Chris Benfield

First public revolt fails to stop livestock's slaughter

RESIDENTS of a Yorkshire council estate defied a Government culling team in a 12-hour stand-off to try to prevent the slaughter of cows and sheep on a neighbouring farm.

It amounted to the first public revolt against the Government's contiguous culling policy, which calls for the slaughter of animals which are not necessarily infected as a precautionary measure.

Around 40 residents, some with children, some waving placards, shouted abuse as councillors and police tried to mediate between them and the officials intent on slaughtering the livestock near the Burnside Estate on the edge of Skipton.

Their protest proved fruitless however when, finally, the team killed the animals  at one point in front of watching children.

DEFRA decided to wait no longer when threatened with a court order to hold fire, pending a judicial review of its decision to put the animals down.

The 28 cows, one calf and 14 sheep, belonged to Malcolm and Helen Waite, who live five miles away, at Heights Farm, Heights Lane, Silsden, which was declared infected and culled on July 10.

They had hoped they could keep their Burnside animals but DEFRA said they must go too, because of "dangerous contact" with Mr Waite himself.

Mr Waite appealed against the cull but, worn down by the fight, he accepted compensation on Thursday and the cull was scheduled to take place soon after midnight yesterday.

However, the Foot and Mouth Action Group, which opposes Government policy  a group with a lot of support in Skipton  quickly recruited enough Burnside residents for an all-night blockade. First public revolt fails to stop livestock's slaughter

The livestock grazed in a field between the council houses of Burnside Crescent, at one edge of the mixed estate, and Carleton Road, where Skipton Crematorium is located. A beck along the lower edge of the meadow means the only easy way in and out is via Burnside Crescent.

DEFRA trucks, with an Army escort, held back until about 9 am, when they moved into the road beyond the beck.

At times during the morning there were 30 or 40 people at the gate they wanted to use. But the protesters obeyed requests to stay out of the meadow itself and the DEFRA team forded the beck and corralled the cattle, out of view behind a wall.

FAMAG representatives called a sympathetic lawyer, Stuart Jackson, at Addleshaw Booth of Leeds, who attempted to get a last-minute judicial review. But shortly before 1 pm, as he came close to achieving it, DEFRA shot the cattle  so quickly and quietly it went almost un-noticed.

The bolt guns sounded like air rifles popping. They then rounded up the sheep for the same treatment but one escaped and was killed within sight of children in the estate playground.

Mr Jackson said last night: "I think we were within 90 minutes of getting the injunction."

DEFRA said a necessary cull had already been delayed too long.

21st July Yorkshire Post