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Transcript of some of the speeches made to the

EU Committee when they visited Knowstone.

 

Andrew Gumpter

 

There is an irony that we cannot get our own MP to come to this meeting when you have travelled many times further to be here, and I thank you for coming. I have anecdotes in my mind to confirm what everyone has said, but I will run through my own situation. On a Wednesday evening, Jeff Thorne phoned me and said ‘I am sorry Andrew but my sister’s farm has FMD’. Jeff is my neighbour by two farms his sister is next door to me. 12 o’clock in the evening I was talking to my solicitor and he said ‘Don’t worry, you are fine’. The next day, they started the cull on the farm next door.

They finished John’s dairy cattle, they had some sheep and they killed them too, when up the drive went these slaughtermen plastered in blood from these infected dairy cattle. When they got to the farm gate near a major thoroughfare, John the farmer and his son got held back, they had to stay on their own farm. They were pretty clean.

The vet and the bloody slaughtermen walked across the road plastered in blood and guts, and if that wasn’t bad enough, when they got to the field to kill sheep on the other side, they had no pens, they went straight over the fence and into my farmyard. My defence against the cull ended that afternoon.

 

My only stock that I had that were cloven hoofed were a wedding present from my wife to myself, and myself to my wife. They were pets.

 

 Because of the ministry’s incompetence I am not allowing stockmen to handle the stock because of everything we have heard this afternoon, we have lunatics with rifles, we have people who have never dealt with an animal, who never stopped to ask a farmer what to do. They did no such things, they carried on.

My solicitor told me I was finished. They sent the valuer around in the morning, 9 cattle and 1 shetland sheep, not a lot to value, until I get another vet up the drive who was to do with the slaughter, I am an organic poultry farmer, who then decides that they have to die as well.

My wife, very pleasant, very quiet lady, suggested that they go forth and copulate and leave the farm.

I have never heard her swear before in my life, she was absolutely savage.

This chap left the farm; we got another phone call, yet another vet, the poultry can stay, relax. We get a third call; the chickens have got to go.

At this stage we barricade the lane, we have had enough, we're keeping them off.

I then get phone calls on what criminal acts I am committing and I have another concern about my neighbours. Every farmer in here knows what it is like to think he is going to infect his neighbour. Every farmer knows what it is like to sit and watch his neighbours stock sit in the field and rot because he can’t feed them, as he has no fodder. It would be ok if there was a point to it, I don’t mind my farmgate shut up and my stock slaughtered if I save 4 other farms, but I’m not being philanthropic, I’m being part of a community.

Those of us that had to go, needed to go, and we didn’t mind going. Knowstone was far worse than us; in our parish there was just one case of stock escaping. The slaughter team were going to arrive on the Monday, at 10 o’clock they couldn’t come, as there was a portacabin blocking the entrance to their car park, because every slaughter team had to report to Exeter for their duties for the day. It was an hour’s drive; no one would see them before eleven. So they cancelled to the next day, but that time they couldn’t make it either. By this time I was getting quite angry. Day 3 the slaughter team were due to arrive at 9 o’clock. I was also informed that they were going to use live rounds, as my Highland Bull's forehead was very thick.

 

At the end of the day it took 3 shots to penetrate that bull’s head, and I cried from one end of my barn to the other end of my barn, because he wouldn’t go down, he wouldn’t fall to the floor.

 

Why did my stock have to die, because the Ministry couldn’t follow their own rules, which they were to have pens, they were to get the stock secure. I accuse the Ministry of negligence, I don’t blame my neighbour. When you sign the valuation form, it is their stock, it is their responsibility, we are just there to help. I don’t think I am unique but on my Form A it says at the bottom ‘ No Clinical Evidence of Foot and Mouth here’, and you can have a copy, I have it here. Just to round up this travesty and the farce that was Foot and Mouth rats carry foot and mouth.  I am a poultry farmer. I carry rats; I have no choice. It took Maff 23 days to allow a vermin control man onto my farm. My neighbour had all my rats, because I got rid of their food, and he had all of my rats.

 

 On day six after my slaughter, the Ministry in Exeter called me to ask how many cattle I had to die. Now we fill in forms, put in ear tags and nose rings, and they go off to the Ministry, and then they still ask me how many cattle I have got.

 

Day 9, they called me again, how many cattle have I got to slaughter and this is the second phone call.

 

 Day 14, they called me again, how many cattle.

 

Please, please help us to find the truth.  I don’t want a witchhunt.  I just want the truth.

