- A Midland farmer has abandoned his home because he fears
his family could catch the human form of BSE after a Government bungle
during the foot-and-mouth crisis.
- Robin Feakins said a report commissioned by the Department
for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs states that animals could be
at risk of contracting BSE if they grazed on his Worcestershire farm.
- The nightmare situation arose after the Government chose
his 70-acre Sparum Farm in Kidderminster to burn the carcasses of 5,000
cattle and 6,000 sheep from across the Midlands last year.
- However, the ashes from the pyres were only part-buried
and have been scattered across the land.
- Mr Feakins said the DEFRA-commissioned report estimated
between one and three carcasses burned could have carried BSE.
- He launched legal action - which so far has cost him
£300,000 - in June last year claiming the Government had breached
its own regulations.
- Tomorrow, a High Court judge in London will announce
whether the Government acted against a framework of UK and EC regulations
by failing to incinerate, rather than burn, the carcasses.
- In a separate action, Mr Feakins is claiming compensation
for the loss of his livelihood, as he can no longer farm at Sparum and
cannot sell as a going concern.
- After the fires to destroy the carcasses, ashes and topsoil
were blown across his farm and ploughed into the mud as bulldozers flattened
farm outbuildings as part of the cleansing process.
- In addition, he claims, the ashes that were buried were
put only six inches from the surface, instead of a yard, and without a
protective layer of clay as guidelines advised.
- Mr Feakins, aged 57, said he now feared his family was
at risk of contracting CJD - Creutzfeld Jakob's Disease - the human equivalent
- "The man driving the bulldozer was black with ash
at the end of the day. The ground was like a black porridge," he said.
- "The problem was they didn't build the pyres in
a pit as they were supposed to and the ash mixed with the topsoil.
- "If you imagine the mess left in the garden after
a bonfire it was like that but on a much bigger scale.
- "Since then the ash has been blowing over the fields
and to neighbouring land.
- "Nothing has been done to cleanse the land and find
a safe way of disposing of the ash.
- "It wasn't burned at temperatures high enough to
kill the prions and you can still smell bits of carcasses that are around.
- "I'm not prepared to have ash and soil from my farm
taken to landfill, because it's still my responsibility should anything
- "If animals here could be at risk my family could
be as well and it's a risk I couldn't take."
- Over the last week Mr Feakins has moved with his wife
and five children into a new property on the Scottish borders, where he
hopes to rebuild his business.
- "The whole thing has been a nightmare," he
said. "I've been a farmer since I was 15 and it has taken my whole
life to put together this business. It's been a massive struggle but, unfortunately
for the Government, we won't be broken."
- Out of 200,000 cattle slaughtered and burned in pyres
during the foot-and-mouth outbreak, 50,000 were over five years old and
may have consumed bone-meal, one of the main factors in the BSE outbreak.
- In May last year, the Spongi-form Encephalopathy Advisory
Committee reported that there were no "risk free" options but
incineration was the preferred option for disposing of carcasses.
- A DEFRA spokesman said he did not believe any laws had
been broken in dealing with the cleanup, adding that in the early days
of foot-and-mouth not all cattle could be incinerated.
- A spokesman for the National Farmers Union said they
awaited the High Court judgment "with interest" but could not
comment on specific cases.