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Frontline Scotland
"Farmers are waiting to see if sacrifice will save their industry"
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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Frontline Scotland: Outbreak

The following is the full transcript of Frontline Scotland's Outbreak broadcast on Tuesday 17 April.

LINDA CARRUTHERS: This is our farm here, and the virus has swept right up our road around to this farm over here, and then right up the road again to the farm over here.

I'll never forget it. It's imprinted on your mind forever. It's horrible.

This was where we found four in-calf heifers and, eh, they were frothing at the mouth, and champing their lips together, and then we got the ministry vet out and we found out that we had foot-and-mouth.

CATHERINE CARRUTHERS: Within three hours of feeling a lump we went back out again after he'd been on the phone to London, and he put his hand in to take a scrape off the tongue, and the whole tongue came off in his hand. It's . . . people who say they recover from this just haven't a clue.

LINDA: This is the lamb hutch where the pet lambs were kept, and started to die on us.

CATHERINE: That was the hardest bit, the pet sheep, and eh. . .

LINDA: This is now what is left of all the animals on our farm. There was about 850 ewes and lambs, and 367 cows, bulls and calves.

IAN CARRUTHERS: I just had to pay my dairyman off yesterday. I had to tell him that he hadn't a job anymore, because I'm certainly not going to milk cows anymore, I'm not watching that again, never. I'm not watching that again.

LINDA: This is our most recent shed to house the suckler cows. But now, as you look at it from the inside, there's not a thing to be seen.

IAN: You're hearing on the telly, the government saying you know, we've got it under control and everything, and all the rest of it. They haven't. They haven't. It's just completely out of control like.

News Bulletin:

"Five more farms in Dumfriesshire are being tested for suspected foot-and-mouth. It comes with the number of outbreaks in the region now in double figures with 11 infected.

"Misery for south-west Scotland's farming community this morning with seven cases of foot-and-mouth now confirmed in the region.

"Dumfriesshire are being tested for suspected foot-and-mouth. It comes with the number of outbreaks in the region now in double figures."

EUAN McILWRAITH: On 1st March the foot and mouth virus hit Dumfries and Galloway. The prime minister delayed his election plans to take personal control in the battle against the disease. Seven weeks on and the daily total of infected farms continues to rise.

Frontline has been following the fight, and this is the story of how the battle against the disease has been fought in Scotland through the eyes of those most closely involved.

It's two weeks since the first case, and Dumfries and Galloway's emergency planning operation is in full swing. Helplines have been set up to advise the many farmers who feel they may be caught up in the outbreak. They've also called in experts from across the area. Disinfectant mats have been put across major roads. But, as new cases keep appearing, there's a growing feeling that these measures aren't enough.

Meanwhile movement restrictions on all animals are in place, and even pregnant ewes can't be brought into shelter to give birth.

KEN WYLIE: I got out this morning, with the cold night it was, you get a pile of lambs like this - dead lambs. This is heartbreaking . . . this is serious. I hate it. But what made it worse this afternoon any lambs that were lying about, and their mothers weren't with them, or had gone away, the crows were coming in and they were pecking.

So this is the result. I mean 25 yards from there to there. I could hook a trailer on, load them into the trailer, and reverse out there. Why won't they let us do that? It's a bad time to be farming to be quite honest.

EUAN: With many isolated and worried farmers in the area the bunker also includes a welfare line.

It's staffed by volunteers, including Samaritans, to make sure that no one is pushed over the edge.

JIM (Welfare Officer, Dumfries & Galloway Council): We know that from the last outbreak that some of the farmers will be at risk to their health. They'll be at serious risk to their own health.

We know from kind of general knowledge that it's a high risk profession anyway, so we're starting from that, and obviously this doesn't make things any better. We're concerned about their . . . what should I say . . .their mental health.

