FOOT & MOUTH  and FERN TOR

DEFRA (formerly MAFF) has steadfastly ignored the evidence and conclusions of the inquires into foot and mouth.  In particular, it has tried to rubbish the European parliament's independent inquiry.  For a look at this report, see the Warmwell site, which continues to report the ongoing situation.  The struggle still goes on to get the government to seriously consider vaccination as the first option in fighting this economic disease.  They have now pushed through the Animal Health (ha!)Act, giving itself the draconian powers it claimed it had, but didn't, during the epidemic.

19th February 2003
 
 

It is now just over a year since foot and mouth started, and 11 plus million animals were killed by the cure, and not the disease.  We and our animals survived, but so many didn't.  We were closed for 3 months, and have built back our business.   Our animals were kept inside for many months and went stir crazy.  We went crazy as we watched f&m march across Devon towards us.  Our animals survived only because all our neighbors' animals were culled as part of the illegal contiguous cull.  Not sure that we will ever forgive Tony, Nick and Ben (Blair, Brown and Gill) for what they put us through.

We are however, immensely greatful to the fantastic support we received during this time.

All footpaths are now open, and there should be no restrictions om any footpath.

For the establishment view of this economic disease, look at DEFRA's foot and mouth site. The best site for finding out what went on, and is still going on, is  Warmwell.   Other sites which were active during the outbreak include Sheepdrove,  Eastpenrest  and  Elm Farm Research Centre.

17th May 2002
 

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F&M Diary (feels like S&M)

21st March 2001

Three quarters of Devon is officially declared an infected area, and this area surrounds Fern Tor, and goes up to the Exmoor Park boundary.  Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks are closed, as are all National Trust properties, wildlife reserves, Forestry Commission land and ALL rural footpaths.  Some beaches and a few tourist attractions are open, but there is little to do here if you are interested in the countryside - despite what the government says.

Because of the above, and more importantly, to protect our rescued animals, we have closed the guest house. We have moved all our pigs, goats and sheep indoors, and they are suffering cabin fever like us.  The gate is barred and disinfectant footbaths provided.  We only go out when we have to get something for the animals. Looking after and worrying about our animals takes all of our time, except when we are ranting and raving.

The confirmed cases are moving closer, with the nearest about 4 miles away.  The new cases appear to be due to illegal stock movements.  We are seriously worried that if there is a nearby case, and MAFF brings its slaughter not vaccinate policy to Devon, they will murder our rescued animals.  Most of our animals have been taken away by the RSPCA from abusive or neglectful conditions.  The prospect of this happening is making us anxious and angry. The RSPCA  had originally opposed the mass cull in Cumbria.  Now they are saying it is necessary and might have to come to Devon!!

We are lobbying MPs to get MAFF to agree to vaccinate rescued animals in sanctuaries like ours.  They are of no risk to others, and would not spread this economic disease because they are not in the food chain and would never go near a market or abattoir.  No response so far.

We do not know when we can open again, but it is unlikely before the end of April, if not later.

We have been heartened by the calls and messages of support from the guests at Fern Tor who have become our friends.  It is much appreciated and helps keep us going
 

Update - 10th April

The situation is not getting any better.  On 1st April, the 1000th case in the country was at a farm near Romansleigh, just 2½ km from Fern Tor.  There is just one farm between them and us, so we are seriously worried.

Our constituency MP and 6 other MPs have supported our campaign to vaccinate rescued/sanctuary animals. We may well need their support.

So far today there are 8 new cases in Devon, most in the north, well away from the original centre near Holsworthy/Okehampton.  Several more near Barnstaple, and one almost in the centre of South Molton.

We feel the government pressure to open up footpaths is misguided (what we really think is unprintable), as is Devon County Council's decision today to open up 60 miles of footpaths.  The infected area has been extended because of recent cases, into Exmoor National park and part of nearby Somerset.

As we are surrounded by farmland and to protect our animals, we must remain closed, but are taking provisional bookings from 1st of June. (Now, the 15th of June)
 

Update - 12th April

It got closer today.  One in Meshaw, related to the one in Romansleigh mentioned above.  Just 1.3 km away.  Another one in Rose Ash, 4 km away.  We now have it on 3 sides.  Started culling today the farm across the Little Silver Stream from our river meadow - as part of the contiguous cull.  Rather chilling to see the men in white overalls on the hillside rounding up the sheep.

Update - 18th April (Wednesday)

It is now the middle of the 3rd day with out any cases in Devon, and only 4 cases over the weekend.  Cautious optimism, but perhaps the MAFF vets are on holiday.  There are 148 confirmed cases (farms) in Devon, but over 1000 farms have had their stock culled.  Over 220,000 animals slaughtered in Devon, with 120,000 piled up waiting for disposal. And the gap widens.

Finished vaccinating yesterday - the rabbits for myxomatosis.  Have to do it twice a year, and once a year for VHD.

Update - 20th April (Friday)

A few more cases, now up to 152 in Devon, nothing too near.  Now there are 167,000 carcasses in Devon waiting disposal. Regional NFU Director said today that you could smell them along the A30 near Okehampton.  Followed one of the many lorries carrying hardcore that we had seen since Wednesday.  Stopped when it was obvious it was going to the confirmed site closest to us - 1.3 km away.  Probably won't light the pyre until next week - about 2 weeks after the animals were slaughtered.  We will have to keep our windows shut.

