Monday, December 10, 2007
Ouessant sheep arrive part 2!
Well having read part one you would think part 2 is about how it was all plain sailing from the arrival of the sheep......wrong!
Having tumbled into bed at 11.30 still going up and down from the rough ferry crossing I had to be ready for the ministry vet at 8.45am!
Sheep were a little suspicious as they were penned ready for inspection and the first question from the vet...How many sheep have you here? answer: ( through bleary eyes) 16.....? Wrong you have 17 but only 16 on the form.....!!!!! Illegal immigrant now had taken on a whole new meaning as it was white, woolly and resplendent in 2 ear tags confirming it (number 700003 was indeed not on the form). My heart sunk...I should have counted...but they were all penned and ready to go and Rita assured us there were 16! What to do now! After vet had gleefully found a few more anomilies between eartags and paperwork he announced we also had the 'wrong sort of health certificate'...heart sunk even further!
We and Rita in France had telephoned, visited and asked in great detail about this and at no time did ANYONE show us or tell us what SORT of health form it was nor what it should LOOK like and Britain and France both being members of the EC surely they must be working along the same lines with the same paperwork?? Well not for the want of trying did we arrive with the 'wrong sort' of form!
The vet served me with several notices forbidding me to move the sheep on penalty of 6 monthe in prison, a £5000 fine or both and said he would be back later to issue me with more forms for illegally importing sheep which had in addition it would seem hell and damnation on top of fines and prison!....he also wanted to see me treat the sheep with insecticide in case they had any midges residing on them or had raging blue tongue and could infect the local animal population and wanted to watch should I fail to comply!!( I tried to point out that midges flew and did not live on sheep, and that blue tongue CANNOT pass from sheep to sheep but needs a midge which has bitten an infected animal...but of course he is a vet and what do I know!) He left smugly warning me that in the worst case senario they would all be culled (DEFRA wording for killed and incinerated)................He also informed me that whilst I could, due to a loophole, continue to move stock off my holding without the customary 6 day standstill for oncoming stock. I was now barred from anything else entering the holding in case I bought 500 pedigree sheep, DEFRA decided to cull, and if they decided that not only the Ouessants but ALL other animals on the holding would be valued and killed and I had bought them on just to claim compensation!!.... My God could it get worse!
I felt totally deflated and slightly sick and retreated for the good british crisis management tool - a cup of tea, where on reflection I started to feel rather angry.
It would seem I was being treated as if I had not bothered about the implications of importing the sheep and as if the paperwork anomalies were my personal fault. Actually I had spent hours and hours on the phone to various departments of DEFRA all of whom gave conflicting advice or contradicted what the last lot said! Had, at their insistance tried to ring the French Agricultural Ministry where no one could help as my French, whilst reasonable is not quite up to explaining about importing sheep and health related issues. Discovered that France operates on a regional level and that Rita should visit their offices in St Brieuc, which she did. Spoke at length to my local animal health office who set up apick up /drop off point and isolation facility on the holding.
...........So in retrospect I think we did just about all we could have done bar go to Brussels and collect personally the form needed for export! (which apparently is in French on the DEFRA website although I have not found it yet despite 2 hours of looking!)
Tomorrow another ministry vet arrives and we have to catch the sheep to be blood tested for lots of diseases not present in either Britain or France and we have to give them another eartag making 3 in total (double tagging in France) These tags are F tags (F for Import???) and Symtag our tag suppliers were quite excited as they had never been asked for any before!
So at this time we are yet to await our fate, but cannot think they will cull the whole holding as what would be the point? part 3 comming soon....watch this space