"Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians"An article to his fellow vets in the Veterinary Times, March 2006, by Bob Michell, BVetMed BSc PhD DSc MRCVS, Former President of the RCVS
Rapid Diagnosis RT PCR - " a transforming moment"
" ...the means to eradicate and control these diseases are now available ... ..." Read in full
Warmwell.com Archive ~ Bird Flu pages Contact the site How FMD crisis was turned into a disaster - Scotsman, TimesPlease use F5 button to refresh the page RPA latest bovine TB Harriet - latest --------------------------------
Archive April 2007
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April 30 2006 ~ The hens are killed in gas chambers of argon gas or else shot with a stun gun.
EDP24's Nick Heath gave the grisly details of what culling entails on Friday.
".... the shrouded figures prepared the chickens for the cull and took more blood samples from the flock......bulging yellow sacks of carcasses which were driven away to be rendered or incinerated off-site..."The exploitation by man of factory farmed animals to provide cheap food is kept - "like wrongs hushed up" - hidden behind locked gates and doors. Even so, a growing number of people in the UK do now feel revulsion for the conditions of such "farms" and distaste for the product. More and more hens now lead less exploited lives. Although these hens are kept for their eggs and for the food they provide, small free-range producers and householders are willing to carry out their side of an unwritten contract, giving them a reasonably natural life in return. Yet these decent people are powerless to protect their birds because vaccination is refused by big business who see only cheap protein and by a government that appears not to understand how science and technology have moved on since the Dark Ages. A sense of deja-vu, as Patrick Holden said, is inevitable.
April 30 2006 ~ "The situation would be laughable if it were not so serious for so many hard-working farmers..."
The Sunday Times quotes Timothy Kirkhope MEP, Leader of Conservative MEPs and Neil Parish MEP (see warmwell RPA latest) - but even they don't mention the fact that the RPA is now frantically paying out sums ( the numbers paid will look better) to many who are really as not desperate as all that - yet continuing to ignore many upland farmers who are now in really very dire straits indeed. One would be forgiven for thinking that we have strayed into one of the later John le Carré novels in the past few weeks. So much anxious, unnecessary secrecy; so much betrayal; so little acknowledgement of the real issues facing real people; and over all, an arrogant refusal to accept responsibility for the consequences of heartless incompetence.
April 30 2006 ~ Two more farms infected with H7. Japan has banned poultry imports from Britain and no one knows which the index case is..
The two new farms infected with H7 in Norfolk have 15,300 more birds, called "free-range". These will be killed and a one-kilometre "restrictive zone" - limiting movements of poultry, eggs and poultry products - has been imposed around all three infected farms. Geoffrey Lean in the Independent says that the fact that no one know which is the index case shows how ineffectual the surveillance has been.
"Ministers and officials who boasted that Britain was "probably better prepared than any other nation" through "surveillance" and "early action" are facing the possibility of another foot-and-mouth style fiasco. Dr Reynolds admits the surveillance - testing wild birds for flu - failed to find any carrying the virus affecting the farms, despite the greatest bird flu monitoring exercise ever carried out in Britain. .."Yet again, we point out that the official refusal to contemplate the use of available on-site rapid diagnostic technology at such a time is simply incredible. Can the UK really be holding off until they feel their home-grown model of rapid PCR diagnosis is good enough to make money?
April 29 2006 ~ " a risk to animal and human health - or a healthy pragmatism which we would do well to imitate?"
asks Miriam O'Reilly at the news that, in France, panic does NOT reign in spite of the sixty five dead wild birds that have now been found to be carriers of the H5N1 virus. Listen Again to BBC radio's Farming Today This Week.
April 29 2006 ~ Vets continued to slaughter 35,000 chickens
is a headline that we hoped never to have to write. Latest news from ITN (Saturday early) mentions the "letters ... being delivered to some 1,800 homes near to the Norfolk farm, as vets continued to slaughter 35,000 chickens... "
That the strain is low pathogenic H7N3 was announced by DEFRA on Friday but the Ministry added that
"results will need further investigations by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) before the Chief Veterinary Officer, Debby Reynolds can rule out completely high pathogenicity."We understand - although we should be pleased to be contradicted - that in this day of high tech and rapid diagnostic tools, the pathogenicity of the virus is determined by injecting live chicks and then watching to see how many of them die.
April 28 2006 ~ One of the Whitford Lodge workers has "Bird Flu" conjunctivitis, associated with H7
DEFRA says that although the risk is very low, the 34,000 birds are still to be killed. BBC
"Almost all human H7 infections documented so far have been associated with close contact with dead or dying poultry. ....The threat to human health posed by H7 avian influenza viruses remains very low despite the recent developments in Norfolk ."
Defra, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, confirmed that the 34,000 birds on the infected farm will still be slaughtered, and a 1km exclusion zone will remain in place.(a good comparison between Free Range and factory farmed poultry - if any need reminding of the high price the natural world pays for our cheap food - can be found on this Compassion in World Farming page).
April 28 2006 ~ " one of the few success stories in agriculture, with 37% of UK laying birds being free-range or organic and generating burgeoning consumer support for their higher welfare standards..."
At a time when the idea of bird flu has briefly surfaced again in the conscousness of the public, we are reminded of the letter sent by the Soil Association to Mr Blair in October last year.
......pressure apparently from commercial interests and the National Farmers Union (which I know you are aware does not represent all farmers and certainly not the majority of organic farmers) persuaded ministers and officials to adopt a control strategy based on mass-culling ..."Read letter
April 28 2006 ~ Agriculture Commissioner Fischer Boel was asked on 12 April for an SFP extension until mid-October
Excerpt from Double Whammy for English Farmers (26 April) from the Conservatives. It seems clear that Mrs Beckett has not been straight either with the farmers nor with Parliament. Meanwhile, UK farmers have been paying something like #13 million a month in interest on what they borrow to make up for the undelivered SFP payments promised - first in January, then in February, then in the middle of March and then in June..
Neil Parish is quoted:
" ..... She made no mention of this in her Ministerial Statement of 19 April. Moreover, in the debate that followed in the House on 20 April, she said: 'I do not tell the European Commission anything different from the House"......"See also Farming Today Meanwhile, the majority of Cumbrian fell farmers, who desperately need the money, remain unpaid.
April 28 2006 ~ "up to 20% of farmers' payments are to be diverted into Rural Development Schemes."
In the same article as that above, Mr Parish said:
"Our farmers haven't even been paid for 2005 and now we have confirmation that up to 20% of their direct support is to be taken away from them...... this distorts the single market and puts English farmers at a competitive disadvantage. I seriously doubt the legality of it and at this stage I do not rule out a challenge in the European Court."
April 28 2006 ~ "600,000 birds every week"
From a report at www.eveningnews24.co.uk/ considering the provenance of the chicks at Whitford Lodge "farm" in Norfolk.
"....It emerged today that eggs from the breeder farm had been given to a hatchery in Fakenham, which DEFRA experts were investigating yesterday and which can turn out 600,000 birds every week. He added: Everything is under control now, we have a clean bill of health and we are looking to the future. We have great staff here with the bulldog spirit and we are going to roll our sleeves up and carry on.The "bulldog spirit" is something one does not usually associate with the mass production and killing of sentient beings as if they were so many tins of beans, in conditions that are hidden from the public. The cheap form of protein these thousands of birds provide has little in common with the healthy looking bright-eyed bird, accompanying the BBC webpage reporting the Banham Poultry outbreak.
April 28 2006 ~ Bird Flu and Factory farming ".... infection is aerosolised and effectively spread to all or at least many others."
Interesting to read again what the virologist, Ruth Watkins, writes:
"... Indoors, any infection introduced as droppings or from an infected individual is aerosolised and effectively spread either orally or by respiratory route to all or at least many others. This starts infection like a bushfire, and the birds inside are stressed and probably less healthy and even immune depressed compared to their healthy happy free ranging counterparts.The "industry" may think its bio-security better than natural conditions - but what of the condition of the unfortunate birds and their lack of immunity to disease? As Patrick Holden of the Soil Association said in response to bird flu:
These merely share a roost which is regularly cleaned out and do not live in a dusty atmosphere.
So far the two large outbreaks in European poultry facilities have occurred in birds kept inside..."More
" For livestock, as for humans, the best defence against disease is good health and nutrition. Building naturally healthy and resistant populations of livestock should be the long-term objective."
April 28 2006 ~ CVO assures us that mass killing is legal
"I should like you to know that I believe all killing for disease control should be done humanely in accordance with EU law'
Private Eye's Muckspreader last week on what Debby Reynolds evidently thought were reassuring words.
" It was perhaps unfortunate, however, that she went on to say that, for this, "the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter and Killing) Regulations 1995 provides a firm legal base'. .Still at the forefront of Defra's thinking is that obsession with killing on a colossal scale which, back to salmonella and beyond, has always been the ministry's preferred answer to every animal disease problem. If bird flu was to become established in Britain, we could expect ministry vets soon to fan out across the land, ordering the slaughter of millions of birds.."Read Muckspreader.
April 27 2006 ~ "Desperate Westcountry farmers
last night called for the resignation of the Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett - as it emerged vital farm payments due last year may not now be made until the middle of October. In an audacious move, Mrs Beckett has applied to the European Commission for permission to extend the deadline for paying #1.6 billion to English farmers until the autumn - almost a year after the payments were first due..." WMN
April 27 2006 ~ The 1st suspected case of avian influenza in a wild bird has been detected in the Free State of Saxony. Data should be being compiled, compared, and published by a central EU scientific authority says ProMed.
"The accumulating information on H5N1 in wild birds, derived from surveillance activities in various EU member-countries" says today's ProMed, "those already infected as well as those which have been fortunate to remain so far uninfected, is of obvious importance for the advancement of the knowledge about the evolving epidemiological situation. The data from different sources deserve to be compiled, compared, and published by a central EU scientific authority; ProMED-mail will be grateful for such information and glad to post its details, when available."
April 27 2006 ~ "What sort of conditions are they being raised in? Have these poor things ever seen the light of day? Have they ever enjoyed a scratch around or a dust bath?"
"Whilst down in my beloved Devon this week, writes a warmwell reader, "I purchased, some organic - free range eggs..."
