Theresa starts the ball rolling this evening:
I attended a meeting yesterday ay Newport Institute of Rural Health. One
speaker you probably know, Dr. Peter Greig-Smith. I had to remind myself
that he wasn't responsible for the disastrous policy; he looked strained.
My general impression was that the delegates were for more accurate
information and vaccination. Good communications, co-operation between
different groups and support structures were identified as being of basic
importance. We also had a presentation from Cumbria who are using the
local radio for information, a vet Liz Dawson (on floods) Ian Sawers and
several other good speakers.
Just heard disturbing news that some lambs at a 'market' in Ross were
thought to have FMD and slaughtered
(anyone want some Cheviot/Welsh mountain breeding ewes and ewe lambs?)
Best wishes Theresa
Val sends these thoughts:
Yes, Janet has a salient point.........the most expedient way to get
policies changed could be to expose them in a politically embarrassing light.
It is patently obvious that the current politicians are concerned with their
own careers.........to the exclusion of everything else.
If I were at the helm, I would be mortified at the failure of the slaughter
policy, and that should be plenty embarrassing to the government............
but we are dealing with a different beast here...............is it that
there is safety in numbers?...............as long as they keep patting each
other on the back they are oblivious to reality?
there must be an Achilles tendon in there somewhere.............
if they were quizzed in an HONEST dialogue.........one on
one.............and if they had to face the farmers ( or former farmers ) on
their land, and hear what Bonnie and Rosie and Alan heard when they went
into their houses.....would they still be able to carry on with their
I mean: What will embarrass them?
Our comment: Politicians are notoriously thick-skinned, but we think the
most effective means of embarrassment is the truth - they hate, above all
else, to be proved wrong. That's why there won't be a public inquiry, why
the media are censored (yes, it's happened to us!), why the Official Secrets
Act is used to prevent ministry vets from speaking out - and it's why we
are writing this and you are reading it.
Astrid sent this message:
I have heard this about Nick Brown's brother-in-law before, owning Snowie,
from a cashier at Carlisle Tesco! Her family are farmers. I'll ask her how
she found out next time I see her.
I tried hard to follow the convoluted reasoning of John Stewart, of the
Weird! But as you say, his last paragraph made sense. Your comment
about cardboard cut-out politicians was the best joke. If only.........
On a more serious note, Pat Walker of North Yorkshire Smallholders,
following a meeting with Fred Brown, suggested that we all fax Jim
Scudamore and tell him we don't want disease free status, and then
vaccination can follow as a matter of course. She said it was worth
pointing out to him that F & M has been on the move for years, especially
this strain, it is more or less guaranteed that it will return, and the
rural community is not prepared to go through this again!
Jim Scudamore: Fax - 0207 904 6242 Phone - 0207 904 6139
Pat also suggested that we should write to vets. Apparently vets in Holland
refused to take part in any more culls and said that they would go on strike
# # #
We have today received our weekly newsletter from DEFRA containing details
of the new licencing arrangements for animal movements in Devon, which is
classified as an "at risk" county for most livestock but "high risk" for
sheep. The process of obtaining a licence is explained over seven pages of
text and frankly, by the end we are left wondering if any farmer is really
going to bother! The rules are so complex, and apparently conflicting, that
they resemble a board-game thought up by someone with a black sense of
humour and a determination to make livestock movement next to impossible in
practical terms. Perhaps you need to throw a six to get a licence.
Here's just a flavour:
"Trading Standards are likely to deal with all (sheep) licences from October
1st. Movements may still not be allowed out of or into Devon. The
destination, vehicle and distances involved will have to be specified on the
licence application - that is the sheep have to be pre-sold. A proportion,
or all (depending on the numbers involved) of the flock of origin, from this
time, will require a blood sample to be taken by DEFRA before they can be
moved. Licences and blood test results will be valid for 14 days. The
procedures for rams will remain the same."
Doesn't sound too bad? But there's more, several pages later:
"No susceptible animals can be moved on to the premises from which the
animals to be moved are located for a period of 21 days prior to the
movement, and (in the case of animals requiring serology) both 21 days
before testing takes place and between testing and movement off the farm.
In addition you must supply details of your local veterinary inspector (LVI)
to whom the licence will be sent, and who will carry out a pre-movement
inspection on behalf of DEFRA. You have 24 hours from the time of the LVI
inspection to begin the movement."
And so on, for seven pages. The practical difficulties should not be
underestimated. Flock owners wanting to hire in a ram are being told that
the wait for DEFRA to call and take the necessary blood samples prior to
movement can be six to eleven WEEKS! Meanwhile, they are supposed to apply
for the licence so that the 21 day rule, the 14 day rule and the 24 hour
rule all work out accordingly!
This is a recipe for disaster. Many more farmers, exasperated by such
officialdom, are going to ignore this gobbledook and just get on with their
lives. Many more animals will be moved illicitly than at present, with the
attendant risk of spreading disease.
It is the language of control, once again, the voice of a government that is
obsessed with the centralisation of power over every aspect of our lives, a
government that has now tasted total power over the farming community and
cannot, will not, relinquish it ever again. This level of control is here
to stay, unless and until the farming community rebels against it.
# # #
From the Farmers Weekly website:
26 September 2001
Virus suspects culled at Ross market
By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent
DEFRA veterinary surgeons ordered the immediate slaughter of 170 prime lambs
sent from a Monmouthshire farm to Ross-on-Wye market on Tuesday (25
Staff at the Herefordshire collection centre noticed what they suspected
could be symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease in the animals, which were
en-route to slaughter.
