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From Booker's Notebook Feb 11 2007 Sunday Telegraph

Did Defra learn nothing from foot and mouth?

One thing certain about the way that the avian flu virus was transported from Hungary to Suffolk is that, since the operation was supposedly supervised at both ends by vets acting in accordance with EU procedures, it marked a serious failure of the EU's system for controlling the spread of animal diseases. Such are the joys of the Single Market, since those controls rest largely on paperwork which cannot necessarily be relied on. Gone are the days when teams of health officials were stationed at our ports to inspect each consignment of food or animals as it came in.

We can leave it to the usual scaremongers to speculate about how vulnerable this leaves Britain to a human bird flu epidemic. For reasons I explained when the first panic arose in 2005, the odds against the virus mutating into a form where it could spread from human to human are so many billions to one we would scarcely have room to print all the noughts.

What in reality is most shocking about this latest episode, however, is how it recalls the Government's astonishing mishandling of foot and mouth in 2001. The reasons why that episode was ramped up into an unprecedented crisis stemmed from a fatal combination of our need to comply with EU laws and the almost insane refusal of our own officials (then in the Ministry of Agriculture, now transferred to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to heed the pleading of all the genuine experts that the way to halt the spread of a viral disease is to use the same technique that is used by almost everyone in the world outside the EU: namely mass vaccination.

In 2007, as six years ago, we have seen the Defra officials imposing the EU' s "3km protection zone" and "10km surveillance zone" round the Suffolk plant. As in 2001, we have seen Defra rushing for its atavistic solution to all problems of animal disease: an orgy of killing and destruction. Again, under EU rules, we have seen the same transporting of thousands of potentially infectious dead animals across miles of countryside, under plastic sheeting which defies proper "biosecurity". And again we have expert virologists, such as Colin Fink of Warwick University, staring open-mouthed as they point out how Defra could hardly be getting everything more wrong, above all in the absurdly unscientific misinformation it spreads about why we cannot use vaccination.

What makes all this still more pitiful is to recall how, after the F&M crisis, we had that raft of bogus official inquiries - remember "Lessons Learned"? - from which we were supposed to learn how not to repeat 2001's mistakes.

As has become horrifyingly clear in the past few days, neither Brussels nor Defra, with its insatiable lust for mass-slaughter, have learned anything. Given the chance, they would make just as much of a shambles now as they did last time.

( See Dr Colin Fink's email to warmwell Feb 7 07)



































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