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The comments made on this page are not the political line or official opinions of any body or organisation. I am publishing what I have seen and what has happened to my neighbours, what has been felt and what has been said. It is in the plainest sense a diary -- personal, even possibly inaccurate, but just one person's record of our hopes, fears, frustrations and confusion amid major tragedies and minor triumphs.

Date sent: Thu, 05 Jul 2001 12:21:34 +0100


Elliot Morley's visit to Cumbria to emphasise the importance of biosecurity measures tastes sour in the wake of some episodes that have taken place around our village in the last two weeks. Slaughtermen who culled a nearby farm dumped their used coverall suits in a bin at the farm road-end.... on open fell where sheep were grazing. DEFRA then wanted to cull the fell. Was this the fault of a farmer? A group of vets and assistants attended another clean farm to blood test sheep. Of the 10 who attended only the 2 vets were clean themselves.We all know of instances where farmers do disregard advice. However, should not DEFRA put its own house in order before advising farmers on how to protect their stock? Or should the biosecurity advice measures include "how to check whether DEFRA officials are clean"? Yours etc

Date sent: Thu, 12 Jul 2001 21:54:58 +0100

F&M is still going on. A farm at Oddendale was cleared yesterday and today; Oddendale is on the other end of the Crosby Fell that runs from Orton to Shap, and it's right on the edge of the open land. Sheep can go from one end to the other freely. So I don't know whether the vets will say the fell has to be cleared. Three farms from Greenholme have gone altogether and for some the only stock they still have alive is that out on the fell. People get cross about it especially when their stock away from home get F&M and the home farm is culled but subsequent blood tests show the home farm was clean. I get cross when the Ministry send out videos to show farmers how to disinfect and take precautions (YES I agree they do need to be told how and why). But they should get their officials to watch the video! Two instances just in Greenholme alone will show what I mean: R* W*'s stock got F&M so the animals were all killed and taken away. But the slaughter team didn't take away and dispose of the coverall suits they wore to do the job - they left them in the post-and-parcels bin at Roy's road end, which is on open fell with sheep on it. Also, W*K* received a message that vets and helpers were coming to blood test his stock; when they arrived he recognised some as being on the slaughter team from the previous day at another neighbour's farm, so he challenged them to say whether they were "clean" - and out of 10 men, only the 2 vets had not had any contact with diseased stock in the last 5 days. So he turned them around and wouldn't let them in. They called the police but the police refused to enforce their demand and went away. When the ministry were asked, they said W* was right not to let the "dirty" team members in, and they had to send a new team the following day to do the testing. I wrote to the paper and suggested that the video should include advice to farmers on how to check the officials were clean, as well as your own tyres, chassis, boots and clothes.

Date sent: Wed, 25 Jul 2001 19:54:33 +0100

No more cases of F&M round Greenholme, but more around Shap, as you'll have seen from the DEFRA site. 4000 Welsh sheep are to go from grazing on the Brecon Beacons because they have tested positive for the disease. If it keeps on going like this, our Govt's "kill out" policy could reduce the hill sheep industry to nothing. You can't help wondering if there isn't an ulterior motive politically / economically on a wider, international scale - Britain is excellent at producing lamb and beef off grass, and that industry is currently being crippled. Heigh ho, I have had a political discussion at lunchtime at work and am feeling cynical.

Date sent: Sat, 28 Jul 2001 19:41:30 +0100

F&M has gone quiet - no cases since 26th July in Cumbria. Feeling against Tony Blair is running high though as he has stopped disinfection and cleansing operations claiming it's costing too much and must be re assessed. Since the Government department set the fees for the operations it's a bit thick to imply that those doing the cleansing are ripping the government off (though probably *some* are of course). The goal posts for the farmers keep on being moved, sometimes twice in 24 hours. Blair dared to visit Penrith yesterday but he didn't go near any farms and it wasn't clear where he was going to be until he arrived to unveil a painting at a mountaineering exhibition. If I had known I might well have got rid of my students and gone to add my voice to the jeers that he encountered, since he was only two miles from the college. However, I didn't and have to be content that farmers and hoteliers did go to make their opinions known with placards and plain words. One man on the radio in the evening said he and all the farmers he represented were fed up with the lies and misinformation they have been fed over the last few months, as well as the fact that F&M has disappeared (in the main) from the national news since before the election in June. The main coverage at present is about the sheep on open hill in the Brecon Beacons where 4000 were to be culled yesterday. Some had high levels of antibodies for F&M, some moderate levels, and some none at all. I don't know if the cull has gone ahead because there were arguments about how much the sheep were worth. Our neighbour W* K* has just taken the very last bales (bar a half for Mr T) of straw from our yard. He still has some cattle indoors which he cannot let out because they must not be pastured with sheep and all the fields that don't have sheep in are a distance away by road. All licences to move stock in this area were recalled six weeks ago so he can't shift them anywhere. So he's desperate for G* to bring home some forage!!

Date sent: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 22:00:40 +0100

I've had a pleasant day myself but I am very saddened to see how many people I know around Shap and Crosby whose farms have been diagnosed with F&M in the last three days. Nobody knows when it will stop; it's awful. I think we are living through the last days of the small Lakeland family farms. Heaven knows what farming will be like when it's all over. It will make interesting writing and tale telling in future years but right now I know why it is a curse in Chinese to wish that someone should live "in interesting times". Black distress stabbed by sudden small pleasures: like a funeral pall covered in brilliant jewels.

2001: February/March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December | 2002: January