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At last night's meeting, I heard about a positive blood test and sheep being killed at Parracombe.

I think that this must be the same as that reported on 'Farming Today' as being at Kentisbury.

That report said that 1,700 sheep had been killed on the basis of one positive blood test and 25 inconclusive results.

The report said that no infected premises had been declared.

Martin, the farmer who told me about the positive tests at Parracombe has sheep nearby and had gone through all the licencing performance to sell seven rams. He had a great deal to say about the number of times his sheep had been blood tested and the competence of the testers. After a particularly fraught daylong session during which he accidentally floored one of the testers, the Ministry team started to drive off, leaving the case of blood samples on a straw bale. He had to call them back and point out the mistake. It doesn't inspire much confidence in the subsequent handling of the samples! The positive result knocked the ram sales on the head and he has now given it up and turned them all out with his surprised ewes.

He also remarked to another Exmoor farmer on the number of helicopters flying around. I asked what he made of this and he suggested that they were spotting where the sheep are on Exmoor... He remarked on the reports of infecting sheep with BSE in the laboratory by injection. "What's to stop them dropping off a couple on Exmoor and then 'finding' them by blood testing?" It would open the way for clearing Exmoor of sheep.

All this seems to be buried in secrecy, silence and apathy. There was more despair and anxiety at the meeting than positive suggestions for action.

With best wishes

Lawrence

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