We start with a round-up of your own messages:
The Richardson first hand comparison of the campaign against FMD in 67 and
01 was SO illuminating.
It really brings home why we feel so betrayed, etc. I was a school girl in
Buckinghamshire during the first outbreak.....and I cannot remember it at
all. Obviously it was dealt with efficiently as per the account. This is
the England we have all known and love so dearly. This is why we had
confidence in 'the system'....why we are law-abiding citizens. It was
And this is also why Bonnie's words ring so true.....except I wouldn't call
it the loss of innocence so much as the loss of justice.
A solicitor once said to me " What is right is what will be decided
"..........and I thought it was extraordinary and wonderful that she could
have such faith in the system ( and the judgment turned out to be very
I don't think the same could be said anymore................
...........................................we are living the unravelling of
the fabric of a just (albeit imperfect ) and great society.
First of all, thank you for continuing with your newsletters - a time
consuming effort on your part - but so very much appreciated by many people,
Secondly, a few obsevations: - the other half was supping a pint and
discussing the ways of the world with an elderly farm hand in our village.
The farm hand mentioned that two quite sizeable local farmers on the edge of
the parish were going out of sheep. Later on, we counted up the demise of
sheep farming in our locality:
One farmer (from whom we bought our land) sold up
2 farmers retired, one has relinquished the tenancy and the other has let
out his land to an estate in Herefordshire.
2 brothers with separate holdings have reduced their combined sheep flock
from 700 to 200 in total
2 farmers have gone out of sheep entirely and another has reduced his flock
from several hundred to 40 odd.
This leaves, in our village itself, the two brothers with 200 sheep, a
retired professor with 10, a retired policeman with a flying flock of draft
ewes, and ourselves with around 150 breeding stock. We were considered
nutcases and "hobby farmers" when we turned up 10 years ago, and here we are
almost respectable representaives of the farming community.
Now this may be a mad idea, fuelled by an excellent bottle of red wine, but
I can't get out of my head the words of an Argentinian farmer on the County
file programme - something to the effect that "you must be very rich to be
able to kill all those animals". And that is the problem with sheep, isn't
it - no-one values them as individuals any more in this country, and yet in
a poorer (I think the pc term is "less -developed) county I would be a very
rich person with 150 sheep. Something is very wrong somewhere. Any thoughts
on this anyone?
A rather more ammusing anecdote occurred today. The other half was racing
off to get some oil for the car when he encountered an obviously Muslim
family sitting on our grass verge outside the gates having a picnic. Now a
Muslim family in our village is like a brick wall in Aberdeen so the other
half approached and enquired politely if they were lost! This brought
profuse apologies for any implied trespass and offers of chocolate swiss
roll! After all this, the other half didn't have the heart to move them and
left them to their picnic. I was moving sheep further up the drive at the
time and it was a good job my senior ram did not realise someone was
offering chocolate swiss rolls or he would have been down there. (Whoops- I
forgot, Mrs. Beckett has banned all that, hasn't she?).
Our comment: Janet is quite right about the UK perspective of sheep as
"disposable", in contrast to the esteem in which they are held in other
parts of the world. But this is a relatively recent phenomenum. Our dear
friend Bill, now in his mid-seventies, often recalls that when he started
farming immediately post-war, the sale of a fat lamb at market would pay one
man's wages for a week. Contrast that to its current value, and you begin
to appreciate the scale of the change that has taken place. Even before
FMD, a farmer would need to sell five or six good lambs to claim the same
The national breeding flock has more than doubled since the UK joined the
EU, largely under the influence of the CAP which introduced sheep subsidy
payments - originally supposed to help those hill farmers that rely on sheep
for their income. When we first kept sheep 13 years ago, the subsidy
payment was made once the fat lamb had been "graded", so more and better
lambs were encouraged. However, the system then changed to a "headage"
payment, so that it didn't matter how many or what quality of lambs
resulted, it was the number of ewes that mattered. This had the inevitable
result of encouraging much larger flocks with scant regard to the quality of
the end product.