 

Wendy Vere

 

I am a veterinary surgeon and am married to a dairy farmer. A lot of my clients were taken out by infected premises but very many more were lost in the contiguous cull, and in my professional experience this was a totally unnecessary exercise.

I was talking to somebody from your committee last night, who fails to understand the difference between contiguous as in an animal with nose to nose contact, and contiguous where, on our Government’s way of putting holding numbers which is a number assigned to each farm, the animals may be many many kilometres apart. Here in Devon this has contributed to most of the piles of animal carcasses that we have around; many of the animals that I have cared for in my professional life ended up in a rotting stinking heap for three weeks.

They needn’t have been in that stinking heap at all as they were so far away from the infected premises.

We have already heard about the intimidation that my farmers were put under, and it was quite appalling, and in fact I am ashamed to be part of a society that inflicts that sort of cruelty on people. We are supposed to live in a civilised country, it is the 21st century, and yet these farmers, as you have heard, were being telephoned at 5 o’clock in the morning, being told that their animals were being culled at nine o’clock. This even happened to a vet friend of mine who was trying to defend her sixteen sheep. She was a vet whose animals had already been blood tested; they had no Foot and Mouth, yet the Ministry wanted to take them as they were "contiguous". 

We have heard of the crass incompetence where animals were slaughtered and then the carcasses were picked up two weeks later. One of my farmers is sitting here in the audience now; seven times the lorry came to take the same pile of animals away.

Can you imagine the heartbreak that causes to people simply because their organisation was complete rubbish. It was chaotic, people on the bottom relaying orders to the top; I do hope that your Enquiry, your team that is going round now, is listening to all these stories, because these are not fabrications, these are real things that happened to real people.

If this Government, (and I expect it has to be a Pan European effort).. if nothing is done to stop FMD coming into this country, I expect we will go through the same chaos again. Nothing has been done to stop the illegal import of meat, nothing has been put in place to improve the coordination of the bodies involved, apparently nothing has been put in place to organise a vaccination programme of animals, which I find as a vet surgeon quite incredible

We are, after all, supposed to have a world reference laboratory for FMD in this country, and I feel it is quite ridiculous that we have spent all of this taxpayers money.

When the crisis was there and you required professional competence, not only was it sadly lacking it was completely non-existent.

So I hope that you will have time to read the submissions that people have given you today, and I hope that when you go back and have your final meeting, you will be able to make recommendations to stop this from happening again.

 

Lynne Macbride

 

 Our cull started on Saturday the 12th and took until the Sunday. During the afternoon while the cull was taking place, the army were at the top of the lane and a shot rang out. The army got on their phones and called down straight away to the slaughter team and asked them ‘why they were not using a tranquilliser gun’. The answer came back that the tranquilliser gun was not working.

The army then found out that they were using a shotgun with small round cartridge, which only had an accuracy of fifteen yards. The vets then came up the lane at the same time and were watching the fields where the slaughtermen were. 

The cattle in question had been driven, there were no pens whatsoever, they were not restrained in any way.

They fired in all about 25 shots; the cattle were running back and forwards.

The army and the vets ran down to try and corner the cattle down by the pond and at that point they broke through the hedge, with six strands of barbed wire, and got into Mr Willmett’s field.

 

John Gouriet

 

I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I never thought I would be in a position to be grateful to see members of the European Union, better late than never. I have to say that having witnessed so many of the events that happened last year from Scotland down to Devon.

I am ashamed to call myself British.

This Government of ours totally mishandled what was after all a disease that did not affect mankind, it was a temporary disease, it was a man made crisis and it was totally inexcusable.

The cruelty and the incompetence, the refusal to look upon other alternatives were a disgrace for any organisation let alone a national Government. I have to also say in backing up what the first few speakers have said, the question of cruelty and intimidation and harassment. I was at Mr Winslade’s farm and I was also at Mr Willmett’s farm, and I saw the armed police and armed soldiers waiting to threaten two elderly people in their 70’s, what threat do they pose?

They burst in, they threw Mr Willmett’s into the hedge, at 5.30 in the morning, having promised us, me and others that they would go away and reconsider. They knew that Mr Willmetts’ cattle were healthy. They knew the three weeks incubation period was up that very morning.

Vets, up and down the country, continually perjured themselves by signing certificates to say that healthy animals were infected and the contiguous cull policy resulted in the deaths of something like 9 to 12 million animals quite unnecessarily because only 2% were ever found to be infected.

