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

 

ENDS

 

 

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

'embarrassing' policy??

 

I mean: What will embarrass them?

 

Valerie

 

ENDS

 

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

Scotsman.

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

e-mail mailto:jim.scudamore-official@defra.gsi.gov.uk

 

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

instead!

 

Astrid

 

ENDS

 

# # #

 

 

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

September).

 

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

to find."

 

ENDS

 

 

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

foot-and-mouth.

 

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

the paper.

 

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

scheme.

 

ENDS

 

 

 

From the icNewcastle website:

 

 

Dumped clothing sparks new fears Sep 26 2001

 

 

Evening Chronicle

 

 

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

bio-security measures.

 

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

them.

 

"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

disposal."

 

ENDS

 

 

 

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

 

ENDS

 

 

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

rapidly.

 

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.

 

Licence 'chaos'

 

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.

 

ENDS

 

 

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.

 

ENDS

 

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

---

 

 

 

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

basis.

 

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

so.

 

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

now.

 

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

the family.

 

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

sweltering heat.

 

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

bear it.

 

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.

 

ENDS

 

***************************************************

 

 

 

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

> act."

 

 

That, to me, was the joke of the day!

 

Bonnie

 

 

 

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.

ENDS

 

 

from Alan & Rosie