BBC Radio Scotland News:

: William McIntyre is the SNFU's regional chairman from Dumfries and Galloway

WUFFY McINTYRE: It seems so ironic. I mean I was in the sheep shed this morning and I brought a little lamb into life, and you know, tomorrow . . . I'm sorry.(Wuffy upset)

WUFFY: Last week has been absolutely hellish. To put an every day farmer through the hell that Dorothy and I have been through in the last week is absolutely . . . the only word for it is 'criminal'.

EUAN: Signs of foot and mouth have been discovered on Wuffy McIntyre's cattle. But the blood test needed to confirm the disease can take up to 11 days, while the virus can spread in hours.

Wuffy is surrounded by affected farms and fears the worst.

WUFFY: There's an old pet ewe up there and she's been a very good friend to me because she leads all of the sheep in for dippings and gatherings, and that same ewe's going to lead all of my flock into slaughter, the same ewe's going to do it, and it's going to be very difficult. People don't realise the emotion attached to the job. And since BSE 99.9 of farmers . . .they've done this job for love.

News Bulletin:

"The foot and mouth crisis in Dumfries and Galloway is deepening as preparations are finalised for a pre-emptive cull of thousands of sheep which are potentially carrying the disease. The wider slaughter policy is expected to begin tomorrow."

EUAN: Tens of thousands of uninfected animals will be killed in an attempt to check the outbreak by the creation of a three kilometre area clear of livestock. The hope is that the disease won't jump that firebreak.

SUSAN BLACK (Communications Manager, Dumfries & Galloway Council): Well, I mean we're doing here in the bunker, and certainly the farming community has got a bunker mentality now. They're holed up, and they're not coming out until it's over. We've just taken a number of calls since one o'clock since the announcement, people very distressed. 'Is my farm in the three kilometre area, or is it not?' and you know, sometimes it's good news, sometimes it's bad news.

EUAN: The announcement of the cull of healthy animals was the worst news that Billy McMorran had heard in over 40 years of farming. Billy and his wife Mary face losing all their stock if a nearby farm with a suspect case of foot and mouth is confirmed.

MARY McMORRAN: We've been married 42 years tomorrow, since we were married, and that's the first time I've saw Billy in tears in all that time. And he's had a lot of ups and downs, but that's the first time ever I've saw him in tears.

BILLY McMORRAN: I didn't realise it was coming so near, and I was shocked and dismayed.

EUAN: What was it like as it got closer?

BILLY: More anger and more dismay, and fright to be honest, sleepless nights by all means. But I didnae come into farming to make money, but I came into it to enjoy farming. I was a shepherd before that, and that was my entire satisfaction was in farming sheep and Galloway cattle which I'd worked with all my life.

EUAN: So what's the waiting like?

MARY: Terrible, mental cruelty near enough I would say. That's the worst part of it is waiting.

Voice of Ross Finnie MSP (Rural Affairs Minister, 13/03/2001): What I have said, and I made this clear to the Council, that the very first place I will visit at an appropriate time will be Dumfries and Galloway. I don't judge this to be the right time.

ANDREW CAMPBELL (Convenor, Dumfries & Galloway Council): Normally we have to fight for every crumb we get from the Scottish Executive at this minute in time, and so when we find ourselves in a position of carrying the burden for the rest of Scotland with this foot-and-mouth disease we do look for leadership coming from the Scottish Executive, and I do think, and I was tipped off by the media today that we may get the first minister and Ross Finnie tomorrow. If that's the case well then, we would welcome that greatly because that's the sort of leadership we've been asking for ten days now.

ROBIN SPENCE: We, as farmers, realise that we're going to be left with perhaps half our business, or whatever percentage of our business, we have to sacrifice the sheep.

EUAN: So were you prepared for that a couple of weeks back, or a couple of days ago anyway that you were going to lose them?

ROBIN: Well, I knew it was on the cards, so it was always there.

EUAN: Did you just kind of hope it wasn't going to happen, or did you suddenly realise?

ROBIN: Well I knew it needed to happen. That was the worst thing. I mean, that's the whole problem, I mean it needs to happen. If we've to have any chance of staying here with our cattle, be it a dairy herd or whatever cattle you have, if you've to have any chance, or pigs even, we have to have the sheep away to try and contain it. And not only for us here, but for the rest of Scotland. I mean if we're going to have any chance of maintaining the whole of Scotland they have to stop it here before it gets out.

