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I thought this might amuse you. Can you remember when I was having the dickens of a job finding out whether I could send my organic beef and lamb to my son and family in France?

I was sent spinning around every conceivable agency and organisation, embassy and Government department, both English and French; not one, it appeared, had the faintest clue as to any rules or regulations governing the export of meat from the UK to France.

Eventually I was told to contact Eblex (in England) by the French Department of Agriculture (in France). My luck changed as I was recommended to one importantly busy Jean-Pierre Garnier, the font of all knowledge surrounding matters such as the import of meat to the EU from the UK.  Jean-Pierre, jetting to Dubai (he’s very, very busy), was unable to speak to me personally, but his delightful PA contacted him mid-air and within minutes confirmed what she had thought to be the case. You do nothing. That’s right. Nothing. I was given the green light to stuff my case, pockets, shoes and bag with squishy lumps of meat. Or, of course, which was my preferred option, to send over my usual insulated, vac-packed and labelled boxes of the stuff.
“So it’s nothing, then? Rien?” I was slightly sceptical…

The piece I subsequently wrote was picked up and published in the Countryman magazine. Sam, a sheep farmer in the South East, mailed me. He thought it was a bit ironical considering.

“Considering what?”

“Considering the notice Johann Tasker saw a few weeks back.” (Johann Tasker is an editor on the Farmers’ Weekly)

“What notice?”

“The one at Paris Orly Airport.” Sam very kindly forwarded me a photo of said notice.

I was gob-smacked. Truly, yes. My jaw fell open, hit my boots and stayed there.

I just had to get hold of Johann to see if he would mind if I showed it to you. He said “Go ahead” (nice man) “though it’s not tip-top as it was taken on my phone.”

So here it is. Squint a bit, improvise. But you’ll get the gist. A Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) warning notice, prohibiting the import of any meat or dairy products into France from the UK.  And, please, do tell me what you think is going on…!

the notice at Paris Orley Airport taken a few weeks ago by Johann Tasker

the notice at Paris Orly Airport taken a few weeks ago by Johann Tasker

bluetongue’s winter warmer

Now here’s a thing. I had a fit of the giggles. Actually it was probably a touch of mini-hysteria; the uncontrolled, raucous, thigh-slapping, tears-pouring-down-face kind, coloured by total disbelief. Wishful thinking there – what I would hope to be total disbelief.

In this week’s New Scientist under the heading ‘Bluetongue’s Winter Warmer we were told about the distinct possibility of bluetongue virus overwintering in the unborn calf cosseted and protected by the cosy bubble of bovine uterine warmth.

And as those hungry veracious biting midges reappear (the end of the non-vector period was the 15th March) these bonny babies would become a delicious fresh source of the bluetounge virus. Hey-presto! Yup, you have it in one.

Pirbright suggest there should be additional controls targeted at newborn animals. Now, me-wonders, what on earth have they in mind? No vaccine around yet. Could only be one other thing.

And if that’s not sinister enough – listen to this…the only bluetongue virus ever seen to cross the placenta of infected mothers to infect their foetuses was a laboratory-adapted strain used in experiments with sheep in the 70s.

Ring any bells? Shades of last summer’s FMD fiasco? Afterall the great and the good have been wondering how the BTV8 strain gained such an unshakable foothold in northern Europe.

Maybe they now have their answer.

midges-2-reduced.jpg

What a busy, hectic time…
A gloriously large muddle of people, babies and animals centred in and around the kitchen. Yes, we do have more house than just a kitchen but it’s the kitchen that’s the heart and the room everyone tends to gravitate to. The orchestration of cooking and clearing in this ever moving, circulating throng requires the skill of a rugby winger speed-weaving up the field with the ball (this rugby analogy for all those following the world cup!). Read the rest of this entry »

uncut-autumn-field-26-sept-07-reduced.jpg

A quick post to let you know that I have a large gathering of the clan happening from today and won’t, I shouldn’t think, have a moment of time to write. Read the rest of this entry »

Gordon Brown seems to be backing farmers.
“Their actions live out our shared understanding that our countryside is more than the space that surrounds – it is the oxygen for the towns and cities.”
“And in order to be the country we should be, Britain must protect and cherish, not just our cities, but our countryside too,” Mr Brown said.
I’m delighted. No, really, I am. But… Read the rest of this entry »

The FMD story grows alarmingly. There appears to be chaos and confusion once more. Misinformation, non-information and contradiction.
With DERFA’s website appallingly devoid of basic facts and figures it seems that even those worried farmers and smallholders in the protection and surveillance zone, desperate for hard news and exact locations, are being kept in the dark. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s odd how strangely divorced I feel from the news of the new FMD outbreak in Surrey and all the horror it entails.

I can’t really understand my own reaction. It surprises me. But I don’t think it’s just me. Even the national news is remarkably devoid of hype and those gruesome, unnecessary, pictures of dead or dying livestock. And when I speak about it with anyone involved in farming, there is a telling hesitation before the appropriate expressions and remarks. Read the rest of this entry »

Locks Park Farm

Thanks for visiting my blog. All entries are presented in chronological order.

I have a small organic farm on the Culm grasslands near Hatherleigh in Devon, with sheep and beef cattle. I've been farming in the county for more than 30 years. I've set up this blog to share views on farming and the countryside - please do give your thoughts.

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The Campaign to Protect Rural England has helped set up this blog. We want farming to thrive in England, and believe that it is essential that people understand farming and farmers better in order for that to happen. Paula's views expressed here are her own and we won't necessarily share all of them, but we're happy to have helped give her a voice.

Find our more about CPRE and our views on food and farming at our website, www.cpre.org.uk