Calculated that we have sprayed, or dipped our boots (and Aduki's feet) in 675 litres of disinfectant.  How many megalitres are also running off into streams and groundwater?
 

Update - 24th April (Tuesday)

Finally got our D Notice yesterday - by post, but still no visit from MAFF.  It doesn't require us to do anything more than what we had been doing already - restricting visitors( none), leaving our outer clothing at the gate when we leave (we change everything), disinfecting our footwear when we come back on the premises ( Aduki too), cleaning & disinfecting our car when we enter or leave the premises (our car hasn't been on since the start.)

We did get a phone call from MAFF this AM, asking what animals we had, and saying we might get a visit from their vets.  We can hardly wait, particularly after the news about the slaughterman mentioned below.

They finally lit the big fire at the edge of Holsworthy on Sunday night.  This morning's traffic report on Radio Devon warned drivers in the area that visibility would be obscured because of the smoke.  Lunchtime they said visibility was down to 50m on the A388.

They still haven't lit the pyre at the case closest to us.  Was scheduled for Friday, but they were still carting hardcore yesterday.  Just heard from a friend who knew someone who didn't get any symptoms of F&M until the smoke from a neighbouring pyre came down on them.

Two victories in court yesterday - in Anglesey 8 organic farmers took MAFF to court to stop their healthy animals being culled, and MAFF pulled out of the case; and in Devon, a farmer stopped the cull of his healthy animals, kicked off MAFF and took them to court.  He claimed they were exceeding their powers under English and EU law.  Again MAFF dropped out.

The case of the slaughterman in Cumbria catching foot and mouth is worrying, not for human health, but for our animals.  As the regional director of the NFU pointed out this morning, while it is rare that humans can catch the disease, they can become carriers and spread it to animals.  No amount of disinfecting can prevent a vet (say) breathing out the virus onto your animals.  Does this explain the large number of cases with 'unknown' causes and the  spread to new areas?

Update 27th April (Friday)

The 'relaxation' in the cull is a con.  High - priced cattle will be spared, thanks to Phoenix, but sheep, goats and pigs will still be slaughtered.  So no help to sanctuaries like ours.  Just more proof that this is an economic disease.

The number of cases in Devon has crept up to 157.  So the slowing down is some good news.

Smoke is drifting over Barnstaple this week, Braunton last week - lots of complaints.  Apparently still haven't lit the pyre nearest to us; it might have been caught up in the new Department of Health guidelines which prohibit pyres of more than 250 cattle within 2 km of a village or settlement - which means Meshaw.  Have been spraying the doorways to all our barns twice a day (instead of just once) since the beginning of the month, when the BBC reported cattle parts deposited on a car passing through a plume 2 miles from a burn south of Meshaw.

Still no call from MAFF vets to inspect our animals.  Which reminds me, if any of you wish to ring us, please leave a message on our answering machine, as we may be otherwise unavailable.
 

Update 28th April (Saturday)

Jane smelled smoke when we went out to feed early this morning, so last night they lit the pyre closest to us - 1 km, and one could see the smoke from the pyre.  In was calm then, but fortunately, gusty winds from the Southwest soon started up, and have been blowing it away from us.  I couldn't smell it, as my nose is now attuned to disinfectant.

Below is a map from the NFU showing the cases in Devon, and the 3 km 'protection zones' around them.  We are about in the middle of the group "at 2 o'clock" labelled 11th April, the date of the latest case in that area.  MAFF has been removing restrictions from isolated groups after some 4-6 weeks after the disinfection and clean-up (which MAFF pays the farmers to do) of last case in that area - after extensive examination of stock and blood tests of sheep in the area.  So we had some hope that our cluster might be cleared by 1st of June or so.

But today's one case ( total 158 in Devon) unfortunately was in Chulmleigh, and closes the gap between our cluster and the bulk of the cases in the middle of Devon.  So it looks like it will drag on and on and on . . .

Had a letter from Gerry Steinberg, one of the MPs who has given us support.  He enclosed a letter from Eric Morley, Minister at MAFF for "Fisheries and the Countryside", and supposedly responsible for animal welfare.  As Mr Steinberg's note said, it was to be expected, just expostulating the government's fierce opposition to vaccination.  Morley didn't even do that very well, and he completely ignored our situation and that of other rescued/sanctuary animals.  Probably checked it out first with the de facto Prime Minister, Ben Gill.

So, our disinfectant consumption has gone up, and we are changing and washing clothes even more now.

And now, late this afternoon, another case, just over the hill in Romansleigh.  At least, for us, the 2 farms in between had already been culled as contiguous to a previous outbreak in Romansleigh.   When will it ever end?

Update 1st May (Tuesday)

Saturday night when it was calm, we could smell it in the house; the smell was gone an hour later when I tucked up the chucks.  Since then the winds have kept any plume away from us.  In fact, no smoke has been visible on the horizon since Sunday morning.

