|PAT INNOCENT SAVES HER INNOCENT SHEEP
Astrid Goddard writes :
Pat's sheep were deemed to be "dangerous contacts", and were to be part of an "experimental cull". There was an outbreak about a mile from Pat's home on 19th March. Pat's sheep were all housed since the beginning of March, and most had been housed since the beginning of January.
Pat kept a diary of her own, together with copies of e-mails and letters to friends during her struggle; and like Sue Osborne's diary, it gives us an invaluable record of a period in the history of British farming. In addition to being a reminder of a national disgrace, it is our hope that it may serve as both a warning and an inspiration to our farmers for the future.
I have been forced to leave out quite a few days of Pat's diary, for reasons of length. I have attempted to ensure that the sense of what Pat experienced has not been lost in the process. This lovely caring woman went through months of hell, quite unnecessarily, at the hands of DEFRA and their agents.
Pat tells her story :
Saturday 21 April
I spent till 1am this morning on the phone, and it started again at 7 am, and I didn't get a lot of sleep. My first supporters were here before 8am, and more people kept coming. I thought I'd be lucky to get 6, but there were about 35 in the end.
The ministry vet came with a valuer, a slaughter wagon and two police vans at 11.30, and I had a conversation with him through the padlocked gate (right). The vet wanted to take all the animals away and kill them. My solicitor was there, bless her, and I said if they were diseased, they could go, and if not, they would not go - simple as that, and this vet said that was not their policy. I asked why not and he said "Sheep don't always show symptoms", and I said I knew that, but I know my sheep and I think I'd notice if something was wrong.
I said that actually he didn't know if they were diseased and neither did I, so why didn't we do blood tests and find out? He said it wasn't their policy. I asked why and he couldn't answer. In the end I defeated him by logic, and he went away empty handed, swearing to be back.
They can get an injunction against me, but I have to be in court as well, and my solicitor said they were to go through her. The press were there, and I was on live Radio Gloucester this morning, in the local paper, and made it to National TV. Now I feel like a limp rag, and haven't eaten anything all day. I am quite paranoid that they will come and get me when I'm not looking - they do that, so I will be ready at 8am, and watch the road till dark. Every time a car comes along I have to see who it is. I have padlocked everything so they can't get in, and I feel quite sick about the whole thing. The only good thing is all those wonderful people out there who came to back me up this morning.
I can't think about anything else at the moment. This is my job - protecting my sheep. If they did but know what I am doing on their behalf. They just nag me because they can't get out.
It really pisses me off that they come in and don't tell anyone their legal rights, and imply that the farmer is breaking the law by not letting them in. It's actually them breaking the law by entering without the owner's permission, and they are so underhand it's not true. They lied to me, didn't tell me why the animals were to be culled until I involved a solicitor, and tried to intimidate me, and I'm sure they'll do it again. I am jumpy as hell, and have to see who it is every time I hear a car. Either I am in the kitchen watching the yard, or I am in the study watching the road, or with the animals. Why do I have to live like this?
I still live in fear. Eight people like me in Anglesey won their case yesterday, and our group was demonstrating in the forest again, and MAFF didn't get anything. Now the police are deciding to say you are committing an offence by not allowing them to carry out their duties, and MAFF was on Farming Today again swearing to take out the small farmers because we are a danger to the big ones. We are hanging in here, grasping at straws and talking to each other. We are finding like-minded people, which MAFF don't like - they wouldn't tell anybody who the 35 farmers are. But I know some of them now. Their latest target was an old man who recently lost his wife, and said his sheep were all he lived for now. Did they care? Did they heck. They didn't get them, though...
I just had a visit from Trading Standards, who are acting as
go-between from MAFF and the people they have alienated. 7pm if
you please! I conducted a conversation from the upstairs window.
They said there had been a breakdown in communication between myself and
MAFF, and they were here to try to restore it. I said I supposed you
could put it like that. They seemed quite reasonable but I'm not
trusting them either. At least they listened, and I recounted my
grievances with MAFF and they said they would report all that back. Yes,
well. Apparently, MAFF wants to come and do a "risk assessment". I am
not sure what this means, and I said I would co-operate as long as
They thought that was reasonable, and MAFF is going to call me in the morning. I recounted all the things MAFF had done and tried to do to me, and at least they listened. I called my support group straightaway to get some people on standby. MAFF want to hurry this all along for some reason best known to themselves.
I want to stick it out until Monday, since that will be 3 weeks after the forest sheep cull, which is their outside limits. I am pressing for blood tests, which will sort it out one way or the other. The 35 farms they were targeting - they got 9, and 3 apparently tested positive. So they will be gunning for the other 26. I just look at my lot... big uns and little uns... and they look at me, and I know I have to carry on to the bitter end. If they've got it, I will have to lose them. That in itself is unfair, but to lose them when they haven't got it would be obscene and unforgiveable of me.