"The different hens' names are written on the top of each egg...for luncheon today I am going to boil eggs kindly laid for us by Olive and Molly. I shall leave those laid and signed by Blushes and Freckles etc. to enjoy at the weekend. Fortunately the farm was very busy indeed.So there we are. There are some people who care about the way hens live and die just as they care about their own responsibility towards others. The intensive "poultry industry" however, so approved of by Sir David King and others and so influential in the decision not to allow vaccination, appear to see only an expendable source of protein. It is these people who can talk calmly of mass slaughter as if it were both sane and necessary. It is neither. And it would be helpful in educating the public if someone politely pointed out to the BBC that the picture of the chicken on their webpage is of a free range hen and bears no resemblance at all to the unfortunate creatures being bred for pet food at the "farm" in question.
Got home and learned of the 35,000 odd chickens due to be slaughtered in another uneducated slaughter. What sort of conditions are they being raised in. Have these poor things ever seen the light of day ? Have they ever enjoyed a scratch around or a dust bath ? 35,000. I bet they were crammed into one horrific shed. " Read in full
April 27 2006 ~ 35,000 hens in Norfolk to be "slaughtered on suspicion"
DEFRA said last night, "Preliminary tests have this evening indicated that the avian influenza virus is present in samples from chickens found dead on a poultry farm near Dereham in Norfolk. Further tests are being carried out to determine the strain of the virus and more will be known tomorrow. preliminary test results show that it is likely to be the H7 strain ....."
The H7 strain of bird flu in the Netherlands in 2003 was a disaster economically - over 20 million commercial birds were killed - but also socially. Just as in the UK now, vaccination for bird flu was not allowed and this meant that free range birds, exhibition birds and pets were compulsorily slaughtered. Not one free-range bird was found to be infected during the outbreak unless it had had contact with commercial intensive farms. The misery of this resulted in the Netherlands decision and resulting EU permission to allow vaccination this year.
(We note this morning the dire prognostications of Neil Ferguson in the Guardian but the Guardian also quotes from a newly published report, "which drew on the expertise of 300 scientists from 30 countries" which claimed that new technologies to spot outbreaks of disease early would dramatically cut death rates, avert the need for mass animal cullings and save billions of pounds in battling infectious diseases.) )
April 27 2006 ~ Freedom of Information query produces very little to support Mr Bradshaw's assertion about vaccination
Under the FOI Act, a request was made for a list of the references which led the Minister and his officials to assert that "It has been a frequently recognised feature of the use of vaccine in the field that vaccinated birds can continue to allow spread of the virus, whilst not showing typical clinical signs." (see also below) While it may perhaps have been true that, in the past, it was often assumed that vaccinates could excrete small amounts of virus, and if infected before vaccination, be infected without clinical signs, it is nevertheless quite misleading to imply that therefore there are good veterinary reasons not to vaccinate.
To cite the recent paper by Ellis et al "Vaccination of chickens against H5N1 avian influenza in the face of an outbreak interrupts virus transmission' Avian Pathology, 2004, 33(4):405 - 412. as one reference that was supposed to support the Government's assertion, is astounding. In fact, the paper says
"after 18 days post-vaccination no more deaths from H5N1 avian influenza occurred and intensive monitoring by virus culture on these farms showed no evidence of asymptomatic shedding of the virus.."Even if it were true that vaccinates could, if infected before vaccination, excrete small amounts of virus, this will not affect other vaccinated birds - and vaccination is carried out on ALL birds on a holding. We should be grateful for informed comments about the the information given by FOI
April 24/25 2006 ~ "The cost of sacking the wildlife officers, some of whom have been with the department for more than 20 years, has been put at between £2 million and £3 million"
See Western Morning News " ....The redundancies have been attacked as an attempt by ministers to shift responsibility for the handling of the bovine TB crisis on to farmers while allowing Defra to meet Treasury budget targets. ..."
It continues to amaze that we hear nothing at all from DEFRA about the technology that can make real progress in the eradication of bovine TB in wildlife. Is there no one with any scientific or veterinary knowledge able to talk to the policy makers? Policy, it appears, must always be driven by bureaucracy and budgets instead of by science, technology and veterinary skill. And more and more is it to be paid for by the hapless farmers. The government does not really want an untargetted mass cull of badgers - fearing, as it did not in 2001, a horrified urban outcry. When will the government recognise that the tools to avoid such a politically unpopular, ethically questionable and scientifically unnecessary move are ready and available?
An article in the Veterinary Times back in 2004 concluded that the attraction of using rapid real-time PCR is that it may be "accurate enough to distinguish the TB status of individual badgers within a sett. If a half hour test can reveal this, then the targeted cull of badgers that we propose might be refined even further. " While the research below using UK built rapid RT-PCR diagnosis in badger setts and latrines shows that we have now, at this moment, the technology that can show which badgers are infected. "we would prefer that culling is targeted at diseased and infectious animals" said the researchers - and this would indeed be possible. See also bovine TB page and the abstract of the Warwick RT-PCR work in the Royal Society "Biology Letters" in March this year.
April 24 2006 ~ Anthrax in Wales ".... I do hope that they vaccinated those cows."
Two cows have died of anthrax on a beef farm in south Wales. (See BBC and Guardian) The ProMed page should be read in full. Extract:
"....Firstly, while the major tenor of the government response is to calm fears, there is a suspicion of a present lack of experience. For example: "The small farm has been sealed off, with the remaining herd of suckler cows confined to their field while tests continue." Quarantine is routine for a limited period after vaccination, usually 14 to 21 days, but why not mention vaccination and exactly what tests on the suckler cows? Or are they attempting soil sampling? If the latter, I wish them good luck as it is much harder than many realise even with modern techniques. And I do hope that they vaccinated those cows.............we have a situation where livestock veterinarians are ignorant of the disease (not having seen much of it during their careers), which delays recognition. This is further exaggerated in the UK where far too many farmers are now too poor to regularly employ a veterinarian.Read in full
April 24 2006 ~ Anthrax survey "... the regional Defra chiefs refused to recall the files from their archives."
The comments of the moderator at ProMed about the UK's lack of experience with anthrax and the fact that " far too many farmers" in the UK are now too poor to employ vets regularly, also reveal that about 18 months ago he
"...attempted a file review of the past 100 outbreaks in the UK. We got about 25 replies and then it dried up as the regional Defra chiefs refused to recall the files from their archives."Just as one swallow doth not a summer make, the ProMed moderator remarks drily that "Two dozen survey docs do not an hypothesis challenge..... " Read in full
April 23/24 2006 ~ Pedigree calf, Fern, did NOT "show typical signs of bovine TB at the post mortem" There were no open lesions at all - but the press were told there were.
In spite of press coverage at the time of the calf's death, the story from his owner about the aftermath of the killing of Fern raises some very serious questions. The calf had been in isolation for 3 months after he had reacted to the test. The SVS vet, Linda Farrant SVS, had said that the reaction in a young calf meant that the infection "would have spread rapidly through his system", he must be " very diseased", so he must be dealt with " very quickly". Mrs Kremers writes:
".... Four SVS personnel searched diligently for lesions. None were found in the lungs or stomach areas.Mr Kremers concludes " I used to believe that we lived in a democracy, but now I know better. Many thanks to everyone who has listened, helped, supported and cared. I only hope that I have given others the courage to stand up for their principles, their cattle, their valuations and their birds, should the time come to them.."
Eventually a small, calcified abscess was found in one of the throat glands. It was not an open lesion.... it had been there some time, and this would be sent to the laboratories to be cultured, to see if it was indeed bTB. The results would be known in six weeks. (ie the results would not be available until the middle of May) Imagine my shock when the Western Morning Newspaper phoned me on the Monday .... The journalist read out a stream of sentences which said Fern had shown typical signs of bTB at the post mortem. This validated their tests. Etc.etc.
If Mrs Kremers is right, it looks very much as though there has been lying and falsification on the part of DEFRA and the SVS in order to justify their actions and silence those who supported Mrs Kremers' stand. Read full story
April 23/24 2006 ~ "It is clear that the H5N1 problem originated from outbreaks in poultry...Poultry trade and mechanical movement of infected materials are likely modes for spreading HPAI in general..."
Global Patterns of Influenza A Virus in Wild Birds Björn Olsen et al. Science 21 April 2006: Vol. 312. no. 5772, pp. 384 - 388
"....It is most likely that the H5N1 virus has circulated continuously in domestic birds in Southeast Asia since 1997 and, as a consequence, has evolved substantially (Fig. 2). Surveillance studies in Mainland China from 1999 onward indicated that H5N1 viruses have become endemic in domestic birds in the region and that multiple genetic lineages of the virus are cocirculating (32, 33). Poultry trade and mechanical movement of infected materials are likely modes for spreading HPAI in general
.......Even in areas with significant outbreaks in poultry, virus prevalence in wild birds is low (32), and the role of these wild birds in spreading the disease is unclear. It is clear that the H5N1 problem originated from outbreaks in poultry and that the outbreaks and their geographical spread probably cannot be stopped without implementation of proper control measures in the global poultry industry. However, there is at present no scientific basis for culling wild birds to control the outbreaks and their spread, and this is further highly undesirable from a conservationist perspective. ..." www.sciencemag.org
April 22 2006 ~ "they'll be killed immediately even before more detailed testing is finished....confined and killed with carbon dioxide gas"
"If screening tests suggest a potentially virulent flu virus is present, and the birds show signs of flu, they'll be killed immediately even before more detailed testing is finished ..." These ominous words from the head of the US Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. which can be read at http://www.cbsnews.com are followed by the now familiar and equally depressing statement:
"Most of America's chickens come from big commercial farms that are well-protected against the spread of disease. Yet there are many small backyard and free-range flocks - as many as 60,000 in Los Angeles alone - where birds are outdoors and are harder to protect. "Once again, we see the complacency of the big-business intensive sector, its refusal to consider the view that what fosters disease is the environment in which intensively raised poultry are kept - and we see too the ease with which the press accepts the view that factory farms have the best "bio-security".
