Thursday, August 9, 2007
Foot and mouth disease causing scare in Borders
We are all sitting holding our collective breath over here in Scotland this week, after the discovery of a case of foot-and-mouth disease on a farm in the south of England.
Memories in the Scottish Borders are still raw when it comes to the outbreak of 2001 which devasted farming families across this region, even though the initial origin of that outbreak was a pig farm in southern England.
Thousands upon thousands of cattle and sheep in the Borders and the rest of southern Scotland were destroyed and their carcasses burned in open pits.
So we are all waiting, hoping and praying that this time the government has moved swiftly enough to contain the disease to this one area of England.
As soon as the positive diagnosis came, that it was indeed foot-and-mouth disease on the farm in England, an official UK-wide ban was imposed on the movement of all ruminants - i.e. cattle, sheep, pigs and goats.
Six years ago the British government was widely criticized for its strategy for dealing with the outbreak mainly by slaughter. This time they seem to have moved with the right amount of urgency and are talking about also using vaccination as a weapon to control the disease. Let’s hope they get it right this time.
One victim of the strict animal movement controls was Berwickshire County Show, which was staged in the grounds of Duns Castle, here in the Borders.
It was a victim in the sense that there were no cattle or sheep classes to be judged. However, since horses cannot contract foot-and-mouth, there was still plenty to see, with a wide selection of ponies and horses taking part along with the usual selection of attractions such as vintage farm machinery parades, gundog handling and homecrafts such as floral art and baking.
And with temperatures in the warm 70s - very welcome after a summer so far only noteworthy for the massive amount of rain - it was still a very pleasant day.
Other shows in Scotland had their livestock classes similarly curtailed and it looks like it will be the same story at farm and county shows for the rest of this month.
However, it is a small price to pay if it helps eradicate such a damaging disease. A widespread outbreak not only hits at livestock and their owners, but last time also had a major impact on Scotland’s tourism industry.
With so much of the countryside off-limits to visitors and outdoor sports enthusiasts, it took a serious toll on the Scottish economy.
On a more pleasant note, the first and now largest Buddhist temple to be established outside of Tibet celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and at the weekend a special tea party was held to mark the occasion at the Kagyu Samye Ling temple at Eskdalemuir near Langholm.
Back in 1993 His Holiness The Dalai Lama visited the Borders to open the temple’s new library complex. To my good fortune I was one of the handful of journalists who got to speak to him at the ceremony.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt it has been one of the highlights of my journalistic career - that and getting thrown out of what was still then East Germany at the point of an AK-47.
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