Our part of Devon is dairy country, with milking cows the predominant
livestock, but over the past thirty years an enormous growth in sheep
numbers has taken place. The old boys tell us that many farms once had no
sheep at all, but now they are to be seen everywhere, especially in the
early winter months to "finish" on the remaining grass once the cattle are
housed. One farmer we knew (who has now retired) kept over one thousand
breeding ewes single-handed (!), buying in worn-out ewes from the Welsh
hills each autumn to keep his numbers up, running them on land that used to
be cattle only. It has become a numbers game. Animal welfare has been an
early casualty of such a system, but the people who have suffered the most
in financial terms are the very hill farmers that the subsidies were
supposed to protect. What has happened, very predictably, is that the law
of supply and demand has forced down the price of lamb as the quantity
marketed has risen. Now the former cattle-men are turning away from sheep
one by one as the economics are no longer attractive - but the hill farmer
has no other choices, his land is only suited to sheep production, he has
already forced up production to the maximium possible, but still he cannot
earn a living wage as the price relentlessly falls away from him.
Globalisation also plays a role, of course, as other countries (especially
New Zealand) work hard to sell their own surplus lamb here on our UK market.
But they could also sell it to the rest of the EU in place of our own
So what do we do? It's simple. Scrap subsidies on sheep production, stop
imports and exports, let the UK market price find its own level. Sheep
numbers will fall quickly until stabilising at the new, sustainable level.
Hill farms will be profitable again helped by new subsidies linked to the
environment (which will automatically benefit from lower grazing pressure).
This won't happen without a fight. Too many global interests are at work.
But if this is the future that we all want in the UK, then fight for it we
I am very much in sympathy with most of what Lawrence
writes (Saturday Something) about globalisation and
its ramifications for freedom and independance, and I
agree that the FMD crisis has been a feature of global
agri-politics. But I can't let him get away with
saying that the terrorist strikes in NY and DC were 'a
reaction from people who have been pushed further than
Bin Laden is a multi-millionaire and a hate-junkie and
he hasn't been 'pushed' anywhere. Unfortunately he
harnesses the support of people with genuine and
justifiable grievances who have; but he no more
represents them than Ben Gill represents hill farmers,
or Phoney Blair represents me.
The world's in a crazy, tragic muddle, and the
lunatics are fighting each other for control of the
Please note that I am not agreeing with Paul Kitching or DEFRA. We know
ground that the estimate is that 10 million animals have been slaughtered,
but that DEFRA admit to 4 million which was the fig. quoted on the Week in
Week Out program on BBC1 Wales. While PK suggested that 50% of the culled
animals were unnecessarily slaughtered (and by unnecessary,
I think that he may have meant that going with the 'traditional'
stamping out policy and with reference to the Northumberland Report, then
the slaughter of animals on signs within 24hrs and then the slaughter of
certain contiguous properties after an appropriate risk assessment (which
did not happen, except in a few cases) may take the estimate to the 50% that
I can only talk with some certainty here in Wales, but I suspect the same
logic has been applied elsewhere, by killing animals around any 'suspected'
pockets they were removing potential vectors and therefor spread. As I have
stated previously: there has been very little FMDV.
The same Roy Miller, and I do not know whether I mentioned this to you
before, has the results of 77,000 tests, with only 2 +ves. This of course
puts them into the false +ve margin.
Flippantly (like Diana), I think that my 1 million 'prediction' (with no
degree of confidence) is quite good really when considering the 10 million
Since we are into joking, why not games as well. In time, certainly post
the 'inquiries' there will be statistical estimates made on the number of
animals that were infected with FMD. Any one wanting to go higher? -
While there has been huge cockups, I personally believe that much has been a
How is it that 'we' can can mobilise an army, weapons, media with marvellous
computer simulations and graphics in a couple of weeks post Twin Towers, yet
on homeground we cannot organise the containment and effective control of a
relatively non fatal animal disease with the media almost
uninvolved ? - Because 'we' dont want to.
By the way, I mostly agree with Lawrence.
And on the Twin Towers disaster, the planes that were hi-jacked are capable
of carrying a couple of hundred people (they were virtually empty) and
because the attack was so early in the morning, the buildings were also not
entirely full. I wonder if the terrorists imagined that those floors would
It seems to me that the target was symbolic and was not calculated for
maximum loss of life.
While the loss of 5000 people in the attack is ghastly, calculate the
largely avoidable loss of life throughout the world on a daily basis due to
avoidable problems such as cholera: contaminated water, malnutrition, AIDS:
ignorance, no drugs, malaria, as before. At the other end of the scale we
have unnecessary deaths due to obesity, cancers relates to poor diet,
smoking, stress, cardio vascular disease as before, RTA, guns...And then
there are the wars that the USA and the UK fund and supply weaponry for...
