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The legal basis for the cull of animals to prevent the spread of Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) is schedule 3 to the Animal Health Act 1981:

3.(1) The Minister may, if he thinks fit, in any case cause to be slaughtered
(a) any animals affected with foot-and-mouth disease, or suspected of being so affected; and
(b) any animals which are or have been in the same field, shed, or other place, or in the same herd or flock, or otherwise in contact with animals affected with foot-and-mouth disease, or which appear to the Minister to have been in any way exposed to the infection of foot-and-mouth disease.


Commentary on this Act follows from Hugo Charlton, Barrister at Law:

There is no legal authority to enforce a precautionary culling policy. The only basis upon which MAFF can slaughter healthy animals without the permission of the owner is if an animal is "suspected of being so affected", or has "been in any way exposed to the infection", in the same field or otherwise in contact with affected animals, or it seems to the minister that an animal has been in anyway exposed.

MAFF slaughter is based on the "in any way exposed" argument, and indeed MAFF vets have produced an argument that any animal within a 3 km radius has been so exposed. In my opinion the legislation does not authorise precautionary culling on this basis, and any attempt to do so would be illegal. The phrase "in any way exposed" has not been defined at law, and in my opinion is not meant to include the remoter risk of long-distance airborne exposure. On this basis a 3-km limit is purely arbitrary.

In any event each case must be considered on an individual basis, and a specific decision in each case by an appropriately qualified official (i.e. a vet). The vet (acting on behalf of the minister if properly authorised) must satisfy himself that the animals in question have indeed been "exposed". Simple enforcement of the 3 km "zone" is not an adequate reason.

In the absence of a specific court order owners of cattle would be entitled to use such force as is necessary to remove trespassers from their land.

MAFF officials may enter property to inspect animals, but not to slaughter them unless the conditions outlined above have been met.

In the event that an owner of animals is of the opinion that they have not been "exposed" it is anticipated the police would support his refusal to allow MAFF officials on his land to carry out a slaughter until a court order had been obtained by MAFF.
Hugo Charlton, Barrister at Law,
Green Party Agricultural Working Group.


Christopher Booker, The Sunday Telegraph, April 1, 2001, p. 14.

No feature of Maff's handling of the foot and mouth crisis has been more bizarre than the way the ministry has been acting outside the law in its attempt to kill off all animals in "three kilometre protective zones" round infected farms even when these animals show no sign of infection.

Even Downing Street was last week forced to admit that Maff has no powers, either under EU or British law, to order the destruction of animals on any holding not directly infected. Yet a key part of Maff's strategy has been to suggest that it does have such powers, and to persuade farmers that, unless they sign a paper agreeing to the slaughter of their animals they will forfeit the right to compensation.

This has particular relevance to the owners of rare breeds who, if they lose their stock, will in many cases never be able to replace them.

Leonora Parsons of Chaddesley Corbett in Worcestershire, one of a handful of owners of Britain's 400 surviving Leicester Longwool ewes, has been told that all her sheep must be slaughtered, because her farm is surrounded by three to which the now well-known west Midlands sheep dealer Kevin Feakins delivered infected sheep early in February.

However since her lovingly protected Leicesters show no sign of infection, ministry officials have no power to insist on their destruction, any more than they did to order the killing last week of an array of rare animals on a farm-park at Berkeley in Gloucestershire, which sent a wave of shock across the West Country. This issue will feature heavily in arguments to be heard in the Kindersley case in the High Court tomorrow. But in the meantime, as even Downing Street concedes, the law is clear. Maff's officials are in no position to order such slaughter and it is outrageous for them to pretend that they are.


The following is by John Gouriet psc FRGS, Chairman of Freedom in Action, 8 April 2001. The articles and paragraphs quoted refer to the Animal Health Act 1981. His comments on the legislation are in brackets and italics.

'3. - (2) (MAFF) Ministers may authorise in writing any veterinary inspector or other officer of the Ministry (provided he or she has proof of being properly qualified) to inspect animals.

(3) A person so authorised may, for the purpose of any inspection to be carried out by him

(a) at all reasonable times, (after 6 p.m. or before 8 a.m. could be considered unreasonable)

(b) upon production of his authority, on demand (by the farmer or owner) Enter on any land or premises, apply such tests and take such samples as he considers necessary.'