Should blood tests prove positive, it would be a severe blow to farmers in
the south-east of Wales, who are campaigning for movement restrictions to be
eased after several months without a confirmed case.
Meanwhile breeding stock auctions involving the use of video and digital
pictures have been thrown into confusion by movement licensing problems.
The National Sheep Association's "Dial a Ram" service in Wales ground to a
halt on Wednesday (26 September) when trading standards offices used became
overwhelmed by applications and calls from farmers.
Dial a Ram was set up to market some of the 8000 tups normally sold at one
giant sale on the Royal Welsh Showground.
Secretary Jane Smith said good early progress had hit a brick wall when the
new regulations came in.
While demand for rams was excellent, buyers, sellers and those administering
the scheme could not get clear guidance.
"The situation can only be described as a shambles.
"Common sense and appreciation of the requirements of breeders are very hard
26 September 2001
Chinese win after virus slur
By FWi staff
NATIONAL newspapers report that a group of Chinese restaurants have won
#20,000 in compensation over stories claiming they were to blame for
The Independent reports that the restaurants, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne saw a
40% drop in takings after press stories claimed the disease was spread by
pigswill from a restaurant using illegally imported meat.
Clint Woo of Chinatown Traders' Association told the papers his colleagues
deserved the compensation.
"We deserve [this] for the damage that was caused to our businesses by the
unfounded rumours, which also caused threats and racist comments," he told
He added: "Things have improved in the last few weeks. But there is still
prejudice and people have got out of the habit of coming here.
"We are going to use this money to attract people back here.".
Barry Speker, a Newcastle solicitor representing the Chinatown traders, told
theDaily Mail the rumours were very damaging.
"The government wanted to do something to put it right."
The paper reports that the cash was claimed through One North East, the
region's regeneration body.
One North East is backed by the Government's rural regeneration fund, set up
to compensate those who had suffered due to the crisis.
The paper also comments that, this payout is understood to be the first for
damage to reputation under the #50 million foot-and-mouth compensation
From the icNewcastle website:
Dumped clothing sparks new fears Sep 26 2001
Stunned farmers found bags of foot and mouth waste dumped by the roadside.
The shock discovery was made after Defra officials had culled animals on
three farms in Northumberland.
The waste bags, believed to contain protective suits contaminated with the
disease, were found lying by the roadside next to a confirmed outbreak at
Rennys Barn, Hexhamshire.
It comes after the Chronicle's revelations on Monday that secret Defra
documents showed officials were concerned workers were ignoring vital
The waste bags were spotted by Margaret Dodwell, from nearby Longlea Farm.
The bags were abandoned on September 21 and only collected by officials four
days later, after the Chronicle contacted Defra.
Mrs Dodwell said: "I find it absolutely incredible.
"Are they taking any notice of bio-security?
"I don't know if they were ever going to pick it up until you contacted
"But it should not have been left there.
"How can security be so lax when we are in the middle of a crisis like this?
"Anyone could have come along and taken the bags."
Tom Moffet Reed, who has farmed at Rennys Barn for 27 years, has been
quarantined since the discovery of foot and mouth, but said he had been
contacted by neighbours telling him about the waste.
He said: "They are not setting a very good example.
"We have done everything we can to avoid this disease. There is nothing more
we could have done."
Teresa Gibbson, who lives at Embley farm next to Rennys Barn, photographed
the waste bags.
She said: "They were lying at the entrance to the farm only 14 yards from
the main road.
"Is it any surprise that it always seems to be the farms by the roads that
get the virus?"
Mrs Dodwell's own farm was culled three weeks ago and after the slaughter
men left she found a rubber glove lying on the road outside.
Last week a Defra official returned to the farm to ask if they had forgotten
anything when they were at the farm.
She added: "It makes you wonder how this disease is being spread. This is a
terrible time for all farmers and the actions of Defra are not helping. They
are saying it's the farmers who need to step up bio-security.
"But it seems to me it is Defra that is not taking enough care."
A Defra spokesman said officials were aware of the claims and added: "We
will investigate this. The staff are instructed to double-bag clinical waste
and remove it to the Newcastle Disease Emergency Control Centre for
From the Warmwell website:
Sept 26 ~ Late Infected Premises case today - way outside the Penrith Spur,
just north of Kirkby Lonsdale. Low Bank House, Barbon, writes Elaine
'Allegedly found on "routine" bloodtesting (in a previously uninfected
area). Cattle and sheep. Causing massive panic and mayhem around this area
and N Lancs. Nice backdoor entry into Sedbergh if it travels north. Spoke to
the BBC reporter in the Square before he did his live report at 6.30 pm.
Anderson was on BBC NW telling everyone that the Penrith Spur will be
substantially increased further south to cover this outbreak as from
midnight tonight. Culling animals tonight and roads will be closed around
the farm tomorrow.' Watch out Sedbergh
From the BBC website:
Fresh disease outbreak in Cumbria
Large numbers of animals confined due to movement restrictions could
'hasten' the spread
A new case of foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed in Cumbria, 12 miles
outside England's last remaining virus hotspot.
Cattle and sheep at a farm in the village of Barbon near Kirby Lonsdale were
found to be infected, officials from the Department for Environment, Food
and Rural Affairs (Defra) said on Wednesday.
The last case in Cumbria, confirmed at the weekend, was on the southern edge
of the area known as the Penrith Spur, a dozen miles to the north.
Ministry vets have gone to great lengths in the past fortnight to prevent
the disease moving out of the spur into the Lune Valley.
