"... the stakeholders? contribution to decision making.." Marshall and Roger paper from the Crete conference
FMD Homepage - News, press articles, emails - Feb 05 NAO report (pdf file here)
Foot and Mouth News - from Reuters, Yahoo and PigHealth.com
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October 21 2005 ~ DEFRA spent nearly 9 million pounds on 3 outside law firms in 2002-2004
Yesterday, Owen Paterson, in deploring the cuts made by DEFRA that threaten, among others, the British beekeepers, mentioned the figure of £8,959,406.49 spent on only three outside law firms between 2002 and September 2004. As Owen Paterson put it, "DEFRA's astonishing annual travel budget of £2,224,000" may also raise eyebrows when one considers the Department's record - But was the figure of nearly £9 million spent on trying to avoid paying the contractors' outstanding invoices from Foot and Mouth - to whom it still owes more than £40 million? (See FPB campaign)
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "... public concern that new technological advances in vaccine production, diagnostic testing and epidemiology have not been significantly employed."
http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/animal/diseases/strategy/index_en.htm "a new EU animal health strategy is being developed aiming to strengthen the policy of disease prevention, make emergency vaccination a more viable option, simplify the legislation and finance new actions."
"At the initiative of the EU Commission, an animal health "Technology Platform" is being set up, which bring together companies, research institutions, the financial world and the regulatory authorities at the European level to define a common research agenda which should mobilise a critical mass of national and European public and private resources. This project will be industry driven to develop and deliver the most up-to-date tools (e.g. new vaccines or tests) to control animal diseases of major importance to Europe and to the rest of the world."
The final version (August 2005) can be seen here (pdf file in new window)
In Europe, control of diseases such as FMD, CSF and Avian Influenza has involved mass slaughter of animals infected with the disease and the precautionary slaughter of those assessed to have been in contact and potentially infected with the same virus. The emergence of these diseases in Europe and Asia has led to the slaughter of millions of animals at high economic cost. This has given rise to public concern that new technological advances in vaccine production, diagnostic testing and epidemiology have not been significantly employed. For ethical, ecological, environmental, social and eco-nomic reasons there is a need for alternative solutions to be found for the control and eradication of epidemic diseases...(1.3) .(read in full)
....The potential of new advances in vaccine development cannot be fully exploited if there is no public acceptance of the technologies involved. Safety and ethical concerns have to be taken seriously and attempts need to be made to inform and educate the public on the benefits and risks of new technologies. (2.4)"
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "loss of trust in authority and systems of control"
The report from Lancaster University entitled Psychosocial effects of the 2001 UK foot and mouth disease epidemic in a rural population: qualitative diary based study ( Read the report as a web page ) concludes
"The epidemic was a human tragedy, not just an animal one. Longitudinal ethnographic study shows the profound psychosocial effects of the disaster among a wide range of rural workers and residents that would not be revealed by more traditional biomedical or health research methods...The study shows that continuing feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster, concern about the undermining of the value of local knowledge, long after the end of the epidemic, still cause distress. It reflects the personal feelings of trauma owing to "chaos, to loss of personal security, and a feeling of powerlessness in the face of conflicting advice".
...We argue for more flexibility in disaster planning and organisational emergency plans (such as less tightly prescribed steps and invariant sequences in planning)..."
From the point of view of animal disease control, the "loss of trust in authority and systems of control" expressed by the respondents is perhaps one of the most worrying aspects of the study. An email received on Friday makes a valid point
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "...her most harrowing piece of research"
Yorkshire Post today, reporting on the Lancaster University report The Health and Social Consequences of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic (pdf - new window):
"..... Fifty-four people, including farmers, vicars, district nurses and vets, were independently selected for the research carried out by Lancaster University, and funded by £259,000 from the Department of Health.Read in full
During 18 months from December 2001, participants wrote more than 3,200 weekly diaries and also gave in-depth interviews and participated in group discussions. An agricultural worker's diary entry said: "Normally you go out on a farm and have a laugh and a joke, you value the stock for them and you do your job professionally. "This was different ? this was trying to keep the farmers upright, trying to stop them from bursting into tears, or to control it if they did burst into tears. I had times when I had farmers in tears, vets in tears, and slaughtermen in tears, and that's bloody hard to know what to do."...
