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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
A farmer's negligence
Heddon-on-the-Wall farm
An exclusion zone was set up outside Waugh's farm

Bobby Waugh and his brother had run the pig fattening unit at Burnside near Heddon-on-the-Wall since the mid 1990s, but they had been in pig farming for 40 years.

In February last year their farm was at the epicentre of the foot-and-mouth outbreak that saw in excess of four million animals slaughtered over six months, following 2030 cases.

As the disease took hold, it brought burning pyres, disposal pits and the virtual closure of the countryside.

This was all unknown territory when the first pyre was lit - the first to emit the characteristic smell that was to waft across the nation's rural communities for weeks to come.

Bobby Waugh
Waugh wants a full public inquiry into the outbreak
The three-week trial at Bedlington Magistrates Court saw a video of conditions at the farm the weekend the disease was discovered.

It included shots of listless pigs, with lesions, piled upon each other. One was lying dead in a walkway.

It also showed cutlery among the untreated waste fed to the animals lying in pens, encrusted in pig slurry.

Bobby Waugh maintains the disease came to his pig unit after it was present elsewhere, and wants a full public inquiry into the outbreak.

'Unnatural'

"I'm not frightened of the truth...Tony Blair is," he told the BBC.

The Waughs processed their pigswill at the farm of neighbour Jimmy Brown.

Mr Brown believes the case against Waugh should never have been brought, saying the authorities were looking for a scapegoat and found one in his neighbour.

Doctor Paul Weightman from Newcastle University described the scene he surveyed at Burnside before the farm was closed down last year.

This included a smouldering pile of refuse outside the gates which he said was "unnatural" for any farm.

Scars

He believes that the lessons of last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak still have not been learned, and the disease could reappear through imported meat brought in through air or sea ports.

District Judge James Prowse has found Bobby Waugh guilty of feeding his pigs with untreated waste, not reporting the disease and cruelty to animals.

His practices allowed his pigs to get foot-and-mouth.

Although the purpose of the trial was not to place Waugh at the centre of last year's outbreak, his negligence almost certainly marked the start of the worst epidemic of probably the most infectious disease known to man.

Sheep nearby were infected and took the disease undetected through the markets to much of rural Britain and beyond, in an outbreak that still scars the countryside and the rural economy more than nine months after it ended.



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