Roads have been closed to all but local traffic, and intensive disinfection
carried out on those vehicles which do move.
There are more cattle and sheep than usual in the Lune valley because of
movement restrictions, and it is feared this could help the disease spread
Defra scientists say they are now trying to establish whether the case is
isolated, or the start of a new larger outbreak.
The news comes just a day after government vets declared another region -
the East Midlands - a "foot-and-mouth free" area.
Defra made the announcement after Leicestershire became the final county in
the region to be granted "free" status.
Meanwhile farmers claimed on Tuesday that a new system to allow controlled
movement of livestock in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis was in chaos.
The National Farmers' Union (NFU) said there has been complete confusion
over the issuing of licences to transport animals, which was supposed to
start last week.
Union officials say it is adding to the stress and hardship of farmers
affected by the controls imposed to prevent the spread of the disease.
Many farmers have been unable to move their livestock since the start of the
outbreak seven months ago.
From the BBC Devon website:
Foot and mouth results are released
A Mid Devon farm has been given the all clear from foot- and-mouth.
A spokesman for The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
said that throat swab samples taken from 310 sheep at Chevithorne Farm, near
Tiverton, were negative.
Blood testing on 130 dairy cattle were also negative - but the ministry's
London headquarters has asked for the cattle to be resampled in three weeks'
time as a "super precautionary" measure.
It is a huge relief for Devon's farmers, who feared that a new confirmed
case - four months after the last one in the county - would have set back
the recovery programme for months.
It also means there are now hopes that Devon's "At Risk" status could be
relaxed in October, if there are no new confirmed cases.
Here's another instalment of "Jane's Diary", our answer to The Archers
(only this is real life):
7 August 01
Three new cases in Yorkshire today on the DEFRA website - I wonder just how
many there really were? As the government insists that there were genuine
signs of the disease in Brecon (as well as harmless anti-bodies) it's funny
that none of them have appeared as confirmed cases yet isn't it? It's also
interesting to note that graziers in that part of the world are being paid
#180 per sheep now - but they are also expected to sign the Official Secrets
Act! Of course this has nothing to do with bribery or hush money, does it?
But aren't these the same sort of sheep that as "light lambs" are reckoned
to be worth a tenner? They couldn't be, could they? Many people who just don
't understand how farming works are getting very hot under the collar
because some compensation payments are turning out to be pretty large. They
don't seem to see that if you purchase the stock from a Rolls Royce factory
it will cost more than that from a bicycle shop, or that pedigree cattle
cost a bit more than a labrador puppy with the right papers.
8 August 01
The new national sport of "farmer-bashing" is now onto the farmers' lack of
bio-security. This is rich, when we all know that unless the farmer him(or
her)self insists on it, the bio-security measures taken by MAFF/DEFRA
officials has been absolutely minimal throughout. The army have gone from
farm to farm in clothes and footwear that it has not been possible to
disinfect, and the slaughter teams and disinfectant gangs have at times
seemed almost to be actively encouraging the spread of the disease. There
are many things one could legitimately have "bashed" farmers with over the
last few years, but what is happening now is patently obviously manipulation
and misinformation. Will the truth ever come out? At last we have managed to
get Claudia's pony to the stables so they can start their course of tuition
which was originally scheduled for the Easter holidays but, naturally,
clobbered by FMD. They are still not riding out from there, and Puzzle had
her feet carefully disinfected before being allowed in. She didn't mind at
all, and was ecstatic at the sight and sound of so many other horses and
ponies around. When we left she was so busy whiffling with the pony in the
next stable that she hardly seemed to noticed us go. As we will be going up
there every day for the forseeable future, there will need to be a further
heavy investment in disinfectant, to spray ourselves in and out on a daily
9 August 01
OK, so the government is launching three enquiries, there are already seven
others happening (and that doesn't include Devon County Council's one), but
a genuine public enquiry is still too much trouble we are told. They are
cowards, they are covering their own backs, because they know that one
straightforward public enquiry would bring the government down without a
doubt. Socialists? Open government? Anti-sleaze? Oh no, Tony, I don't think
10 August 01
Claudia and I spent the day clearing out the deep litter bed from one of the
stables as I've finally managed to buy a new load of shavings (I can just
get 10 bales in my van). We dug out and shifted 18 barrow loads today, built
a new bed, and stacked all the remaining bales in the barn. By five o'clock
we were pooped. B.T. finally managed to get my office phones working again
by this afternoon ( so much for 'Business Super-Highway': more of a dead-end
cart track lately) so I've managed to get yesterdays FMD email, and several
others that had built up in the interim. From yesterday my work calls were
redirected to the house phone, which caused much confusion, and also
entailed dealing with an incredible spaghetti of wires under the computer
table to extract my answerphone so I could connect it to the house phone
whilst we were outside. It also transpired that the "worm virus" (what is
this?) meant that the number you are supposed to report telephone faults on
wasn't working properly itself, and after you had hung on and pressed
buttons and listened to Vivaldi and pressed more buttons and hung on some
more it just cut off as soon as you told it the faulty number. AAArgh!
Eventually I persuaded someone in the complaints dept. to give me a direct
number to ring. From the time I dialled it I counted exactly 100 rings
before it was answered! I can just see my customers hanging on for that
length of time. At one stage I found myself pathetically trying to explain
to someone in a call centre in Birmingham that I really did need to know if
it was more than just an exchange problem because I didn't want the engineer
following the line to us here (we're the end of it) which crossed three
different farms without someone there to make sure he was disinfecting etc.
