SIR, – Your recent articles commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 2001 foot-and-mouth (FMD) outbreak brought back some bitter and heartbreaking memories for my family.

We had not been farming for long here and were in the process of building up a pedigree flock of 1000 Lleyn ewes when disaster struck as a result of a single ram being purchased at Longtown on that fateful day, February 22, resulting in the entire flock along with my wife’s cherished, prize-winning flock of Jacobs as well as some rare breeds being culled.

The irony for us was that not only was the ram and our flock never infected with the disease, but the nearest outbreak to us was more than 40 miles away.

When we were notified that our flock was to be culled, it was more than a month after the ram had been purchased at Longtown, the initial source of the disease.

Our flock was tested on no fewer than four occasions, but despite testing negative on each occasion and being well outside the incubation period of the disease, we were told that the cull would still take place.

We were served with a Form D Notice which was lifted on March 8, which gave us hope that our flock would be spared, but the notice was then reinstated on the March 25, almost five weeks after the ram had passed through Longtown.

The final straw for us came when we were told, after requesting blood testing of our flock which we would pay for, that if any sheep tested positive for the disease, then not only would our flock, plus cattle be slaughtered, but so would anybody else’s within a 3 km radius of our farm.

That was something we simply were not prepared to accept, as by then we were becoming acutely concerned about the way the whole situation was being handled and the undue pressure which was being brought to bear.

I just hope that lessons have been learnt from the dreadful outbreak which happened 20 years ago and if there was to be a similar outbreak in the future, it would be tackled in a more humane, perceptive and sensitive way than it was in 2001.

Colin Strang Steel