26 April 2001
‘MAFF ignored pyre buffer zones’

By John Burns, south-west England correspondent

DEVON farmers are believe the Ministry of Agriculture ignored Department of Health guidelines on where foot-and-mouth funeral pyres should be sited.

Guidance earlier this week suggested small pyres of 250 cattle burning over three days should be at least 2km from villages and larger pyres at least 3km.

People within 500 metres of pyres could be exposed to irritants like sulphur dioxide, it said. But some farmers live closer to mass burning sites.

Bridestow farmer Roger Easterbrook discovered a large pyre being built on a neighbouring farm, only 200 metres from his house and buildings.

The pyre was 390 metres long – bigger than needed for just the neighbouring farms stock, he claimed. But no one had informed him of the plans.

Concerned for both his own health and that of his herd – which was still free from foot-and-mouth – Mr Easterbrook contacted MAFF to complain.

A MAFF vet had told him that, with the carcasses so close to his grazing, his herd had a 95% chance of becoming infected.

But the ministry went on to tell him his own stock had already been slaughtered – which proved a surprise considering he was still milking them twice a day.

After that he felt he had no choice but to have his animals slaughtered. He said: “Nobody but nobody, not even the environmental health, was interested.

“Now I see theyve panicked and made emergency evacuation plans for the village which is a mile or more away. We are 200 metres away.”

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