They didn't have a clue what I was on about. Total time taken trying to
report the fault, disconnect and reconnect answerphone twice (it had to be
re-set each time) and generally hanging about waiting for them to call me
back : about four and a half hours.
11 August 01
Having finally got Claudia's pony over to the stables, it now transpires
that she has a problem with her back, so until she has seen the chiropracter
Claudia won't be able to ride her. It's likely she's done something to
herself whilst she was turned out on the steep field - another equine victim
of the foot and mouth crisis. We went up to see her today (still looking
very chirpy with her new pony friends all around) but Claudia had a lesson
(dressage!) on another pony. So at the moment we actually have 3 ponies,
none of whom are rideable. Managed to speak to the vet about the sheep with
the crumpled ear - as reported previously she is one of the ones who likes a
good scrap (the older ladies are by far the worst for this) and he thinks
this is a result of one of these fights. So like a prize boxer, she now has
a cauliflower ear! It took several days to get to speak to him as they are
so busy doing licences - anyone in this area wanting to move an animal less
than 10k has to have a vet's licence. I didn't want to get him to visit (for
obvious bio-sec. reasons) but at the rate we are going, there won't be a fit
animal left here soon. Apart from the dicky ponies and the sheep with the
cauliflower ear, the collie is lame in a front leg whenever she gets up from
sleeping (though it does go off once she runs around), the terrier has
several cuts on her legs and stomach ( I suspect barbed wire in the woods
when she went after a rabbit), Cuthbert is still very thin and one of the
ducks has had it's head pecked raw by an over-amorous drake. At least the
guinea pig and the cat are OK. I've had yet another reminder from DEFRA that
I haven't sent back my "Agricultural and Horticultural Census June 2001". I
am well aware that there is a legal obligation to do this, and I will do it,
but the delay is intentional and I will be telling them in a covering letter
that it seems to me that my livestock would be far better managed and far
safer from a cruel and unnecessary death if DEFRA knew nothing about them,
and that I am supplying the information late as a protest against their
barbaric treatment of animals and farmers alike in this area. They'll like
that won't they?
12 August 01
Cloudy and mild with dribs and drabs of drizzle. Ideal weather for outdoor
work, so we have set to on the massive "Yard Drain Reorganisation and
Concrete Preparation Project". For those who have never been here, our yard
is steep, uneven, part stone (not cobbles) and part bedrock and in some
areas grass (in summer, mud in winter), and the water from about 100 acres
of land above us finds its way through it en route to the pond at the bottom
by the house. It is romantic in the summer, but for much of the year a
dangerous, slippery quagmire where unsuspecting delivery lorries have been
stuck for hours, churning and chomping up the ground which then forms our
route from where we park down to the house. In torrential rain a river runs
through it which can knock you off your feet. By late winter the ponies go
in and out of their stables through ankle-deep mud. Over the past ten years
we have scruffled out little ditches which generally restrain the day-to-day
water, but which are overwhelmed by anything at all heavy. This spring we
had promised ourselves concrete. But FMD happened instead, so all plans were
cancelled. So now we have gathered up our picks, bars and shovels and
decided to do all the preparatory work by hand, ready for the concrete
lorry, instead of getting in the digger. Today we laid out lines of stones,
drew our plan, marked out edges with dry sand from a bottle (Claudia proving
highly skilful at this task) and started to dig. As no-one is driving in or
out, we can pace ourselves, do it slowly, and not make nearly as much mess
as the heavy machinery would. The only real problem is the amount of rock we
have to cut through, and the sheer shifting of quantities, but Watch This
Space! The other excitement today was an article in The Express (Financial
Section!) which was about how businesses other than farms have been affected
by Foot & Mouth, and which had quite a big chunk about me and my lime
courses, and how they have just ground to a halt this year. This follows a
couple of phone conversations I had with a nice freelance journalist a short
while ago who seemed sensible and intelligent (!), and who actually got most
of it right, though she made me only 41 (which I suppose I should be pleased
about). It won't really work as an advert as there was no actual contact
number, but it's always nice to get a mention in the national press, and
anyone really interested could probably track me down from the information
given, I think. I'm just not sure how many people who could actually want to
read that paper would want to learn about using lime, but maybe I'm just
being snooty. The plug in the Mole Valley Farmers newsletter certainly
generated a lot of interest in the book, so I'll just wait and see.
13 August 01
Cloudy, muggy and quite warm today - perfect weather for flies, so keeping a
close watch on the sheep. Everyone OK for the moment, and the big pony
definitely improving on her Shetland sized rations. Toto still subdued after
her disagreement with the barbed wire, but wounds healing cleanly with lots
of dog-lick. Have had to separate the drake's favourite duck as his
attentions have now closed her eyes and he will just not leave her alone.
She is in her own comfy box for a few days with plenty of clean water to
bathe her own head with. May have to get rid of the drake if he continues
like this, it's just not fair to the girls. There were no new cases on the
DEFRA website today, but then they don't seem to work on Sundays, so
presumably that's why. There is a big FMD rally in London on the 20th
August, a Monday, with a march to Downing Street. Will I be able to go? I
don't know yet.
14 August 01
Cuthbert the thin sheep is causing me anxiety. Although he is eating well,
he just doesn't put on weight, and today he had a mucky bum for no apparent
reason - and none of the others did. He seems chirpy, but in this warm
weather this is not a good situation, so I will have to seek some advice
tomorrow. Spent most of today either digging the ditches (very hot work) or
helping Claudia with a very ambitious zebra mask she if making for the
Witheridge Garden Club Summer Show which is on Saturday. We usually enter
some the craft, flower arrangement and food classes but, although I did once
have a spectacular success with some onions, the vegetable and flower
classes never seem to include the things we are growing, which is a shame.
