The "Farming beyond foot and mouth" conference in Exeter on Friday was
organised by Bert Bruins of the South West Green Party. The speakers were:
Alan, with a resume of the FMD crisis, the science, and the mistakes made in
control policy; Matthew Knight, with a personal account of experience under
threat of the contiguous cull; Caroline Lucas (Green Party MEP for the South
East) on the dangers to farming and the environment of increasing globalised
trade in food; and Pippa Woods (Family Farms Association) on the threats now
facing family farming and the wider rural economy. After lunch, there was a
detailed debate covering the threat of globalised trade in foodstuffs and
the possible alternatives.
Carlton TV filmed interviews with the speakers beforehand that may have been
used on regional TV in lunchtime or evening bulletins. It was a positive
and stimulating day, but with a disappointing attendance after all the hard
work that Bert had put into the organisation and catering for the event.
Two personal accounts of the Gloucester rally now - first from Roger:
FMD Alliance Rally Gloucester 27 10
By 12 30pm about 60 farmers, small holders and supporters of the NFMDG
gathered in front of the bandstand in Gloucester park.
There were also about 15 young people in cow and sheep costumes.
The organiser Hector told us of his harassment by the state authorities when
trying to assert his rights. He went on to say that he believed his problems
ere caused by global big businesses such as Asda and that we should march to
an Asda store to persuade the customers not to shop there.
Another speaker gave us an e-mail address of some one employed to set an
alternative union to the NFU. When asked who was funding this she
reluctantly said it was someone with a lot of money associated with The
Richard Lawson of the Green Party corrected Hector's introduction by
pointing out that UKIP and Socialist Workers Party also supported small
farmers over the effects FMD management on them.
He then explained that the problems for farmers caused by movement
restrictions was worse that that caused by FMD.
He called on farmers to refuse to accept the restrictions.
Hector then poured petrol on the American flag and was about to light it. He
was stopped when the entire rally voted that it was not the right thing to
do. A short debate about the way forward took place. It was agreed that we
should continue the rally by exchanging views, contacts and leaflets and
then disperse to continue the struggle by persuasion among our associates
and though the media.
The young supporters started off to march to the Town Hall. The rally did
not follow and the march was abandoned.
What those present wanted was
vaccination against FMD
a public inquire into the present outbreak of FMD
I and those I spoke to found this chance to meet useful and worthwhile. The
rally ended at about 3pm
We learnt that it important to have the political aims of a rally and/or
march clearly known and publicised accurately in advance. Otherwise negative
outcomes and publicity may result.
and also from Pat:
Dear Alan and Rosie,
I went to the Gloucester demo yesterday, intending to march to Shire Hall
demanding a public enquiry. The turnout was quite disappointing, but Dr
Richard Lawson started off by saying why we needed a public enquiry. Tracy
(?) then spoke, and told us that an alternative to the NFU was being set
up. Hector Christie, dressed as a priest, then spoke, and blamed the
supermarkets and globalisation. He was about to set fire to the stars and
stripes when this action was questioned. On a show of hands, he was
dissuaded, and there followed an interesting debate on whether or not the
farmers wanted to be linked to gestures such as this. A lot of people were
most unhappy about it, and some left. The group disintegrated into little
knots of people, and eventually some of us started on the march, then
stopped and decided it couldn't go ahead without the farmers, who had
mostly stayed behind. I went to B & Q with some others to hand out
leaflets, but the manager wasn't happy about this, so we all went home. It
was very disappointing, and we will have to get much better organised than
this if we hope to get anywhere.
The evening went better for us here in the Forest - the cull survivors/
protesters/interested parties got together for a drink or three and met
some of the others we had only spoken to on the phone before. Very
enjoyable - we must do it again.
In my correspondence with Diana Organ MP, she stated that she was very much
in favour of a public enquiry, and also said so on Punch Bag on HTV West on
Thursday night. So she is standing up to be counted, and said she was also
in favour of an enquiry for the county of Gloucestershire. So I have
revised my opinion of her after my previous comments! I just hope she
means the same as I mean - a full, open, public enquiry where people can
be forced out of the woodwork to tell the truth.
I absolutely agree with you about civil disobedience in all this madness.
I find myself quoting Tiny Blur "This is a battle we have to undertake for
civilised people everywhere", "we are in for the long haul", "we cannot
allow the terrorists to win", "we must stand shoulder to shoulder", etc.
The politicians seem to have forgotten that they are our servants.
a short comment from Richard:
The trouble with this country is that too many of the sheep have two legs.
from Bonnie in San Francisco:
I've been trying to write a response to the Defra letter (more for my peace
of mind, as I've said before, than for any illusion that it'll do any good)
but my concentration is torn between the incessant threat of anthrax here
and creeping hysteria about BSE in Sheep there. Together, they breed an
overwhelming sense of maniacal destructiveness unloosed.
