Phil Brown 1944- 2007 a quietly exceptional man
Thursday April 5th
The funeral takes place today at Inskip, his home village, of one of the very best pig farmers in England. Decent, kindly and uncomplicated, Phil Brown was little short of a genius with his pedigree Large White and Landrace pigs. He owned the larger of only 2 herds of pigs in the MAFF health scheme in Lancashire. Largely built by his own hands, his farm was known far and wide for its welfare standards, its cleanliness and its prize winning stock. The technology was way ahead of its time and Phil's pigs had no need for any antibiotics or drugs. The herd was completely free of disease.
All this was to change at the end of the 1980s when Phil found his life suddenly and catastrophically altered.
Much of the disturbing story can be read here in an article by Mark Metcalf, courtesy of The Lantern - but to summarise it down to its very nasty bare bones, utter disaster in the shape of a rogue pig feed arrived at the farm and what followed was a catalogue of cover-up and cold cynicism on the part of those he had trusted. Believing that no feed supplied under the MAFF health scheme could be untried or dangerous, Phil nevertheless was later to discover that he and his farm had been experimented on with feed containing substances that were to play havoc with the health of all who touched it. He and the pigs he cared for were affected in ways that were frightening and tragic - and his wife, Diane, also in contact with the feed, suffered the most heartbreaking loss of all.
Phil's simple wish for justice met a stone wall. Years of struggle and frustration followed and, in addition to the family grief and the loss of his successful business, he was all too soon facing bankruptcy and the loss of his home. His attempts to gather support from MAFF/DEFRA, the Health and Safety Executive and the NFU were all unsuccessful. There seemed to be no will to help in a case that would have as its adversaries some very powerful people with extremely deep pockets.
This depth of suffering and injustice would have embittered most people to the ends of their lives but Phil was exceptional. What he and his family suffered at the hands of unethical business, uncaring officialdom and mediocre lawyers was incalculable. But against all the odds he fought back, stayed cheerful and devoted himself to renewing his fortunes and reputation. A year ago in March 2006, Phil decided to attend the Manchester Conference about the foot and mouth crisis. Encouraged by the interest in his plight shown by the delegates he approached Dr Roger Breeze and found, to his evident delight, that Dr Breeze had been the very same young English vet whose uncle Phil had known and whose farm had adjoined one of Phil's earliest workplaces. He was also to find the splendid Tom Griffith-Jones, another doughty fighter from the days of FMD, whose practical help in seeking redress will continue.
In recent months Phil was able to write about his pride in the champion pigs he had at last been able to get back to their former glory. Bolstered both by the family who adored him and success at County shows, he wrote to say, " the pigs drive me on. Hope that there is light at the end of a very long tunnel."
There was indeed light. At the Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate in August, for example, the Browns managed to win 3 of the breed classes, also winning the Group of Three for the Large Whites, the pairs Championship against 27 other pairs and although pipped at the post for the most coveted award, he wrote, "The one that beat us to the breed championship went on to win the Supreme show Champion and also Pig of the Year, so we were beaten by a good pig!"
In November, Richard, Phil's son took two Duroc pigs and won Champion Pork Pigs and the Champion pair of pigs in the Birmingham Prime Stock Show at Stafford.
But the physical injuries caused by the feed were to go on haunting him. Two weeks ago he had to return to hospital for yet another operation, this time on his existing hip replacement joint - another casualty of the toxic enzymes in the rogue feed. As he laconically wrote of the operation, "I just want it out of the way." But the fatal complications from the operation were to do what malice and greed could not and overcame him in the following days.
His wife, Diane and his sons Paul, Richard and Howard, are absolutely determined to carry on the fight to safeguard the farm and the business. Paul writes,
"the determination and as you say inner strength which he showed whilst alive gave him a sense of immortality in our eyes. Qualities we are all hoping he has passed on, as we have vowed to carry on the pigs and secure the farm in our name. We would be honoured if you would create a piece on your website about the life of our father."
Phil Brown's delight in his pigs, pride in his family and in the skill and care shown by his sons, never faltered. He read warmwell and contributed his thoughts from time to time. He felt very strongly about welfare - the closure of the small abattoirs and the unnecessary suffering caused by bad practices and excessive journeys were of particular concern. The honour to have known him, even for such a short time, is all ours.