Had another case between us and South Molton, quite a big farm, hence a big pyre to be expected.  This will have caused the blobs in the map above to join up - the ones to the North ( Barnstaple to South Molton), are now joined to the main cluster through our area.  So, it looks like an even longer time to they 'clear' the area.  Now 160 cases in Devon, approaching 1550 in the country.

Had another copy of Eric Morley's letter about us, sent to another MP - Paul Flynn.  No doubt he did a bulk lot.

The press has reported that it looks like MAFF ( and Nick Brown) will disappear after the election, with a new Rural/Countryside Ministry taking over.  Speculation that Jack Straw will head it up.  Given what he has done to civil liberties, and hasn't done for animal testing, despite New Labour's promises, I don't expect any meaningful reform of the 'system.'

Also depressed about how lenient the courts are on animal abuse cases.  It really has to be very bad before the RSPCA can/will do anything.  A case in point in the despicable man from whom our 19 chickens were taken (along with other animals).  The RSPCA vet said in court that the conditions were the most disgusting he had seen in 18 years of practise and were "an insult to humanity."  Rotting carcasses and 32 skulls were found as well as starving sheep and pigs, etc.  Even though he had been previously convicted for similar offences, he only received a 2 months sentence, which was suspended!  Perhaps because he had a letter of support from Willy Cleave, the dealer who brought foot and mouth to Devon and spread it all around the West Country.  A similar situation for the ex-owner of our latest sheep - Gorse.  His 6 months sentence was rescinded on appeal!
 

Update 2nd May (Wednesday)

The weather is warmer, which will slow down the virus.  Two more cases in the south west today, one near Torrington, and one in Somerset at Wivlescombe, between Taunton and South Molton.  Again this shows that while the number of cases are down, they are spreading to new areas.

The scale of the cull is shown by the big farm near South Molton we mentioned yesterday.  Besides their 400+ cattle, 1000 sheep and 700 lambs, they were contiguous to 17 other farms, which are also being culled!  We went by a pile of sheep from one of them this afternoon, just after the slaughtermen had finished.

Saw the swallows last week, which is also bad news, for with our barns sealed up, they have to find somewhere else to nest. Hope they come back next year.

The good news is that Jane made some of her vegan apricot cake this morning.  Boris and Treacle like it for lunch, much more than that cheapo cake we had been buying for their lunchtime treat.

Update 3rd May (Thursday)

Well they are improving the 'disposal', for the 'heap of sheep' we saw yesterday was gone this morning.  Tony and Nick are wrong about disposal being all cleared up in Devon (election soon to be called), for MAFF in Exeter says there still are 10,390 carcasses left.  They are lighting the "last" pyre in devon tonight, which is good news.  Also good news is that is to be warm through at least Monday, which will help kill off the virus, and the winds will continue from the North, which will keep the smouldering pyre at Meshaw ( the one lit Friday night and mentioned above) away from us.

The bad news is that there is another case near South Molton, and another in Somerset next to the one at Wivlescombe.

Thought we would add some photos:

Boris' instant barn - 
 

Boris at the end of his tunnel - 
 
 


Treacle longing to get at the feed bins ( she had previously got into the bran, which made for a painful few days) -

Our sheep behind bars - 

Sam wanting to escape - 
 

Update 4th May (Friday)

Not a good day at Fern Tor.  We lost a guinea pig and a bunny today, and found out that our neighbouring farm, which surrounds us on nearly 3 sides, was culled yesterday as a "dangerous contact."  Same family as the big case near South Molton earlier this week.  Had different smells today.

We are now virtually an island in a sea of empty pastures.  There is only one farm left between us and South Molton.

Update 6th May (Sunday)

When around the 'block' to see what's happening, and spoke to a nearby farmer.  He said that a farm at the edge of Mariansleigh "had it", because their stock had lesions.  Explains why the road has been blocked off since yesterday morning.  Probably slaughtering "under suspicion" or as a dangerous contact.  This has not been announced as a confirmed case; this does not show up in MAFF's statistics.  This farm is about a km away.

Tomorrow is "spray day."  We have been using a homeopathic treatment, borax, every other day, as there is at least anecdotal evidence that it can prevent foot and mouth.  Rather than put it in the drinking water, we are spraying noses.  Curious that the pigs with their sensitive snouts are least bothered, while the sheep try to avoid it when they see the spray bottle.

Update 10th May (Thursday)

There may be light at the end of Boris' tunnel after all.  No new cases in Devon for a week.  So it looks like that we will be able to open in June after all.

The regional NFU now seems to be anti-MAFF, saying that their statistics are misleading, and that they are mucking about with their risk assessments.  It would appear to be hypocritical, after having pushed the lunatic cull for so long, and driven government policy to protect their huge agribusiness members.

Boris and Treacle shared a banana muffin for lunch.  This is the secret ingredient of Fernbocker Glory Mark II.

Update 11th May (Friday)

A round-up of various news stories:

The owners of Phoenix the calf have said that they will not let her go to an animal sanctuary beacuse "they love her to bits,"
and have turned down the offer of appearing in a London panto, because "that is to far to transport an animal."

MAFF has postponed the badger killing due to restart this month.

A senior MAFF official has admitted that some mistakes were made in the cull in Devon.