My mother, in New York, who is now afraid to open her mail, called tonight
and asked if Foot and Mouth is the same as Anthrax. I said no. She said
someone on TV had said it was. It took about 5 miles (I was on the mobile)
to get her straight. Earlier in the week, a filmmaker friend asked me if
Foot and Mouth was the same as Scrapie. I explained the difference. Ah
then (lightbulb), Scrapie is the same as Mad Cow disease! I tried to explain
why not, and I think I was clear, but when I'd finished, he sighed and said,
Oh. I see then, Mad Cow is the same as Foot and Mouth! I started all over
The point is, among otherwise intelligent people, foot and mouth, scrapie,
mad cow, anthrax--they're all mysterious diseases and somewhat
interchangeable since they all bear a common charge of fear. Attached (I
hope I haven't sent you this before) is an article from the New York Times I
cut out months ago which talks about the crossover between contagious
diseases such as foot and mouth and "deep" diseases such as BSE and why one,
no matter how innocent, bears the burden of fear of the other.
I hope you will take heart in remembering that the greatest tool against
fear is knowledge, and you provide that daily.
Love and hope,
Follow-up thought to my letter just sent:
...of course, when information does not dispel fear you have to wonder then,
who benefits? And what are "they" getting out of it? Here, for example, the
right wing is celebrating every night, I'm sure. In the name of terrorism
they'll be able to put in place any restrictions or invasions into personal
liberties they please.
So much for comforting thoughts. I think Richard's got it pegged. As usual.
In the Spring 2001 edition of the RBST's magazine "The Ark", the proposed
National Scrapie Plan was discussed. Interestingly it began with the words:
"Earlier this year, MAFF issued a consultation document proposing a Ram
Genotyping Scheme, initially with voluntary participation but recognising
that it would probably become compulsory."
The Trust went on to give its broad support for the scheme, but with
certain grave reservations. They pointed out that resistant genotypes were
high in certain breeds, generally the longwools, but low in others. The
desired genotype is rarely found in the "northern short-tailed group" for
example. Some of our rarest breeds, such as the Castlemilk Moorit, could
find themselves under threat. In some breeds Scrapie is either rare or
unrecorded, and the Trust felt rams from these breeds should not be subject
to compulsory selection on the basis of their genotype.
It was also pointed out that New Zealand will ONLY import
genetically susceptible sheep, so that if Scrapie is present it would become
apparent and could be dealt with through other control measures. "Until it
is clear whether genetically resistant individuals are genuinely resistant
to the production of the prion proteins, or whether they are merely capable
of carrying the prion protein without overt symptoms, the New Zealand policy
is prudent. Without a full, or even wide, understanding of prions and their
effects the proposed National Scrapie Plan would seem premature."
Of course all this was a few months ago when we all thought MAFF had
our best interests at heart, would be prepared to listen to reason, and
, above all, did not harbour an insane desire to slaughter all our sheep! The
very worst we envisaged was having certain breeds relegated back to
ornamental parkland status. There was no talk of compulsory slaughter, only
removal from the food-chain. After all the work which had gone into getting
these breeds back into mainstream farming it seemed a shame, but I certainly
didn't fear the extinction of our rare breeds, or for the lives of my own
sheep, as I do now.
For a lighter contribution I turn again to my friendly MAFF newsletter. A
very odd choice of words is used on page two, where farmers are being blamed
for stress among MAFF workers: "These are the front line troops and are not
to blame for faults in the system - please be patient." Are they admitting
that MAFF really is at war with the farming community? And, if so, surely
the front-line troops are put there to be shot at? Isn't that the point?
An appeal for information from Betty:
I've been told that the whole BSE investigation (is based on Suffolk sheep. I
very much like to know if it was because it gives us the opportunity to
I would like to raise some questions:
1. What breed included the BSE-investigation in which BSE was injected
into the brains?
I'm told it was in Suffolk sheep and Suffolk Swaledale is this correct?
2. Is it correct that Suffolk sheep do have another type of scrapie?
3. Is there be another patron of scrapie in Suffolk than with other breeds?
4. There was one sheep ARR-ARR that developed scrapie and this was a
5. The scrapie susceptibility with Suffolk is very high, is this correct?
Answers to these questions are most welcome.
Betty Stikkers, Shetland breeder in Holland
Fair Isle Shetland
5394 LG OIJEN
From the Newcastle Journal:
Left to bear the scars for decades to come Oct 27 2001
Community aims to win compensation
By Robert Brooks
At first glance, it looks like many other places in the heart of the
Northumberland countryside - small close-knit villages clustered round one
another, a dotting of farms amid the open fields, and the occasional
reminders of a once-thriving coal industry.