We missed the Spring Show because of the foot & mouth, and are looking
forward to this one a lot, though as usual have left things a bit late.
15 August 01
A bad day. This morning I had a call from DEFRA to tell me I had been
"randomly selected" to have my sheep blood-tested as a result of living in a
10km zone. Very random - I thought it was paranoia when people started
pointing out how all those people who have written letters or demonstrated
or otherwise poked their heads above the parapet over FMD were the very same
people who were being "punished" with blood tests. So my isolated, cherished
protected sheep will now be exposed to the biggest single threat they have
faced throughout the whole of the outbreak since the beginning of February.
Luckily I know my rights, so the idea that the men from DEFRA might come in
tomorrow and do the tests was firmly quashed and I have at least negotiated
to have it done by my own vet on Monday (the first day he can manage).
Considering the three big farms immediately adjoining our holding have
perhaps 2,000 sheep between them, not to mention cattle, I really can't see
why our isolated 16 will give much in the way of representative results.
But, it's the smallholders who have been making the most noise, and it's
certainly the smallholders who are getting the majority of the bloodtests -
a point agreed by DEFRA themselves. Luckily my call came from someone I
vaguely know, a fellow DASH member who also works for DEFRA, and she couldnt'
t have been nicer really. But my request for a LIST of the farms in this
area which have been "randomly selected" was met with refusal. Why? What can
they possibly have to hide this information for? I think I will pursue this
and ask again. I'm very interested in their definition of "random" now. To
think that yesterday I was worrying that I wouldn't be able to get the vet
to come and see Cuthbert if he got any worse - and now I'll get a visit
whether I like it or not! At least DEFRA will foot the bill (or do I have to
pay for the privilege of having my own vet instead of theirs? We shall see.)
Claudia and I managed to give him a dose of wormer out in the field (he's
extremely tame) which I am hoping will have some effect, and I'll get the
vet to check his teeth in case there is a problem there (it seems unlikely
as he eats both grass and nuts with gusto). This afternoon we went up to see
Puzzle at the stables, only to find that the Chiropracter can't see her
until NEXT Wednesday (I'd hoped it would be this week) and of course that is
the day that we both have dental appointments in Taunton, and will also be
on the way to Swanage to see my mother, so we will miss out on hearing all
that vital information first hand, and will also not be able to give her any
relevant information either. Also she can't be ridden until this is sorted,
and full livery is NOT CHEAP especially when Claudia is not riding her! She
had a good lesson on another pony although it poured with rain for most of
the hour and she and I were both soaked. An altogether depressing day: one
of the most disappointing things being the fact that I had decided I was
going to get myself to London for the protest on Monday, and now of course I
will be here getting the sheep blood tests done. Damn, damn, damn.
16 August 01
My Bridgerule friends replied to my email about our blood-test with a phone
call this morning. Apparently, it is legally possible to avoid having a
blood-test done, and the EC ruling that DEFRA quotes doesn't actually force
blood-tests under our circumstances. This throws me into complete turmoil.
It is also complicated by the fact that Cuthbert is looking really miserable
today, and also doesn't want any food. Is this just the wormer working or
have I made him worse somehow? If I'm going to get the vet to come and see
him, then I might as well have the blood-tests done as well. At least then I
would know one way or the other and, assuming they came back negative, I
would have one further small piece of ammunition on my side if and when the
disease and culling comes back in the autumn. Also I am inclined to believe
that they may just change the law to force through these blood-tests, and
that might mean having to submit to the tests later in the year when the
risks could be greater than they are now. There is another point to consider
too. On the whole, smallholders seem to have taken greater precautions than
farmers - this is partly because they can as they have less equipment, less
animals and fewer people coming and going, and partly because if you only
have a few animals they inevitably have names, and become more like pets,
and the relationship with them can be different. (However there certainly
are big farms where all the animals are treated in this way, but they are
generally in the minority). If DEFRA are concentrating their tests on these
small outfits, is it because they would rather find negatives than
positives, or is it because their chummy relationship with the NFU is
leading to the largest farms being avoided? In fact, which risk is the
greater: having my isolated sheep tested and cleared, or having the
neighbours higher risk flock tested and running the risk of contiguous
culling if they come up with anything? Do I act for my best interests or for
those of the local area, and in fact which are which? I am also aware that
there is the London demo. on Monday, to which I would very much like to go.
What the hell am I going to do? I will have to decide by tomorrow so that I
can put off the vet and book my place on the coach, if I decide to call it
off. I think it will depend a lot on how Cuthy is in the morning, because
whatever happens, I won't leave him for a whole long day if he needs me
around for any treatment or care. Watch this space.