" well-protected against the spread of disease"? As the virologist Dr Ruth Watkins, among others, points out
"..... Indoors any infection introduced as droppings or from an infected individual is aerosolised and effectively spread either orally or by respiraotry route to all or at least many others. This starts infection like a bushfire, and the birds inside are stressed and probably less healthy and even immune depressed compared to their healthy happy free ranging counterparts. .... So far the two large outbreaks in European poultry facilities have occurred in birds kept inside...."It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that in the US, as in the UK,there are those who would see the end of free-range and small scale production with equanimity. For what reasons one can only speculate.
April 22 2006 ~ US " The government has vaccines to protect poultry from the virus but is reluctant to use them
because vaccinated birds can still spread the virus without appearing sick. Vaccines could be used in flocks surrounding the area of an outbreak" See CBS News These are the words of John Clifford, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer - and, as in the UK, the authorities are careful not to exclude the possibility of using vaccination - but only when extensive slaughter has already been tried.
What John Clifford fails to make clear is that the small number of vaccinates who, in theory, can become carriers, can pass the virus on only to non-vaccinates. How could these vaccinated birds be in contact with unvaccinated ones, if a policy of vaccination was in play? This was true in the case of FMD and is explained clearly here (name of author on request)
"... In reality, if virus infection is a risk in the area, ALL animals on a farm would be advised to be vaccinated. Only ridiculous disease control strategists would advise vaccinating only a few animals on the farm (as occur in the experiments such as Terpstra's), or mixing vaccinates and non-vaccinates when there is infection in the immediate area. ..." read in full
April 22 2006 ~ When Exotic Newcastle disease (END) hit California rapid real-time PCR was used "eliminating individual bird handling, and providing a time- and cost-efficient sampling technique".
"An efficient and cost-effective means of sampling flocks for detection of a circulating virus" was in use three years ago and the unnecessary removal of healthy uninfected stock was avoided. The reasons behind the US slaughter plans appear to have neither sound science nor veterinary disease control at their foundation. What is very evident, however, is that as a superpower, able to influence global policy (OIE/FAO/WHO), the US is very powerful. The UK will find it harder to base its own policy on anything other than industry-driven trade considerations.
In 2002-2003, and even though the ARS Newcastle PCR test, proven by trials later to be far superior to the California test, was "already sitting on the APHIS shelf where it had been since 2001" (Breeze) as a result of US policy, California had to invent a new and inferior real time PCR test to cope with the emergency. It was, however, used successfully.
Hietala SK et al: (see PubMed Abstract)
"Environmental sampling has several advantages for flock surveillance, including minimizing direct human contact with flocks, eliminating individual bird handling, and providing a time- and cost-efficient sampling technique. ."
April 22 2006 ~ "Pingrid Alexandra promptly threw up, while the other birds did not appear to have an adverse reaction...."
"Penguins Get Norway's First Bird Flu Shots"
".......The Bergen Aquarium, in western Norway's main city, had been trying since October to get government authorization for the vaccinations....On Friday, the authority relented and granted approval. But after two of the eight birds were vaccinated, it withdrew the permit, only to give the final go ahead a few hours later.So, the eight penguins got their shots - thanks to the determined and continual demands of their keepers - while the free range birds do not. As we have so often seen, the non-acceptability of vaccination is far more likely to depend on a country's trade considerations rather than on its concern about the best veterinary disease control.
... the first bird vaccinated was 9-month-old Pingrid Alexandra..."
April 20/21 2006 ~ US government will " kill off any flocks suspected of having the virus even before tests are completed"
The Associated Press has the details.
One American commentator remarks,
"Does that remind you of "we had to destroy the village in order to save it"?"adding that every step and policy decision in the US is now under a microscope, and if a contingency plan blows up "like the 2001 UK FMD outbreak", leaders will be held directly accountable.
Another anxious comment:
" It sounds like the policy in Holland 2003 when everything was taken out in a 3km zone, and even up to 10 km, when the outbreak looked out of control. That way, many hobby birds were killed (around 280,000); hardly any of them were found to be infected when tested. The total cull was around 30 million."When portable, affordable, mobile and efficient real-time PCR tests can be done on-site and deliver results within the hour, what possible excuse can there be for the mass killing of healthy birds and the slaughter everything mind set - and why is this not roundly challenged by vets and scientists? How right is Dr Bob Michell,Former President of the RCVS, when he writes,
"Discretion is seldom the better part of valour; it is more often the excuse for timidity. I would like to suggest an addition to the Guide to Professional Conduct - namely that animals should never be slaughtered en masse without sound veterinary arguments."
April 20/21 2006 ~ Quarantined free range birds can move on May 1
The Scottish Executive says that restrictions on the movement of poultry and other captive birds within six miles of Anstruther in Fife will end on May 1 if no further cases of bird flu emerge. This means that chicken farmers who are being forced to keep their livestock indoors within a 1,000 square mile area will be able to free them. See Telegraph
April 19 2006 ~ " it's convenient to blame wild birds, since then no one has to admit that their borders are out of control."
International Herald Tribune
"increasing evidence, experts say, that a thriving international trade in smuggled poultry products - including birds, chicks, eggs, meat, feathers and other products - is making a substantial contribution to the spread of the H5N1 bird flu virus.....International Herald Tribune
This week, Vietnamese health officials said chickens smuggled over the border from China had reintroduced bird flu into their nation, which had reported no cases for four months.
.... "I would love to have a map of illegal trade - but I'm embarrassed to say we don't have a good handle on it," said Juan Lubroth, a senior veterinarian at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. "We all know it occurs and we are worried, but what we see confiscated is only the tip of the iceberg. ..We're been looking for it in wild birds for the last two months and it is surprising that we've come up with zero," Lubroth said, noting that scattered outbreaks in the wild might be particularly hard to detect in Africa.
.... Nancy Morgan, an economist at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, said illegal trade could have "easily" introduced bird flu into Nigeria and Egypt, the two African countries with the most extensive bird flu problems. ....."
April 19 2006 ~ Interim SFPs will be paid as soon as is 'operationally possible'
said Margaret Beckett today and this is likely to take weeks rather than days.. See RPA page.
April 19 2006 ~"Testing is controlled by the government and only occurs then if the government allows.." The MacDonalds move raises fresh questions about on-farm testing
While, as we say below, the keeping of free range birds indoors will both raise the chance of virus spreading and make birds stressed, at least the giant corporation does make a serious point about testing. They admit that incarcerating poultry is "somewhat controversial in parts of Europe because of the culture of raising free-range birds" but - in view of the millions in profits involved when public health and confidence is at stake - MacDonalds has, for the past six months, had its US suppliers themselves test flocks for bird flu. They say
"In the U.S. we have vertical integration, the flocks are raised just for McDonald's, so we have total control over it"..... In other countries, that is not the case. For example, in parts of Europe, testing is controlled by the government and only occurs then the government allows.." ...". see Reuters articleOn farm testing would mean that free range flocks could remain in their free state. The problem is the refusal of governments to allow breeders to take responsibility, as they do in the US, for the testing of their flocks.
April 19 2006 ~ MacDonalds calls for Europe's hens to be kept indoors. This is no solution to the threat from H5N1 - quite the opposite.
McDonald's is insisting that its suppliers in Europe bring normally free-range chickens indoors to try to contain the spread of bird flu and to make sure the food it serves is not tainted with the disease The virologist, Ruth Watkins, writes:
"... Indoors any infection introduced as droppings or from an infected individual is aerosolised and effectively spread either orally or by respiratory route to all or at least many others. This starts infection like a bushfire, and the birds inside are stressed and probably less healthy and even immune depressed and the birds inside are stressed and probably less healthy and even immune depressed compared to their healthy happy free ranging counterparts.We are grateful to Dr Watkins for an expert opinion. It is a voice of sanity in the face of alarming pronouncements from the Chief Scientific Adviser and confusing ones from the Chief Veterinary Officer. (MacDonalds item can be viewed here)
These merely share a roost which is regularly cleaned out and do not live in a dusty atmosphere.
So far the two large outbreaks in European poultry facilities have occurred in birds kept inside..."
April 18 2006 ~ Did Dr Reynolds mean "reverse transcriptase" PCR when she wrote "Real Time PCR"?
The report to the OIE (see below) from CVO Debby Reynolds mentions "real-time PCR(1)" as the diagnostic test used. Perhaps, even for the country's Chief Veterinary Officer, it is an understandable error to confuse the two when the terms are so similar. What is not at all understandable however- as Magnus Linklater so persuasively explained last week - is the UK's continuing reluctance to use real real-time PCR so that diagnosis of potentially dangerous zoonoses can be rapid and effective and take place at the actual site of the suspected infection. Its use in the case of H5N1 would obviate the need to lock up free range birds and we should hear less of the sort of "safety measures" insisted upon by McDonalds (see Inbox). And Dr Reynolds' report about vaccination is - to be as charitable as we can - very misleading when there are so many in the UK who very much want to see vaccination used (We have been kindly sent a short explanatory sheet on the various different forms of PCR test which makes it clear that the CVO has made a mistake and has perhaps had Real Time PCR very much on her mind. Let us hope so.)
April 18 2006 ~ The EU has been secretly warning about uncertainties over GM - while approving their use for human consumption
The Guardian today
"Papers obtained by two environmental groups under freedom of information laws show the commission has pushed through the approval of seven GM foods. They were approved despite admissions that there were "large areas of uncertainty" and "some issues have not yet been studied at all".....Christoph Then of Greenpace is quoted
"The released EU papers outline detailed scientific concerns about the safety of genetically modified food and crops. "These revelations are astonishing - they show contempt for humans and the environment and prove that Europe's safety net is not working."
April 18 2006 ~ CVO Debby Reynolds reported to the OIE that vaccination is "routinely used" and that RT-PCR is being used at Weybridge
We were interested but surprised by the CVO's report to the OIE on 6 and 13th April 2006. Dr Debby Reynolds reported "a wild whooper swan found dead at Cellardyke slipway. The swan carcase had been collected and taken to the competent authorities under current active surveillance protocols.":
".....Source of outbreak or origin of infection: unknown or inconclusive - contact with wild animals.If RT-PCR is really being used at the OIE/FAO Reference Laboratory for avian influenza at Weybridge why it cannot be used on site for rapid diagnosis is a mystery.
Control measures undertaken: vaccination.
Treatment of affected animals: no.
Other details/comments: - Prophylactic vaccination of poultry is undertaken routinely..."