The other effects of all this were on the local communities, not only for farmers, who suffered terribly, for losing a life’s work.  I saw in Galloway for example, sheep that were penned up and shot that didn’t die. They were standing there gazing at me with blood and brains oozing out of their heads, their lambs separated from them, bleating piteously while their mothers were wounded, and then they were injected with huge needles and died slow and traumatic deaths. A whole flock of unique sheep died in this way, although I was promised that some would be preserved as they were so rare, they were preserved for two days then they were slaughtered. That flock is no more; the owner almost committed suicide. This is the true story of what went on; it was partly driven by panic; it was partly driven by a determination to wipe out the small farmers of this country. It is self evident that the Government has no intention of holding a proper Enquiry, until you came along there was no full independent Enquiry, as Caroline Lucas came here and heard what we had to say, I repeat my words to her colleagues here today, and urge you to insist that there is a full independent Enquiry into what went wrong, and who is responsible. Those people who caused all of this unnecessary cruelty and suffering broke the law, and I have counsel’s opinion here to prove it. Those people must be brought to account. We cannot have a Government in this Country that rides roughshod over our constitution and our laws, signs up to Europe, and then ignores your laws too. It is simply not on, and I want to see alternatives. I want to see vaccination used. I want to see immunity enhancers used, all these things should be investigated so that a national disgrace like this never happens again.

 

Christopher Thomas Everard

 

They wanted to kill 980 of our cattle.  We explained that there was no possibility of our cattle being infected, as we were 15 miles away from the nearest outbreak. If there hadn’t been a general election last year many animals would still be alive.

In our case the Ministry wanted to pay us 1.5 million pounds to kill our cattle.

I would just warn you, that the EU and perhaps some of your own committees seem to have had a policy to drive out of business some of the livestock farmers from this country.

 

Thelma Willmetts

 

This is my diary of the events regarding the bungled cull of Knowstone. My husband and I are owners of the land that Mr John Stanbury’s 19 cattle stampeded onto on the 19th May when they were being culled by Maff

Nothing was done to avoid the suffering. I would like to bring to your attention the Welfare and Slaughter Regulations 1995, where it states that no person shall stun, slaughter or kill, or cause to be stunned, slaughtered or killed 

Any animal without restraining in an appropriate manner in such a way as to spare any avoidable pain, suffering, agitation or injury.

My husband will never forget the look of terror on the cattle’s faces that came into our land. For the first few weeks afterwards we could not talk about it    

 

 

There was no perceivable leadership on site when the bullocks forced their way out of the field while being destroyed by marksmen on Mr Willmett’s land. This subsequently led to animals wandering over neighbouring farms for several days causing 14 of those farms to lose their stock and the village being subject to the sight of forces personnel advancing across the hill, and across the road, into the sights of a marksman in full view of villagers in the village inn.

I tried to assist Mr Willmett’s to herd the bullocks onto his land, the day after they got out, the animals were still so scared that on our approach they bolted up a steep bank through a hedge with barbed wire in it and into another field. 

This was particularly distressing to watch as one of the bullocks fell and slipped down the bank covered in barbed wire, before getting up and climbing off after its friends.  I then saw Mr Willmetts driving his tractor in to the field containing the bullocks and the bullocks followed the tractor as if expecting to be fed.

I suggested to the army staff sergeant that it might make the cull easier to carry out if the animals were fed feed laced with a tranquilliser from the back of the tractor.

He passed on the suggestion but never got a reply. I suggested that perhaps they could use some of the cull lorries etc to help herd the animals to one of the Maff Inspectors, and he replied that there was no one in authority to tell the civilian contractors what to do with their vehicles; he only had command over forces personnel.  Secondly, to do with the bureaucracy as I call it, the bullocks subject to the aborted cull, instead of being taken into the field using sheep pens, they could easily have been moved 100 yards up the road to a farm, but permission had to be gained to move them up the road, and that permission was never forthcoming.  The situation was handled in a very heavy-handed way. Lastly, lack of communication, when the carcasses were being loaded into a lorry for removal, we told the officials that it was wise to use a particular route out of the village as the steep uphill bend would be impassable for the articulated lorry. They ignored our advice, got stuck on the bend, the lorry had to be unloaded, and reloaded again, resulting in the road being closed for two days.

Subsequently we heard that it became stuck again later in the Gayden area and had to be unloaded once more.  I can only wish that things will be better in the future.

 

Susan Coggit

 

Two words that spring to mind when I think of Foot and Mouth are bullying and intimdation. I was at my farmgate at 5.30 in the morning with a slaughterman trying to push his way in.  No valuation had been done, so in theory he wasn’t entitled to be on the farm. The police wouldn’t help us.

People lost confidence in Maff because they seemed to change the rules as they went along.

