- Exposing the truth THEY don't want you to know

A story of two farmers in Cumbria
by B.Wheatley - 25th Mar 2001
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BRIAN and Josephine Wheatley, tenant farmers in Cumbria with 1,200 ewes, said
yesterday they would rather die than see their healthy ewes slaughtered. Mr
Wheatley said: "We will not accept it. We will do our best to fight them at
the farm gates if we have to. I would rather be dead than come back to an
empty farm. They would have to build new jails to put farmers in. They would
have to bring troops in to deal with us, not the animals, if they want to
carry it out. That's what everyone is saying."

The Wheatleys, who farm at Inglewood, near Penrith, have built up their herd
over 20 years from only 50 ewes. Sheep are their only asset. They have not
had a holiday for 20 years because all their money has gone back into the
flock. If the farm fails, they would have to live in a caravan because they
have no money to buy a house.

Mrs Wheatley, 46, who built the herd up to 530 single-handedly, said: "The
compensation doesn't matter. They are our lives. How can they expect me to
hand the ewes and lambs up some morning to be put down. I know most of them.
They haven't a clue. We are bringing life into the world and they are just
going to take it all away. When I heard the news, I sat down and cried."

Both say they cannot see the point of the policy. 52-year-old Mr Wheatley
said: "The Government cannot keep up with their slaughter policy. All round
Cumberland there are animals slaughtered and lying in the fields for three or
four days. We are not going to stand by and let the Government kill the
healthy sheep unless they get their act together."

They have 200 lambs at the moment and, in another three weeks, lambing will
start in earnest, with possibly 2,000 more to come. They will be in the
fields up to 20 hours every day because they cannot move the ewes into the
shed. This lambing represents their income for the next 12 months.

Compensation is not the issue but it is also true that, if their stock is
slaughtered, it will be six months before they can restock and 18 months
before they have any income. They could not survive for that period. The
Wheatleys believe that the effect of the slaughter will make sheep prices
rise by up to three times making it impossible to replace their stock even if
they could survive for that time without income.

They have a married daughter with sheep of her own and a son, Paul, 25, who
works on another farm. Mr Wheatley said : "This business was for him. That's
who we built it for. We feel we've wasted 20 years of our lives. Our sheep
are part of our family and, to stand by and let the Government kill
everything we worked for, is absolutely devastating."

They have a confirmed case of foot and mouth in cattle about a mile away
which were due to be killed yesterday. There is another case four miles away,
again in cattle also due to be killed yesterday. There have been no confirmed
cases of foot and mouth in sheep in their area.

Like many other farmers they say that, if their stock had foot and mouth, it
would be bitter but they could accept a slaughter. It is the fruitlessness of
the exercise in their eyes that appals them. For three weeks, they have been
disinfecting their entrances and boots and barely sleeping at night for fear
that the following morning one of their sheep would show symptoms of the

This latest news has come as a devastating blow to people already at their
wits' end. Even before the news, they were facing the possible loss of half
their lambs if the weather turned cold because they cannot bring their ewes
inside to lamb and foxes are already taking the lambs.

Mr Wheatley says: "Folk don't know how we feel. They think farmers all have
Volvos. Taxpayers think 'well they'll be compensated'. We've just been
scratching a living and it was only just beginning to improve. No one seems
to give anything for our feelings and what we feel for these animals."