'Schedule 3 - Power to slaughter in relation to certain diseases Foot and Mouth (FMD)

32. - (1) The Minister may, if he thinks fit, in any case cause to be slaughtered any animal which is affected or suspected of being affected with any disease to which this section applies; or has been exposed to the infection of any such disease (includes FMD).' ('suspicion' must be founded on sufficient evidence, proof of infection or degree of probability to warrant slaughter. 'exposed' is far too broad a definition and could include all livestock throughout the British Isles as the virus may be wind borne. Inspectors must act reasonably)

'63. - (2) An inspector may at any time enter any land or shed to which this Act applies, or other building or place where he has reasonable grounds for supposing that disease exists or has within 56 days existed;'

John Gouriet writes: In our view MAFF representatives may therefore only enter to test animals and deal with confirmed cases of infection. They may not legally enter private premises for the purpose of destroying healthy stock, without permission, and farmers may refuse entry, using whatever reasonable means necessary to defend their property and their persons from assault and theft (for that is what it is), pending application to the Court for injunctive relief.

a. Brief robust local solicitor to be ready to seek immediate injunction (Outline case to follow)

b. On arrival of any official(s), politely demand production of all MAFF representatives' authority and qualifications in writing; and verifiable certification that all such persons have not been in contact with any animals anywhere during the previous 72 hours.

c. Insist on comprehensive 'Risk Assessment' for animals in question. This must cover all factors e.g. distance from nearest case, time elapsed since, tests, wind direction, habitat, location, exposure to vehicle and human movement, animal resistance levels, rarity, isolation capacity.

d. Insist that all MAFF officials wear clean full protective clothing and boots, masks, and disinfect themselves fully in the presence of the farmer/owner.

e. Insist on independent veterinary inspection if there is any doubt, or suspicion of symptoms.

f. If threatened by MAFF demand that their threats are confirmed in writing.

g. Record all contact/discussions with MAFF, preferably with tape-recorder, and accompanied by friend(s) to provide eye-witness evidence. Refuse entry if the time is unreasonable.

h. Be prepared to challenge MAFF authority and demands to slaughter, insisting on reasons in writing if animals healthy.

But remember it is an offence to conceal or treat symptoms of FMD, or resist cull of FMD stock It is not an offence to take precautions to prevent FMD.

The above provided by:Freedom in Action
"Men have sometimes been led by degrees, sometimes hurried into things, of which, if they could have seen the whole together, they would never have permitted the most remote approach. The people never give up their liberties except under some delusion." - Edmund Burke c. 1790.
Freedom in Action, 32 Addison Grove, London, W4 1ER; Tel: 07831 342 909 or 01984 656256 (T/F); Fax: 0208 994 171 Hon. President: Earl of Kimberley, Chairman: J.P. Gouriet, Hon. Treasurer: C.J.K. Arkell MA FTCA


John Gouriet continues: If your animals are not infected, but under threat of slaughter, the following are suggestions for grounds on which you may argue your case.

Please note that this is offered as a suggestion, it does not constitute legal advice and as each case is supposed to be judged on its individual merits you are urged to consider consulting a solicitor.

Grounds for appealing against a decision to slaughter healthy animals are very slight to say the least and we do not wish to raise peoples hopes. However, we understand that MAFF have given veterinary experts, in affected areas, "a discretion as to how to apply that policy [slaughter] at a local level, taking a number of factors into account; for example:

the risk of airborne infection;

the location of infected areas;

the movement of animals and humans;

and whether animals have been contiguous to infected areas."

Should anyone wish to appeal here is a suggestion of the kind of things an appeal letter might cover:

We, at ... Farm have received notification from you that you are considering the slaughter of our livestock [which breeds?]. We also understand that the tests on the livestock at ... Farm were carried out on [date], but as yet no confirmation of infection has been given. This delay may indicate that infection is not present and may not be confirmed. I do not feel MAFF has the right to slaughter my animals which do not display clinical symptoms and have not been positively tested for FMD.

Given our specific circumstances at ...Farm, I ask you to consider the following relevant circumstances in deciding whether or not to exercise your discretion not to slaughter: Until you have received confirmation that an infection has occurred at ... Farm there are no reasonable grounds for determining that our clients' livestock have been in contact with infected animals.

My livestock are housed within buildings and enclosed yards and have been throughout the relevant period. The risk of infection is therefore extremely low and does not justify a precautionary cull. My livestock have at no time been in close proximity to the livestock on ... Farm. The closest they have been is ... There have been no animal movements on or off our clients' holding for at least ... weeks. There have been no other events within a period of ... days that our clients are aware of that could have enhanced the risk of infection. My livestock have significant value over and above their pure current market value in that they are [hefted flock/pedigree milking herd/pedigree bull (especially for semen production) have organic status.] As a result, the slaughter of my livestock will result in significant further financial loss. Or: My livestock are not kept for agricultural purposes. Neither they nor their offspring will be used for agricultural purposes.

The above suggested letter was drawn up by John Gouriet



Article 8 (1) - "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

Bryn Wayt writes: MAFF are infringing on that "right" by their persecution and intimidation tactics.

MAFF officials are overtly breaking the farmer's Human Rights every day by haranguing phones calls, often during night hours, insisting they are "coming round to slaughter".

Article 8 (2) - "There shall be no interference by a public authority"

There has been so much interference, people are being driven to despair by the intimidation of MAFF officials and their servants.

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