I got ten supporters on standby and sat here all day waiting for MAFF, and went out to feed the animals. Fed the animals at 5.30. No-one came. No-one rang. There was a calf in Devon called Phoenix found beside his dead mother 4 days after the cull, and he was going to be killed. He seems to have caught the public imagination, and all of a sudden, the government has decided to change their policy. And my animals could have been dead by 4 days. How obscenely wicked. I hope all those farmers who lost their animals for nothing sue MAFF.
We live in a police state and no one tells us of our rights and they lie to us and just come in with this single-minded tunnel vision kill, kill, kill. I wonder if these people can sleep at night. Some of them are getting £1000 a day, allegedly.
I really hate MAFF for what they are doing. It will all be over by June 7, they say gaily. Guess what? The election is on June 7. There was a meeting tonight locally which my group, my solicitor and a lot of farmers attended, and MAFF is eerily quiet. I suspect the next few days will be traumatic - the forest sheep cull is 21 days old by then, and that makes their case much weaker as the virus is virtually non-infective by that time. They are frantic to kill before then.
I had twins last night. I went down for a cup of tea and to feed Beatrice, and there they were. Two boys, doing well. (Later named Light Grand and Dark Grand. It cost about 2 grand to keep them and the others alive!). Mum is old enough but a first timer. Beatrice is a fat little thing. She is almost on solids, but I'm not encouraging her as I have more milk than pellets.
My solicitor sent some correspondence from MAFF about my circumstances, which was full of inaccuracies - about 8. So I rang the vet who had written it and had a go - correcting them, and said I was asking for tests - is this reasonable? Yes or no? I really can't comment. I am polite and reasonable, but please don't underestimate me. Right. Miss Innocent is not reluctant to allow her flock to be culled. Miss Innocent is determined not to have her flock culled. Right. The question about whether Miss Innocent wants an independent valuation of her sheep is irrelevant until the sheep have been diagnosed as diseased. Irrelevant. Right. Miss Innocent thinks MAFF is insensitive and incompetent. Incompetent. Right. I felt much better after that, so started following other leads. This is my job now.
We have a barrister lined up now, and just need to collect credible scientific evidence. I found an animal scientist who has sheep and is also confined to her farm. She has made it her job to find out everything she can about foot and mouth, and I asked if she would testify for me in court via a phone link if it came to that, and she said she would be delighted - this slaughter is horrific. Her husband is a pilot who worked in Botswana about a year after I did - they both recognised my name! FMD is endemic there - I remember flying some vets up to Maun with vaccines.
I found out you can buy a blood test kit for the disease and do it yourself, so I did that. It was so easy - I just found this guy and said please send me a kit and here is my credit card number. It will arrive on Monday. Not cheap - a pack of 50 costs £350. Of course, MAFF won't recognise it, but he said they are in talks. You have to get some serum from the blood, put it on the slide, add this solution and wait 10 minutes. You get 3 lines - like a pregnancy test - it tells you whether the animal has ever had the disease, has got it now, or has had it and recovered. It will give me peace of mind and more determination. My vet has to get permission from MAFF to come here to take blood, and I'm sure they will make this as difficult as possible.
Monday 30 April
I rang MAFF and complained, and got quite a reasonable lady for a change. They went round to everybody, and now one of the people has had a heart attack and gone to hospital. They'll have a murder charge laid at their door if they aren't careful. Dear God, where are we going?
Anyway, we conducted a conversation with me at the upstairs window and her in the road, and her stooge in the car. She seemed quite reasonable, so I said I'd check her out and decide whether I'd let her in. She seemed pretty appalled at what had gone on. Anyway, she is coming at 3pm tomorrow, and I am going to get 2 witnesses here, but that's all. They have had far too high a press profile, and lots of people reckon they are running scared now, especially as this poor chap has had a heart attack. That was all over ITV and BBC TV. He is comfortable now, anyway. They have mounted a 24-hour guard over their sheep - all 3 of them - since this began. Someone else has lived for 5 weeks in his sheep hut. At least I have been warm and comfortable at home. The things we do to keep our sheep safe. Someone else has a huge lamb in the kitchen. At least Beatrice is quite small and lives safely in the passage.
MAFF seemed to think they had been running round the forest, which is why I had been targeted. I think they would have targeted me anyway, because the agenda is KILL SHEEP. It's like a huge machine chanting KILL SHEEP KILL SHEEP KILL SHEEP like a brainless dalek.
They are so inoffensive and harmless, and can't spread FMD more than 0.7 km even if they have got it. Anyway, after this, I apologised to this vet for having sent her away the day before and insisting on having witnesses, and she said after what had gone on she could understand, and under other circumstances we could probably have enjoyed a few glasses together at the local. So some of them are quite human - it's just finding out which ones. One of my spies said she was okay.
So now I am hoping to get a B notice, which lifts quite a lot of restrictions. I also found a practising vet to do my blood tests, and my expert witness has had a long chat with my solicitor. Even if I win, we have to keep fighting for the others.
A woman in Scotland, Carolyn Hoffe, barricaded her five rare breed sheep in her living room and appealed against the cull. The court (in Scotland) threw it out, and 2 vets, 3 police officers and some Ghurkhas broke in destroyed them. Last night. There was nothing else left to infect these sheep or be infected by, so it was pure vindictiveness by MAFF because she made a fuss. All the press were there, and they did it anyway.