17 August 01
Didn't sleep much last night. Went out to see Cuthbert early on - he was
down the far end of the field, looking miserable. I took a syringe of water
with molasses in it for him, which he drank down, and he played about with
some bits of apple and ate a morsel. His breathing was sounding a bit rattly
too. Rang the vet as early as I could. From my description he thought it
could be Johne's Disease which is really bad news. Not only is it an
incurable wasting disease, but it's infectious as well - or at least it has
to be caught from another sheep in the first place. It has a long incubation
period which makes the long term prospect for the whole flock worrying. How
the hell has he caught it if he's been here for all his eight years, and we'
ve had no others with it? And to think of the fuss that's being made about
foot and mouth! I went down to the vet's to collect some stuff that will at
least make him feel a bit better inside - and I'll find out the worst on
Monday. If he lasts that long. Of course Cuthbert is my No 1 favourite
sheep, with his periwig and foppish beauty spot - and he always comes to his
own name, which is pretty unusual. Felt dismal all day, but spent most of it
cooking things and doing my "floral art" for the show on Saturday. We'll be
off to set up tomorrow morning, then it's up to the judges. Somehow my heart
just isn't in it now, although I'd been looking forward to it a lot. Sent
off a fairly halfhearted email to the Times today - I'm sick to death of
them referring to that buffoon Ben Gill as "the farmer's leader" as if we
are all hanging on his every word and agreeing with it. He may be president
of the NFU, but he certainly wasn't voted there by any farmers I know. They
won't use it. I'm really beginning to wonder if there isn't just too much
heartache in keeping animals to make it worthwhile. They're just so much
nicer than humans though.
18 August 01
Woke even earlier after a fitful sleep, and went out to find Cuthbert dead.
What can I say? My favourite and senior sheep - the one who always came when
he was called (and always got the others moving too). Gentle, well-behaved
and no trouble at all. I shall miss him more than any of them. At least it
was quick, and he's out of it now, and he won't have to be poked around by
the vet after all. So between setting up our show entries in the morning and
going back in the afternoon, we buried him in the pouring rain. What a
horrible day. It was just as well to have the show to take our minds off it
I suppose, and it was the usual good-natured affair but somehow my heart
wasn't in it. We picked up a few prizes - and Claudia and I ended up "in
profit", but Hugh's streak of individuality in using blackberries instead of
flowers in the "miniature arrangement" wasn't appreciated it seems. Tomorrow
we will get the sheep indoors ready for Monday and the dreaded tests, and do
some feet trimming whilst they are there. Not looking forward to it as my
hoof-trimmers are next to useless and my back doesn't enjoy the experience
at all. Feel physically and mentally exhausted tonight so will have to stop
19 August 01
Completely exhausted tonight. There may be people for whom trimming 60
hooves is a doddle, but I'm not one of them. Got the sheep in without a
hitch; in fact they were so curious to see what I was doing in the barn with
all those hurdles that they brought themselves in. Set up a smaller inner
pen into which they can just all squeeze, so no-one gets a chance to dash
about and panic. They were very calm, unlike Hugh and me who strained and
sweated to turn them all over, check them out and trim all the feet. Have
discovered that far superior to the "proper" foot clippers (which are too
big for me and which also twist horribly on horny hooves) are those g.p.
scissors which you see them using on "Casualty" to cut the clothes off
accident victims - they took about half the time. No real problems with any
of them, though I squirted a dash of blue spray on a couple of slightly
pink-looking feet. Each was marked by Claudia with a red spot on the
forehead - she was very pleased with her 'Hindu sheep effect'. They'll stay
in tonight, as the vet is due tomorrow morning. Still feel very annoyed that
I can't get to the demo in London, but I must get the vet to check for any
more signs of whatever it was that Cuthbert had, and explain to me how it
all works. I just don't understand how a sheep that has lived here for 8
years can get something that has to be caught when none of the others have
shown any sign. My heart will be in Hyde Park, and I desperately hope we
might be finished here before the news at one o'clock. Today should have
been a celebration for us - we moved here ten years ago exactly - but we
didn't feel in quite the right mood for it after yesterday, and with
tomorrow hanging over us. Have never regretted the move, though there have
been a few moments recently when things have been pretty grim, thanks to the
outside world. This is such a wonderful place, I'd be happy to shut myself
away here for a year, though it might not go down so well with the rest of
20 August 01
My vet came today to blood test the sheep for DEFRA. It appears that they
are testing all the smallholdings and none of the big farms. Why? He hadn't
been to an infected farm since March, but even so was scrupulous in his
disinfectant routine, and despairing of those places where these measures
have slipped. (Practically everywhere, it seems). Taking the blood took
about half an hour, and the paperwork slightly longer! Pages and pages to be
read and occasionally filled in where relevant, but no-where was it possible
to account for wethers: all sheep are assumed to be breeding ewes or store
lambs. Although somewhere there was a category for "pet sheep". It amazed me
to see that though they wanted details of the number of times they had been
herded up since February, and also a record of what was done on those
occasions, there were only five small lines in which to record it! We would
have filled them in just August alone! Claudia kept a record of which sheep
tallied with which number test, so we will know who is which even if DEFRA
don't. He also took an extra blood sample from Nigel, the next thinnest
Dartmoor after poor deceased Cuthbert to see if he can get it tested for
this ghastly 'Johne's disease' which apparently is wider spread than one
might realise. The snag is that the labs are all so busy testing for FMD
that they may not have time to do it. Great, isn't it? His vets practice has
been terrifically busy doing movement licences since the infected area
status was lifted around here: the paperwork is tremendous. They would
normally get through one fax paper roll a month - in the last couple of
months they've used up 300. (Which they have to pay for, whilst DEFRA have
still not paid them for outstanding work from months ago). Saw my Bridgerule
chum interviewed on the lunchtime TV news, on his way up to London for the
FMD demo. He spoke very well, as did various other interviewees. There was a
small piece on the 6.00 news too, but by 10.00 it had been ousted
(presumably by the fascinating Tory party leadership battle). I hope plenty
of people turned up, I wish I had been there, but it would have been
impossible today. I'm looking forward to tomorrows email to hear the
details. As for the blood tests - we just have to sweat it out for a couple
of weeks, until someone tells us what the results are.