The only analogy with the FMD F... U. is that the people in Afghanistan have
even less self determination than we have.
Thank God for all of you. When I read your e-mails I feel re-assured of my
own sanity (Well, relative sanity anyway, better not delude myself!).
Bonnie's comments are so apt - once again she has put it into words that I
was searching for! Bryn's comments are priceless! and Paul's poem so
sensitive and apt.
From the Telegraph:
Christopher Booker's Notebook
Farm virus policy was chaos
A FORMER senior vet with the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
has produced statistical evidence for the first time to highlight the
shocking contrast between the Government's handling of the 2001 foot and
mouth epidemic and that of Britain's last epidemic 33 years ago.
In 1967-8 the average time from first reporting a foot and mouth case to
final disinfection of the farm was 19 hours. In 2001 this rose to an
astonishing 235 hours, thanks to the incompetence with which Maff
interpreted new rules that had been introduced by the European Union. This
was a serious factor in allowing the disease to run out of control.
This devastating exposure of Maff's mishandling of the 2001 epidemic comes
in a paper by Alan Richardson, a former director of the Sir William Hamilton
veterinary laboratory in Australia, who worked for Maff through the 1967-8
epidemic and came out of retirement last March to volunteer his services in
helping to deal with the crisis in Cumbria, where he lives.
He paints a hair-raising picture of the bureaucratic chaos he found when he
arrived at the Maff regional office in Carlisle, when he and two American
volunteers had to buy their own protective clothing, boots and buckets from
a local store, while "dozens of computers were being unloaded from a lorry".
However, the centrepiece of his paper is the light it sheds on one of the
great puzzles of the 2001 epidemic, which was how the recommendations of the
official Northumberland report on the 1967-8 epidemic were stood on their
heads. Why were there now such delays at every stage, from diagnosis to
slaughter to disposal to disinfection, often allowing days to elapse?
Why were carcasses no longer buried on the spot, as Northumberland urged was
essential? The answer to these mysteries, as I revealed last March, was that
foot and mouth rules had been changed under various EU directives.
The significance of Mr Richardson's paper is his confirmation of just how
grotesquely these new bureaucratic rules created delays. Thirty years ago,
to deal with a suspected outbreak which proved "clinically negative", took
two hours on average. In 2001 this was 37 hours.
More seriously, in "positive" cases, Mr Richardson shows how the time rose
from 19 hours to 10 days or more, giving much greater opportunity for the
virus to spread.
Mr Richardson is excoriating about those aspects of the handling of the 2001
epidemic where Maff came up with its own additions to the EU rules: notably
its "slaughter on suspicion" policy and the "contiguous cull" under which
millions of healthy animals were unnecessarily slaughtered just because they
were on farms within "three kilometres" of an "infected premises".
These refinements, not included in EU directive 85/511, were introduced in
March to conform with the computer model for handling the epidemic devised
by Professor Roy Anderson.
Mr Richardson concludes that the "contiguous cull" was the idea of
"mathematical modellers", who seemed to have no idea of the logistical
problems or the distress it would create.
The "slaughter on suspicion" policy, under which vets were "bullied" by Maff
headquarters into ordering animals to be destroyed when there was no direct
evidence of disease, was "in every respect in breach of the professional
Should anyone wish to read why Mr Richardson hopes the various official
inquiries will have the courage to challenge terms of reference "couched so
as to preclude criticism of the Maff/Defra mandarins who have been
responsible for this catastrophe", his paper is available on
Metric martyrs stand to lose their homes
THE story behind the case of the five "metric martyrs" has become
increasingly murky, as hearings began at the London High Court on Thursday,
almost a year after the Sunderland greengrocer Steve Thoburn first faced
criminal prosecution by his local council for selling a pound of bananas.
When his case appeared before local magistrates, they seemed prepared to
view it as simply a matter of whether it was right to criminalise the use of
the weights that most customers prefer.
But before the case returned to court in January, these magistrates were
discharged by the Lord Chancellor's department, which appointed District
Judge Morgan in their place. David Jude, the original chairman of the bench,
has subsequently become a trustee of the Metric Martyr Defence Fund, run by
Mr Thoburn's fellow Sunderland trader Neil Herron.
It was Judge Morgan who in April found Mr Thoburn guilty, on the challenging
grounds that the people of Britain had "quite voluntarily surrendered the
once seemingly immortal concept of the sovereignty of parliament by
membership of the European Union". And under EU law, whatever Parliament
might think, it was now a criminal act to sell goods in anything but metric.
