban was lifted in October
more than two years after the European Union had lifted its ban - prompting
Britain to take France to the European Court of Justice. There have been
suspicions that cheap British beef found its way on to the French market in
the early period after the ban was imposed.

French police are understood to have found that two of the victims of CJD
regularly dined at Buffalo Grill restaurants.

Shares in Buffalo Grill were suspended yesterday. In informal trading they
fell to just above €1 - down about 90 per cent from Tuesday's close of
€13.20.

The company denied it had illegally imported beef. "A group as big as ours
cannot allow itself to do that. It would be suicidal and fatal."

Pat's Comment: The importance of this story on financial markets cannot be
overstated, especially in the US. All the big hamburger chains are in
serious financial trouble already - and they are national stock market and
high street icons.

The British-French beef scandal is now taking centre stage
worldwide. It is now everywhere. This is a public relations disaster of the
first order. It will hit the remnants of the overseas tourist trade and any
prospect of British beef exports.

French restaurants are now required, by law, to tell customers the origin of
any beef served. So you can imagine throughout Europe, "French beef Madame,
we do not serve British."

Never mind arguing the toss about what causes vCJD, it is about time
criminal prosecutions were brought in the UK.

The livestock , veterinary and meat trades are riddled with obvious
criminals, many in government employ. I have been reporting some of them to
the police, parliament, trading standards, the Scottish Executive and Uncle
Tom Cobly and all for over two years. Nothing has been done. Anyway some of
this is now with the EU auditors.

 

http://www.businesseurope.com/cmn/viewdoc.jsp?cat=all&docid=BEP1_News_000004
7032

EC FMD-busting measures approved

London, December 19 2002, (BusinessEurope.com)

New measures from the European Commission (EC) to control future outbreaks
of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) were adopted yesterday.

FMD is not harmful to humans, but the disease is highly contagious and can
spread between cattle easily.

An outbreak in the UK last year brought the country's rural economy to its
knees, as normal farming practices were abandoned and huge numbers of cattle
were culled.

The disruption also had a crippling affect on the tourism trade, as visits
from overseas and domestic travellers slumped. This had a particularly
marked impact on country shops, guesthouses and pubs.

The government was criticised for being too slow to tackle the crisis and
for hesitating in coming up with a solution.

But EC measures, adopted on Wednesday, will formalise action to be taken in
the event of a new outbreak. The Commission says the guidelines combine
control actions with a "high level of preparation" against the disease.

Vaccination, rather than culling animals, is to be the central method of
tackling the disease. Laboratory tests will also be available to separate
vaccinated herds from those that have been infected.

David Byrne, EC health commissioner, said: "Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth
disease in individual Member States impact on the EU as a whole as we saw
last year.

"The amended law aims to maintain or, in the event of an outbreak, quickly
regain the 'FMD-free' status that is of key importance for trade in animals
and animal products.

"Emergency vaccination is moved to the forefront of control measures instead
of being the last resort. Our proposal takes into account the lessons
learned from the 2001 outbreak."

 

 


  

MEMBERS CONTRIBUTIONS:

 

 From Janet Hughes:

 

Thought I'd tell you about what is happening in Shrewsbury because it seems to be sanitation gone berserk yet again.

 When we stopped to have some sandwiches in the main precinct yesterday I looked to see where the pigeons were to feed them some of the bread. It was then that I noticed that most of the shop fronts up to the roof had been made pigeon proof with horrid metal spikes all along ledges and wire in front of windows. Usually there are lots of pigeons around, which we love, but yesterday we saw only two near the precinct. On a church spire not far from the main street there were lots of them so I am hoping very much that they have not been poisoned, which was one of the suggestions at one time, according to an elderly lady who used to feed them frequently.

 It seems to me as if there is only room for humans now in the world, and all other species must be eradicated to make way for the human species. I am going to write to the Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council with some questions on their policy regarding pigeons. Why, after centuries of inhabiting towns and cities without causing anyone harm, are they now deemed to be major pests ? The amount of pollution and litter caused by humans seems to far outweigh anything done by creatures such as the pigeon.

 I wonder if there are any folk living near Shrewsbury who read your web site because it would be helpful if folk could write to the Borough Council on this issue, if they too feel concerned about the plight of the pigeon in our towns and cities.

 Regarding the hearing in Cardiff last week, permission was refused as expected. I tried my best but I do not think anything could have swayed the judge to rule in my favour. Pat Innocent came there, which was lovely of her,  and she made some good notes which she is going to send to you. It is my intention to take certain aspects of the regulations to the European Court of Human Rights, even if I've not gone to the Court of Appeal. There is no obligation to pursue remedies offering no solution so I shall stick it in Europe next year. There's nothing to lose and no costs to pay even if the Government won.

