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Kate Hawkesby: Angry farmers blame beastly behaviour from MPI over M. bovis saga

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2019, 6:52AM
The ministry had told them testing was coming to an end and they could return to normal, but then each week that story would change...Photo / Getty Images.

Kate Hawkesby: Angry farmers blame beastly behaviour from MPI over M. bovis saga

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2019, 6:52AM

COMMENT

This time yesterday I talked about the plight of farmers amid the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak, with the hopeless response from MPI - who were supposed to be putting farmer welfare at the forefront of their reaction plan but this just hasn't happened.

Hundreds of farmers are suffering emotionally, mentally and financially.

Well after my comments yesterday, several farmers got in touch, many saying how grateful they were that their side of the story is getting into the public domain.

Farmers who're extremely stressed, frustrated and at their wits' end. Farmers who say they feel they've all been treated the same by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

One farmer told me they had beef cattle caught up in the saga last year and received what he described as "poor communication and lies each week" from MPI.

The ministry had told them testing was coming to an end and they could return to normal, but then each week that story would change - they'd want more testing, more animals slaughtered. He said MPI fed them a string of false promises.

Each time they threatened to go to the media, MPI would show some action for a day or two, then go back to the same behaviour, making it clear to them that talking to the media was not advisable.

This farm was unable to operate, and after seven months still unable to sell their cattle, they were so worn down by it all they had to cull all their animals. Not a single one of them had tested positive for M. bovis.

This farmer, who is 38-years-old, told me it was the most stressful time of his life, he witnessed healthy calves shot and destroyed, he said he will never forget what he saw and how it made him feel. He said MPI made him feel like a criminal.

He mentioned another farmer in a similar boat to him, who'd taken his own life over it.

Another farming couple contacted me saying MPI badgered them with the same questions over and over, creating so much stress that they feel their only recourse was legal action.

Another one, a farmer's wife, told me she's very worried about her rural area since the outbreak. She first aired her concerns a year ago. She said they've had such a traumatic year and she's very worried about other farming mates too.

She said the knock-on effect of M. bovis, and the human impact, has been huge.

MPI to their credit have admitted it hasn't been perfect. That's probably the understatement of the year.

Finding the right contractors and enough of them has been a challenge apparently.

But surely discouraging farmers from talking to the media, from airing their concerns, and making them feel like criminals is the very last thing MPI should be doing.

I appreciate all the farmers who came forward yesterday, for what it's worth, you have support and you deserve better.

I just hope MPI is listening.

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