Dr Reynolds notes that "prophylactic vaccination of poultry is undertaken routinely" yet - as the 12 organisations below deplore, vaccination for H5N1 is not an accepted part of AI Contingency Planning and we continue to hear negative and dismissive comments in the UK about vaccination against H5N1 for the free range sector. The reasons for this - when 8 countries are now vaccinating poultry against H5N1 - remain unfathomable.
April 16/18 2006 ~ The Forest of Dean Community Radio is running a 2-part memorial program 'Foot and Mouth 5 years on'
The group was set up after the Oaklands Park standoff where people from all over the country arrived to stop the cull of the animals.
In spite of the voluntary quarantine at the Park from the very beginning, a Form A notice treating the community as a "contiguous farm" was delivered on April 6th 2001.
The community repeatedly requested vaccination and blood-testing but on 18th April and despite three vets' inspections, they were notified of the plan to cull the following day. With wide public support and media coverage the animals were given a reprieve - with no explanation and without removal of the Form A. The community of 116 people, including 48 adults with learning difficulties, remained under virtual 'house arrest' for 7 weeks. The fight for blood testing eventually resulted on 22nd of May 2001 in negative results.
The experience at Oaklands led to the subsequent deep concern about the revised Animal Health Act that now makes such a protest illegal.
The first program of this Forest of Dean Community Radio retrospective is on Monday afternoon (April 17th) at 3pm and will be repeated next Sunday 23rd April at 12.30pm. The second program will be on Monday 24th April at 3pm. Interviews recorded at the Manchester Conference will be aired, including one with Roger Breeze
April 16/18 2006 ~ Help save Fordhall Farm: "a community driven venture which is helping to reconnect people with the land and food, whilst promoting the full 'pasture to plate' cycle."
The Fordhall Initiative was established with the aim of saving Fordhall Farm in Shropshire from being broken up, sold off and lost forever. The story is an inspiring one. The family remain adamant that the decades of research and compassionate management at Fordhall should not be lost to development. The idea is to take Fordhall Farm out of private ownership and to put it into community ownership forever. The venture is applauded and supported by, among others, Patrick Holden, Prince Charles, Zac Goldsmith - and by warmwell. Read in full
April 14/16 2006 ~" the foot-and-mouth fiasco should have taught us that action for action's sake is not only pointless, but potentially destructive."
The Guardian article from Cellardyke by John Burnside who lives nearby and laments the policy of locking local free-range birds away
"....many small poultry operations....in danger of losing their livelihoods, and the area around Cellardyke began to look like one of those episodes of The X-Files.... if there is one thing we know about bird flu, it is that there is no effective way of containing it .. .. I have grown accustomed to the small pleasure of slowing for ducks: it's why I live in this place. My neighbour keeps geese and ducks and other fowl, free-range; now they are all locked away in dark, narrow huts. These half-wild birds may not die of flu, but the misery of prolonged confinement could just as easily kill them..."One is grateful still to be able to read, in an English newspaper, such sentences as
"Every year we drift further from the animals: we dare not sacrifice what communion we have left with the few birds we still know, for the sake of a visibly adequate, though possibly cosmetic response."Guardian page
April 14/16 2006 ~"Many experts, the Tribune said, are convinced that the illegal import of infected chicks introduced the virus into Nigeria"
The Indian New Kerala.com has taken up the International Herald Tribune story (See below) in its article 'Poultry smugglers may be undercutting fight against bird flu' repeating that " Africa's first and largest epidemic which is limited to poultry farms and has not affected wild birds. "
April 14/16 2006 ~ RPA " I have just received the tenth version of maps for my farm, which were wrong again. It is hopeless."
The Western Morning News quotes Richard Haddock (NFU)
"I have not seen such desperation in the industry since the height of the BSE crisis. Tenant farmers can't pay their rent; people can't settle their fertiliser bills. The whole rural economy is running into trouble."A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said changes put in place by the RPA's acting chief executive Mark Addison were still "bedding down". He said it was not yet possible to set out a new timetable for making payments." Read in full on RPA page
April 13- 16th 2006 ~ UK's food self-sufficiency has been falling steadily for more than a decade
A report by the New Economics Foundation (Nef) and the Open University notes that the UK's food self-sufficiency has been falling steadily for more than a decade, and indigenous food production is now said to be at its lowest level for half a century. See BBC Some of the idiocies noted by the report :
In 2004, the UK exported 1,500 tonnes of fresh potatoes to Germany, and imported 1,500 tonnes of the same product from the same countryWe are reminded of what James Lovelock wrote recently: "we need secure indigenous supplies of food and energy..." Professor Lovelock is in no doubt. What is needed in these islands is self sufficiency in food production. Globalisation is, it would seem, about to become obsolete in the face of the end of cheap energy and of the climate change that, he feels, is inevitable. "...our gas and oil will soon be gone and we can not rely on supplies from abroad..."
Imported 465 tonnes of gingerbread, but exported 460 tonnes of the same produce
Sent 10,200 tonnes of milk and cream to France, yet imported 9,900 tonnes of the dairy goods from France
April 14/16 2006 ~ Avian Flu "The timing and location of these outbreaks do not match the movements of migratory birds."
Bird International's balanced argument concluding that migratory birds are highly unlikely to be spreading HPAI H5N1 See Bird Flu page
".. The lack of a trail of H5N1 infections along migratory pathways from infected breeding habitats in Mongolia, China and Russia to southern wintering areas in Asia suggests that migratory wild birds are not spreading the disease long distances between continents. With few exceptions, there is limited correlation between the pattern and timing of spread among domestic birds and wild bird migrations. ....." BirdLife's report on avian flu (uploaded April 11 2006) is on its website
April 14/16 2006 ~ An unhyped - but real and present danger to public health. This Easter Weekend, dirty, illegally slaughtered and diseased meat is arriving in all big cities of the UK
An email from Dr Teinaz, Principal Environmental Health Officer London Borough of Hackney:
" ....... I will keep my campaign up within the profession and the media until the authorities wake up.Dr Yunes' presentation is at http://icclondon.org (Powerpoint) And see also the Meat Crimes page The International Herald Tribune today carries an article on smuggled Asian poultry - a product at risk for carrying bird flu. Timothy Moore, an official at the University of Nebraska says that a close second to illegal drug traffic comes the illegal smuggling of animals
The Health of the Nation is every body's business. Meat, unfit for human consumption, is entering the food chain in a country where the law guarantees the safety of meat from the stable to the table!
Nothing is happening to the criminals to stop their crimes. They make their tax free profits at the expense of our communities' health." Read email in full
"....this will play a prominent role in the spread of this disease. It looks to be the main way it is spreading in some parts of the world." Read article
April 13 2006 ~ Elm Farm Research Centre joins in call for Avian Influenza vaccination for poultry
There are now 12 supporting organisations for the vaccines work letter - including now the prestigious Elm Farm Research Centre www.efrc.com , the Poultry Club of Wales www.poultryclubofwales.org and the Araucana Club UK www.araucana.org.uk See reference to the letter below.
If Sir David King thinks that the "poultry industry" is behind the non-vaccination policy (see below) he means only those for whom the raising of birds is indeed an "industry". Those who care for birds are finding a voice.
We are still in the dark about the "10million doses of vaccine ordered as a contingency to protect some poultry " about which the Soil Association were told by Defra officials in March (see below).
The need to protect those who handle birds was given as yet another reason for vaccination by Professor George Brownlee (See below) . A vaccinated flock would pose no danger since, even if the virus had been circulating before vaccination and some birds infected, vaccinates shed so little virus that the risk would be negligible.
April 12 2006 ~ "What's alarming about failure to deploy rapid PCR tests even to regional diagnostic labs since 2001 is that technology has moved on significantly while nothing was being done."
An email from Roger Breeze to Land Care, copied to warmwell.com. " The means to detect on the farm has got even better since 2001 - it did not disappear just because responsible officials had their heads in the sand hoping it would go away..."
".....the imminent availability (2006) of a test cassette format (the machine has been on the market for some time) that will allow a sample from a single animal to be tested by real time PCR for up to 12 disease pathogens simultaneously in about 20 minutes (this is known as multiplex testing). This machine is about the size of a small loaf of bread and operates when slung over the shoulder or in a moving vehicle. It is ideally suited for investigative use on farm or at the site of the dead swan. The PCR tests, cassette format and device are state of the art for the U.S. military on land, sea or air, or underwater ...."The letter must be read in full
April 12 2006 ~ National Scrapie Plan " the VRQ allele, currently being eliminated under the NSP, appears to confer resistance to this strain of the disease."
The Farmer's Weekly quotes Dr Matthew Baylis of Liverpool University
"Should we end up with a national flock where one genotype dominates then we could find future scrapie problems are far greater than we have ever seen. "The article should be read in full. See also warmwell's scrapie page
April 12 2006 ~ "DEFRA is like a dead swan - Discuss"
Magnus Linklater in The Times today asks: "Why are we still shuttling dead birds across the country to the single laboratory capable of testing them, when there is a sophisticated and foolproof form of local testing that could diagnose the virus in under six hours? "
".... this vital work should be removed from under the dead hand of Defra and handed to an independent advisory body that could draw together the necessary scientific expertise from all sources and then come up with objective advice, free of government constraints. Perhaps the Royal Societies, north and south of the border, with their long traditions of independence, could act as the umbrella body. Something needs to be done if we are not to stumble into another pandemic disaster. Next time we may be dealing with more than just a dead swan." Read in full
April 12 2006 ~ "people with little first-hand knowledge of the one science they should be on top of: virology."
Magnus Linklater points out clearly what the basic problem is
"...What is disturbing about so many of the statements coming out of Defra about the need to bring free-range flocks indoors, to end organic farming, to monitor but never to introduce vaccination is that they are made by people with little first-hand knowledge of the one science they should be on top of: virology. There is brilliant work being done in research centres in Britain on zoonotic diseases and the vaccines needed to control them, but it rarely seems to filter upwards to Defra..." MoreMr Linklater draws attention to the Rapid diagnostic machines(see warmwell page) and their ilk - fully functioning since the beginning of the Foot and Mouth crisis - but ignored, at terrible cost, by the UK.
April 12 2006 ~ "Every minister and every official, taking their cue from government scientists, dutifully repeats......"
