‘Into the Valleys of Death’ – Peter Frost-Pennington


 
Damien Hurst has nothing on me!
I create ghostly pictures of death, officially sanctioned.
I have to believe this mass sacrifice of animals I love is worth it.
Or is it the farmers who are the real sacrifice?
Like the animals, they take it meekly and obediently often thanking me for doing it
After I had killed all 356 cattle in one family’s dairy herd they sent flowers to my wife.
These are the people who are giving up all, in the hope it will save others.
 
But don’t get me wrong!
I have now seen plenty of this plague and it is no common cold.
The animals suffer horribly, as the skin of their tongues peels off and their feet fall apart.
We must try to kill them quick and clean, as soon as it appears in a herd or flock.
 
The farmers’ suffering does not end with the visit of the
Slaughter men.
 
I must continue to do my duty in these Cumbrian killing fields, quickly, efficiently and effectively.
Yes, the official papers must all be in place.
Yes, the Health and Safety man must be happy.
Yes, the Environment Agency is only doing their job as best they can.
 
It is 6am. Today I go out to kill again.
The worst is the young stock.
I thank God the lambs are not yet born with these ewes.
Today I will have to kill a calf born yesterday, the first beautiful calf from the farmer’s pride and joy – his new Charolais bull.
 
This is not what I trained for.
I hope familiarity will never make me immune from the trauma of killing.
But I do hope – for the animals sake – to be good at it
 
It is the virus we are trying to kill!
With our disinfectants and culling policy our imprisonment of farmers in their own homes
All they have left is the telephone.
 
Perhaps today there is hope.
One soldier will meet me at the farm gate,
I hope he, not me, will quickly arrange the funeral of the animals I love.
Before their carcasses get so bloated they fall apart.
Adding more to the farmers’ anguish, trapped amongst them.
I should be free to move on quickly, find the virus and kill again.
 
Into the Valley of Death drove the 600
Or are we now 1100?
The countryside I love is bleeding to death.
Mr Blair, please help.
 
Peter Frost-Pennington
Temporary Veterinary Inspector
23rd March 2001
 
Written early one morning when he was taking a few hours break from killing animals.

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