Judge Morgan did not, however, order Mr Thoburn to pay Sunderland's costs,
then estimated at #53,500, and the 21-day limit for Sunderland to apply for
Only last Thursday, 20 minutes before five traders from different parts of
the country were due to begin their appeal before a divisional judge, did
Sunderland announce that it wanted to apply for its costs after all. Judge
Scott Baker gave leave for the council to return to Judge Morgan for a costs
order, which, as Mr Herron said afterwards, puts Steve Thoburn right back on
"We have raised enough to pay defence costs right up to the European Court
of Human Rights, and we assumed there would be no question of costs until
the whole case was settled. But if this is the way they are going to play
it, these five men now have their homes and livelihoods on the line," Mr
This case is no longer about bananas and scales. It is about the whole way
our country is governed, including our judicial system. If it is really the
case that the British people allowed Parliament to hand over its sovereignty
in the 1970s, why did none of our politicians tell us?
Why, when the European Communities Bill was going through in 1972, did the
then Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, tell the House of Lords that it was
"abundantly obvious, not merely that this Bill does nothing to qualify the
sovereignty of Parliament, but that it could not do so"?
Faced with this new crisis, the Metric Martyr Defence Fund, which has 10,000
collection boxes in pubs and shops all over the country, is now making a
further urgent appeal for support. Contributions should be sent to PO Box
526, Sunderland SR1 3YS.
Where will the old fridges go?
LAST week the Dixons Group, Britain's largest retailer of fridges, confirmed
that in 10 weeks' time, thanks to an EU ban on recycling fridges to save the
ozone layer, we face a truly bizarre disaster.
From January 1, when they are declared "hazardous waste" under EU regulation
2000/2037, there will be absolutely no legal way to dispose of the 3 million
fridges and freezers which become surplus to people's needs each year in
Firms such as Dixons and Currys will no longer be allowed to take them in
part-exchange for recycling. Local authorities will be under an obligation
to remove them, at a charge averaging #15.
But even they will have no legal way to get rid of them. This is because the
EU will only allow old fridges to be taken to specially licensed plants, for
their CFC gases to be removed before the rest is incinerated; and the only
two such plants in the EU, in Holland and Germany, are already stretched to
Privately, local councils confess they "haven't got a clue" what they are
going to do. One said that it would take "at least a year to get a suitable
plant up and running, and no one has yet come up with any idea of who is
going to run it or pay for it".
Yet such is the insane situation created by Brussels officials who, by using
a regulation which immediately becomes law, ensured that national
parliaments could not delay its implementation.
The only politicians who could have stopped it were members of the European
Parliament and its environmental committee, chaired by the Tory MEP Dr
But when one Tory MEP rang me last week to protest that he and his
colleagues had tried in vain to oppose it, even he admitted they had not
realised that the EU was introducing a law which literally no one in Britain
can obey. Stand by for millions of fridges to be dumped illegally and
dangerously all over the countryside. We shall know who to thank.
7 October 2001: Christopher Booker's Notebook
Our comment: We make no apology for including the "non-FMD" news items
above, for they have obvious relevance to our topic. In so many ways, the
FMD crisis has encapsulated the very same issues of justice, personal
freedoms and the disastrous result of centralised bureaucratic control.
When will we ever learn?
From the Western Daily Press:
Computer maroons livestock
A COMPUTER meltdown has left furious farmers unable to move their livestock.
Despite promises the system for issuing movement licences would be working
by now, farmers say they still cannot get hold of the all-important
Trading Standards officers across the West have borne the brunt of farmers'
anger - but the problem has been caused by the national computer system.
Officials in Herefordshire have dumped the electronic equipment and resorted
to pen and paper to clear the backlog.
DEFRA has repeatedly pledged to solve the problem, but farmers claim there
appears to be no end in sight.
Autumn Movement Licensing is intended to allow stock to be moved without
fear of spreading foot-and-mouth.
But a massive backlog has built up in parts of the West, including
Herefordshire, and DEFRA is under fire from both farmers' leaders and local
Animal welfare officer Mike Higgins said: "This really is the final straw.
The DEFRA computer system should allow us to process applications.
"It has been nothing short of a disaster. We have had to refuse applications
to move cattle for no good reason - no wonder farmers are angry."
Here's a one-liner to finish with from Tom:
How do you stay cool at a football match? Stand beside a fan.
from Alan & Rosie