Times article ".... Every minister and every official, taking their cue from government scientists, dutifully repeats that vaccines would only mask the disease rather than control it. Ben Bradshaw, the Defra Minister, claims that overwhelming scientific advice shows that the disadvantages of their use greatly outweigh the advantages. Clearly he has not read the detailed scientific papers on the Hong Kong and Vietnam outbreaks, where the opposite has been proved: that vaccination can control and eliminate avian flu and that tests can establish whether it is still present or hidden. ..." (Scientific peer reviewed papers may be viewed on warmwell's H5N1 page.)
April 12 2006 ~ "Officials have since attempted to explain the mistake by pointing out that the bird's head was missing.."
and it was badly decomposed. But they were criticised last night for taking so long to make a positive identification. A spokesman for the RSPB said it was important to get the species right first time. "We hope the authorities will learn from this mistake," he said...." Telegraph (See also cartoon from Germany..showing German swans who like to have sole use of the beach...)
April 12 2006 ~ The New Scientist suggests UK bird tests were flawed - but DEFRA says the most up-to-date testing technologies for avian flu viruses are being used.
DEFRA has said that tests on wild birds are negative for bird flu, suggesting that H5N1 is not widespread in the country. However, according to Reuters:
"An investigation by New Scientist suggests that all those tests were flawed, meaning no one really knows just how widespread infection among British wild birds might be" ..... DEFRA defended its methods, saying the most up-to-date testing technologies for avian flu viruses are being used .... "It would be interesting to know what these "most up-to-date testing technologies" are when it took a week to determine that the Callardyke swan was infected. As Dr Dr James Irvine asks below:"What has happened to the recommended rapid task force that would go to an area where disease is suspected, armed with portable RealTime-PCR equipment that could make a reliable diagnosis, including strain type, within 4 hours maximum? "
#400,000 for state -of- the-art rapid diagnostic on-site tests could make Scotland the best equipped country in Europe. As Dr Breeze says "There are hundreds of scientists and technicians in Scotland today who know how to do PCR tests (a standard lab tool) and who could learn the works of the RAPID in an afternoon."
April 12 2006 ~ "One of Rockeby's ten-minute tests can be used on bird faeces and blood to detect the H5N1 strain of bird flu
while the other detects the deadly strain in humans." www.smh.com.au "The tests are now listed on the animal health division of the World Health Organisation's (OIE) list of avian influenza diagnostic kits. The company said it plans to have its tests certified by the OIE by the end of 2006."
April 11 2006 ~"farmers and growers are in contracts which supermarkets never put in writing and the terms of which can change overnight. They are often asked to pay supermarkets for the privilege of trading. We are asking the question - how can you run a business in such a climate of fear?"
Farming Unions report to the Office of Fair Trading
"At face value, supermarket price wars have the effect of driving down prices and therefore supplying customers with cheaper products.See NFU website
However, real damage is being done further down the supply chain where businesses cannot cope with the continued downward pressure on prices, particularly as input costs - like energy and labour - are increasing. Ultimately, the submission warns, this will have an adverse affect on product choice, availability and continued production in the UK.."
April 11 2006 ~ Mutated Streptococcus suis could cause a pandemic
While fears over H5N1 mutating into a form that can affect humans seem to be receding, we read today of research in China that suggests there is potential for a pandemic from a pig disease bacterium that may have genetically changed. (more warmwell references to streptococcus suis)
It also appears that scores of dead pigs have just been found in a river in eastern China. The cause of their death is unclear. See planetsave.com
April 11 2006 ~ Bird Flu Scotland "If this individual bird washed up from outside the UK... that does favour the theory that this is a one-off.
BBC News reports that it looks as though the swan was a whooper swan from outside the UK " The BBC quotes an RSPB spokeman
"It does build on the fact that we've seen no more positive results in the few days after the discovery of the first swan."The 260,000 free range birds around Cellardyke will have to remain inside for at least 30 days from the day the swan was found. ( A German emailer writes, cartoon : German swans will do anything to get the beach to themselves)
April 11 2006 ~ Where are the 10m doses of vaccine on order for " some poultry" to protect our free range birds?
Is any reader able to inform us whether the Guardian article (see below) was correct in its reporting that the Soil Association had been told of a further 10 million doses for use on poultry? And, if so, there are any signs that the order is on its way? (contact warmwell) Professor Sir David King is already looking at a future where"organic and free-range farming would come to an end. It would change farming practices," and thousands of people in the UK who care deeply about raising birds in a natural environment - both for the birds' health and welfare and for our own - are aghast.
This is our "chief scientific adviser" on matters of both veterinary and ethical importance - who, although his origins as a chemistry lecturer at Liverpool were somewhat obscure, succeeded his friend Sir Robert May as the man to whom the government listens with deference and quotes in Parliamentary Answers. In spite of his so disastrously seizing control of FMD in early 2001 and failing to take note of what the real experts were - with increasing urgency - trying to tell him about vaccination and rapid diagnosis, Sir David and his circle are still in post. Few seem worried by this. We are.
April 10 2006 ~"Why can't DEFRA act now, to have a policy and inform us, before it is too late for people with vulnerable outdoor birds?"
is the main message of the letter seen on www.callducks.net which should be read in full.
"We have probably no vaccine in the bank in the UK above the zoo bird requirement. Many organisations such as the World Organisation for Animal Health, Compassion in World Farming and the British Veterinary Association ultimately advocate using vaccine also to reduce mass killing. "
The letter has been signed by:
NBvH Dutch Hobby Holders http://hobbydierhouder.nl (English pages link)
British Waterfowl Association www.waterfowl.org.uk
Poultry Club of GB www.poultryclub.org
Call Duck Association www.callducks.net
Indian Runner Duck Association www.runnerduck.net
Henkeepers Association www.henkeepersassociation.co.uk
Goose Club www.gooseclub.org.uk
Scots Dumpy Club www.scotsdumpy.org.uk
TurkeyClub www.turkeyclub.org.uk UK
April 10 2006 ~ Dutch Agriculture Ministry will allow poultry outside from May 1
Reuters "The peak period for bird migration is almost over," a ministry spokeswoman said. "We will review the situation once again at the end of April and if it hasn't changed, meaning that there is no bird flu outbreak or disease being found in wild birds, we will lift the requirement"......The Netherlands launched preventive vaccination last month for its 1-3 million backyard poultry and about 5 million free-range poultry against H5N1. Vaccination is voluntary and an alternative to the requirement that birds be kept indoors.."
April 8 - 10 2006 ~ "astonishing complacency" for ignoring calls to vaccinate poultry and farm workers
Patrick Holden of the Soil Association countered the argument that vaccination "masks disease" by saying that sentinel animals can, of course, be used. The Sunday Telegraph quotes him as saying that senior DEFRA officials
" had assured him a month ago that they would send him written details of ring-vaccination plans, but had failed to do so. Either the plans are being blocked, or there is an astonishing level of complacency at high levels of Government."An organic poultry farmer in Cheshire is quoted:
"Defra has provided us with excessive amounts of information and documents, written in ridiculous technical jargon, so that we are left confused about what their advice really is." Read in full
April 8 - 10 2006 ~ "this failure to prepare reflects a lack of understanding of viral disease in DEFRA and government and has implications for human disease risk..."
A letter to warmwell from Colin Fink BSc (Hons), MB, ChB, PhD, FRC Path and Ruth Watkins BSc Hons, BFA Oxon, MBBS, MSc, MRCP, MRCPath
"... The pronouncements this week by Professor Sir David King UK Chief Scientist are not encouraging. The UK still has insufficient or no H5N1 influenza vaccine stocks sufficient to protect the poultry flocks and this failure to prepare reflects a lack of understanding of viral disease in DEFRA and government and has implications for human disease risk. Vaccination is the most useful weapon we have against epidemic viral disease...."Read in full
April 8 - 10 2006 ~ Vaccination: "with the benefit of hindsight I think, almost certainly, we were wrong."
Hindsight or not, we look set to be making the same mistakes with Bird Flu as this BBC Close-up programme illustrated in the year of Foot and Mouth.
Extract: Professor Fred Brown: "......I can see all these arguments but this is not about getting rid of the disease, they're about trading, they're about money. It's not about the disease at all, not about getting rid of the disease."Without stocks of vaccine, culling becomes the only policy if H5N1 gets into domestic fowl. It will be the free range birds who suffer by being summarily forced into unnatural and stressful conditions or - at worst - culled as "dangerous contacts". Professor Sir David King is already complacently saying that "organic and free-range farming would come to an end. It would change farming practices." The intensive broiler sector, the only group, as far as we can see, to be "key" stakeholders, and at present in fierce competition with the organic and free-range sector, want the policy to protect their "industry" from trade retrictions and from a presumed consumer dislike for vaccinated products (of which the supermarkets are full).
"We need to understand even the barbaric notions of the cull and cull again brigade, because we have to change their way of thinking about livestock. There will be other outbreaks in the future. After 1967 people wrote wise words about measures to be taken, including vaccination," wrote one gentle witness to the horrors of 2001. See archives
April 8 - 10 2006 ~ " Clearly in retrospect it needed more independent expertise on diagnostics, practical expertise on the use of vaccines, expertise on serology...."
Dr David Shannon, the outgoing Ministry Chief Scientist in 2002, summing up the problem with government scientific advice on animal health policy. The 2001 BBC programme (above) leaned heavily towards putting the whole blame for not vaccinating on the NFU, but this absolves the Science Committee, Professor David King's foot and mouth Science Advisory Group. It was dominated by the work of Professor Neil Ferguson, Dr Christl Donnelly and Prof Roy Anderson, all at Imperial College. Its influential members were guiding the policies. Unfortunately, most of them - in particular Professor David King - still are. (Read Dr Shannon's comments.)
April 8 - 10 2006 ~ Dr Shannon: " experts must listen to the public"
(From the article mentioned above) Dr David Shannon said he wanted to see an end to the prominence of what he called tabloid scientists
" The figures we see on our TV screens every day, who do not give a balanced picture... .. scientific evidence is subject to the weaknesses of all other sorts of evidence: such as the motivation of the provider, funding issues and even competition between disciplines.