But the area around the villages of Widdrington and nearby Widdrington
Station have something which makes it different
It has been left to bear the scars of an agricultural catastrophe for
decades to come, a legacy which haunts every person living there and which
has sown the seeds of fear for their own and their children's health in
years to come
Six long months at the forefront of foot-and-mouth disposal operations - a
burial pit and a pyre site - has seen the community change irreversibly
Where there has always been a resilient cheerfulness and willingness to
accept adversity, a trait learned the hard way during the tough days of the
coalmines, there is now also a deep distrust of authority
Widdrington gained its new and infamous recognition on April 1, when
emergency planners at what was then the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food, announced that a site near the Chevington Opencast would be ideal
for the disposal of tens of thousands of dead animals
Nearby Hemscott Hill, near the beautiful sandy shore of Druridge Bay, would
also become a burning site
Lorraine Donaldson has vivid memories of those early days
She said: "They started burning carcases to the rear of my house before we
had been given any official warning.
The mother of two, who lives at Lintonburn Park in Widdrington Station with
daughters Sophie and Charlotte, added: "I only found out from a friend that
there were diggers at what was soon to be the burial site next to the
village. I was stunned
"We suffered the direct effects of the smoke from those burning animals and,
at first, had no idea about the potential effects
"It was only when people realised what a total fiasco the entire operation
was that we started to really worry about what was true and what was not.
The fear, she says, is that their children will bear the legacy of
foot-and-mouth in the decades to come
She added: "I moved to a rural area because I wanted to give my daughters a
better environment to grow up in than a town or city. The actions of those
in authority have robbed my children of that choice. They didn't ask anyone
here about their concerns - they just went ahead and did it anyway
"There are still questions which have not fully been addressed, and only a
full and independent public inquiry will give us those answers we need.
Out of every negative comes a positive, she believes
"Never again will anyone be able to come to Widdrington and dump their waste
on our doorstep," she says
James Grant is another Widdrington resident who found himself thrust into
He eventually stood as a borough councillor during the summer elections, and
has dedicated himself to lobbying for compensation for all the communities
He said: "Widdrington has been the dumping ground for everything other
places didn't want on their doorsteps.
He added: "We fought and won against plans to build a nuclear power station
at Druridge Bay, we fought sand extraction there, and we have fought
repeated attempts to extend the opencast mining
"The fight is on now to win the compensation which the whole community was
promised. So far we haven't seen a penny of it - but we'll keep fighting for
what is our right.
From the Warmwell website:
Legal challenge to disease handling
The government is to be sued by a group of Welsh businessmen over its
handling of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. The group is bringing its case
under the Human Rights Act, claiming the decision to effectively close down
the countryside has deprived them of their ability to make a living. They
accuse the government of failing to consider non-agricultural rural
businesses in its efforts to protect the farming industry. A London law firm
is putting together their case. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme,
chairman of the Powys Rural Business Campaign Ian Mitchell said: "We have
taken instructions from solicitors concerning issues affecting our members
under the Human Rights Act and feel the government have discriminated
against the businesses run by our members. There is a series of bungles,
incompetence and even indifference as far as we are concerned Ian Mitchell,
Powys Rural Business Campaign "They have deprived them of their ability to
use their property and make a living by their handling of the disease. "They
shut down the countryside without any thought of the consequences to the
businesses involved deeply with the countryside. ..... Solicitors believe
the Powys-based group, which represents 500 businesses, can sue the
government for exceeding their powers by allegedly closing off roads and
giving bad advice. News of the Welsh business group's legal case coincided
with protest action in Gloucestershire on Saturday. Farmers marched on Shire
Hall in Gloucester to demand a full inquiry into the foot-and-mouth
epidemic. They are unhappy with government imposed movement restrictions,
which they claim are forcing them to slaughter animals which are ready for
market. During the demonstration, the Marquess of Worcester gave a defiant
speech urging the government to change its global policy that she claims is
killing Britain's small farmers. The marquess, known formerly as TV actress
Tracey Ward, said: "Britain's small farmers are under the strangle hold of
major supermarket chains, who buy in food from abroad rather than using the
healthy produce grown on their doorstep." She claimed 80% of government
subsidies to aid foot-and-mouth recovery was going to 20% of the largest
farmers as they were the only ones deemed capable of competing globally.
Devon pig farmer Hector Christie said: "Small farmers are being crushed
beneath globally-centred economics and loaded legislation." .....
BSE tests.."total confusion" says Cambridge professor Ferguson-Smith
Farming Today (Saturday)
In the last section of the Farming Today, Professor Ferguson-Smith reveals
the utter confusion surrounding the tests on sheep - both those that have
already been carried out that he describes as "flawed" in ways that go
beyond the obvious muddle over samples and those that it is proposed to
carry out now. As it is explained on the programme, using the so-called
threat from possible BSE as an excuse to eradicate sheep not showing scrapie
resistance is a nonsense - since it has been shown that resistance to
scrapie makes no difference to a sheep's susceptibility to artificially
induced "BSE" infection in the laboratory. In addition, Mrs Beckett has said
that Professor Collinge's test is unvalidated and too difficult: Professor
King says it is already being used. Where can the truth be found in any of
For tonight's joke - go to the link below:
from Alan & Rosie