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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 February 2006, 02:20 GMT
The battle to recover
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News

Phoenix the calf with her owner Michaela Board
Phoenix the calf was a rare good news story

Farmers and those in tourism were the worst affected by the foot-and-mouth outbreak and five years on many are still struggling.

Here are three stories from those who have fought to maintain a livelihood.


If there was one story that captured the heart of the nation during the dark days of the outbreak, it was the story of Phoenix the day-old calf, who escaped an initial cull and was then saved when government policy subsequently changed.

Owner Philip Board ran Clarence Farm, near Axminster in Devon, but says he no longer has the heart to farm.

We had 70 cows and sheep. All of them went. It was absolutely horrendous.

We had been farming all our lives and all of a sudden the countryside was bare and all you could smell was the smell of death.

[The media attention] was amazing at the time. I woke up one morning and thought it was daylight, there were so many lights outside. I thought 'what the hell have we done'.

I haven't got the heart to go back into farming
Philip Board

The whole world descended on us, we were getting phone calls from Australia and America.

It is very quiet now. My brother runs the farm. I just spend my time doing landscaping and digger work.

Phoenix is on her third calf, she had it last week.

At the time my wife said 'let's call her lucky'. But with all the fires I said we should call her Phoenix.

I haven't got the heart to go back into farming. I don't really miss it because there is so much paperwork and red tape.

It is depressed [in the area]. There was one or two farms that packed it in. It is not the place it used to be.


Harriet Sykes runs a holiday cottage business and family farm at Talkin Head, near Carlisle in Cumbria.

It is still so raw. Everyone keeps saying it's five years but it seems like yesterday.

We had a notice from Maff [the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, now Defra], stopping all sort of movement on and off the farm.

We closed the holiday cottage from March through to December. That meant no income.

We have recovered remarkably well, but it has left scars emotionally.
Harriet Sykes

We had had a very good year in 2000. We even afforded a holiday.

But in 2001 any investment we should have done wasn't done. We are only just beginning to catch up.

The farm I live on is a family farm. My parents were still farming it. They lost all their cattle, 45 years of Holstein breeding. There were 100 milkers in the herd plus youngsters, 500 sheep that had all just lambed, so a thousand lambs.

They were all destroyed.

Life has become harder. A few farmers have gone out of business, moved on and sold their farms.

Dead cows lying in field
The outbreak sparked a crisis in farming across much of the UK

With all the changes in the Common Agricultural Policy, people are thinking "oh God what's coming next".

We did get help in terms of marketing, to relaunch ourselves, help with computers.

But we do now need to keep ourselves on top of the market.

I think we have recovered remarkably well, but it has left scars emotionally. Things aren't the same. In farming terms it is hard to look forward with any certainty about anything. Bureaucracy has gone mad for no particular purpose.


Kevin Feakins runs Hill Farm, near Llancloudy, Herefordshire, and was one of the farmers who inadvertently brought the virus south.

He has been fighting a legal battle ever since with Defra, who he accuses of leaving a lagoon of polluted water at his farm and a host of other damage. Last May he won a court judgement against the department, but says he is still waiting for the clean-up to start.

It wiped us out. They smashed our farm to smithereens, ripped buildings apart.

We were one of the first farms they handled. They buried a huge amount of stuff.

They took about 300 cattle, about 700 or 800 sheep. They left some of our animals that had got over to a neighbour's farm. They never collected them. They never took any of the neighbours out in fact.

They made an absolute cock-up of it. They were city people trying to handle a country job. We had a woman vet who used to burst into tears because of the stress of it. There were so many different vets.

We have considered moving and leaving for Australia - the industry there is run by country minded people
Kevin Feakins

They buried all the chemicals. They were ordered to remove all the things they had seized, like the contents of our toolshed, water troughs, gates, doors. It polluted our borehole, our water supply.

They have never carried out the court order. They have argued the route onto the farm wasn't suitable. We told them you can go whatever route you want as long as you repair the damage.

They have just this week signed a licence to do the work, five years after.

I'm very bitter with Maff. You would never expect a government to behave like that. They were more like the mafia.

We have had to farm for the last five years with half or a quarter of the amount of livestock. We just can't house them.

My two sons have gone elsewhere. I had two full-time employees. They have gone. It is just my wife and myself now doing a few sheep and a few cattle. You can't make a living.

I don't think the government have learned any lessons. They are still importing meat from countries that are unsafe.

We have considered moving and leaving for Australia. A friend of mine has gone. The industry there is run by country-minded people.

'Human tragedy' of foot-and-mouth
07 Oct 05 |  Lancashire
New foot-and-mouth action urged
02 Feb 05 |  UK Politics


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