Some scientists want their own discipline to be the one to solve the problem..:"Unless we solve it with this technique, we haven't solved it."
We should seek to inform the public and let it arrive at its own view.
And experts must listen to the public; that's one of the important things we must do much more of. Understand where the public's coming from. For example, about vaccination for foot and mouth."
April 8 - 10 2006 ~ "efforts to stamp out bird flu should focus on intensive rearing units "
The Independent today recalls the article by the organisation Grain, "Fowl Play" - (see warmwell page for full links to the article and more).
"A new analysis of the pandemic has sought to shift the emphasis for international action to tackle the disease away from backyard farmers and wild migratory birds. Instead, efforts to stamp out bird flu should focus on intensive rearing units..... ." The insatiable demand for cheap food, the global poultry industry and the giant factory farms of south-east Asia have been blamed for spreading avian flu around the world..." read Independent article in full
April 8 -10 2006 ~ 10m doses of vaccine on order for " some poultry" (in addition to zoo birds)
Ian Sample and James Meikle in today's Guardian Extract:
"....A total of 45 organic and free-range poultry farms with 250,000 birds are among the 195 in Scotland already ordered to bring their 3.1m birds under cover. ...
Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association, said Sir David (see below) appeared to have "an unreconstructed attitude against nature-friendly and health-promoting forms of livestock farming. The big issue is what kind of attitude we have. Whether it is calm and sophisticated or hysterical, draconian and fear inducing."
The association had been assured by Defra officials in March that 10m doses of vaccine were being ordered as a contingency to protect some poultry. That was on top of 2m doses already on standby for zoo and exotic birds. ..." read article in full
April 8 2006 ~ Swan may have caught the virus a month ago...
The same Guardian article says
"....The dead swan that signalled the arrival of highly pathogenic bird flu on British soil is believed to have contracted the disease up to a month ago, experts said yesterday. .... The timing of the swan's infection coincides with the arrival of bird flu in France and Germany .... "By comparing the virus with others they might be able to work out where it came from," said Professor John Oxford, a leading virologist at Queen Mary, University of London..."
April 8 2006 ~ the need to protect those who handle birds
A reminder of what Professor George Brownlee of the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford said in the Times in March
"there have been considerable improvements in the quality of bird flu vaccines produced by the new plasmid-based technology, originally developed in the UK. Such vaccines have been manufactured in China and used to vaccinate millions of chickens rather than cull them. Although labour costs are different in China, we need similar high-tech flu vaccines as one way of protecting the poultry industry. The Government should pay for vaccine manufacturers to stockpile vaccines. Similar vaccines should be developed for farm workers who are in contact with poultry. Surely, if the French decide it is economical to protect their foie gras industry by vaccination, there might be circumstances where vaccination is appropriate in the UK."read in fullWe have yet to hear much about the need to protect those who handle birds. A vaccinated flock would pose no danger since, even if the virus had been circulating before vaccination and some birds infected, vaccinates shed so little virus that the risk would be negligible.
April 7 2006 ~ Defra has vetoed mass vaccination of the poultry flock on cost-benefit grounds.
However, as the Guardian points out, it is prepared for the safe incineration of millions of birds
Madness. As Dr Roger Breeze patiently points out below, if the existing technology were used
"we are actually talking about moving Scotland to the head of Europe for about #350,000 "In addition, it would cost perhaps #12,000 a year for new test kits. The RAPID RT-PCR replaces procedures that require high containment laboratories with enormous fixed operating costs. With RT-PCR costs are low because you already have all the other infrastructure and the trained people. And far from waiting for a week for results, you can test accurately for positive infection, pinpoint it, report on it and respond to it within hours.
".....Dr Alan Hay, director of the London-based World Influenza Centre, said: "If you got a sample in, you could get an answer within three to four hours. The methods that are in place now are really quite sensitive and quite rapid. One can detect and identify these infections fairly quickly." from "Deadly delay in confirming bird flu virus" Daily Mail
April 7 2006 ~ Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David King, tells the nation that John Humphrys' pertinent questions mean he is "in cloud cuckoo land"
Listen Again to a mumbling, defensive, hesitating but astonishingly complacent set of answers. John Humphrys says
"..the fact that it took eight days to establish that it had the virus is not encouraging , is it?"to which the reply from the man who is guiding the non-vaccination, non-rapid diagnosis policy in the UK. is
"I, I, to be honest, I don't feel discouraged by that. I think what we, we just have to bear in mind, John, is the um the statistics , um, since the first of February more than 500 swans, over 500 water fowl have been submitted through the laboratory testing procedure. This is the one animal that has tested negative (sic) so the first thing is a very large number have been reported- something like 600 calls a week and 120 a week are being tested, um, and, of course, the, the, the particular condition of the carcass did not make the testing easy..."(He forgets that Tina Briscoe, when she told the police about the swan on 29th March , was told to get in touch with an animal charity. She reported it to Defra that evening and it took till lunchtime the following day before anyone turned up to have a look - as Medical News Today tells us. After that, it was sent to Weybridge the day after, but the laboratory was closed for the weekend. On Wednesday 5th April: that is, a week after the dead bird was reported to DEFRA, the sample was deemed positive. See below)
David King's references to Foot and Mouth and his own "opposition" to the policy are priceless. Listen Again and read what he had to say about RT-PCR in December 2001 about which Professor Fred Brown had talked to him face to face in an forlorn effort to get him to understand.)
7 April 2006 ~ Professor King talks about the end of free range farming practices
Taking birds indoors "if practicable" does not mean that poultry owners are to be allowed any flexibility. David King admits that the policy decided on is an order (in Kingspeak a "requirement") He also admits that his talks with poultry owners were with the intensive sector. "I am rather impressed with the way our poultry owners have responded." and talks about the end of free range farming practices. Listen Again ) We have the technology to stop this disease (and many other animal diseases) with rapid diagnosis and with vaccination. But here is our Chief Scientific Advisor not only thinking the unthinkable but talking calmly about the end of free range birds in Britain.
April 7 2006 ~ "I expect you are astounded that we are actually talking about moving Scotland to the head of Europe for about £350,000 ....
"..and perhaps £12,000 a year thereafter for new test kits. But this is exactly true because the RAPID replaces procedures that previously required very costly biological high containment laboratories with enormous fixed operating costs. And costs are low because you already have all the other infrastructure and the trained people. And the #350,000 is for equipment for all infectious diseases of livestock (there will be extra costs for disease-specific test cassettes). .." See Dr Breeze's letter in full
April 7 2006 ~ " As I was writing this, news came of the positive diagnosis in another bird and your report of the sequence of events in that instance only reinforced what I wanted to say."
Dr Roger Breeze, having read the report below, writes to Dr Irvine in this email received today (friday) "The RAPID is being used for avian influenza H5N1 detection in countries where this disease has caused illness in birds and people."
Extract "... If there was a RAPID in Dumfries, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oban, Perth, Aberdeen, Kyle of Lochalsh, Inverness and Thurso - 9 sites in all - these could quickly serve all the major livestock population centers. ....for about £350,000, ... Scotland could be the best equipped country in Europe! Perhaps I should have added one in Orkney too to round it off at £400,000.Read in full
There are hundreds of scientists and technicians in Scotland today who know how to do PCR tests (a standard lab tool) and who could learn the works of the RAPID in an afternoon. There are also plenty of labs with the necessary but minimal infrastructure to handle the analyses safely.....Such a lab system can be expected to give a result in less than 6 hours after being notified of a sick animal or bird - enough time to go to the site and back and run the PCR test. Having detected the virus, Scotland can take action immediately while a sample is on its way to Weybridge or Pirbright (or waiting at the airport, or going nowhere) for confirmation by conventional, but slower, means...."
April 7 2006 ~ As Dr Breeze says, "If not us, who? If not now, when? "
"The RAPID is being used for avian influenza H5N1 detection in countries where this disease has caused illness in birds and people. In January 2006 there was an avian influenza conference in Kiev Ukraine attended by over 350 medical and veterinary officials from the US, Europe and seven countries of the former Soviet Union: this was followed by hands on avian influenza H5N1 detection training on the RAPID for veterinary lab staff from six countries." Dr Breeze's email. More on RT-PCR rapid diagnosis. As Dr Breeze says, If not us, who? If not now, when?
April 7 2006 ~ Guardian "Although Mrs Beckett's department is not fond of vaccinating livestock, it is now a question that has to be addressed."
Guardian April 7 "Vaccinating a flock of hens does not eradicate the disease - it can still live within the birds - but if it's done properly, it can be hugely effective in cutting down the rates of transmission to other birds, as well as other animals. We have the example of Italy, which has brought in a successful vaccination programme to prevent the disease contaminating flocks across the country."(The paper from Hong Kong by Ellis et al (Avian Pathology (August 2004) 33(4), 405 /412) tells us that
"after 18 days post-vaccination no more deaths from H5N1 avian influenza occurred and intensive monitoring by virus culture on these farms showed no evidence of asymptomatic shedding of the virus. This provides evidence that H5 vaccine can interrupt virus transmission in a field setting."
April 7 2006 ~ "Was this swan a 'truly wild' migrant that prefers fresh water, or a resident partially domesticated bird that died elsewhere and was dumped in the harbour?
I had thought that all swans were ringed because they were considered property of the crown? If so it should have been easy to find where it had come from! And what will have become of the gulls that were seen pecking at the corpse. Do they know to keep in the safety limits?" An email questions whether the dead swan was a native or a partial migrant.
April 6 2006 ~ "The positive finding of an H5 strain of Avian Influenza virus from samples taken from the swan was established in the afternoon of Wednesday 5th April: that is, a week after the dead bird was reported to DEFRA.
Dr James Irvine's Land Care website reports
"....There would seem to be little excuse for taking a week to come up with a result, as the imminent threat of Avian Flu reaching the shores of Great Britain has been obvious for a considerable period of time.Read in full
It asks the same question as previously asked in relation to the FMD UK 2001 outbreak - do we have laboratory resources that can cope with the number of samples? Why was the key laboratory closed for the weekend at a time of supposedly heightened surveillance? ..... What is worrying is that the dead swan found at Cellardyke was a mute swan - native to Scotland and not one that has migrated from another country. So where did this swan get the virus from? What else is lurking out there?.."