The Brigadier in charge of the Army's efforts in Cumbria has claimed some farmers are deliberately exposing their stock to foot and mouth in order to get compensation.

A Devon farmer has been fined £5,000 plus £3,000 costs for illegally moving his stock on March 1st.

MAFF has admitted that blood tests for 1/3rd of all the confirmed cases (now 1575 in the country) and 80% of those slaughtered on suspicion, have come back NEGATIVE.  And, remember that on average, 5-6 farms are slaughtered in the contiguous cull for every confirmed case.

Update 12th May (Saturday)

We have decided to reopen on Saturday, 9th June, as long as the foot & mouth situation remains quiet.  It will be about 6 weeks since the last confirnmed case within 3 km, and all our neighbours have had their stock culled.  And with the warm weather upon us (for today at least, 25 °C), the risk to our animals should be minimal.  We will ask all our guests to observe the precautions noted at the top of the page, and at the notice on our gate upon arrival.

With the warm weather, we have had to open up the barns on welfare grounds.  Again with hardly any other animals for miles around, the risk should be minimal.  Boris was suffering from heat exhaustion last night; had to make him a wallow and put on cool towels.  Now snoring away.

We still have not heard from the MAFF vets.  If you do ring us, please leave a message, and we will get back to you, ASAP, as we may be otherwise be engaged with our animals
 

Update 14th May (Monday)

Two more cases in Devon yesterday.  One the other side of Okehampton, the other, at Knowstone, is more worrying,  as it is about 10 km away - on the other side of the A361.  If the situation doesn't get any worse, we should still be OK to open on the 9th of June.

Update 15th May (Tuesday)

It seems that MAFF made a right cock-up of the cull at Knowstone.  It was reported to MAFF on Saturday, but they didn't show up for 24 hours.  They then started slaughtering by firing rifles at bullocks, who had not been rounded up and not surprisingly took off.  Nineteen escaped to a neighbouring farm.  They took another day to come back to shoot them, by which time 3 had gone missing - and still are missing as of this afternoon.  One was seen over 2 miles away.  They had obvious clinical lesions.

Great news that the animals at the Mossburn Animal Sanctuary in Scotland have been spared at the 11th hour.  Seems the Scottish Executive has now dropped their cull policy.  How many more animals would have been saved if farmers had stood up against the killiong machine instead of just sitting back and taking the money.

Update 17th May (Thursday)

Ah, the glories of local radio!  We have been forced to listen to BBC Radio Devon to find out what is happening.  One of our joys is turning it off after the news.  This morning after the weather forcast, they gave a grass growing forcast for the next 5 days!  ( medium to medium-to-rapid)

And now the man from Pirbright says the 3 km was all wrong as it was based upon lousy science.  A more appropriate cull zone would have been 200m!

Update 22nd May (Tuesday)

There was another case Saturday at Ash Mill, South Molton, about 4 miles from us.  We are still planning to re-open on 9th June.

The RSPCA has started an inquiry into the cocked-up cull at Knowstone, where MAFF spooked the bullocks onto 12 neighbouring farms.  One of the farmers lost a High Court case today against culling his cattle.

Had a fun time the last 2 days, shearing and shampooing sheep bums, in order to protect against fly strike.

Update 23rd May (Wednesday)

The killing machine moved into Knowstone today.  The farmer who lost his High Court case yesterday, and who was appealing, had van loads of police, army and MAFFmen show up this morning..  Inspite of the MAFF vet inspecting the cattle last night and saying they were not showing any symptoms, it being 10 days since they were possibly exposed (more than enough time for cattle to develop this economic deisease), the regional NFU saying that the cattle should be spared and just observed, the neighbours blockading the farm and van loads of press reporting it all.  Mid-day, MAFF were escorted onto the premises by the police, and pressurised the owner to 'agreeing' to have his 60 healthy cattle killed.

Got through another 500 litres of disinfectant today, and 'greased' our pig.  Rubbed a pint of olive oil into Boris' dry skin.

Update 30th May (Wednesday)

Today is the 100th day of the foot and mouth outbreak - feels like the 1,000th.  On Monday there was one more case in Devon.  The total in Devon is now 166, with 1660 nationally.  However, over 3 million animals have been killed on 7,691 farms because of MAFF's cull policy, and another 1,200,00 slaughtered on the "welfare scheme."

About 2 weeks ago, Ben Gill (NFU President) was reported as saying at a conference in Australia, that foot and mouth could have been spread around Britain by "eco-terrorists."  I wonder how his members like being described like that.

Update 3rd June (Sunday)

Another case today - at Knowstone, near South Molton.  Also, in one area about 15 miles west of us, the 3rd positive blood test has shown up in the tests they are doing before the area is declared 'clear.' There were originally 5 cases in the area, but these 3 instances of sheep exposed to infection, are not being added to the official statistics, even though they are being culled.  So, we must remain vigilant.
 