 

  

From Pat Gardiner:

 

Like most readers, I have long known that illegal infected meat imports
were not the cause of recent animal health disasters.

There are many reasons why the story fails to impress, not least because the
State Veterinary Service are blatant liars.

These diseases, with many others, were obviously imported by one means or
another and it has long been clear that both the SVS and the Government know
that the most likely cause was "breeding material."

This might have been live imports, semen or embryos. Any one of the three is
possible - on balance I think that imported pig semen is the most likely
source for both CSF and FMD.

I have long avoided putting information into the public domain because, with
bitter experience, I know of the proclivity of the senior ranks of the SVS
for destroying evidence and faking documentation. I saw no reason to
identify sources of information that they would not normally be able to
access.

It is now unlikely that they will have unrestricted access to any of the
relevant records. Indeed, they have been downgraded further at all Britain's
ports and airports.

All legal imports of breeding material are very carefully documented by
HMC&E in great detail at the time of importation. This information, although
highly restricted, is available to them instantly on their computer system.

Details will include the name and address of the source, the importer,
signatories of health declarations and the mode of transport - and much
else. MAFF-Defra do not have access to this system or the information held
without specific HMC&E approval.

Even though this breeding material might be brought in by air carried as
personal baggage by a vet, it will still be recorded.

It will be perfectly possible to match up these records with those kept by
the genetics companies. Geneticists, obviously, are fanatical record keepers
themselves. In turn, the pig breeders will have equally detailed records of
incoming breeding material from semen, embryo or live pig suppliers.

Any mismatch between these records and those kept by Customs will instantly
point to smuggled material and - the mode of transport - the carrier. I
doubt that live imports could possibly be smuggled although they might be
attributed a different source - possible but highly unlikely.

It is not quite the massive task that it seems. Even I know the number,
owner, location and individual number sow number of the index case of CSF,
despite MAFF's attempts to hide the information.

It is a simple task to trace back - if imported semen or embryos were used.
The same would be true for all the sows at that location or in common
ownership.

QED - simple. No science even needed.

 

 

Also from Pat:

(re. this item from last week's newsletter)

"I remember hearing a while ago of a flock of chickens that inhabited a
roundabout somewhere 'up country'.

They had been there for years, looking after themselves and rearing their
own chicks, when the local council suddenly decided they were 'untidy' and
wanted them destroyed.

There was an awful public outcry and it even got onto the radio.

The council relented and as far as I know the chickens are still there!"

Pat's Comment:

They are indeed. The place is at Bungay, Suffolk, although just over the
boundary with Norfolk , at Ditchingham, where the Bungay/Norwich road
crosses the A143 Diss/Great Yarmouth Road.

Locally the site is known as "Chicken Round-About." The council,  not
entirely unreasonably, decided that they were a traffic hazard.

The locals, being East Anglians, decided that they did not care whether the
council considered them a traffic hazard or not - the chickens were staying.

The chickens stayed.

 

 

Forwarded by Mary Marshall:

 

from my ex-partner:

 I have been told by EC staff that an EC Directive then needs national legislation on implementation to make the Directive come into effect.  In contrast, a Regulation is EU-wide legislation together with the EU-wide instructions for implementation, so no supplementary national legislation is needed (and hence EU Member States cannot water down a Regulation but they can effectively dilute or delay the effectiveness of a Directive).


Professor David King was interviewed this morning near the end of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.  He claimed that there are still no internationally validated tests which can substitute for laboratory tests for FMD.  He was then asked specifically but said that Fred Brown's test had failed the validation .

 

 

From Janet Bayley (national FMD Group):

 

Thanks for getting onto the Directive so swiftly - I had rather hoped that the element of pre-emptive culling would not feature - as you say there is no justification - and means, I feel, that we have a mountain to climb to get it out.

By inclusion it gives legitimacy to the all culling without any evidence or risk of disease being present or exposure.  Why has the EU incorporated this at all and which FMD scientists have authorised this as a valid means of control??

How long have we got to challenge this?? - and argue that unless and until the epidemiological data is made available for independent critical analysis and has demonstrated justification that pre-emptive culling has ANY role to play in controlling the disease it should not form part of the Directive.