.. "The sheer scale of the disaster is greater and wider and involved more people than has previously been understood. "People remain extremely worried that foot and mouth may reappear, and if it does how it will be dealt with." ....
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "The study shows that life after the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic has been accompanied by distress, feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster, loss of trust in authority and system of control and by the undermining of the value of local knowledge"
A report by Lancaster University, The Health and Social Consequences of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic (pdf - new window) , published in the British Medical Journal, gets important coverage by the BBC
"People affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001 suffered symptoms close to post-traumatic stress disorder for months afterwards... Flashbacks, nightmares, and conflict in communities were among problems found...Read in full ( The article also acknowledges that the number of animals killed was greater than the official 6 million.)
....Uncontrollable emotions and increased social isolation were also identified by the Lancaster University Institute for Health Research.
There was evidence in the longer term of anxieties about emissions from disposal sites where animal bodies were burned and buried, as well as confusion, bitterness and increased fear of unemployment. .."
October 1 - 7 2005 ~ Defra still has to settle bills worth £20 million in Devon.
The Western Morning News reports on the Ruttles case and quotes Nick Goulding of the FPB "..... "As a result of the precedent set by this court judgment, we will be encouraging several other contractors we have been supporting to pursue Defra for payment, and claim interest at a rate of over 12 per cent for late payment as their statutory right. This will mean Defra having to pay out up to another £40 million plus interest nationally."
The FPB alleges the Government department could be forced to hand over millions of pounds to a long queue of other contractors still waiting to be paid for the disposal of millions of livestock in Britain's foot and mouth epidemic in 2001..." Read in full
October 1 - 7 2005 ~Vaccinated steak and chips, please
An article in today's Times by Magnus Linklater
".... ...There was a time, after the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, when the National Farmers? Union uttered dire warnings about the problems caused by buying meat from countries that vaccinated their herds. Ben Gill, who was then the President of the NFU, gave warning that vaccinated animals might be potential carriers of the disease .....
It was this implacable objection to immunisation as the alternative to mass slaughter that convinced Tony Blair, when he took over the campaign to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), that it was pointless to explore the option of vaccinating sheep and cattle rather than killing them. No evidence was produced to show that vaccinated animals carried the disease, yet some six million animals were culled, at massive cost to the farming industry and British tourism. The final bill has never been fully quantified, not least because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has tried to conceal the full total of the sums paid out...
Meanwhile, Brazil and Argentina, where animals have traditionally and routinely been vaccinated, have stepped up their exports to Europe. Far from being commercially blighted, their beef industries are thriving....Defra insists that meat is fully inspected at the port of entry, and only imported from FMD-free zones. Controls, however, are only as good as the country that first imported the meat. ...
....We might perhaps be told about the wholesale destruction of the Amazonian rainforest, which is the price being paid so that Brazil can extend its grasslands and cater for the world?s appetite for cheap meat....... ..." .read in full
October 1 - 7 2005 ~ "Six million"? - "We will never know exactly how many were culled but it was many more than the official figure"
Although "six million" now seems the official figure usually quoted in newspaper articles of the number of animals slaughtered in the FMD crisis, Jane Connor, chief economist of the Meat and Livestock Commission, told Craig Robertson of the Sunday Post on 20th January 2002 that
".. a conservative estimate of 1.2 offspring per breeding sheep culled would mean four million lambs were killed but not accounted for.Read in full
Lambs "at foot" of sheep marked for slaughter were also killed but the official tally would only record one animal. The same procedure operated for culled cattle.
Similarly, there were 595,000 cattle culled but the official figures don't include the 100,000 calves killed with them or the 50,000 calves close to birth.
The Welfare Disposal Scheme - set up to cull animals that could not be moved because of restrictions accounted for another 1.6 million sheep and lambs, 169,000 cattle and 288,000 pigs. Another half million light lambs were culled because there was no longer a market for them. None of these is included in the Government's total.
Jane Connor says, "We will never know exactly how many were culled but it was many more than the official figure"
A spokesman for DEFRA initially insisted the number of sheep and livestock culled included offspring killed- with them However, after being told that MLC said otherwise, they -checked their figures.
The press officer returned to admit, "I stand corrected on that one. It- -seems it is standard practice - to count ewes and offspring as one animal. Your information is correct."
