By Jim Webster
Another month and still a trickle of FMD cases in the north of England. The cordon around this area has been pulled tight and the roads are patrolled by police and trading standards officers who will pull over and stop not merely farmers, but anyone whose car looks dirty.
I know one chap who was making round bales of silage who struck trouble when he was moving them from one field to another. He was stopped by police who wanted him to open the bale chamber (in the middle of the road, with half an unwrapped bale in it) “because there had been rumours that sheep farmers had been moving rams in the chambers of round balers!” He can only assume the police had been victims of a wind-up merchant.
Also with only seven dairy herds left in the area. Defra announced it was putting a decontamination unit at the top of the drive of each of these farms and every vehicle in or out would be fully decontaminated. One of these units consists of a Landrover, generator, pressure hose, some sort of water source (usually you can hook into a main), disinfectant, one man, and a Portaloo.
In the case of the poor chap stationed outside a friends farm, Defra forgot about him. At one point he had been doing over 36 hours non-stop, sleeping in the back of the Landrover and surviving only because the farmer’s wife was feeding him.
There has generally been a loss of faith in the central authorities. Articles in “Nature” and “Science” have given Defra’s handling of the epidemic a real hammering. In our own area of Cumbria we were left as a tiny island of “at risk area” in a sea of “infected area.”
This area was barely eight miles long and three miles across and Defra in London altered things so no livestock could leave or enter. Everyone, including Defra in Carlisle and our local trading standards people went ballistic over this one. No one could see any point to it.
Ministers have talked openly of killing all 40 million sheep in the UK as a possible option. There are other rumours that the Food Standards Agency has draft legislation already prepared which will ban the sale of lamb that doesn’t carry scrapie resistant genes. The smart money is that the politicians are hyping things up so that when they bring the draft legislation forward everyone nods it through with a sense of relief.
On a final note our Prime Minister did announce that he had taken personal charge of the fight against FMD.
After a couple of months he slunk off on holiday and we didn’t see him for three months. Now he seems to have taken personal charge of the war against terrorism and is jetting around the world telling everyone what to do. So if you find a British Prime Minister in a city near you, disinfect his boots and send him back where he belongs!