21 August 01
The demo seems to have gone off quite well, although only about 1,000 turned
up. There were a lot of TV cameras there, but there seems to have been
little on the national news. If someone had knocked off a policemans helmet,
or thrown an egg, no doubt it would have been splashed across every TV
screen and newspaper in the land. It was a long day for many, especially
those travelling from Cumbria, Scotland etc, most of whom would have had
livestock to attend to as well. As Claudia and I are trying to get to
Swanage tomorrow to see my mother, we have been trying to do as much as
possible today to make it easier for Hugh to manage the place singlehanded
for a couple of days. So another sheep-wrangling session for me, but at
least everyone is now wormed and 'vetrazined' against fly strike. After
three days on the trot wrestling with sheep with pointed horns in a confined
space, I look a bit like a Jacob myself with the number of black spots
(bruises) on my arms and thighs. Also arranged to return the second drake
(the one that was supposed to be a duck) to the place I bought him from.
Having caught him and put him in the cat basket, I thought it would be safe
to release the injured duck who had been in a separate pen for a week, so
that her head could heal. One eye is fine, and the other getting better,
amazingly. The moment the remaining drake saw her he dragged her down and
she had blood pouring from her head within seconds! Men! So that was it. He
went in the cat basket as well, and I returned both of them. They'll
probably be fine with other ducks - in fact they are fine with the rest of
ours - but it was the duck or them, so they went. The girls didn't seem to
miss them at all, and had a nice quiet day pootling about in the garden and
the pond without being chased about into dangerous places where the fox can
get them, or split into small groups. None of my previous drakes have ever
behaved like that. So the population here has diminished a bit lately, but
there still seems to be plenty to leave in Hugh's care. Of course there's
also the veg. which need daily picking, watering in the polytunnel, the
ponies, my office phones, the dogs , cat, guinea pig, digging the new
drains, etc. etc. - he'll be worn out by the time we return!
24 August 01
Whilst driving back home today we heard that there has been a new outbreak
at Hexham in Northumberland - 12 WEEKS after the last reported one. This is
just so depressing, especially as it shows no signs of slowing down in
Cumbria either, and the slaughter continues apace. Devon is on a shoestring,
dangling on the edge of more outbreaks I am sure, and so little bio-security
is going on at the moment, it's terrifying. It was good to get home, though
the hot drive left us both feeling whacked. All animals and plants here
seemed to have survived in our absence, so Hugh has done very well. Tomorrow
we will go over to the stables to see how Puzzle is, and how she got on with
the chiropractor - I just hope it worked, as it's high time we were riding
her again. Too tired to write more tonight.
25 August 01
Sounds as if it's all starting up again in Northumberland as another new
case reported there today. What the papers aren't saying is that there was a
pheasant shoot in the area shortly before these new cases appeared. It's
highly likely there is a connection, but tourism is now so much more
important than farming that I suppose that these are literally being treated
as 'sacrificial lambs'. Went over to the stables to see Puzzle happily
sharing a field with a big chestnut mare and looking very relaxed. The
chiropracter seems to have helped to straighten her out - now she just needs
to be reminded that the FMD-enforced idleness was not the norm, and she
actually has to do some work to earn her keep! Claudia had a good jumping le
sson (but not on Puzzle who is working up to that more slowly), again in
26 August 01
Although the six o'clock news on Radio 4 reported one more case in
Northumberland today bringing the total to three this week, the DEFRA
website actually shows there were three new cases there TODAY as well as
three in Cumbria. So that's six in one day, and a Sunday too which is
usually a slow day for reported cases. More massive slaughter, and more
reports of cruelty and abuse of the animals whilst it's carried out with pot
shots being taken at terrified stampeding cattle. I'm beginning to feel as
if I should go back to my self-imposed exile, just to be on the extra safe
side, but today we ventured out all of 5 miles in Hugh's car (which is still
parked out at the top of the hill) to visit some racing stables nearby which
were having an open day in aid of the Devon Air Ambulance which has suffered
a huge drop in income this year due to the cancellation of so many normal
fundraising activities. We enjoyed a parade of heart-breakingly beautiful
horses (they have about 60 there) and actually had a picnic in a field (the
first one I've been in since March that didn't belong to us) which felt very
daring. It's only been used for horses or hay for the last two years, so
shouldn't have posed too much of a risk. Claudia brought one of her friends
back home with her to stay the night - another first since March - as I
write this they are giggling together upstairs.
27 August 01
Six more cases in the "new" area in Northumberland alone. All sorts of
restrictions being put into place, but of course too late as usual - the
damage is done: the countryside was opened up and so the disease was brought
in. Why is this link so impossible to grasp for those in charge, and in fact
for many farmers too? I am convinced that now so many animals are on the
move it will only be a matter of time before it's back in this area. They
may have to have licenses, but their only virtue is in working out where
things have come from once the FMD is back in an area - they do nothing to
prevent the spread of it. My sheep are looking particularly fit and bouncy
at the moment - even Nigel who had been on the thin side (like poor
Cuthbert) is definitely filling out at last. Perhaps they enjoyed their
visit from the vet? The unlucky swallows who lost all but one of their first
brood are now the proud parents of four (or possible five) new babies which
they are working flat out to keep fed. I suppose it's lucky there are so
many flies about this year. I hope they're catching lots of daddy-long-legs
which I can't abide. The grass is beautifully green post-hay, the sky a
clear blue and the sun shone all day. When Devon looks this beautiful, it's
hard to believe that such a bloodbath is going on in the North of England. I
can see how people just didn't understand what was going on earlier in the
year. When you're in the middle of it, it's so terrifyingly real, but when
it's going on elsewhere it's just another news item.