Update 4th June (Monday)

The "rural terrorists" from MAFF have struck again in Knowstone.  The "confirmed" case yesterday was as a result of a positive blood test in one sheep culled 20 days ago in a contiguous cull.  The 35 cattle were spared, partly because the farmer had a court injunction against MAFF.  The cattle have been regularly inspected and have proved to be free of foot and mouth- even MAFF says that cattle will show symptoms within 1-2 days of being infected and that after 21 days there is 'no risk.'  The neighbours mounted a blockade yesterday when the police and MAFF showed up.  They went away, after being told that the farmer would seek a court order this morning at 10 AM when the courts open.  So MAFF and the ploice forced their way in this morning at 6 AM and have now slaughtered more healthy cattle before they could be stopped by the courts.

Update 6th June (Wednesday)

If it wasn't so serious, the situation in Knowstone would be a farce.  MAFF let some sheep get away from another cull, one ewe was missing for 12 hours before being shot by an Army marksman.  MAFF said that it presented no danger to neighbouring farms, as the cull was only 'precautionary.' Typical MAFF double-speak, if it presented no danger, why cull the farm?  Another contiguous farm in Knowstone is refusing MAFF permission.  And the parish council is taking legal advice on suing MAFF for "intimidation, incompetence and bullying", according to the regional director of the NFU.  And, now revealed, when they found the missing ewe in a wood, they also found a bullock missing for 3 weeks from the previous bungled cull.

Update 9th June (Saturday)

MAFF has "cancelled" 2 contiguous culls in Knowstone.  The farmers won a court order after successfully pointing out that their animals were healthy and it was more than 21 days since they were supposedly infected.  Nick Brown has been demoted in the cabinet reshuffle. The new Department of Rural Affairs and the Environment headed by Margaret Becket will have to leave behind the mind-set ingrained in the NFU dominated MAFF if things are to improve.
 

Update 16th June (Saturday)

We now have Defra - the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affaira.  Somehow CULL DEFRA doesn't sound quite the same as CULL MAFF.

There has been a new outbreak on the Devon/Somerset border. 6 new cases, and with the contiguous cull, over 10,000 animals to die.

We have had our first week of guests.  Nice to see some friendly faces again. Also nice to see the animals up the fields enjoying their freedom.  Our gate is still locked, for MAFF is still about.

Update 24th June (Sunday)

Some evidence that the new DEFRA has not brought any new common sense to the situation 'in the field.  Blood tests are being carried out on all sheep flocks in order to 'clear' an area of foot and mouth.  One 'farm' with 12 pet sheep had negative  tests, as well as no signs when routinely seen by Ministry vets.  However, DEFRA wants to cull them.  They are contiguous to a farm which was culled as a dangerous contact, whose blood tests came back positive, and therfore is now classified as a confirmed case. The pet sheep are healthy, and were tested clear after the neighbour's farm was culled.  Even though DEFRA can not now show that they have been exposed, or any danger to others, they want to kill them.

Over 4 and a half million animals have now been killed.  For what?

2nd July ( Monday)

There have been no new cases in Devon for 2 weeks, and the last one was the result of positive blood tests on animals previously culled.  The total of confirmed cases in Devon is now 173, with a national total of 1803, plus several thousand other farms also culled as contiguous or suspicious.

An article in yesterday's Independent reported that the government will be spending £2.5 billion on the foot and mouth crisis to date, equivalent to 1p on the basic rate of income tax - compared to about £570 million on the precious export trade.

A North Devon farmer is petitioning DEFRA to be allowed to vaccinate his closed flock of rare breed milking ewes, because of the government policy of re-opening footpaths.  They claim that this will put their flock at risk.  DEFRA would not say anything except that vaccination would not protect them from any contiguous cull.  Can't see the government agreeing, as that would admit that their culling policy was wrong.

Thought DEFRA had gotten some sense when we heard that a flock of shep was spared when only one of them tested positive.  But seems that the ' new' policy dictated from London is that if 2 sheep are positive, no mateer how large the flock, they are all declared positive and killed.

DEFRA yet again turned down the offer of the new improved American test for foot and mouth.

So, all in all, not much has changed.

6th July (Friday)

Yesterday, the 4 swallows who hatched over our back door flew for the first time.  Today 2 of them took a wrong turn and came in the house.

Yesterday MAFF rang.  They asked if we had any animals, if we had a D notice, and if any one had been to see us!!  So no one took notice of what we told them 2 1/2 months ago. He said that someone would ring us either that afternoon or today to arrange to come to take blood samples from our goats and sheep.  No one has.  Hopefully they will forget us again, though they are blood testing in the South Molton area. The gate remains locked and we are busy outside, so we can't always be on hand when the phone rings.  Do leave a message if you ring us.

7th July (Saturday)

Received a 15 minute video on "biosecurity" from Defra in the post this morning. Introduced by our least favourite vet, James Skudmore.  Like all the mailings we have gotten in the last 6 weeks or so, it is too late.  Would have rather watched Wimbledon, but it has been rained out.

9th July (Monday)

The local area health authority published a report today that said that there may be mental health problems this autumn in the rural community.  Buried in the radio report was the fact that so far they had not found any problems.  They did state that slaughtermen may suffer post traumatic syndrome.  Hummfrumph.  Nopt if they did their job properly, which of course we know they always do.

11th July (Wednesday)

Well, DEFRA/MAFF finally got hold of us.  They are coming Tuesday morning to take blood from our sheep and goats.  The technichian who made the arrangements claimed there was "no risk" to our animals from him or the vet.