EUAN: After many calls for help, Scottish ministers are due to visit the region to witness the progress of the cull. But waiting for them is a family and a plea for mercy.

EUAN: This is?

Janet Rogerson: Woolly. He's lovely. He's been with lots of human beings when he was a baby his mother was ill, and later on he was a cruelty case, and nursed back to health. So he doesn't actually think he is a sheep. He's not near any sheep. He can't sniff at any sheep. So that's a wee bit sad maybe for him, but in this situation it's a god send.

EUAN: He's in the area ?

Janet: He's in our garden.

EUAN: So what is the threat facing Woolly?

JANET: Because he's now in the three kilometre area this means that he's got a death sentence on him. And I said: 'Well, he's not a flock, he's one sheep', and they're saying it doesn't matter. And I registered him when I got him with the agriculture people to keep everything right, so he's on the computer, they know we've got him. We thought of hiding him, but it's not an option. Our only option is to protest and hope that common sense prevails.

EUAN: It's now 16 days since this whole tragedy started, and it's 16 days that these ministers haven't been here. So there were some very important questions to be answered as to why they haven't visited here before.

ROSS FINNIE (MSP): I mean I was in a very difficult position. I mean here I was in Edinburgh making statements that, you know, I was telling people not to go into areas, or go near the areas. The whole feeling that if I had been filmed, no matter, I mean they wouldn't have filmed me coming into these buildings, I'd have been filmed at some other place.

EUAN: So you're stuck no matter what happens?

ROSS FINNIE: I think I was caught in a bit of rock between a hard place.

EUAN: Do you think he should have been down earlier or not?

Personally, yes. I would have preferred if they had come down earlier.

ROSS FINNIE: What was very upsetting was that some days ago I made it clear to MSPs and MPs personally that this was the first place I'd come to. But unfortunately my overstretched office got a phone call from some news agency, and someone said, looked at my diary and said:'There are no plans' Well, there weren't because it was not a fixed date. But I had no plans. So I mean I had no hesitation in coming here. It was never . . . I never had any kind of, you know 'I'm not coming'.

ANDREW CAMPBELL: It's not that we don't feel that we can't manage our affairs down here, yes we can. But we need to make sure that it is recognised as a Scottish issue, and it's not being pushed down in Dumfries and Galloway who doesn't belong to Scotland, and we're very sensitive to that.

HENRY McLEISH (First Minister):
What struck me speaking to the NFU today was the deep emotions, because this is about farmers, it's about families, and I just got the sense today for the first time that this goes well beyond adding up the number of sheep. I'd like to try and reassure the wider community here that as first minister this was a good exercise today to be close to the issue.

DOROTHY McINTYRE: Today is one of the perfect spring crispy blue skied days. Only one mar on the horizon, and it's a horrendous one.

WUFFY: It's not what we had planned for a day like this. This is a wonderful day for lambing sheep and different things, and today we are gathering everything in for slaughter.

Twenty past twelve on Wednesday night. Absolutely unbelievable how 13 years of work is burnt away so quickly.

LINDA CARRUTHERS: We were hoping to be going back to school last Monday, but we phoned the ministry.

EUAN: When a case has been confirmed the whole family are put in quarantine, and left isolated from the farm.

LINDA: I haven't seen my friends for about a month now, but I've been keeping in touch over the phone. You have to get by as best you can, it's just a good job I've got three brothers and a sister, so it's easier that way. I'd hate to have any less because there'd just be nothing to do.

Now, we're going to take the dogs for a walk. We take the dogs down here every day because this is about the only place on the farm, these fields, where we can breathe in fresh air. There are fires all around us here. But luckily the smoke's not blowing in this direction. Then here we are back home after our walk.