April 6 2006 ~ What has happened to the recommended rapid task force that would go to an area where disease is suspected, armed with portable RealTime-PCR equipment that could make a reliable diagnosis, including strain type, within 4 hours maximum?
Dr Irvine's article mirrors what warmwell has been saying now - almost daily - for five long years. As well as lamenting the refusal to use rapid diagnosis ....
"....The folly of the UK government's stance on vaccination of poultry against the H5N1 strain of Avian Influenza is now becoming all too apparent. It does take some 3 weeks for maximum protection to be achieved using two doses of currently available vaccine (Intervet Nobilis).But the availability depends on when it was ordered. Free range birds could have been vaccinated so that they did not need to be housed should there be an outbreak. What is apparently not sufficiently recognised is that free range enterprises have housing that is appropriate for free range birds that only require to come under cover for laying their eggs and not continuously. There are serious welfare problems if free range birds are housed continuously for long periods.Read in full
The UK government has ordered (but probably not yet received) 2.3 million doses of H5N2 vaccine (Nobilis) for use in zoos and rare breeds. It has not ordered any for commercial poultry, and according to announcements on TV today "has no intention of doing so".
Such a policy is at variance with the policy adopted by the French and by the Dutch., who are already vaccinating poultry. The policy is also at variance with the opinion of the UK's leading virologist on the subject, Professor John Oxford of London.His opinion was casually dismissed by Government Minster Ben Bradshaw on a recent TV programme as "just one opinion among many"..."
April 6 2006 ~ "Poultry farmers within this area have been ordered to keep their flocks indoors. That's more than a quarter of a million birds, which in itself will pose some awkward issues of animal welfare."
Channel 4 Snowmail asks, " Can it be contained, and at what cost? Our Science team are all deployed. Tom Clarke in Fife, Julian Rush here examining the containment effort and the government's ability to do rather better than it did when foot and mouth struck. Bird Flu special reports: http://www.channel4.com/news/special-reports/birdflu.html
April 6 2006 ~ The vet author of "Following Orders" pleads for vaccination - now that H5N1 confirmed in Scotland
An email received today from the vet, James Drew, warns us that, with the discovery of the dead swan in Fife "history is in great danger of repeating itself" His novel, Following Orders (reviewed on www. polouk.farming.co.uk), shows what the reality of culling really was - for the animals, for the vets and for all those carrying out the orders devised in carpeted offices.
" . ....My main fear is that as the risk of AI infection spreading to domestic poultry increases, nothing will have been learnt from the experience of FMD 2001. Keepers of small flocks of poultry are glibly told to make preparations to house their stock where practicable. For most people the sole purpose of keeping such poultry is so that they can be seen in a free range environment ...... a risk of transmission from wild birds to free range poultry that is quite literally unquantifiable. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous to say the least."Read in full
April 6 2006 ~ Bird Flu latest
April 2 - 9 2006 ~ " ..a vaccination programme would be accompanied by monitoring.."
"...And if vaccination for zoo birds, in close proximity to the public is allowed, why is not allowed for waterfowl and rare species collections, pet birds and free range birds? More from Dr Ashton
April 6 2006 ~ "Our friends in Holland are greatly relieved that they can get on with vaccinating their hobby and free range birds"....Here in the UK, "there is no policy other than cull, cull, cull."
writes Dr Ashton to the BBC about the quality of BBC24 reporting on the Scotland outbreak
" I think BBC breakfast-time has been filming in Holland this week? And of course Countryfile visited Christine Bijl. It was said on the news that the UK has experience in combating avian influenza. Is that a reference to the single case in East Anglia, in a single shed, in 1992? Or the odd case in Scotland, I believe, in the 1960s? Is that the sum total of our experience?" see H5N1 pages
April 6 2006 ~ Bird Flu Scotland. Exercise Hawthorn stopped
The BBC were apparently unable to contact the CVO nor to say exactly where the dead swan had been found. We now know that the H5 strain is a highly pathogenic one. If the BVA advice had been followed ( for example, that since vaccination should be considered as part of the future control of the disease when it is identified in the UK in wild birds or domestic poultry a vaccine order be placed in readiness ) vaccine stocks could have been ordered and perhaps even been here by now. Dr Chris Ashton writes to the BBC " Countryfile and Farming Today may not be directly connected to the 24 hour team; perhaps they should be consulting you more with your first hand knowledge..." Read in full
April 2 - 9 2006 ~ Bird Flu In GermanyTests have confirmed the presence of the H5N1 birdflu virus in domestic fowl today (Wednesday) It is the highly pathogenic strain. We have been sent the following:
"The OIE recommends vaccination as an additional tool to be used when relevant along with the classical methods of disease eradication. The use of vaccination is strongly recommended by the OIE in developing countries with weak veterinary services where it may be difficult to control the infection without vaccination. This means that middle- and long-term policies based on vaccination are not sustainable. This is why the OIE recommended that the international community support the strengthening of Veterinary Services in 142 developing and in-transition countries in parallel with emergency programmes including vaccination. Preventive vaccination should preferably be based on risk assessment to determine the right policy and the product to be used. Zoo animals, pets and poultry that cannot be confined have to be considered within this risk assessment."
April 2 - 9 2006 ~ Bird Flu - No one remembers or challenges his ignorance so David King's "advice" scotches vaccination - again
No vaccine for UK birds said Mr Bradshaw on Day One of Exercise Hawthorn "Overwhelming scientific advice" (he meant David King's advice ) "is that the disadvantages of using the current vaccines far outweigh the advantages" he said. Leaving aside for a moment that this is the direct opposite of what Joseph Domenech, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer, has said, (see below) any veterinary advice by Sir David King - the arch-architect of the policy which led to the slaughter of millions of healthy farm animals in 2001 - should carry a Health Warning. His well-publicised and disastrously wrong assertions about foot and mouth vaccine last year flatly contradicted the latest official understanding - even that on the DEFRA website itself. What Prof King asserted in January 2005 was that
Anthony Gibson, regional director of the South West National Farmers' Union, said at the time that Sir David King's comments were "desperately disappointing" and that the contiguous cull was "an unscientific, authoritarian disgrace", warning that the public would never accept a repetition of it.
- there was still no differential test
- that the contiguous cull was "a major victory for science"
- the total number of animals slaughtered in the UK fell during 2001 ( justified by the fact that meat was imported)
Yet the killing of healthy stock is envisaged again for H5N1. This paper from Hong Kong is one peer-reviewed paper to demonstrate that David King is as wrong about AI vaccine as he has always been about FMD vaccine and tests.
On the Today Programme (Wednesday) Mr Bradshaw said, "It's important that the media has a careful look at which experts it quotes and doesn't put on air those whose predictions have repeatedly be proved to be wrong." Mr Bradshaw was, for once, right.
April 2 - 9 2006 ~ Mr Bradshaw's contention (via David King) that "available vaccines are too limited to provide a fully effective or efficient solution" is in direct contradiction to the OIE's view
(see below) that " the vaccines made in China at the Harbin Veterinary Institute conformed to international standards and were fully effective", Joseph Domenech, chief veterinarian at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization who said, "There are many pros and no cons for the vaccine," the Minister of Agriculture in the Netherlands who has vaccinated his own birds, and the ProMed moderator who says that "bona-fide, certified, safety-and-efficacy- tested vaccines are used, they are effective." Above all, there are peer reviewed papers demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccination.
Whatever may be the reasons the UK government is denying free range poultry owners access to vaccination , they are not scientific reasons and they should be challenged.
April 2 - 9 2006 ~ Royal Society tells ministers to justify plan to cull badgers
Tuesday's Guardian quotes David Read, a vice-president of the society.
"The scientific evidence is really inadequate to justify it. If you wish to proceed, you therefore have to justify it on other economic, political or social grounds."........Prof Read added that vaccinating badgers against TB and eradicating it in the wild would be the best solution."But this was qualified by the old chestnut that we have been hearing for the last 25 years that such a solution is "ten years away". Yet the research below using rapid diagnosis shows that we have now, at this moment, the technology that can show which badgers are infected. A blanket cull would be as unnecessary as it is distressing in contemplation.
April 2 - 9 2006 ~ "Geese just stop eating and crawl into a corner to die
others have suffocated because their provisionary roofs collapsed.....one has not even counted the hundreds of wild waterfowl in distress." Grim reality of free range birds locked up. Bird Flu news
April 2 -9 2006 ~ "Hearing someone of that calibre talk, you quickly realise that your own government has its head firmly in the sand"
Warmwell is grateful to Diane and the Western Morning News for this article about the Manchester Conference.
".... The keynote speaker was Dr Roger Breeze, a charming and witty Lancastrian, who from 1987 to 1995 was director of Plum Island Animal Disease Centre, Long Island, USA. Dr Breeze is co-ordinating a linked series of laboratories across Central Asia from Ukraine through Uzbekistan to China, to track such diseases as bird flu and FMD. .... .. portable machine and it takes 45 minutes' real time on a laptop. .....accurate tests that differentiate between true carriers and vaccinated animals for a whole range of diseases.Read in full
.... The cost of using these techniques in a future outbreak combined with vaccination is a fraction of the cost of the 2001 FMD bill. ...... Overwhelming evidence of unnecessary slaughter was presented by other speakers. ...".
April 2 -9 2006 ~ "You have stated that if payments are completed by the end of June interest does not arise. That may be the legal situation but it is certainly not the moral one."
RPA. James Paice has written a letter to Mrs Beckett today. Extract:"... if the majority of payments are not going to be completed by the end of April you really must make an interim payment, or even just offer one for those who wish to apply..... the question of interest.... the focus of the RPA must be on making this year's payments rather than sorting out next years forms; secondly, how can the tens of thousand of farmers with non-validated claims be expected to submit a claim for 2006 if they do not know if they got the last one right?...." Read in full
April 2- 9 2006 ~ Exercise Hawthorn " : Wednesday and Thursday this week
Warmwell also refers to the Hawthorn Exercise on the Bird Flu pageThe term "battle rhythm" remains a mystery but the bellicose nature of the language in the contingency plans has been deplored elsewhere. Any "lessons to be learned" from the exercise are not to be reported on until the Summer. One can only hope that the country's free range poultry will still be with us - and even perhaps that "understanding and knowledge", perhaps even "enthusiasm and commitment" may, as a result of this exercise, be widened to include the appreciation of technological advances in both vaccination and rapid on-site diagnosis.
