News cuttings - farming and animal health

Extracts are given without comment.

Sept 12 ~ Farmer who got a hearing by paying the ultimate price

Guardian Lee Kyoung-Hae had .... protested about the way he and other peasant farmers were being bullied out of business, but felt he was being ignored.
Yesterday Lee finally got the World Trade Organisation to focus on the ruinous policies that have left farmers in his native South Korea on the brink of disaster, but it took his death - by his own hand - to turn global attention his way. .... When the march reached the checkpoint that separates the luxury hotel zone where the official delegates stay from Cancun town the Koreans tried to pull the fence down. In the melee, Lee, without telling anyone or making a speech, pulled out a knife and plunged it into his heart. The cry went up for a doctor. After about 10 minutes, the crowd parted and he was carried out by six men. An insight into what drove Lee to take his own life may be found in an article he wrote last month for the Korean AgroFood magazine. .." More

Sept 11 ~ The Countryside - New Labour's Record

Western Morning News
".... The louder the Government's boasts that it is listening the less it seems to hear. The economic and social destruction of the foot and mouth epidemic will not quickly be overcome. The personal traumas will last a lifetime. Here was a government that promised to govern for the whole country, yet in their moment of need displayed only a ruthless cynicism towards farming communities. It timed a savage cull to suit electoral opportunism, then did all in its power to hide its shame by refusing a full public inquiry. Now hundreds of farming families have given up the struggle to run a viable business..."

Sept 11 ~The Countryside's a crying shame

Western Morning News
"This is the image of heartbreak that stands out as a searing indictment of New Labour's policies on the countryside. Proud Westcountry farmer Layland Branfield was reduced to bitter tears when he saw his stock slaughtered during the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. Those tears, which were experienced by so many in farming communities traumatised by senseless culls and the devastation of their livelihoods, showed the personal toll of Government decision-making and policies.
...... the Labour Party's rural MPs gather at Portcullis House in London for a Rural Policy Seminar. The event has already been dismissed by critics as a "gimmick". They point out how a party that is so often attacked as London-centric has chosen London for its venue on debating the countryside, and they pose the question - how can the vital issues be covered in just one day? On the eve of the forum the Countryside Alliance attacked Labour's record on rural affairs as "too little, too slow, too patronising and too dictatorial".

Sept 5 ~ Law professors say F&M cull was illegal

The Westmorland Gazette Two law professors have concluded that the mass slaughter of animals during the foot-and-mouth crisis was illegal, inhumane and could happen again. In a new report, professors David Campbell and Bob Lee of Cardiff Law School describe Government regulatory policies designed to tackle the spreading disease as "hopelessly inadequate" and say the contiguous cull was a "panic" response carried out in a climate of "lawlessness". ..... The report argues that during the cull the former Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (Maff) descended into "criminal authoritarianism" and exceeded its own powers to implement a policy "so lacking in merit that it could not have been implemented by rational persuasion. "It was because these practices and policies were implemented in an environment of almost total lawlessness that the government's response to their failure could take the form of immense, unlawful slaughter." In their 57-page report the academics also paint a picture of foot-and-mouth Britain where terrified animals were being maimed instead of killed and buried or incinerated alive. ..... "We have been inundated with people telling us their stories and how they suffered. It is bewildering from a legal point of view that people can have their livelihoods just taken away from them."
Government ministers have criticised the report a...... "DEFRA disagrees with the legal view expressed. The policy of culling animals on holdings contiguous to a site on which FMD had been confirmed was lawful both under UK and EU law. Our actions have been upheld in various judicial challenges ..."
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Collins welcomed the fact the report was an independent, in-depth, emphatic study by individuals "with no axe to grind".

Sept 3 ~ Foot and Mouth chief ready to stand down

Western Morning News
" The vet who oversaw the Government's controversial foot and mouth strategy is to stand down next year - and ministers are offering a six-figure salary to attract a replacement. Jim Scudamore, who came under pressure to quit his post as the Government's chief vet in the wake of the 2001 crisis, is to retire next year. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has now hired recruitment consultants in a bid to fill the role, which attracts a salary of more than 100,000 a year. Dr Scudamore rose to public prominence during the foot and mouth crisis when he oversaw the controversial contiguous cull policy, which led to the slaughter of more than six million animals, most of them perfectly healthy...."