 


  

FROM THE HELPLINE

 

Question:

I've just bought 6 acres in Cornwall, for
retirement really when I leave the RN in 4 yrs, where on earth do you start?
Ideally I would like to grow fruit and veg for our own use, but with a view
to selling off any surplus (?) Unfortunately, with the world situation as it
is, I will probably not be able to work the site until mid to late next year.
Is there anything I can do to get the site prepared for growing purposes
before then? The land has had no chemicals of any kind put onto it for the
last 20 yrs or so and is sloping and south facing. I'm reading all books I
think may help but am not sure if there're the right ones. Any help to point
me in the right direction would be most appreciated.

 Response (from Rob):

Yes there are many things you can be doing to prepare for next year's
growing season.
1. SURVEY - spend as much time as you can looking at your site, mapping
things like soil type,wet/dry sites, existing vegetation zones, slope,
aspect,prevailing winds. For instance in the recent dry weather did you
notice some areas suffering drought problems (indicating thin stony soils)
or others that remained moist (indicating clayey deeper soils, or spring
seepages that might flood/be too wet when our normal weather returns). If
you can dig small holes to look at the soil horizon, this will really tell
you what the nature of your soil is like - and if it looks pretty poor don't
panic ! - its amazing what deep bed mulching of the soil can achieve. Get
samples of soil analyzed, check out the NPK levels and if you wish to the
rarer earth elements, this will give you a clearer picture of what your soil
might be lacking. Map vegetation types in the fields - this does not have to
be very complex - rushes indicate wet soils, bracken, yarrow and creeping
buttercup can indicate acid soils. Remember that all of these can be good
for wildlife, especially apparently scuffy scrubby areas - be prepared to
share your site with the wildlife that already lives there, perhaps
designate an area especially for them. If the site is not very promising for
wildlife remember you can create habitats that will attract them. If the
site is already attractive to rabbits then be prepared to fence them out of
your growing areas. Look at gate and road access - is it okay or does it
need to be improved. Check your fences and hedges - will they keep out/in
stock..Look at drainage pipes and ditches - are they still doing their jobs.
Be aware of mains utillity access and crossing points. Look up! - are there
power lines overhead . Past history - what was your site used for in the
past and how does that affect its current state/usage.

2 MAPPING - Get all of the above information onto maps and try to be
detached at this stage - don't impose your dreams onto the page, just what
is actually there. Some people like to do acetate overlays with boundaries
and main features on one map and then overlay other layers of information,
vegetation,soils, wildlife sites etc. This can be very rewarding and reveal
aspects about the site that were not immediately apparent. Put your map on
the wall, keep coming back to it, add detail where you think it is lacking.
Just live with it for a while, new lines of enquiry will become apparent to
you. Locate old maps of your site - these are fascinating and can
reveal/explain things that would otherwise be unguessable.

3. RESEARCH - This happens concurrently with the above and can be divided
into two main areas : Research on your specific site; and research on what
you might like to do with it. The first we have pretty much dealt with so we
can pass quickly onto the area of general research. But remember the site
specific information you have already collated is going to ground you to the
reality of your site,it is going to focus and direct your ideas. By now some
of your dreams for site might have to be abandoned or ammended - try to work
with what nature has given you rather than against it ! Listen to your
site,let it inform you. Now your general research will have focus, and
having weeded out the impractical ideas you can investigate the most
promising lines of enquiry. You want to grow veg and fruit - find out what
grows well in your area already. Book research can be a good starting point,
but visit as many other farms or smallholdings in your area as possible.
Look at the varieties that grow well for them, examine the growing methods
they are using, see what would be most suitable for you to adopt. Note the
factors that limit their success - wind,rain and slugs are common ones down
here in the SW. Join useful organisations (like Smallholder's Online !). If
you are concerned about the impact your plans might make on the local
wildlife then contact your local, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, they
may be able to send someone out to visit. This kind of research is always
going to be ongoing, after 6 1/2 years here I still have heaps to do this
winter for new projects next year !

