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Disposal of livestock carcasses by burning

by
26 April 2013

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From the Revd R. H. Dengate

Sir, - My eye was caught by a throwaway remark quoted in your report on the rural-issues debate in the Governing Body of the Church in Wales (Welsh Governing Body, 19 April).

As a one-time sheep farmer, more recently occupied as a minister working with both Church of England and Methodist churches in mainly rural situations, and still doing so in retirement, I would like to highlight a piece of bureaucracy that has been undermining livestock farmers in recent years.

On the dire situation of farmers whose sheep have died in large numbers in snowdrifts, one speaker said: "The Welsh government has given permission for them to be buried on farmland because it has proved impossible to dispose of them in a conventional manner."

How many people are aware that dead animals are now classified as "industrial waste"? This means that carcasses now have to be very expensively collected by licensed agents; and so they sometimes have to be stored on farms before they are collected, later to go on transport that travels around to other farms, and then finally sometimes across several counties, to the nearest available incinerator.

Apparently the bureaucrats regard this as a green method of disposal. All of the expense falls on the original owner of these now valueless animals.

Apart from the stupidity of unnecessarily delaying the safe disposal of dead and diseased carcasses, and then carting rotting and perhaps infectious bodies over large distances from farm to farm (as happened on a huge scale during the last foot-and-mouth outbreak), in what way can it be better for the environment to have all this haulage, and then to consume massive energy resources by incineration? Bodies do not burn easily.

The old and much saner convention, and one that was particularly well used by Welsh hill farmers, was to dig a hole close to the dead animal soon after discovery and then roll it in, where the environment turned it into a useful product.

Officialdom would be more effective if it concentrated on making sure that the old convention was strictly and efficiently carried out. This is just one example of how, because of poor understanding, decision-makers can erroneously overrule those who undertake work at the coalface, and who have learnt practices well tried for dealing with problems that are familiar to those of their calling.

Perhaps there is a sheep-based parable here that could also be applied to other professions, such as education, health care, and even church ministry.

DICK DENGATE
Apuldram, Peasmarsh
East Sussex TN31 6UL

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