Aug 29 ~ Lawless cull claim denied

Steve Dube, The Western Mail
THE man in charge of Welsh agriculture said claims that the Government panicked during the foot-and-mouth outbreak and wrongly slaughtered millions of animals are "utter rubbish." Welsh countryside minister Carwyn Jones hit back after a report by two academics described the government's response to the 2001 outbreak as "blatant incompetence." Compiled by Cardiff University law professors David Campbell and Bob Lee, the report, to be published soon, warns of a potential new epidemic because of the Government's failure to learn its lesson..." Read in full

Aug 29 ~ Remote Scots areas get burial ban exemption

MOST of the Highlands and all Scotland's islands except Bute will be exempt from the European Union on-farm animal burial ban which will finally take effect on 1 October. Yesterday's announcement by Ross Finnie, rural development minister, of exemption for "remote" areas to allow on-farm burial, and if necessary burning, of fallen stock carcasses was welcomed by farmers and crofters. But it was pointed out that there are still no details of the UK collection and disposal scheme for fallen stock, which is due to start in all other areas from 1 January, 2004. ....
...The Scottish Executive is to stage a two-day simulation exercise of a foot-and-mouth outbreak on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, involving the rural development department's Pentland House headquarters in Edinburgh and its Perth area office, as well as local authorities, police, environmental agencies, farmers and the media. The exercise will test improved FMD contingency arrangements and, the Executive hopes, show how well lessons were learned during the 2001 FMD epidemic."

Aug 27 ~ Foot and Mouth Heroine laid off

Western Morning News "An animal welfare volunteer who became known as a heroine of the foot and mouth crisis says she has been told by the RSPCA that her services are no longer required. Animal collection officer Diana Lewis who has worked for the charity for 11 years, was famously pictured saving lambs from death in a muddy field at the height of the foot and mouth crisis. Her specially designed animal ambulance was paid for and is owned by the charity. Mrs Lewis operated it voluntarily, collecting sick and injured animals, but her service will finish today. Despite working in her own time, helping ill and injured animals the length and breadth of North Devon, her bosses insist her role no longer fits in with the long-term strategy of the charity which centres on the creation of the Animal Ark - a large clinic - in Bucks Cross, near Hartland..."

Aug 27 ~ GM Science Review Deeply Flawed

"....The most serious shortcoming of the GM Science Review is that it entirely ignores the substantial body of evidence on the proven successes and benefits of organic farming, agroecology and other forms of sustainable agriculture. Not even to consider these, while dealing at length with the projected potential benefits of GM is to restrict the scope of the debate from the very outset.
At first glance, the Report looks reasonable enough. Chapters 5, 6 and 7, each 50 pages long, claim to address all the objections that critics have raised on health and environmental impacts and gene flow from GM to non-GM crops and wild weedy relatives. They contain sections with such promising titles as, "Possible nutritional toxicological differences in GM food", "Food allergies for GM crops", "The fate of transgenic DNA", "The effect of GM-derived feed in the food chain", "Invasiveness/persistence of GM plants", "Toxicity to wildlife", "Can DNA from GM crops transfer to soil microbes?" and "Can genetic material in GM plant transfer to viruses?"... But the promise the headings is not fulfilled by the contents. No one can be surprised that the industry-dominated review panel found no evidence that GM crops pose a threat to health or the environment, as widely reported in the media. The precise wording (p.10), however, is full of qualification and equivocation, and this runs through the entire report..." The Institute of Science in Society (Note: The Independent Science Panel (ISP) also rejects the GM Science Review. Its full report will be posted on the ISP website at a later date.)


Western Morning News
"......New owners, like owners of the great estates in the 18th century, have bought their land and are entitled to do with it what they will. But outside their girdled grounds the countryside is dying. They may profess an interest, but the last thing a professional who buys a farm wants is to get involved in the social round with true locals. He doesn't want to trouble his Sunday luncheon of imported friends with half an hour in church. We have now moved on from trying to save the village post office and shop. Because today's incomers want the convenience of supermarkets; they want minimal contact with the local populace and their alien concerns...."

Aug 25 ~"... The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has made it clear that the UK government's preference is for complete decoupling for every product.