4. PLANNING - Armed with all of the above you should be able to put together
an outline plan for your site - but remember its never going to be a
finished article, its always going to be growing  and changing as experience
and new ideas dictate. Do not be too ambitious - remember everything is
probably going to take twice as long as you anticipate, and don't forget to
allocate plenty of time for maintaining what you create; nothing is more
demoralising than seeing all your initial work wasted. Plan well, start
small,manage well and add more each year. Do consider planting fruit trees
and bushes as soon as you have identified a good area for them as they take
some years to come into fruiting, but be sure to plant varieties that can
cope with your soil and climate. ( Attending a local Apple Day event this
October could be a good starting point).  Its a  good idea to allocate
suitable areas for certain projects - orchard, veg beds,shed etc and then
deal with the fine detail as you need to, leaving room for projects to grow
and become more complex. Getting these initial elements in the right place
is going to be the most critical part of your planning and you must consider
things like easy access for vehicles, materials and machinery - those apple
trees if they crop well could literally produce tons of fruit ! Try to
establish self-supporting links between all the various elements so that the
waste from one can be turned into an advantage elsewhere on the site. An
example of this might be to run poultry beneath your apple trees which will
help to control insect pests, using their manure on your veg plot and giving
waste veg and certain weeds back to the poultry. These are examples of
closed systems of management where all the disparate elements create a
synergistic effect and work to support the whole enterprise. Nature does
this all  the time in natural ecosystems and by mimicing these systems at
the planning stage we can make our enterprises run more productively and
efficiently. Try to turn problems into solutions : if you have a wet area
maybe this is where you should create a duck pond,remembering that ducks
will eat those pesky slugs and convert them into eggs for you, or
alternatively you could create a water reservoir to water your crops in
summer. A barren stony area could be just the place for that much needed
shed. A wet and exposed part of the site could be protected by planting a
windbreak of alders or willows which will give you firewood and materials
for basketry as well as helping to dry the soil. One thing is for sure - you
will always be adding to your plan, like the research it will never be
finished !

   The next 2 stages would be implementation followed by monitoring and
maintainence, but I think we could leave those for now !  However if you do
have only a limited ammount of time to prepare for growing next year then
you could put down  a load of well rotted manure/compost now and cover it
with black plastic. That way whenever you do find time next year you will at
least have one fertile and weed free area to get planting into straight
away. I hope all this will be of some help and good luck with your
enterprise !

 


  

SMALL ADS

 

FOR SALE     Handsome registered Shetland ram with splendid curly horns, and/or two of his offspring ram lambs [about 18 mths old].  Moorit fleeces.  Free to a good home.

 Otherwise... anyone interested in some tasty Shetland mutton in a few weeks?

 Also, we have some delicious Devon beef available - Organic, killed in our local abattoir [at Combe Martin] and hung for 4 weeks.  10 kg mixed box @ #7.00 per kg. + any delivery charge [next day courier costs about #7.00].  We have lamb/mutton too - all in addition to our excellent ewes milk cheeses and so on, described on our website www.middlecampscott.co.uk

Lawrence & Karen Wright, tel: 01271 864621 [near Ilfracombe] or email: middle.campscott@farmersweekly.net

 

Two longhorn cows for sale (near Holsworthy) - Roger Curtis rcurtis@farmersweekly.net

 


  

And finally, sent in by Anne Lambourn:

BEATING ABOUT THE BUSH

SCENE: THE WHITE HOUSE

George: Condi! Nice to see you. What's happening?
Condi: Sir, I have the report here about the new leader of China.
George: Great. Lay it on me.
Condi: Hu is the new leader of China.
George: That's what I want to know.
Condi: That's what I'm telling you.
George: That's what I'm asking you. Who is the new leader of China?
Condi: Yes.
George: I mean the fellow's name.
Condi: Hu.
George: The guy in China.
Condi: Hu.
George: The new leader of China.
Condi: Hu.
George: The Chinaman!
Condi: Hu is leading China.
George: Now whaddya' asking me for?
Condi: I'm telling you Hu is leading China.
George: Well, I'm asking you. Who is leading China?
Condi: That's the man's name.
George: That's who's name?
Condi: Yes.
George: Will you or will you not tell me the name of the new leader of China?
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir? Yassir Arafat is in China? I thought he was in the Middle East.
Condi: That's correct.
George: Then who is in China?
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir is in China?
Condi: No, sir.
George: Then who is?
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Yassir?
Condi: No, sir.
George: Look, Condi. I need to know the name of the new leader of China. Get me the Secretary General of
the U.N. on the phone.
Condi: Kofi?
George: No, thanks.
Condi: You want Kofi?
George: No.
Condi: You don't want Kofi.
George: No. But now that you mention it, I could use a glass of milk. And then get me the U.N.
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: Not Yassir! The guy at the U.N.
Condi: Kofi?
George: Milk! Will you please make the call?
Condi: And call who?
George: Who is the guy at the U.N?
Condi: Hu is the guy in China.
George: Will you stay out of China?!
Condi: Yes, sir.
George: And stay out of the Middle East! Just get me the guy at the U.N.
Condi: Kofi.
George: All right! With cream and two sugars. Now get on the phone.


 

 

From A & R