We have heard this afternoon that one farmer was able to pay for his herd's blood tests, while Mr Willmett wasn’t allowed any, was refused them the whole time. It came down to the fact that when they slaughtered the cattle they would then take the test afterwards; I asked the army for a white suit to go down on the farm and then I said I will go down anyway I’ve got my old clothes on and they said no I’m sorry if you do that we will have to strip you naked and burn all of your clothes.

The stupid thing is they wanted to give me a white suit to come back out of the farm. 

There was no regard for the people in this area, when the body snatching teams came to collect these animals. They managed to block the road on both entrances home, my daughter was on a school bus and she couldn’t get home, as they had managed to drag all of the bodies onto the road and blocked it.

No one came to us and explained that this was what would happen.

Also, they managed to get a parent in a car between two lorries collecting bodies. Everyone is furious about it.

 

Mr and Mrs Winslade

 

Actually I am their daughter. My parents were put under enormous pressure and stress at the time. They only ever had cattle; they waited 12 days before they were slaughtered, nearly to the 14 day cut off point when they said the animals would be declared healthy.

They changed the policy and regulations to suit their needs at the time.

We were told that cattle would show symptoms between 3 and 6 days if they had the disease, so why, a week down the line in some cases were farmers being pursued?

This are is teeming with deer, so what is the point with culling the sheep and cattle if wildlife are carrying the disease anyway? Why do that? it makes the whole policy ridiculous.

The amount of stress that people were put under has been completely underrated. The general public really don’t know what has happened, the Government’s very happy to bury this and the general public are not aware of what has happened.

 

Bill Norman, Parish Chairman

 

What I have witnessed was where two animals that escaped from a farm were shot at four times and they were never killed. They found them one or two days afterwards. I’ve got it all on video.

 

I can tell you about one incident where an animal stood for twelve hours, it didn’t move, feed or drink it was so traumatised. I came into the village at 8 o’clock in the morning and asked the sergeant who was in charge if he could arrange for this animal to be shot. 

He said he had no authority to order the rifleman to do it who was stood in the street all day. I returned four times to request that this animal be shot as it obviously had foot and mouth, but nobody could give the order.

I could not find anyone who could give that order, so everyone stood still for the whole day, the rifleman and the animal.

 

Trevor Reynolds

 

I would like to add a little bit to what people have been saying in that I can give an eyewitness account of what I thought at the time was incompetence but towards the end of the evening thought of as criminal negligence.

I stood by my house looking down onto the fields where the cattle were being shot at.

I walked around and saw men in blue suits herding the animals around at the top of the field, down into a hollow, and then attempting to shoot them.

I thought that Maff were supposed to be representatives of the Government with agricultural knowledge.

Now anybody with knowledge is not going to herd cows that are just out of winter keep, as they will be quite frisky. Maff were just herding the animals with no barriers, and shooting at them. So they scattered up to the top of the field when the blue suited individuals herded them down again, and this went on for a good couple of hours.

They eventually managed to pick off most of them. One instance I watched which is where I believe there was criminal negligence was where one animal was shot three times before it finally went down. It was shot at the bottom of the field, staggered halfway up, shot again, went down onto its knees, and eventually the marksman, and I use the term loosely, went up to the animal and shot it at close range.

This continued until it was no longer possible to see to shoot by.

I cannot understand how anybody supposedly representing the Government could actually do these things, and not have had the foresight to think about what they needed to do first.

Using an unsilenced weapon was stupid; there was no way that an animal was just going to wait to be shot.  It was an extremely disturbing

evening.

 

Matt Knight

 

My wife and I have sixty cattle just up the road from here, and some sheep. Six weeks last year we were bullied, lied to, we were threatened and we were intimidated.

How were we lied to? We were lied to by Maff who told us that there was an infected farm next door when they knew that the test results from that farm were negative.  Our farm was one that survived the contiguous cull because we fought for our rights, but thousands of animals that were contiguous to that farm were culled, and they were all healthy.

How were we threatened? We have 4 small children and Maff rang us out of office hours when they knew we wouldn’t be able to speak to our solicitor and told us that if we didn’t agree to their demands for a cull, they would be arriving in the morning with police and slaughter teams. We were told through another farmer that it was possible that our compensation might be jeopardised if we continued to resist. We were also told by a ministry vet that if we continued to go to another farm, the farm status might be considered as a dangerous contact. We were also advised by a ministry vet, when I asked if he had been on an infected premises within the last few days, said no, but when I asked him to sign a piece of paper to that effect, said that he was not prepared to do so. Why were they not prepared to sign a piece of paper?

  Incompetence characterised much of what happened to us last year, we were told by some vets that they would be there the next day but they never turned up.