The Scotsman "From a political perspective, if this approach is widely adopted it would allow the EU negotiators to go to the World Trade Organisation talks in Mexico this autumn claiming complete reform of the farm subsidy system. They will then be in a stronger bargaining position with the US on other areas scheduled for debate, such as export subsidies.
Defra's view - shared by a number of other organisations - is that complete decoupling will allow farmers to concentrate on producing exactly what consumers wants, instead of having to make many management decisions based on possible gain or loss of production subsidy payments.
However, vigorous debate has already begun on whether beef should be completely decoupled. Some argue that, without direct support payments for quality beef production in Scotland, a number of farmers would opt to farm in some other way. They suggest that this will result in a loss of the critical mass of production needed to maintain processors and with it a large part of the quality retail market.
These are the issues likely to form the main talking points for farmers in the months ahead. But there are many others, including whether the new system will reduce bureaucracy; how to meet the good husbandry and cross compliance standards needed; the possible use of "national envelopes" to provide some direct aid and the special problems of dairying.
It is vital that farmers take as active a part in the discussions as possible. "

Aug 23 ~ Letter published in The Northern Echo
Those that work and live in the North East rural community are becoming increasingly restless. .... Rural incomes are now well below the national average. Earnings from farming have fallen by 70% in the past decade. Farming produce fell from £6 billion to £1.8 billion in the period 1995 to 2000 and is still falling. Agriculture is now less than !% of the UK's GDP.
The disappearance of banks, post offices, public transport, affordable housing together with more expensive fuel and lack of Police, Ambulance and Health Care services is fuelling rural unrest.
The Foot and Mouth disaster of 2001 was the most harrowing experience the rural community had experienced in living memory; the economic effect of which lingers on. Tens of thousands of small businesses suffered huge losses of income through no fault of there own. The estimate of the damage on the nation's overall economy was in the region of £20 billion. Post Foot and Mouth rural Britain remains in deep and resentful depression which is a measure of the severity of the problem which most people in Britain, least of all politicians from all sides, do not appreciate.
Peter Troy Chairman Darlington Branch Federation of Small Businesses

Aug 18 ~ Rare breeds to be exempted from culling

Farmers Guardian
SELECTED farm animals considered 'indispensable' for the survival of their breed could receive special protection during future foot-and-mouth outbreaks, under proposals unveiled this week. The Government is drawing up a register of animals that could be exempt from the requirement to cull all susceptible animals on infected holdings. As long as biosecurity on the holding was up to scratch and 'basic' EU interests, particularly the health status of other member states, were not endangered, the animals would probably be vaccinated instead. The decision would subject to veterinary advice....
...Not included in the proposed list, however, are Herdwick or Rough Fell sheep, which, although not rare breeds, came close to being wiped out during the 2001 outbreak.

Aug 16 ~ Man and other animals,11917,1020066,00.html
Jeremy Rifkin The Guardian

"Our fellow creatures have feelings - so we should give them rights too
While much of the talk in big science this past year has centred on new breakthroughs in biotechnology, nanotechnology, computers and more esoteric questions such as the age of our universe, a quieter story has been unfolding behind the scenes in laboratories around the world - one whose impact on human perception and our understanding of the world is likely to be even more profound. And, strangely, the companies sponsoring the research are McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and other fast food purveyors. Pressured by animal rights activists and by growing public support for the humane treatment of animals, these companies have financed research into, among other things, the emotional, mental and behavioural states of our fellow creatures. What the researchers are finding is unsettling. It appears that many of our fellow creatures are more like us than we had ever imagined. They feel pain, suffer, experience stress, affection, excitement - and even love. ..."

Aug 14 2003 ~ Rare breeds boost after threat of cull
The proposals, announced by rural ministry Defra, were yesterday welcomed by breeders in North Wales, many of whom lost valuable stock during the devastating 2001 crisis.
One even broke down in tears as he recalled the misery Anglesey's farmers endured during the outbreak....The so-called Anglesey Six group of livestock owners refused to give up their sheep to the island's cull of 50,000 animals and eventually forced the former Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) to climb down after contesting threatened legal action. Now MAFF's successor, Defra, has outlined proposals under which animals from infected holdings could escape culls if they were identified in advance as being "indispensable for the survival of the breed". The measures also include the possibility of emergency vaccination of rare breeds in the event of another outbreak..."

For DEFRA's webpage on this issue