These are the slats where we kept the bulls. Everything is rather quiet now. Just the birds. Here's the calving shed. Strange being able to hear your voice echo. This is our back porch windows. And you probably can't see it very well but the window's actually got a film of grease on it because of all the fat off the animals burning.

News Bulletin:

"The pre-emptive foot-and-mouth cull on sheep potentially harbouring the disease is expected to begin today. The local emergency planning team met with state vets for over two hours yesterday to finalise the details."

EUAN: Despite everyone's best efforts the cull isn't going fast enough. And sheep continue to infect valuable herds of cattle that many farmers had hoped to save.

ROBIN SPENCE: I had always had the hope that if we got the sheep away the cattle might stay, but you know, it hasnae happened. But realistically we're quite resigned to that because with two places confirmed next to us on Sunday, and it's all round about us, and we'd sort of . . . .you hope and pray, but we knew it was coming.

I realised the cull wasn't going to be going quick enough to take the sheep out, so it's still very sad. And the only thing to do is actually once you see it on the cattle, the fact you're putting them down quickly for the welfare makes it easier I suppose.

The best way I have of dealing with it is just saying well, they're for slaughter eventually, but unfortunately it's been the waste of it, the waste of it is really the sort of terrible bit, and some superb cattle there today, and it just seems such a criminal waste to be just putting them down for this.

WUFFY McINTYRE: We have seen so many fires now, you know, we think this greyness is just a part of the landscape at the moment, and it will get better. We've got very few left to burn in this part of the world.

I've lost the total of about 4,200 sheep and 700 cattle. There's about 25,000 acres of land here, no stock left on it, and this is only 25th March, just one month after t'other.

JANET ROGERSON: What we are actually living through is an animal holocaust. It feels like a war zone, it's smells horrible, it's like the Gestapo - nobody is listening, they are just following orders, blindly following orders.

I think the disease is way out beyond three kilometres for a start. From what I've read, scientific papers, this three kilometre circle, I don't know where they've got it from, but there's nothing . . . on a calm day on the last outbreak the disease spread 10km on a calm day, which was unfavourable, and it was warm. And on a windy cold day 100km, so I don't know where they get the three kilometres from. They've just been grabbing at straws, there's been no coherent policy, they haven't thought it out, they haven't thought the next step. You listen to the radio every day the policy on how they're dealing with this changes by the hour.

JIM WALKER (NFU) at media conference:

"The government's tactics are absolutely right. Any talk of vaccination is completely absurd. The disease has spread so wide that there is no way vaccination could be effective. I'm not predicting anything, nobody's predicting anything at this stage, least of all when this disease will be over."

JIM WALKER: It was based on science in the early days and it was all done very, very strategically, and everybody knew what they were supposed to be doing. They knew that the disease had to be killed out, they had to be burned and the logistics were in place to do that - maybe not quickly enough, but they were there. Now we're in a completely different ball game and that's the problem. Science knows why it's happening, and science can't control it.

News Bulletin:

"It's been announced that the Army's to be drafted in to Dumfries and Galloway to help with the pre-emptive foot-and-mouth cull. Military personnel will offer logistical support to slaughtering teams. It comes with the number of confirmed foot and mouth cases in the region, now at 62."

BRIGIDIER MUNRO (at media conference):

"I would expect to see next week somewhere up to 60 to a 100 soldiers on the ground in small teams, and we will develop that as we see necessary, and as the situation develops."

EUAN: So late in the afternoon here in the bunker, and there's a sense of confusion here at the moment, and possibly a sense of panic, though very much controlled panic. According to Scottish Office figures there are now 49 cases of confirmed foot and mouth here in Dumfries and Galloway. But if you look at the board behind me you can clearly see there's 58 on the board. That's four up since lunchtime, and there's a growing sense that perhaps things are getting out of hand.

SUSAN BLACK: I certainly feel as if the outbreak has got away from us. In the last couple of days it's, "out of control" is an emotive word, but they're coming in too fast, and em. . .

EUAN: Looking at that map behind you, it's just all over the place.

SUSAN: It is, and they're coming in thick and fast.

