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October

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.

5 October

The last case of F&M reported was at Asby - which is now several days ago. Perhaps we have finally seen the last of this disease and its sorrows.

"Regeneration meetings" are being held at village halls all over the county, Shap and Kirkoswald come to mind as recent venues, for farmers and businesses to come for advice from various help and advisory bodies. A colleague of mine went to Sedbergh to take part in one this afternoon.

B*P* called here yesterday in a surge of new openness to technology, to have a website built to advertise his ponies for sale. He has a PC obtained during the early months of F&M but he hasn't yet been for his free training. He's getting to grips with it all, including the mouse which he says "shoots off the edge of the screen", and would like his wife to have a go but she is completely technophobic and won't even turn it on!! I urged him to get in contact with his local co-ordinator in Shap and get his training done, then he can do the next course of spreadsheet and word processing and Cattle Marking Scheme training. In the meantime I am waiting for him to send me his email address so I can put it on the site when finished........ the site won't be any use if he can't get messages through it!


Date sent: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 22:34:05 +0100

A friend who had lost all her stock due to Foot and Mouth disease decided that she had to get her horse out driving on the roads again or go mad - you probably have forgotten that Britain has been having the movement of livestock restricted due to the disease (luckily it seems to be calming down, finally). Anyway, she thought she'd do the job right and called the Ministry of Agriculture to ask advice. "Can I take my horse out driving?" "Certainly madam, so long as you disinfect the wheels of the trailer before you go out of the yard." Yes, they really thought someone would find pleasure in just loading up a horse and taking a trailer for a drive............


13 October

A fortnight has passed and no more cases have been reported. Wath was definitely not F&M, it was orf, the relatively minor mouth disease of sheep; rumour has it that Barbon too was not F&M, although the last case at Asby definitely was.

A neighbour who has been trying get movement licences for stock to go to slaughter has been held up because DEFRA say his farm is within the 10km range of the case at Wath. He argued that since the case was not F&M, there was no point in the restrictions. But DEFRA "do not remove confirmed cases from the list" if they later prove negative. He responded that it was just as well DEFRA were not doctors, since they would, for example, go on treating a broken leg as a slipped disc even after it had been proved the leg was broken........ He added that F&M would have to be over since there were now more pressing concerns in tackling the Bin Ladin terrorists in Afghanistan.

The proposed march in London to call for a public Inquiry, into the causes, handling and necessary regeneration after the outbreak, has been postponed since people think they probably should not attend any large gatherings in London. Security attitudes have been tightened considerably since Blair announced that Britain stood shoulder to shoulder with the Americans in the "war against terrorism".

The local Inquiry in Devon has been hearing some damning indictments of the handling of the outbreak down there alongside evidence of the suffering of people and animals while it lasted. Documented evidence of mishandling and poor organisation has now been put forward, and of course it only substantiates what many farmers have been saying all along.

We in Cumbria are receiving letters about footpaths being re-opened shortly, and forms asking whether we want to divert paths to avoid grazing livestock or cattle collecting yards for milking. The College is hosting a meeting today for people to discuss the way forward and the many problems that still exist. On Monday (8th) there was also a meeting there to discuss ways in which farmers could make the most of the compensation they have been paid. Things begin to sound more hopeful.


Subject: Re: Anthrax/Hoof and mouth, sorry long!

Date sent: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 16:23:24 +0100

Dr Bob wrote: The only humans that seem to suffer adverse effects from hoof and mouth disease are politicians -------

No, that's hoof IN mouth disease, and I suffer from that occasionally and may do right now........

Sorry Dr Bob, I know you were just being sly about poiticians, but this one got me on account of the conversations I have had this weekend and over the past 8 months.

Though I am sad to have to report it, farmers around here (Northern England) are finding that, even though they haven't had foot and mouth disease in their stock, the restrictions on animal movements are so tight that they are getting no income at the very time of year they normally take their profit on the year's work. Those who lost stock at least got adequate compensation and their feed bills stopped. But for those who are trying to struggle on it's tough. No lamb or cattle sales - here in Cumbria at present there isn't a livestock market that can take fat stock for slaughter and the regulations are such that they can only be sold "on the welfare" - a scheme that pays a minimal amount for the animals which would normally have been sold. eg 10 for a light lamb (up to 30 kg) and for some reason the bigger fatter lambs aren't in the deal, probably because they could in other areas be easily sold as fatstock, only here they can't (disease regs again) so they stay in the fields, eating the winter feed which is normally saved for the ewes. Many farmers are not putting the ram to the ewes this year in case there is still no market for the lambs next season (and there definitely won't be any welfare payment). Some who wanted to put the bull to their cows couldn't get a movement license to do so and the cows are consequently going to stay barren till restrictions are lifted. One farmer we talked to yesterday has had a second job for the last 20 years to make ends meet and now it is having to keep not only himself and his young family but also the stock cattle that he wants to keep - with no prospect of any return from them until they calve again maybe this time NEXT year. He can't sell his stirks from this year's crop for the reasons above. The disease itself appears to have died away (no cases for 3 weeks) but the effects at least in this area will be felt for at least another 18 months. Soooooooooooo, Hoof and Mouth or FMD does affect humans - just not in the way you might think.