Another example of caring farmers.  Last week the local branch of the Canine Defence League said there was an increase in abandoned sheep dogs.  Farmers had claimed they were "part of the family."  Some family.
 

17th July (Tuesday)

The men from the Ministry came this morning to take blood from our sheep and goats.  They were 'friendly' and did what we asked, though they didn't like it - such as signing a declaration as to who they were and what their purpose was, and individually identifying the blood samples.  After they left we found 2 messages on the answering machine from another team of vets who had trouble finding us!  When we rang back, she said that they were in Rose Ash (about 3 miles away) and quoted an incorrect grid reference.  She said they had all the paperwork and were supposed to bleed our animals.  Profuse apologies.  We also had 2 calls on Saturday, one to ask us what they rang on 6th July ( apologies) and the second to speak with the 2 vets who were supposedly with us taking samples ( more apologies.

Some comforting statistics.  Of 5640 flocks tested in the country as of 12th July, only 29 had 1 or more "non-negative" results.  17 had a single positive Elisa test, 16 of which were negative on retesting.  The remaining 13 had positive results which were confirmed on retesting, which "suggested FMD infection had been present in the past."  All 13 were culled.  Testing on slaughter confirmed that the virus was present in only one case, in Devon.

22nd July (Sunday)

The Ministry rang yesterday morning and said all our blood tests were "clear."  We expected as much, but glad to have it confirmed.  As there still is am potential risk, we are maintaining our "biosecurity", to use the buzz word.  Front gate locked, all guests to dip their feet whenever they enter, and to stay away from our animals.  We still change clothes when we go out ( more importantly, when we come back), and dip our feet whenever we enter the animal area.

Still of concern, is what will happen when the farms restock, as they have started in Devon.  In the last outbresk in 1967, this led to further outbreaks and slaughtering.  We hear that DEFRA is still being insensitive and unscientific in its actions up North.  For the latest, the best site of those listed at the top of the page is warmwell.

26th July (Thursday)

Tony Blair has ordered the disinfecting of farms to stop for a review, because it is too expensive.  Reportedly £100,000 plus per farm in England, less in Wales and Scotland ( only £500 in the Netherlands).  So the government has finally recognised foot amd mouth as an economic deisease.  If only they had recognised the costs earlier - not just to the farming community and taxpayer, but also the tourist industry and other rural businesses, they might have seriously considered vaccination as the best option for controlling this "disease" - not only for economic reasons, but also the for being the most humane.

28th July (Saturday)

Listening to Ministers giving spurious reasons when asked about a public enquiry, and listening to the likes of Skudmore and Morley about the reasons for Defra's actions in the Brecon Beacons and in Yorkshire, I conclude that there is no point in having an enquiry, public or otherwise, into the handling the foot and mouth outbreak.  No lessons were learned from the 67/68 outbreak, and current NFU-led attitudes of those in power mean that no serious thought would ever be given to vaccination without culling as a serious alternative to the present kill kill kill policy.
 

1st August (Wednesday)

DEFRA lifted the Infected Area status from all of Devon today.  Our area was the last to go.  Presumably we will get an 'E' notice in the post tomorrow, lifting our 'D' notice, allowing us to take our animals to any slaughterhouse within a 4 hour journey.  Our footbath remains.  There were 7 confirmed cases in the country yesterday, with the total now at 1921.

2nd August (Thursday)

Simon Jenkins had a good piece in yesterday's Times - damning the government for its cull not vaccinate policy.

More evidence that foot&mouth has done what the Shoreham protesters couldn't achieve - stop the live export market.  There are reports that the government is about to buy up 2 million 'small' lambs from the hill farms in Devon, Wales and Cumbria, because they can't be exported to Greece, Italy and Spain.  They are to be frozen, instead of enduring the long journey.

4th August (Saturday)

Received a donation from the Isle of Wight Vegetarians for our animals.  We were very touched.

There was a good discussion of vaccination on the Today programme on Radio 4 this morning.  A economics professor from Aberystwyth calculated that if vaccination had been used from the beginning to control the disease, instead of culling, the country would have saved £3 billion!  He pointed out that the argument of the NFU and others that the animals would have to be killed was a red herring (!), as the animals, as all livestock, were bred to be killed anyway.  It was followed by a discussion by a NFU official who rubbished the report, and another vet who supported it.  The latter pointed out that 2 weeks after the first outbreak, the centres of the 'disease' were pretty well known, and ring vaccination could have effectively been used, and would have given time to arrange slaughter, etc., instead of the pyres and pits and other horrors.  The professor and the second vet also pointed out that we ( not us personally) already eat vaccinated meat - e.g. salmonella protected poultry, and cattle and pigs who are already inoculated against various diseases - so the argument that the public wouldn't eat vaccinated meat is spurious.

To the NFU who insist that vaccination would not work, they should note that foot and mouth vaccination is at least as effective as the human polio vaccine in producing antibodies and protection.

5th August (Sunday)

In was announced today that some American researchers have genetically modified a pig so that it shits only half as much as normal.  They claimed it was done as their contribution to preventing global warming.  Just what the Toxic Texan needs to jusitfy scuttling the Kyoto agreement.

