Man blamed for foot-and-mouth to quit farming

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A farmer blamed for starting the foot-and-mouth epidemic announced yesterday that he is to quit his business after being made a "scapegoat" for the crisis.

Bobby Waugh, 56, said he has given up the tenancy of Burnside Farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, eight months after it was identified as the source of the epidemic which led to the slaughter of almost four million animals.

Mr Waugh is still facing 22 animal health charges, which he denies, and is due to stand trial in May.

"I am a scapegoat for foot-and-mouth," he said yesterday. "It never started at my place. There is no way I'm going back to pig farming after this. I have given 40 years of my life to farming. I've never even had a day off in all that time. I've spent £30,000 since February on the farm and have had no income coming in. I have lost everything."

He now believed he would never return to the industry he devoted his life to. Speaking from his home in Sunderland, where he is nursing his terminally ill brother, Ronnie, 60, he said: "I've just had enough."

Since the virus was discovered on 22 February his farm has stood idle and infected as Mr Waugh and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) argued over who should pay for the clean-up.

The landlord-owner of Burnside Farm, Phillip Leadbitter, has now applied to Defra for a licence to start clean-up work.

A Defra spokesman confirmed it had been approached by the lease-owner to make arrangements at the farm to begin secondary cleaning and disinfection.

Mr Waugh said: "For months all I have wanted to do is to get the farm clean and get ready to start again, but I have been blocked every step of the way.

"I have been driven out of business. There was no point in me having the farm if I can't even get it cleaned and get back to work.

"I am not public enemy number one, I am not the villain of the piece. When my 527 pigs were burned it was the worst day of my life," he said.

Mr Waugh's farm was singled out by the Government as the likely source of the epidemic which has resulted in 3,912,700 cattle being slaughtered nationally, with 376,125 of those in the North-east, costing the region £200m.