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It seems to me that there are three major questions that need to be addressed:

1. When did the outbreak really start, and how? Whether they are rumours or not, there is much discussion in Cumbria about signs that it was a great deal earlier than the "official" start, allegedly at Heddon-on-the-wall. Last autumn Cumbria CC commissioned F&M road signs, woodyards were asked by MAFF about stock of railway sleepers etc, many farmers received phone messages advising them to take out F&M insurance, the main contractor for disposal and disinfection (Snowy Group of Stirling) allegedly bought the disused Great Orton airfield where huge numbers of carcases are buried and increased its stock of equipment and vehicles. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle reported in March having received evidence of field tests of live virus and vaccine at 30 sites (presumably MoD ranges and training areas) across Britain last year.

2. Have farmers deliberately contributed to spread of the disease? Despite strenous denial by NFU, but not many actual farmers, there is evidence of large scale deliberate infection using infected body parts, sold to farmers by those involved in carcase disposal, and even live sheep with the disease have been rented out. Because such reports come from within the Cumbrian and Dales farming communities, they carry a great deal of weight, and cannot simply be shrugged off.

3. Have valuers and farmers conspired to maximise compensation by gross overvaluation? The average compensation in Cumbria has been £151,000. Valuers receive 1 percent of their valuation per farm, up to a maximum of £1500 - around 1 percent of the average farm valuation. I know of one case where a runt Swaledale tup was bought as a yearling for a mere £5, but was valued six months later at #1000, and spent ewes commonly fetch £100 compensation per head.

The government and its advisors have been totally inept from the outset, and may also have a hidden agenda with the EU for reducing the vast overstocking of sheep, particularly in Cumbria, which any farmers there will admit was about 1 million over pre-subsidy levels, mainly aimed at light-lamb sales to southern Europe. However, that should not be used as a cover for grotesque practices by some farmers, nor for the vast profits made by commercial handlers of biohazardous waste.

If small-scale farming is to have any future credibility - if it survives - among the majority in Britain, then farmers themselves have to be honest and square accounts with their future consumers. They will never sell outside Britain again. That should be abundantly clear from the last decade of repeated disasters, and farmers simply cannot avoid some degree of responsibility for exchanging good husbandry for the chance of what were unbelievably high incomes compared with those in the period up to the 1970's and the CAP. If they are prepared to keep shtum about what they know, and that includes knowledge of odd things happening in out-of-the-way places last year and during the crisis, then they will not get much sympathy from the vast majority, many of whom know full well what redundancy means - with a pittance in compensation.

Appeals to government for open public enquiries will not work. If there is to be an enquiry, then it has to be achieved by the public themselves. Warmwell would do well to set up a clearing house for information from all sources, and then to supply it to the media throughout Europe - thereby avoiding D-notices. Perhaps the first thing is to contact individual journalists, asking if they have been spiked for reports such as that about the live virus and vaccine tests of last year.

Steve, Central Cumbria

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