Foot-and-mouth in Scotland: The protester


The foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 put some unexpected figures in the national media spotlight.

Among them was Juanita Wilson, operator of the Mossburn Animal Sanctuary in Dumfries and Galloway.

Her fight to protect the creatures in her care from being culled became one of the most closely followed storylines of the crisis.

She says her actions divided opinion among the farming community at the time - and continue to do so to this day.

Ms Wilson remembers vividly how her struggle began.

"I had been to a wedding in Spain and I came back to find pyres all around our property," she said.

"I realised from that moment on that I was probably going to have a bit of a fight on my hands to save my animals.

"I was 100% totally and utterly committed to the fact that the killing had to stop and that this was the place where it was definitely going to be stopped."

It may sound like a one-woman crusade, but Ms Wilson said she actually relied on a team of supporters, staff and volunteers from around the country who rallied to her cause.

"Without those people I wouldn't have succeeded," she said.

They faced a difficult task as Ms Wilson said the attempts to cull her animals went to amazing lengths.

"They turned up here at all sorts of extraordinary times of the day and night," she said.

"But I was always one step ahead and I always had that affidavit that stopped them actually coming onto the premises to kill."

She describes them as "bully boys", sometimes led by the police, with Ministry of Agriculture promises of "vast sums of money" to let the cull proceed.

"These people put enormous pressure on us," she said.

However, she took the case to court and, eventually, secured the animals' survival.

"Hand on heart I never doubted it, but the relief when I did was absolutely immense so there must have been some doubts," she said.

"I am still British enough to feel that justice must prevail.

"And it would have been a total injustice to have culled a lot of healthy animals.

"The Scottish Farmer actually said that it was winning the fight here at Mossburn that stopped the contiguous cull throughout Scotland."

Not everyone in agriculture celebrated her success.

"The farming community is still in two minds about what happened here," she said.

"Those who were fully supportive, those good farmers who really cared for their own livestock and those who just make money out of animals and don't much care how they do it."

Image caption, Animals in the Mossburn Animal Sanctuary were eventually saved from the cull

Physically sick

Her victory, she says, took its toll.

"Those of us who went through it probably have never fully recovered emotionally," she said.

"I personally cry far easier than I used to do, it did leave huge emotional scars on us."

So much so that when another outbreak was reported three years ago, she was physically sick.

Nonetheless, Ms Wilson retains a stern conviction that she did the right thing.

"I would do exactly the same again and encourage other people this time," she said.

"That whole thing was like a civil war, it was them and us.

"It was a most appalling situation to find yourself in in Britain, you just didn't expect it - the Army breaking people's doors down to slaughter their stock."

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