We are a long way from the end of all this, but we are still here 2 weeks after the slaughter team first came round.
I sat here and cried when I read this. Another report on Carolyn Hoffe, I think from the Telegraph, including these words: "Her farmhouse was found to be one metre within the three-kilometre culling zone of a foot and mouth outbreak. Five policemen, two gurkhas, two vets, a slaughterman and a valuer barged their way through her mother's separate front door and began hammering on hers. As Vicky Clegghorn, the vet, crossed the threshold Carolyn looked her in the eye and said: 'You are a traitor to your profession'. The sheep died by lethal injection in a room with its bookshelves full and family portraits on the wall. 'They were still. I could not bear to look into their open, trusting eyes. What happened to my sheep was evil,' she says. 'This was the slaughter of the innocents. This was officialdom gone crazy.'
He wept on television but says he is fighting on. Dear God, what have we come to. I thought the case was today, so I rang Taunton MAFF and protested and sent them an e-mail. This guy has six families dependent on the farm, and MAFF is determined to cull. The barrister reckons this could be a very important case for us all - if the farmer wins, MAFF will be proved to have killed a load of healthy animals for nothing - which we all know - and people will begin to ask why. If MAFF wins, we can expect more harassment from them, so I am keeping my ear close to the ground.
But they are still alive as of this moment, and have people blocking the lane in several places. I want to go and help them, and the pig farmer in Leicestershire, and the cattle farmer in Cumbria, and the other cattle farmer in Devon. Except mine are not yet in the clear, so I have to stay here. I have 9 outside tonight, fed and boraxed and totally oblivious to the danger they have been in. I went to town today, to pay bills and stock up, and pretend to be a proper human being again.
I bought a big chain, a hasp and three padlocks to make my place even more secure - I am far more afraid of MAFF than any burglar. Well, it's nearly Friday, nearly another MAFFless week over.
Lambs are good for the soul. Something the MAFF butchers will never understand. Andy Hurst lost - he is an organic farmer near Juanita, and we've all been following him for about 10 days - messages like please help us, thank you for the blood tests, we are being threatened, send more protesters. It was just heart-rending. Then a one-liner yesterday: "They came last night and murdered my sheep".
That could have happened to my Victoria - the slaughterers were here on the Saturday 21 April, and the grand twins were born on Thursday 25. The forest is quite lovely now - all green and vibrant with bluebells everywhere. It is nice and hot and all the sheep are out. They can come in or go out as they wish, but Beatrice seems to spend the night on the platform.
So I said if that is satisfactory, the sheep will be inside and I will hold them. If not, the sheep will be in the field and it will be padlocked. So he said I would have to take this up with the vet concerned, and she would ring me in a day or two. I then spent about three hours ringing round the rest of my gang, so didn't get too much tidying done outside.
MAFF really know how to ruin your day. And one bit of good news - a big local farm came back negative - they were the last of the A notices to be tested 3 weeks ago, so they have ALL come back negative. And one bit of bad news - a farmer in Drybrook had his sheep culled several weeks ago, and MAFF has lost all the paperwork. They won't get compensation and the sheep weren't tested.
I keep hearing stories that this is going to go on until the end of the year, so I will be in trouble by then with the mortgage. Beatrice leaped off a bank, and the poor wee thing missed and fell on her back. I sat outside with them yesterday for about an hour, watching them do sheepy things. Some of them came up and breathed on me. I hope they appreciate what I am going through for them.
So I said I wanted to consult my solicitor, and in any case they couldn't come this week because I was too busy attending anti-MAFF rallies and demos. I enjoyed saying that. I went to a rally in Worcester on Sunday and stood outside MAFF offices holding a banner and shouting. I just don't do this sort of thing! There's another one in London tomorrow, which I will go to if I can get a lift.
I have got a MAFF vet and a private vet, both clean for 72 hours, coming at the same time, so getting my own blood samples as well. I have a witness, too - she is just a friend who came to lunch and stayed, to keep it low key. The sheep will be indoors and we are all going to co-operate, then we have to wait 2 or 3 weeks for the results. At least the sheep only have to be stuck once.
I did my blood tests and they were all negative. I still feel pleasure that the sheep are here, and admit to a tinge of pride that they were STILL here because of what I and other people have done. I remember when those MAFF men went away with their tails between their legs on Saturday 21 April, I went down to see the sheep, and screamed at the poor things: "I SAVED YOU! I SAVED YOU!"
Another thing the French are better at than we are - civil disobedience. We just seem to lie down and let "authority" walk all over us. All except an under-rated band of middle-aged women. Some of us are advocating civil disobedience, but the British aren't very good at that.
Freedom is something you take, not something you wait to be given.
Postscript: Because of Pat's tenacity and determination, all her sheep are still alive. As you may have guessed, the first and last pictures on this page are of Beatrice.
Photographs by Astrid Goddard