Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Healthy Sheep Are Killed, One by One

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Healthy Sheep Are Killed, One by One

Article excerpt


THE GRIM reality of the killing fields of Cumbria was played out today. Beneath a white canvas tent, slaughtermen and Army butchers picked off healthy sheep one by one as the cull of tens of thousands of animals began in a bid to slow the spread of foot-and-mouth.

The first lorries carrying the sheep arrived at Great Orton near Carlisle today, the sheep bleating as they were driven on to the site.

In what is, perhaps, a symbol of the Government's hesitation and seeming inability to control the disease the first lorry got stuck in the gate and had to reverse back before making a second attempt.

Once on the abandoned runway the sheep were driven into pens and into the slaughtering area to receive a bolt to the head. The steel rod was driven through their brain to sever the spinal cord and ensure death.

After two Maff-licensed vets had inspected the sheep to make sure they were dead, the carcasses were loaded on to lorries and then dumped into giant pits - together with bodies of infected sheep.

On hand to inspect the grisly task was the Commander of Britain's land forces General Sir Mike Jackson, visiting the frontline in the battle against foot-and-mouth. He declared: "It's not an easy job and it's not a pleasant job."

Accompanied by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, he visited the Army-led slaughtering-and-burial operation and pledged to offer any further assistance the Government requested.

General Jackson, who led the British forces in Kosovo, said he hoped the fight against the epidemic could be won, adding: "It's a rather different sort of conflict.

It's not one involving human beings who can't agree with each other, but one involving a very tragic disease in our country."

Brigadier Alex Birtwistle, who is running the operation on the ground, said he was trying to keep two to three days ahead of the rapidly spreading disease.

Despite evidence that the huge backlog of slaughtered animals was growing at the same time as tens of thousands of live sheep were being transported from the firebreak zones for killing, he insisted he had all the necessary resources and assurances that "resources will keep on coming". …

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