We were told that army and slaughter teams would be arriving the next morning but they didn’t turn up,. We were told that the law was on the side of Maff and the slaughter teams, where in fact European law clearly stated that killing healthy animals not affected by animal disease not for consumption purposes was illegal.

During all the time our children were being driven to school by my wife past a pile of rotting corpses that lay for three weeks in a gateway between us and Chumley, and when eventually they did get around to clearing up these rotting bodies, they heaped them all up in a field near us and tried to burn them.

While they were building a pyre, which incidentally was less than 2 miles from the school where my children go, effluent from the bodies was running down the road, contaminating stream water, and my employee, a farm worker, who has difficulties with a knee disorder was off for two with after having drunk contaminated well water.

We asked MAFF for help in trying to work out if the well was contaminated. They wouldn’t respond. We asked how many animals were going on the pyre near the school. They just blocked the road and stopped us getting near there to look at it. In the end, we called a public meeting in Chumley, and we asked MAFF to attend and they refused to do so.

They haven’t told us how many animals and what status they had that was being burnt, were they BSE infected, were they FMD infected. NO information was forthcoming.

Up until this point it was completely illegal to do anything other than incinerate animals over than 3 years old in sealed containers, but suddenly it was all right to be burning them in a field next to a primary school. It was completely ridiculous.

Your job is to go away from this enquiry and formulate a policy to deal with an outbreak like this in the future. I can tell you that whatever policy is formulated, we will not be lied to, we will not be intimidated, and if the Government try to sidestep the law and perform an illegal act of animal cruelty, or infringe peoples civil rights as they did last year, then it will be resisted in the same way as last year.

It was completely unacceptable, and it will not happen again.

 

Mr Strong

 

I live in Roseash, and I have a farm there, and I also have an animal feed company in the same parish.

In our parish we had 11 farms that were culled, there were only two that had the disease. The first one when the cull took place, there was a pyre which was adjacent to the road, and the smoke from that went straight into the second farm, so I think that these pyres must be resisted in the future, if there is a future.

The second farm that was infected was a neighbour of ours. About 16 days after they were confirmed with the disease we had a suspect case on our farm, I was persuaded by my vet to call in a Ministry vet who was excellent, who said that although there were symptoms they were not foot and mouth.

She asked where was my nearest outbreak and I told her, and she asked why the animal was alive anyway as it should have been culled as contiguous.

She asked me what restriction I was under and I told her none, and she said this was a major cock up.

It seems that they didn’t know I existed, even though I had a holding number and they have been showering me with armfuls of paper for the last 44 years.

I think you have had a catalogue of these disasters. We had to be exceedingly careful with my feed clients. We were driving our lorry along our road and going through rivers of putrefying effluent from fields adjacent to the road where they happily stockpiled carcasses for a matter of weeks.

While we on the ground were trying to do the best we could, the organising people in the Ministry seemed to be failing miserably.

The net result is that we really must ask you to prevail upon our own Government that a full public enquiry is really necessary and the only way to get honest answers. While we are importing 1 billion pounds worth into this country of illegal meat I can only feel that this sort of outbreak is going to happen again. Meat we know is coming from FMD endemic countries and we must have a full public enquiry to avoid these god awful cock ups as happened in this area.

This is a small-farming area, totally dependent on farming, and we must not see this ever, ever happen again.

 

Geoff Thorn

  

I thought it was only fair I put my position. I was placed on a form D which was due to a milk lorry which is on a 13 farm round.

I found out recently that 3 of those farms were placed on a form D. My sheep were across the road, and were just about to be bought in for the winter. I normally winter shear them.

When they had to spend three weeks in mud and water, heavy in-lamb ewes, it was cruel, it just doesn’t work.

The lambing that I had last year was the worst in the 40 years in my farming, in a country where we value animal rights so much I just can’t understand why I forced to do that.

I have written to the Ministry and they say that there is no statutory right for them to pay anything under restriction, and they said they had no record of me being under Form D at that time.

I do not have the Form D that my vet put me on, but I have Form E taking me off, so where is the sense in that?

This is the sorry of thing we have had to put up with.

I think last year politics was above human and animal rights, we had the situation where there were feuds in families because of the varying rules due to compensation.

It has worked very nicely for this Government because it has divided the community. A ministry vet told me the only way to keep the figures down was to cull everything around a infected farm, as you will only have one case instead of ten.

 

 

 

Transcript typed from a video made at the meeting

 

Jon Dobson

Research Director

FMD Forum

Po Box 67

High Wycombe

Bucks

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