11 May 2001
Cull soldier alleges cash scam

By FWi staff

A SENIOR Army officer suspected farmers were deliberately infecting their own animals at the height of the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

A BBC television crew filmed Brigadier Alex Birtwistle talking to a senior Cumbrian police officer a month ago about the illegal movement of sheep.

He told the officer: “People are still transiting sheep illegally, and theres strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that is the case.”

Brigadier Birtwhistle said farmers could be moving sheep either to infect them to get compensation, or to save them from being culled.

His comments were broadcast on a programme called Brigadier Berties Last Stand which was shown on BBC1 on Thursday (10 May).

One month ago, the Army dismissed a front-page story in The Times during which another senior army officer made similar comments.

Trading standards officers have now confirmed that over 500 cases of illegal animal movements have been investigated in Cumbria, the paper says.

So far two farmers have been convicted, six more are awaiting trial and 16 other cases are being processed, it reports.

The National Farmers Union appeared confused by the allegations. The Times reports that Gill Shearer, NFU spokeswoman for Cumbria, conceded that some illegal movements had taken place in the county.

“One or two” cases farmers may have been deliberately attempting to infect their livestock to gain compensation, it reports her as saying.

But The Guardian reported Nick Utting of Cumbria NFU as saying: “There has never been evidence of any farmers moving stock in order to get the disease.”

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Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage