16 March 2001
Farmer refuses to allow slaughter

By Jeremy Hunt, north-west correspondent

A RURAL rebellion is brewing in Cumbria as sheep farmers question the need to slaughter up to one million ewes to prevent foot-and-mouth disease.

Farmers are refusing to accept the sheep slaughter plan, with some saying they will not allow MAFF staff on to their farms to slaughter perfectly healthy sheep.

Police have confirmed they confiscated firearms from one Penrith farmer who allegedly threatened officials who came to cull his livestock.

Other farmers have received sympathetic phone calls from vets in other parts of the UK who, they claim, have described the cull as a knee-jerk reaction.

They claim that blanket slaughter on such a scale cannot be justified as a means of controlling the further spread of foot and mouth.

Local farmers are threatening to call for independent veterinary inspection of all farms falling within the 3km killing zones around infected holdings.

Some producers are demanding of an outbreak to ascertain the health profile of individual flocks before any decision is made regarding their slaughter.

One Cumbria farmer, who asked not to be named, told FARMERS WEEKLY he believed some farmers would not say if they had foot-and-mouth disease.

“The 3km slaughter zone means that a farmer would be signing the death warrant of his neighbours healthy stock for many miles around.”

He added: “Thats not a position anyone wants to find themselves in.”

Other farmers said the ministry were already struggling to cope with the number of outbreaks and would be unable to cope with the extended cull.

Even if the Army was called in, producers believe it would take several weeks to effect the wholesale slaughter of such a huge number of sheep and lambs.

Ministry officials continue to be strongly criticised for taking several days to confirm outbreaks and then to slaughter and burn the stock on affected farms.

Farmers believe it is wrong to start killing healthy sheep when infected sheep are waiting to be slaughtered and risking further spread of the disease.

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