Brave, admirable, doomed words.
"If the veterinary service does not show me in writing whose animals actually have this disease, no one will enter my farm to kill my animals,”Farmers in Cyprus are tearful, angry and disbelieving of the nightmare into which they have been plunged. Brussels is telling them to kill their animals - they want to know which ones for why should they kill healthy animals? Brussels is telling them to comply with the rules - they want to know why they should. Brussels thinks that compensation will silence the outrage - but one farmer,fighting back tears during the House Agriculture Committee hearing on Monday, said his livestock were like his children:
"They offered me £150 for every adult sheep… and £20 for every lamb [to be culled]. I said to them, ‘I wouldn’t even accept £1,150.The Cyprus Mail reports that the head of the Veterinary Services, Charalambos Kakoyiannis, appears to be as appalled as the farmers.
Then we sat down and looked at another price estimate. I told them to get up and leave and not to come back. The next day they returned, and this time they didn’t even bother to talk to me or ask me to sign anything. They just went ahead and executed the animals.."
"For better or worse, we are in the EU now. I sympathise with your cries of distress and I know you feel as if their animals are like members of your families".
"For better - for worse"? Trusting Cyprus entered willingly into that marriage of 2004. But after all the optimism of the wedding the EU mask drops to reveal something rather worse than a skull. The farmers have no power to resist. Blood-letting and grief has been forced upon them this week by political expediency, not by foot and mouth disease. Now that modern science has provided us with potent inactivated vaccines; now that technical ingenuity has given us the ability - on-site -to diagnose active virus within minutes rather than hours, there is no excuse for the kill first, ask afterwards policy. For what happened in the killing fields of Surrey there was no veterinary or scientific basis; there is none for what is happening under the autumn sun of Cyprus. Anyone who pretends otherwise is a charlatan. All that is lacking is political will.
Emergency vaccination has been used successfully right across the globe in recent years. It works. There has never been a single reported case in the field of an FMD vaccinated animal spreading disease. And the irony is that emergency vaccination is actually permitted by Brussels. But Brussels rules are in place to protect that talisman of protectionism, the status of being "FMD free without vaccination" - so governments will "consider" it and do nothing.
Fotis Fotiou, the Cypriot Agriculture Minister told the farmers that
"any notion that Brussels deliberately wanted to destroy the Cypriot livestock industry was fantastical."Difficult to think of a more effective way had it been so.
Farmers in the UK are now looking at the destruction of their industry - not because of animal disease but because of the supposed cure for it:Zones and restrictions imposed on us by the EU and by a Ministry that will go to all lengths to enforce rules that are mad, bad, cruel, ignorant and senseless.
The battle for a humane animal health policy goes way beyond a fuzzy concern for animal welfare. It is a battle about personal control and responsibility being wrested away from us. The justification for the removal of our freedoms is - as always - that it is for our ultimate good. It is the ultimate cynicism of those high on the drug of power. This is a battle worth fighting.
Yet it is almost too painful. To report on the calamity unfolding in Cyprus and reading the words of the farmers bring back with such grim clarity the sense of desperation and trauma that the killing policy has brought to us in the past decade. It is a recurring nightmare. We feel physically sick. We want to turn away. We want to drown it out, forget it and stop all this. And that is precisely why we must go on.