28 August 01
There are now 13 cases in Northumberland - all in the space of 5 days. Lord
Whitty announced an opening up of animal movements throughout the country
today as well. If they don't move the animals they will starve by the
autumn, if they do move them the risk of restarting the spread of the
disease is huge. All animals must be individually tagged, may be moved only
once in 21 days and all must be blood-tested. (This means the new
restrictions will be tighter than they are now in this respect - which to my
way of thinking means that there will be more undercover activity than there
is at present, and it's certainly happening already.) Why on earth don't
they VACCINATE them? This would immediately safeguard the destination area
of every animal that is moved, would be quicker and cheaper than blood
testing and it won't even have much effect on exports as these creatures won
't live long enough to see our export market back on its feet. It is utter
and total madness to move these animals without vaccinating them first, and
I am certain that it will lead to new outbreaks in hitherto clean, or at
least cleared, areas. Just wait for the autumn..............I can hardly
29 August 01
No new cases today, thank god. We had a friend out from Exeter today - he
travelled by train and we picked him up from Morchard Road. Although he
doesn't work in agriculture any more, when he was a lad he was employed on a
farm in the village in Cheshire where the 1967 outbreak started. He'll never
forget it because the cows he looked after were slaughtered, and I imagine
it was pretty traumatic for him. He did point out that then it was all done
with remarkable speed compared to today. So we have had a work-free day;
eating, chatting, paddling in the river, playing games and sitting in our
garden which we never normally have time to do. It really felt like a
holiday. The sheep all seem fine - Nigel is very forward and friendly and
certainly fatter. Best of all was that the vet rang up this morning with
news that our Johne's Disease blood test on him had come back NEGATIVE.
Hooray! We still don't know exactly what Cuthbert died of , but at least it
probably wasn't that. His mother died of a similar wasting disease at about
the same age, so it's possibly some ghastly genetic thing in that Dartmoor
line. Maybe we will never know. No results from DEFRA yet, but no news
implies good news, so feel marginally more cheerful about things tonight.
30 August 01
Spent most of the day catching up on the work I'd neglected yesterday.
Actually had orders for 161 books today! I'm waiting for the printer to
finish the next reprint at the moment, so could only send out part orders,
but that doesn't seem to bother anyone too much. Don't know what is
happening in Northumberland today, as I can't get online. I can't get my FMD
email message from Bridgerule either, blast it. Perhaps the computer is
sulking because I spent a lot of this afternoon crawling around in the
fluffy hell under the computer table in the study in order to connect up two
new answerphones that I rashly bought on Tuesday. It's infuriatingly
sensitive about such things. Rang BT in order to arrange to have the current
equipment rental taken off my bill - of course there were complications
because they can't come in to deliver the special bags I have to have to
return the things in, but they thought just leaving them in the postbox at
the end of the lane might be a problem (why, is there a maniac jiffy-bag
thief in the area?). Apparently they just dump the equipment anyway - crazy
or what? It all works perfectly, I just didn't want to go on renting
something that I can now buy for less than a year's rental! Why is
everything in the world so downright stupid these days? Even the Western
Morning News dropped a real clanger today in "a vet's response", with the
same old rubbish about vaccinated sheep infecting unvaccinated ones. Who is
this unnamed vet? No wonder he didn't want his name in the paper. Wonder if
I can get my excellent vet to find time to put the record straight? You'd
think they would have checked their facts a bit, wouldn't you?
31 August 01
A day of deskwork so tonight I feel exhausted. Why is sitting down so much
more tiring than doing something? Went to the stables late this afternoon
for Claudia to ride Puzzle for the first time since she saw the
chiropractor. A transformation. Child and pony schooled quietly for about
half an hour in complete harmony. Let's hope it stays that way. The pony is
still a bit fat, and of course unfit after 6 months without riding, but it
actually felt as if we were heading in the right direction at last. It's
been a long wait. The army are in place in Northumberland after three more
cases there today. (Also another two in Cumbria - it's hard to believe there
are actually any animals left there to slaughter.) No-one will have any say
about which animals are killed - the usual cock-ups are happening - wrong
animals slaughtered, people not knowing what the various new zones mean,
mishandled killings, animals submitted for blood testing being killed
instead without permission etc etc. Some poor man who had animals killed "on
suspicion" back in March is having his new ones culled now under this new
scheme. Both lots entirely healthy. Are they really taking the guns away
from the farmers? It amazes me that no-one has been shot yet.
The closing words tonight come from the USA - this from Bonnie:
on 9/25/01 1:39 PM, alan & rosie wrote:
> The Newcastle Disease Emergency Centre said: "Our objective is to maximise
> impact on the disease with minimal impact on farmers. That is a balancing
That, to me, was the joke of the day!
And from Val:
Thanks for making me laugh with your cardboard MP's!!!!!!!!!!!
and the jokes.
Perhaps you'd like one from a corner of New England where the
Franco-Canadian heritage is still felt;
A man had 4 cats that he named un, deux, trois, and quatre.
They got in the habit of going out on the lake with him when he was
ice-fishing where they delighted in the remnants as he cleaned the fish.
But they were not savvy to the thin ice in the spring and continued their
sorties; and un, deux, trois, quatre....................sank.
from Alan & Rosie