11th August (Saturday)

All but 5% of the County's footpaths were reopened today.

The government announced 3 "independent" inquiries - one on its (mis)handling of the crisis, one 'scientific' run by the Royal Society, and one on the future of farming, headed by a former chairman of the Meat and Livestock Commission.  Supposedly there are at least 7 more inquiries, none public, and none looking at the effects on the non-farming rural economy - tourism, etc.

Do not forget that the slaughter, intimidation and bungling  goes on, still about 5 confirmed cases a day.  For an update of the current situation, look at the warmwell site.

A friend asked yesterday how long we intended to keep the footbath at our gate, and I said probably until the end of the year.  On reflection, the best policy would seem to be 30 days after the last confirmed case in the country.  For this was the stated policy at the beginning of the outbreak, of all the national parks as to when they would reopen, until the tourist industry and government leaned on them.
 

16th August (Thursday)

The civil(?) servants at DEFRA start a series of 1 day strikes on Monday.  Seems the ex-MAFF staff don't get as much pay as the ex-Dept of Environment staff.  Union asking for £2-4,000 more.

Still 5 cases a day, and 6,000 animals a day being killed.

17th August (Friday)

From the warmwell site today -

Aug 17 ~ There have been no reports of active virus having been found on the Brecon Beacons.
     Antibodies have been found in some sheep, showing that they have developed effective
     immunity against the virus.

          It may be remembered that Hugues Inizan, a Devon dealer, told vets that the foot and mouth infection had
          been found in 402 sheep shipped from Britain to France on January 31 - three weeks before the outbreak
          was "discovered" in Essex on February 19. The sheep, brought from the Brecon hills, were diagnosed with
          foot and mouth on March 7 and slaughtered. But the fact that they were infected before shipment indicated
          that the disease must have been around for at least two weeks. It is evident that the virus died out in
          Brecon some months ago. The 18000 sheep and lambs from ancient hefted flocks killed in the past days
          have been slaughtered unnecessarily. The economic and political reasons for the destruction of their
          owners' way of life are hidden behind cynical misinformation - swallowed hook, line and sinker by the
          media.

25th August (Saturday)

There was a confirmed case in Northumberland yesterday, the first in the area for 12 weeks.  So we must keep up our guard.

1st September (Saturday)

The new outbreak in Northumberland continues, and the total number of "confirmed" cases in the country will probably top 2000 by the end of the weekend.  "Confirmed" cases included 1/3 which give negative blood tests.

The Knowstone slaughtermen must have moved north, as they were shooting cattle with high powered rifles, spooking them over fences and not rounding them up.

In Tiverton, 15 miles away from us, they just killed a flock because 4 sheep had anti-bodies.  DEFRA is at pains to point out that it means that these animals were at one time exposed to foot and mouth, and (because they had developed immunity) they were not a risk to other animals. So, how come they were killed? And, the slaughter of over 4,000 sheep in the Brecons because 5 sheep had antibodies??!!

Vaccination is back on the agenda, with the head of the Countryside Agency calling for it to be tried, but the Minister, Lord Whitty, mouthing the same old NFU derived excuses against it that Nick Brown used to spout.  Nice one Larry.
 

6th September (Thursday)

From the Warmwell site:

    Sept 6 ~ The Institute of Directors has been unequivocal in its condemnation of the government's
     handling of the crisis

          The IoD said there was also widespread incomprehension of the absolute refusal of MAFF (now DEFRA) and the
          NFU to consider vaccination. "But what is most distressing of all is that, if this outbreak had been well-handled,
          much of this damage to people's livelihoods could have been avoided." it said.

     Sept 5 ~ "... they're prepared to see the total destruction of the native hill breeds of the North of
     England"

          says Will Cockbain, NFU spokesman in Cumbria on todays "FarmingToday". In the interview with Miriam
          O'Reilly, Mr Cockbain was explaining that Cumbria has never seen a "tail" to the disease and the majority of
          farmers now want vaccination without slaughter.

     Sept 5 ~ Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith, warns that the secrecy and refusal to allow dissenting
     expert opinion in the present crisis shows that the BSE lessons have not been learned.

          The professor, who acted as scientific adviser to Justice Phillips in the BSE inquiry so loudly demanded by Tony
          Blair when he was in opposition, was speaking at the British Association Science Festival. He said that the recent
          appointment of three committees to examine foot-and-mouth disease showed the Government had not taken the
          BSE lessons on board. "No effort was made to identify the very best people," he said, "and dissenting scientists
          were excluded."
          It is not hard to identify the experts he means; Professor Fred Brown, Dr Barteling and Dr Sutmoller - who will
          be addressing a conference for vets on September 15th in Bristol.

9th September (Sunday)

Interesting programme on BBC1's Countryfile this morning - on vaccination in Argentina.  They have chosen to vaccinate all their animals, and it only costs one US dollar per year to vaccinate an animal twice!  The farmers are in full support, and when an animal does get FMD, they isolate it and treat it!!