DEFRA says,"The exercise programme will check the contingency arrangements laid out in Defra's Avian Influenza Contingency Plan through a series of rehearsals and exercises at strategic, tactical and operational levels and will include key operational partners." (Defra website) ( If the word "key" here refers to any concerned owner of non-intensively reared birds we should be very relieved to hear it.)
In the now inevitable Defraspeak version of the English language, we read that table-top preparations had as their purpose
".. to focus learning before the actual exercise thus capturing participant's enthusiasm and commitment. In this way we build up our understanding and knowledge, contribute to staff training and encourage the constructive development."
April 2- 9 2006 ~ RPA "tenant farmers have eaten deep into their savings and cannot afford to buy the usual feed and fertiliser needed at this time of year, with obvious knock on effects."
Warmwell now has a separate page devoted to the astonishing Rural Payments Agency situation. It includes the highly readable text of the March 30 Lords debate Towards the end, Lord King of Bridgewater reminded the House of Lords that
"When the agency was set upit was discussed in another place yesterdaythe Minister was Elliot Morley. He was specifically asked who was accountable. He said that the chief executive had the initial responsibility, but that the ultimate responsibility and accountability lay with Ministers."Read the debate in full
April 2- 9 2006 ~ PCR trial using portable Enigma rapid diagnosis "if the government takes the decision to continue to cull badgers, then we would prefer that culling is targeted at diseased and infectious animals"
The University of Warwick's department of Biological Sciences press release about its research using PCR diagnosis on badger setts and latrines. "....without technology such as this its is very difficult to differentiate "clean" setts containing uninfected badgers from "problem setts" containing infected badgers.":
"We do not advocate culling badgers to control bovine TB, particularly in light of the scientific results emerging from the Randomised Badger Culling Trial. However if the government takes the decision to continue to cull badgers, then we would prefer that culling is targeted at diseased and infectious animals- indeed cattle, badgers or other wildlife hosts-, rather than see a policy of untargeted culling..."Can the government now continue to ignore in its contingency plans the use of a technology that allows any killing to be humane and targeted only at those animals that are actually infected?
"..... In the Gloucestershire population, they found 100% of the examined badger setts and latrines to be contaminated with M.bovis, whereas none of the samples in the Oxfordshire population were positive...... Results suggest that once the organism is excreted into the environment by cattle, badgers, or other wildlife, it could act as a source for further transmission..." More
April 2- 9 2006 ~ Children are catching TB. "....there is no information on how she can contract it, I want the truth and some honest answers"
The mother of a four year old girl diagnosed last year with so-called atypical TB. See latest bovineTB pages. A disturbing email to warmwell, following this story, says that dead badgers were found in the area of the child's school, including one on school playing fields.
The carcass had been taken to test for 'poison'. but the Health and Safety Executive stepped in and stopped the postmortem - giving as a reason that there were "inadequate Group 3 pathogen facilities" However, says the email, the badger carcase "was riddled" (ie with bovine TB) and that the SVS sent letters to Welsh Assembly / Page St. The letters were, however, "lost stolen or strayed". The whole episode was buried," says the emailer.
April 2- 9 2006 ~ Bird Flu latest
on the H5N1 page includes a link to a European map of the spread of the disease and a query about rapid diagnosis. See also: " Preventing the introduction of the virus into commercial flocks -- such as the recent one in a turkey farm in France -- is a challenging responsibility for the animal health authorities." says ProMed moderator. The diminishing fears of a human pandemic are doing little to stop the juggernaut of mass bird killing. Anne Larigauderie, director of Diversitas is quoted in the Guardian by John Vidal
"The medical community should invest more in understanding the environmental origins of viruses, and what can become diseases. Viruses are always there, in the forests or the fields. As the environment is disturbed, people have become closer to them and they become diseases. The best security against [diseases like H5N1 bird flu] is conservation, and awareness by governments and the medical community that these diseases are not medical problems to begin with. Nature keeps them in check. Once they are in humans then it is almost too late."
April 2 - 9 2006 ~ " Margaret Beckett declared: I take full responsibility. She meant she had just sacked one of her officials..."
Sir Simon Jenkins on the RPA fiasco
"....Only 20% of cheques have been signed, partly because a #37m government computer has declared more than 95% of claims unvalidated. As a result some #3 billion cannot be released from the exchequer. Ministry phones go unanswered, forms are lost, banks are preparing to foreclose on overdrafts. The BBC's Farming Today programme is like a daily dispatch from a banana republic.An email from one of the farmers affected ...
...Two weeks ago Margaret Beckett, the relevant minister, declared: I take full responsibility. She meant she had just sacked one of her officials, Johnston McNeill, so as to save the skin of her farm minister, an obscure Tony crony called Lord Bach. The latter had spent six months deriding critics of his scheme as shoddy and creating unfounded alarm and uncertainty. The shambles at Defra, the rural affairs department, might win more publicity were a similar litany of woe not rising from every corner of Whitehall. ..." Read in full
April 2 2006 ~ RPA " Northallerton office has had to recruit dozens of sixth-formers from the local comprehensive to come in, between six and nine each evening, to help sort out the mess.
Today's Sunday Telegraph ".....thanks to the unique complexities of the system devised for England by Margaret Beckett, and the collapse of the computer system devised by Accenture (the same company that is responsible for the chaos engulfing a £6 billion computer system for the NHS), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been sitting on the money for months. Meanwhile farmers have been paying an additional £13 million a month in interest on what they borrow to make up the shortfall...." Booker's Notebook
See also an email from one of the farmers affected
March 31 2006 ~ the latest RPA processing error "Not for the fainthearted"
The latest RPA processing error is that there is an "issue' with entitlement identifier numbers.
It seems that the "unique" identifier number shown for blocks of entitlements is not at all unique. Far from being a unique number there are, in fact, two; one with 7 digits and one with 8 digits. Confusion and chaos. The NFU Statement Single Payment - Frustration Mounts is a model of restraint, but nevertheless uses the phrase, "simply bad government".
March 31 2006 ~ "a great deal of uncertainty about the origins of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and transmission risk in humans."
A review of the study by Dr Martin Jeffrey quoted below . Extract: Prion Theory of Mad Cow Disease Called Full of Holes at www.medpagetoday.com
"....Although people with a specific genetic mutation are thought to be less susceptible than others to infection with vCJD because their digestive systems degrade the infectious prion protein, experiments in sheep indicate that prion protein is taken up equally in the gut by animals with ostensibly protective, neutral, or susceptible mutations in the same gene. ...... "This clearly shows that resistance is not achieved by blocking uptake of abnormal proteins from the gut," said Dr. Jeffrey. "It must be achieved by some other mechanism."In view of such new studies, one wonders what the widely detested National Scrapie Plan is achieving.
The Countess of Mar (see below) has often voiced concern about the "scientific" advice being given to the government. In the debate on March 7th she warned about both the unscientific nature and the over-prescription of the government's TSE regulations. The TSE Regulations of 2002 were, in the first place, "based on the widespread assumption that a rogue isoform of a protein designated PrPcalled prion protein by somecauses TSEs. That hypothesis is unsupported by rigorous analysis and substantial data contradict it."
It looks as though the government will at last have to take note.
March 31 2006 ~"... perhaps by making them beautiful he is constructing a fitting memorial to the millions of animals slaughtered in this tragedy."
Chris Chapman has sent a review of the exhibition ( which has been extended until the end of April) of the response of five photographers and an artist to the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 in Britain. As participants at the recent Manchester Conference (Cultural Documents of FMD) said, the inclusion of art, poetry, photography and social science - far from being a distraction from the veterinary, technological and scientific input - served to remind people of the emotional impact of the 2001 catastrophe. The review ends:
"....finally there are Clive Landen's extraordinary monumental and darkly beautiful photographs, confusing us that so much death can also have such beauty..but perhaps by making them beautiful he is constructing a fitting memorial to the millions of animals slaughtered in this tragedy. You're unlikely to see any more powerful photography in Manchester for a long time."Holden Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University - until 31st April 2006. (More on Chris Chapman's work )
March 30 2006 ~ " I don't feel like we have lost, because so many people come up to me when I go into town and shake my hand or give me a hug..."
Sheilagh Kremers' letter of thanks for the widespread support and loving concern she has received from those appalled by the present bovine TB policy. Even though at present "he is still with us" she dreads Fern's killing. This is of no concern to those for whom slaughter happens only on paper.
".... If I wanted to sell him, I would ask market value, but I dont want him to go. I cannot replace him, because of his breeding, but that does not seem to make a difference to DEFRA. So now they are going to appoint a rics valuer. They will be at my gate again soon. . .."(Below the letter is the chronology of Mrs Kremers' fight)
March 30 2006 ~ "scientists have struggled to make sense of how an abnormal variation of a normal protein can trigger an infectious disease..."
Journalists this week have rushed to copy headlines of the "Silent killer vCJD is more widespread than thought..." variety (see below). Scare stories about the "timebomb" disease rarely do much to emphasise the speculative nature of scientists' pronouncements. ( The Sun announced boldly "14,000 'infected' with CJD".)
Yet all sensational value would disappear were it not for the widespread - and unproved - assertion that eating BSE can cause vCJD because of an infectious " rogue prion".
New evidence publicised today is at least challenging the prion theory.
"Since the outbreak of BSE in cattle and vCJD in humans, scientists have struggled to make sense of how an abnormal variation of a normal protein can trigger an infectious disease. Some are questioning whether this simple relationship exists at all. This paper adds new evidence that can inform the debate..." MoreSome heretics of the rogue prion theory consider that the very name "Transmissible" is absurd when so little hard evidence exists to suggest that Spongiform Encephalopathies are infectious at all. As Magnus Linklater says, "There is money to be lost and reputations to be damaged if the bottom drops out of the prion creed" Unfortunately, far more has been already lost because of it - swathes of regulation, trade wars costing billions, the infamous National Scrapie Plan - and the untimely deaths of millions of harmless animals. If "TSE" is shown to be a misnomer, the political fallout will be incalculable. For this reason, heretics tend to get their funding removed and their names discredited.
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