26 October

Spoke to S*W* who is a taxidermist. Due to a combination of circumstances he is working for DEFRA trapping and taking blood samples from wildlife in areas where F&M has been a problem. So far everything that has been sampled has come up negative. At least that is one source that can probably be ruled out as a vector for the disease.


Date Sent: 29 October

Weird what emotion does to your voice, isn't it? I listened to a Harvest Service on the radio as I went to Mum's yesterday and it was very largely about Foot and Mouth and the problems that farming has had this year. It was very bitter to sing about the harvest being safely gathered in when my neighbours are presently unable to sell any of their lambs or calves and some cannot get the bull to the cows for next year's offspring to be conceived. How they will afford to live another year without income I don't know. And there were children's takes on how they had coped with living under the shadow of the pyres in the Spring. So I cried a lot, and found it very hard to sing.


30 October

WK's sheep on our land were blood tested yet again today to check for signs of the disease.

Literature from DEFRA arrived to explain how the Form A could be removed, and other restrictions (eg precautionary culled farms after being contiguous with an Infected Premises) eg after 4 months have gone by since culling, or after sentinel stock have been on the land for 28 days and been blood tested clear. Doesn't say when Form D restrictions will be removed. We are in an area that is restricted now only by bureaucracy, which seems sometimes to change the rules rapidly or sometimes to ignore their effects for weeks. The Penrith Spur area has been shrunk to the other side of the M6 motorway, and doesn't include us any longer, so that we are no longer under compulsion to clean all vehicles moving around. However, all the farms round about are still under Form D notices and getting very hungry for income. And the amount to be paid per animal going "on the welfare" has just been reduced.


31 October

Parliament announces new measures to force farmers to surrender their stock if a cull is deemed necessary in future outbreaks of any infectious disease. The Keswick National Farmers' Union man thought the idea of preventing delays in having firebreaks put in place was good, but was uncertain whether all farmers would accept this willingly, as he thought they needed "bridges" built between them and DEFRA whose decisions they had often deeply resented.

The Government are now talking urgently again about pushing for a ban on hunting. The Hunts have observed a more or less voluntary standstill since February and are probably feeling the pinch as much as anyone, and I feel this is unfair and just snatching at an opportunity.

I don't hunt now, although I've followed once or twice. I have no personal quarrel with reynard although he has taken ducks and hens of mine in the past...I should have shut them in as usual, and I didn't. I don't really enjoy the smell of hounds, and I'm not a fan of terriers or the job they do. I find the Hunt followers a pest at times as they trundle off in convoy in their tatty Land Rovers. (We are in foot-pack country here! No red coats on horseback!)

But I remember the observations of shepherds of the fox's determination in taking newly born lambs. I know the anger that can be born of "being robbed". I know too the great energy that is used up in hunting by the fell men who take part, so that for them it fulfils the needs of other sports. Yes, some do it to excess but there are those who will do anything to excess, and we have met them in all walks of life!

There are attractions in hunting; it's a human instinct. In Cumbria the Hunt is not snobby, money-based, I'll-gallop-over-your-grass-no-matter-what stuff, but the province of any countryman or woman who feels like going along and contributing to the keep of the pack. Landed gents who take a drop too much whisky, railwaymen, dealers in livestock, farmers, farm men, road menders and wagon drivers, young men, mature and retired men, they all follow the Hunt and drink and sing together afterwards. My hair stands on end at the memory of the bright noise of a horn across the fells on a damp winter morning; the stirring music of hounds on the scent; the stories, often told with admiration, of the fox's skill on the fell; the merry gatherings of hunters and supporters in the pub in the evening, singing the songs their grandfathers sang and telling the jokes their womenfolk would almost rather they didn't tell. I've been there when they were giving cups for homegrown competitions, for singing and tale-telling and even lying.... I have had a whale of a time amongst the hunters and sometimes been privileged to win a cup myself. So I am afraid I am on the side of the devil, since this county, at least, would be very much poorer without the hunt.

I would rather not be able to say that "I saw the last of hunting." It appears to me that Parliamentary pressure is being put on it in a hurry because of the opportunity given by this diminishing this outbreak of disease; that is, while hunting is in the most difficult position it has been in for many years. But that is very much an urban / Labour attitude: if you find a countryman down, give him another good kicking.


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