17th September ( Monday)

On Saturday Radio 4 repeated part of the Countryfile programme I missed - an interview with Eric Morley, the Minister responsible (!!) for animal welfare in both MAFF and now DEFRA.  His anti-vaccination stand was based entirely on spurious vaccination arguments - including ignoring that all beef raised in the UK is already vaccinated for other diseases!  It explains a lot, like why his responses to 4 MPs who raised our queries about vaccinating rescued animals indicated that he has no comprehension ( or compassion) for rescued animals.  He just repeated the economic arguments, showing that farm animals are just another commodity like potatoes.  The farmers, and the majority of the public, were upset about killing (healthy) animals, who were going to be killed anyway - how do they think the meat got on their plate?  We must continue to press for a vaccinate and live policy, rather than the vaccinate and kill policy the government keeps referring to, for that is the only way animals like ours would be allowed to survive, even though they would never go anywhere near a dinner plate!

29th September (Saturday)

Just received the following in a mailing from Peta, which is worth repeating (italics added).

    As we were going to press, the world witnessed violence rearing its ugly head in the most unexpected and shocking of ways.  To those whose lives have been directly affected by the attacks in America, we send our best wishes for their fortitude and for better days.
    This wretched series of events points out that there are many hideous prejudices that cause daily pain and violence to our fellow beings including those of other races, creeds and species. We take encouragement from the fact that an all-encompassing compassion is the very foundation of the animal rights movement.
    Thank you for continuing to help us spread our message and to help those in need.

19 October (Friday)

It is now 19 days since the last confirmed case in the country, and four months since the last case in Devon.  As the recent cases in Northumbria occurred after a 3 month lull, we must keep up our defences.  Even Margaret Becket said the other day that it would be a miracle if there wasn't another case with all the autumn sheep movements.

The killing hasn't stopped though, as DEFRA is still killing flocks with antibodies, ie exposed and immune and no danger to others; 1700 in North Devon last week.

With the media concentrating on the "war on terrorism," foot and mouth has largely gone out of the media's eye.  Although local media have reported on the Devon PUBLIC (the only one) inquiry - occasionally mentioning the state sponsored terrorism of MAFF/DEFRA.

Jr Minister Morley, responsible for animal welfare (!), reported that compensation to farmers has now reached one billion pounds.

30 October (Monday)

It is now a month since the last confirmed case in the country.  perhaps the warm October weather has helped.

"Lamentable" was the verdict of the country's only public inquiry, organised by Devon County Council.  Among other conclusions, they called MAFF/DEFRA's behaviour on the ground to be insensitive and belligerent, and that serious consideration should be given to vaccination.  Minister Lord Larry Whitty was on the Today programme this morning rubbishing the report ( being insensitive and belligerent?), perhaps expecting better treatment from its own private inquiries.

Devon is still classified as "At Risk", with a "High Risk" status for sheep, and we still have our D notice.  We shall carry on with our precautions.

15 November (Thursday)

Another frosty morning, with frozen water bowls and disinfectant baths.  Reminds us of the frozen minds in the government, who:

    are forcing through the so-called Animal Health Act, which will give DEFRA the right of entry to kill any animal if it 'thinks' it may be exposed to a disease, with no right of appeal.  Thereby giving it the powers it claimed it had during the cull.  Also requires every sheep in the country to be genetically tested for susceptibility to scrapie.  Those that are must be slaughtered, castrated or sterilised.

     and are allowing fox hunting to resume after 17th December, and reportedly will again fail to keep its promises by not introducing a bill in this session of Parliament.

1 December (Saturday)

Devon was declared 'disease free' on Monday and the last 'Infected Area' up in the Northeast was changed to 'High Risk'.  These changes will make it easier for farmers to move their stock around.  Cumbria will remain at risk, however, at least until the end of the year, while they carry out all the blood testing and killing of sheep found to have antibodies, even though immune.  We have decided to relax precautions at the gate, though we are still disinfecting when we go into the animal areas.

15 December (Saturday)

We stopped all dipping of feet today, and wall-papered the hen house.  We put up some styrofoam insulation because it was getting so cold, and they were pecking at it.  So, we cut up some plastic feed sacks and covered it over.

Heard Ben Gill re-writing history today; denying his part in the early days of the cull and kill policy.  Also Margaret Beckett, in her speech at the Brussels vaccination conference, completely spoke a lot of obfuscating rubbish about why DEFRA( nee' MAFF) is against vaccination, all in the name of a "proper" debate.  For all the gory details of this ongoing sage, see the warmwell web site, for you won't hear of anything in the mainstream media.  At least the European Parliament voted for a public inquiry, over the objections of the Labour MEPs.
 

6 January (Sunday)

Not a good day, as we buried Borris today.  He suffered badly from arthritis and restricted airways, a result of breeding practises.

The Dolly the sheep company announced some cloned puiglets recently, with the aim of providing human transplants.  I would like to donate my organs to any resced pigs that need them.

DEFRA announced all the UK was "free" of foot and mouth, except for Northumbria, which remains at risk.  Seems this was due to 2 sheep who were found to have antibodies, and hence had developed immunity.  As a result 2,500 sheep in one flock were slaughtered.  20,000 were slaughtered in December, even though the last "confirmed" case was on 30th September.  Next time some polititions come down with the flu, maybe they should be culled.
 

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