EUAN: One particular suspect cast is causing concern. It's an isolated outbreak to the west of the region many, miles from the main outbreak. If it is foot-and-mouth, then existing control measures may not be enough.

SUSAN: Well, we've got our fingers crossed about that one.

EUAN: How worrying would it be if it was a case?

SUSAN: It would be devastating because we really feel that that cull has got the thing under control over there.

EUAN: The case was confirmed, and on the neighbouring farm Billy McMorran will lose everything.


(reads letter): We're going to be slaughtered it says.

Daughter reads letter: Farms next to premises where a case has been confirmed, therefore, need to be treated as dangerous contacts and susceptible routine slaughter due to risk of spread.

BILLY (on telephone): We really thought that within four days of being told were clear, if it hadn't come up we would have been getting a letter to say that we're clear, that's how near we were.

BILLY: It's just it seems so final. Our stock was not affected with foot-and-mouth, so they have no foot-and-mouth. It seems strange that they're taking a clean stock of sheep away and cattle.

MARY: I've just bought two wee white Galloway heifers. I've always wanted them. For a long time I was wanting a white Galloway, and eh . . . they're two lovely little cattle, but they'll have to go too. That's the bitter part that I'm going to miss the most I think.

EUAN: How long had you wanted them, and when did you get them?

MARY: I got them in January, and I've wanted them for what. . .?

BILLY: Thirty years.

MARY: Well, near enough, aha.

News Bulletin:

"A burial site's been identified south of Lockerbie for up to a 250,000 sheep to be slaughtered as part of the pre-emptive cull in Dumfriesshire. The site at Birkshaw Forest is expected to become operational within a matter"

News Bulletin:

"The Scottish foot-and-mouth outbreak has spread for the first time beyond Dumfries and Galloway with a confirmed case just across the region's boundary in the Scottish Borders."

ANDREW CAMPBELL: Optimism can be dashed, but you've got to keep the optimism up, keep your pecker going, and try and look for tomorrow. Very difficult at this minute in time, but we will get a break, surely we'll get a break, and that's what we need badly.

JANET ROGERSON: We walked up here with our vet, and eh . . . he put Woolly to sleep just behind the dumper, and he was lifted out of the garden by my husband and the vet, and that was the end of the silly tale. I'm angry obviously from a personal point of view about Woolly, but I'm also angry about all the other animals that are being killed. Senseless slaughter. It symbolises people trying to solve a disease using 19th century methods - cull, shoot, take out live animals. This is how we solve a disease in the 21st century.

EUAN: Wuffy McIntyre and Robin Spence are now involved in planning the cull. But for those who have been through it the mistakes of the past are all too obvious.

ROBIN SPENCE: I don't think you need to be a scientist to understand that if you have an outbreak of something sitting in a farm, and all the animals that had the disease were incubating the virus and sending it out into the atmosphere and it can be windborne, I would have thought it was pretty much common-sense that you need to remove the stock immediately round about it, because they're potentially going to be infected by it. If that had been done with every initial case in the first 30 we certainly would not be at the stage we're at now. Well I think the big problem is the vets on the ground were wishful to have this thing contained, but time and time again down to London, oh no blood tests . . . they could not make decisions, never mind whether they were the right decisions, they couldn't even make decisions.

EUAN: The decision to cull will cost 37m in compensation. So far a 330,000 animals have been destroyed. Meanwhile farmers in the rest of Scotland wait to see if the sacrifice in Dumfries and Galloway will save their industry.

Robin Spence says he'll start again.

Billy and Mary McMorran will restock, and pass the farm onto their son.

At Glingafoot there'll be no more dairy cattle. The memories are too powerful.

And as for Wuffy McIntyre it's just another chapter in his life story.

WUFFY McINTYRE: Why did I light the pyre? I think I might have got involved in the whole thing and it just seemed the right thing to do. You hold the cord at your mother's of father's funeral, and I don't think my stock getting burnt was . . . it was slightly different, but only slightly different.

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