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Why were 30 cows shot in Wrexham?

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In a rather unusual incident thirty cattle were shot in March 2011 after escaping from a farm. A council spokesman said the cull was not due to disease but with WAG’s obsession with eradicating bovine TB and biosecurity we wonder if this was the underlying reason for the action taken in this case. Certainly it raises many questions.

On 11 March 2011 thirty cows escaped from farmland in Chirk, Wrexham. North Wales and wandered into gardens on a housing estate. Police were called and around eight officers managed to round the animals into a field close to Chirk Community Hospital. However, after an apparent inspection by environmental health and animal welfare officers later the same day, officials gave the order for all the animals to be destroyed. A spokesman for North Wales Police stressed that the police did not take the final decision to slaughter and officers had no involvement in it.

The slaughter followed discussions between the council, the Welsh Assembly Government and the animal welfare agency and it was decided the animals would have to be put down on welfare grounds under Section 18 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Andy Lewis, chief housing and public protection officer said: ‘The operation was carried out to prevent further suffering and distress to the cattle. The public were excluded from the area. The decision on the location used to carry out the destruction of the bovines and the timing of the cull was agreed following risk assessment and in the interest of public safety. The incident may result in court action being taken against the owner of the animals and no further comment can be made at this time’.

All very odd as the welfare grounds were not stated and the cattle certainly looked healthy if the clear images accompanying some of the media reports were actually of the cattle involved.

Two lorries arrived the following day to take away the carcasses for incineration.

News reports stated that during the shooting of the cattle children screamed in horror. A group of youngsters- some aged just eight - were playing outside close to their homes when the animals were slaughtered. Staff at a nearby hospital even ordered all the curtains to be drawn so patients would not have to witness the upsetting carnage. Sam Hughes, clerk of Chirk town council, said: ‘It would have been better if the animals had been taken back to the farm buildings so the killing wasn’t done in view of people.’

A spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union said he had no knowledge of the case but added: ‘It is very rare not only for cows to escape in such a large number, but that they were shot as well. I cannot think of it happening before.

Clearly locals from the area were upset at what happened. Several made comments to the press.

Edward Jones said; ‘Children were screaming and in tears because they had gone to see the cows in the field and then we heard shots ringing out. It was horrific. One shot after another sounded and some of the youngsters were hysterical and traumatised by it. How can shooting the cows dead where they stood avoid further distress and suffering? To slaughter 30 healthy cows - each worth several hundred pounds - simply because they had escaped from a field is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard of. There were children in the area and they had seen the cows in the field but the next thing they saw they were shot and their bodies loaded onto wagons.

An unidentified resident who discovered some of the cows on her property: ‘I can’t believe all the animals had to be shot. It’s appalling what’s happened. All I can think is they must have found something wrong with their health because before long we could hear the shots ringing out across the village.’

Some Chirk residents are demanding a public meeting with Wrexham Council and North Wales Police. Tracy Sheil, of John Street, wants to know why neighbours were not told the shooting would take place. She said: ‘I want a public meeting with all the authorities involved because we can’t get any answers. We are all very sad about what has happened, but people want to know why we weren’t made aware and why it was done in front of children. Even if people didn’t know, they could all hear the shooting. There was just no care for the public.’
Mrs Sheil’s home backs on to the field and her seven-year-old daughter Abbie was left distressed after she witnessed the shooting from her bedroom window. She added: ‘I was made aware of it because a neighbour came round and told me. My little girl heard us talking about it and went to look out of her bedroom window. She loves animals and she was quite upset about it. Even my three-year-old daughter knows what has happened and she say’s there’s no mooing now.’ Mrs Sheil wrote to DEFRA to make a complaint and it referred her letter to the Welsh Assembly Government’s department for rural affairs. In response Robin Pierce, from the farm development division, said: ‘I've spoken to my colleagues in the animal welfare branch, who advise me that the Welsh Assembly Government's advice was sought in this instance and it was agreed that if the veterinary surgeon on site believed the condition of the cattle was such that the best option was for them to be destroyed, then that was the action that should be taken.’

Ian Roberts, a county councillor from Chirk, said the cows had been escaping regularly over the last seven to 10 days. He said ‘They had been pushing through people's gardens. There have been old age pensioners trying to get them out of their gardens at six o'clock in the morning. They were getting out wherever they could.’ He said that some local people had expressed concerns about the way the animals were slaughtered, and the fact some people were able to witness it. However, he said he believed it had been necessary to destroy the cows ‘for the protection of the public and the welfare of the animals’. He added: ‘They hadn't been de-horned. Somebody trying to get them out of their garden in the pitch black could easily have been stabbed.’ However, from the images the horns were quite small.

The farmer John Pierce, of Ley Farm, Chirk, claims Wrexham Council, which led the decision to kill the animals, dealt with their escape very badly and believes the shooting should never have been carried out so close to Chirk Community Hospital where patients and children could see. He said: ‘I have no civil words for the people who shot my animals. I’ve got two grandchildren at school in Chirk myself and the idea that any child should see such a thing makes me very angry. The poor youngsters who saw this must’ve been so traumatised. The need to shoot an animal is a very hard lesson to learn and for it to happen in this way is very sad.
Mr Pierce claims the animals were healthy and believes the decision to shoot them was made simply to avoid the inconvenience of having to deal with them if they escaped again. He now has one cow left, a calf named Molly.
Mr Pierce claimed he had to beg the council not to kill her and the only reason they spared her was because she had not escaped along with the rest of the herd. He added: ‘They didn’t even tell me they were going to shoot the animals. The first I heard about it was when a friend called me up and told me.’

A spokesman for Wrexham County Borough Council said no further comment could be made at this time. Meanwhile Susan Elan Jones MP has expressed her concerns about the incident to council leader Aled Roberts. She said: ‘Several constituents have contacted me about the incident which caused considerable distress to those who witnessed it. I find it hard to understand why the cows could not have been rounded up and returned to their farms, instead of shot, especially in the full view of the public. I understand residents were given no advance warning of the shooting which happened in full view of patients in Chirk Community Hospital, who were naturally 
extremely shocked and upset. I am very keen to establish exactly what happened here. We must ensure that lessons are learned from this and that any future incidents will be handled in a more sensitive and proportionate way.”

Interestingly three cows had to be shot at a farm in Chirk during tests for bovine TB back in 2010.
It is not known if this is the same farm.
 The test was apparently being carried out on a herd by the police, Wrexham Council, the Welsh Assembly Government and Animal Health. It is understood that three animals from the herd started behaving dangerously and were shot at the request of the farmer.
A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government alleged that the test was carried out as a result of the farmer failing to comply with TB regulations. The spokesman said: ‘All cattle herds in Wales have to be tested for bovine TB at least once a year. We have a zero tolerance approach to farmers who don’t comply with the law as they are potentially putting neighbouring farms at risk. In this case the farmer had refused to test his cattle. Animal Health, the government agency responsible for carrying out the TB tests, therefore obtained a warrant to enforce the overdue tests and, together with officials from Wrexham County Council, visited the farm to carry out the tests. At the scene, three of the cattle were behaving dangerously and became a risk to the safety of individuals. They had to be shot. This was done by a contractor at the request of the farmer.’

Information sources:

www.leaderlive.co.uk/news/92984/cows-shot-during-routine-tests-in-wrexham.aspx www.rhyljournal.co.uk/news/92984/cows-shot-during-routine-tests-in-wrexham.aspx

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