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Farmer convicted of keeping foot and mouth secret

May 31, 2002 The Daily Telegraph (London) by Paul Stokes
A FARMER was convicted yesterday of failing to notify the authorities that his pigs had foot and mouth disease, days before it spread through Britain.

Bobby Waugh, 56, "must have known" his stock had the illness several days before it was officially discovered at an abattoir in Essex, but never told anyone.

His farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, was later raided by government inspectors. Lesions were discovered in 80 per cent of his 527 pigs, which were fed untreated swill.

He was found guilty of nine breaches of the animal health act and cleared of six others by South-East Northumberland magistrates. Sentence was adjourned until June 28.

The Government singled his farm out as a likely source of the outbreak which resulted in 3.9 million cattle being slaughtered nationally. The disease was discovered at the Cheale Meats abattoir in Essex on Feb 19 last year and checks by the then Ministry of Agriculture led to Waugh's Burnside Farm.

Inspectors had been told by Waugh and his brother Ronald, 60, that it was disease-free, but they found the pigs suffering badly with the virus.

Paddy Cosgrove QC, prosecuting, told the court: "No report of the presence of the disease had been made by anyone at Burnside Farm and nothing had been done to alleviate the animals' suffering. Bobby Waugh must have known many of his pigs had foot and mouth disease."

In the days after foot and mouth was discovered at the farm Bobby Waugh ran with his brother, inspectors also discovered piles of cutlery from pig swill. Under regulations, Waugh was licensed to feed his animals with swill which had been heated to 93C for two hours but, when inspectors raided the farm, they found only untreated swill.

Waugh and his terminally ill brother, both from Pallion, Sunderland, had been farmers for 40 years.

Waugh was convicted of five charges of failing to notify authorities about foot and mouth disease in relation to 60 pigs and of causing unnecessary suffering to a further 63 pigs. He was also found guilty of feeding his pigs unprocessed waste and having a carcass on a waste heap.

But he was acquitted of two counts of causing unnecessary suffering, one charge of bringing unprocessed waste on to his farm, and three animal by-product charges. One records offence was withdrawn.

The court heard how the same charges against his brother were unlikely to proceed because of his health.

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