19 March 2001
Welfare disaster as crisis deepens
By Alistair Driver and John Burns
A SLAUGHTER scheme for livestock suffering welfare problems because of foot-and-mouth restrictions is unlikely to open until Wednesday (21 March).
Junior agriculture minister Baroness Hayman said she hoped that the scheme would open by the middle of this week, but was unable to give further details.
Farmers have warned of an animal welfare disaster unless they are allowed to move thousands of animals from fields to farms ready for lambing.
Some animals can be moved under strict supervision. But the government is refusing to let farmers move animals from areas classified as infected.
Foot-and-mouth restrictions have left North Devon sheep specialist Graham McCleod with no legal way to avoid a serious animal welfare problem.
He has 2000 fattening hoggs (over-wintered lambs) mostly ready to kill two weeks ago, and over 600 lambing ewes on his 32ha (80-acre) farm.
Well-equipped sheds ready for lambing stand empty on Mr McCleods farm, but his sheep cant be moved from fields which have now turned to mud.
Mr McCleod has another 470 lambing sheep some miles away in other buildings and fields which he planned to bring home to lamb.
The hoggs should have been sold by now and the ewes and lambs moved away to other fields as they lambed, he said.
Mr McCleod said he had begged MAFF officials to take his hoggs under the welfare scheme last week, only to be told that it had not yet opened.
A Ministry vet told FARMERS WEEKLY that Mr McCleod could shoot his sheep, but would receive no compensation unless he did so under the scheme.
He would also have to dispose of them himself at his own expense.
Mr McCleod said he feared he would have to watch his sheep die.
“I am absolutely at my wits end. If I am not allowed to move any more ewes and lambs, I will have no option but to let them kill the lot.
His 2000 hoggs would have been worth around 100,000 when movement restrictions were imposed. Now they are effectively worthless.
“They are going to die anyway if they are not moved away.”
David Hill, National Farmers Union chairman for Devon, said foot-and-mouth disease in the area was now less under control than it was three weeks ago.
Ministry of Agriculture vets working in the county were exhausted and should be replaced with a new team, he told FARMERS WEEKLY.
“Im getting calls from farmers driven to the end of their endurance”.
Welfare problems in infected areas across most of Devon threatened to be truly disastrous and farmers should not be asked to accept the situation, he added.
Foot-and-mouth – confirmed outbreaks
Foot-and-mouth – FWi coverage