'We can only hope and pray,' say British farmers

For British farmers worried about the future of their livelihoods following the outbreak of foot- and-mouth disease, the snow-white cow could be seen as a symbol of hope.

 'We can only hope and pray,' say British farmers
For British farmers worried about the future of their livelihoods following the outbreak of foot- and-mouth disease, the snow-white cow could be seen as a symbol of hope.

In 2001, during the last outbreak, when millions of cattle and sheep were being culled and incinerated, Phoenix was only a calf and was fortunate to escape the butcher.

Today the animal is thriving, says her owner Philip Board, whose farm is in the south-western English county of Devon.

"We can only hope and pray that the virus doesn't spread and require her to be put to death," the farmer says.

Prayers and hopes are what Mike Clear is relying on too. His cattle breeding enterprise is closer to the farm in Surrey south-west of London where the infected cattle were diagnosed last Friday.

Clear bought his farm 16 months ago - 200 hectares of rolling fields where 160 cows graze.

"We inspect the herd every hour of every day" - the fear of the cattle becoming infected is terrible, he says.

For Derrick Pride it's too late to pray. The 78-year-old is the owner of the farm near Guildford where the outbreak was first detected. He spotted the early symptoms - blisters and foaming mouth - and notified the veterinary authorities.

"We are tremendously grateful to him for immediately raising the alarm, thereby perhaps saving many herds," says the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

Unfortunately for Pride's herd it was already too late - his 60 or so cattle had to be culled. Now he hopes for compensation to be paid soon.

The NFU said Tuesday that the British livestock industry could lose between 10 to 15 million pounds (20.4 to 30.6 million dollars) of income per week due to foot-and-mouth.

The EU, the market for 90 per cent of British meat exports, on Monday declared Britain a "high risk" area for foot-and-mouth, and imposed an export ban on animals and meat from the country.

"There's nothing more we can do," says Surrey-based cattle breeder John Emerson, whose farm lies inside the restricted zone. "The cattle are in the stalls and we can't take them to any market - and even if we could who would buy them now?"

The foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001 made hundreds of farmers bankrupt and the compensation paid came too late to save them.

So farmers are fearful - and angry. Many believe the disease escaped from nearby laboratories at Pirbright.

"We are now confronted by a mess made by others," says Richard Kendall, NFU regional director. He says many farmers are still struggling to overcome the losses caused by the 2001 outbreak.

The mass cull of 2001 still haunts Gordon Nixon, a butcher at that time. He had to slaughter thousands of animals within days and afterwards was diagnosed by a psychiatrist as suffering from Post- traumatic Stress Disorder.

He lies awake nearly every night reliving the experience and is leaving the television off at the moment, "otherwise the pictures would still completely move me."

DPA
Last Mod: 07 Ağustos 2007, 16:25
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