The final toll was at least -10,849,000 animals killed. ."
September 23 2005 ~ If decision makers are influenced too much by Defra's Cost Benefit Analysis, then the rational use of FMD vaccines will be even more jeopardized says Raúl A. Casas
Permission has been received from Raúl A. Casas, the former Director of the Panamerican FMD Center (PANAFTOSA) to copy to warmwell his comments on the CA website FMD forum about the questionable nature of DEFRA's cost benefit analysis on FMD vaccination. (The posting in its entirety follows contributions by Paul Sutmoller and Martin Hugh Jones.)
" I want to emphasize the important difference between the results of computer simulation CBA models and the epidemiological behavior of FMD when potent vaccines are applied with speed and precision, in addition to the immobilization of livestock and temporary suspension of livestock trade. According to the computational models, the effect of vaccines is rather mediocre while in reality the disease, as well as the infection, has been effectively eliminated during the latest epidemic FMD episodes in the countries in South America ...Read in full here or on the CA website (new window)
..... The CBA computer simulation is an important tool, but the results do not fit or reflect extensive field observations."
Raúl A. Casas concludes, "The International Animal Health Code of the OIE continues to discriminate the application of FMD vaccines by requiring longer waiting periods after vaccination with regard to the use of stamping-out to regain the status of ?Free of FMD?. If decision makers are influenced too much by the results of the CBA, then the rational use of FMD vaccines to eliminate the infection would even be more jeopardized."
September 22 2005 ~ " The diagnostic approach has to focus on the presence of virus and no longer on the presence of antibodies"
A perceived (not veterinary) problem during the FMD crisis was that recovered animals - a great many of them who had thrown off FMD with no ill effects - had to be slaughtered together with wholly unaffected fellows because of old trade rules demanding seronegative animals.
Common sense revolts - or should do. Antibodies protect against disease.
With regard to Classical Swine Fever, Martin Beer, Bernd Hoffmann and Klaus Depner of the FLI, Island of Riems, Germany, call for a "paradgm shift" in disease control policy. They suggest in the paper DOES REAL-TIME RT-PCR FOR CSF MARK THE BEGINNING OF A PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE CONTROL OF CSF? that direct detection of actual virus - the presence of CSFV nucleic acid - rather than testing for antibodies could avoid mass culls of uninfected animals.
"Culling of healthy pigs has become an ethical and animal welfare issue and is not tolerated any more..... significant advances in diagnosis and modern vaccines have been made (real-time RT-PCR, DIVA strategy). The foundations for new concepts to control CSF based on novel diagnostic tools and vaccines have been laid..."The ideas can be seen and discussed on the Coordination Action website (new window) Please add your voice to the debate if you can. After four years of perplexity at the refusal of UK authorities to include rapid diagnosis in Contingency Planning, it is good to see such a paper with such credentials.
September 19/20 2005~ Lord Whitty hinted at criminal fraud and called Defra's prevarication "safeguarding the public purse"; DEFRA now faces a £40 million late payment bill over foot and mouth
www.fpb.org press release:
".... DEFRA will have to pay Ruttles over £1 million for the cost of the lengthy court hearing in London. This case was only the tip of the iceberg.....More than 1,200 contractors were used by Defra during the 2001 crisis.(See warmwell page on the claims)
"As a result of the precedent set by this court judgement, we will be encouraging several other contractors we have been supporting to pursue DEFRA for payment , and claim interest at a rate of over 12% for late payment as their statutory right. This will mean DEFRA having to pay out up to another £40 million plus interest."
In January 2004, Lord Whitty, trying to put a bold face on the situation, said
" there are queries about many invoices...some of which appear to represent serious overcharging of one form or another -- whether or not they amount to criminal fraud... "In the same exchange he had to admit that " Legal costs covering the whole matter, which includes some of the cases in dispute, amount to about £20 million" but he stoutly proclaimed that
"None of the delay is due to ineptness, it is due to the Government -- Defra in particular -- safeguarding the public purse."
September 18 2005 ~ DEFRA "officials had repeatedly lied about what happened in 2001; that their own systems and paperwork were chaotic or non-existent.....": Mr Justice Thornton
Christopher Booker's Notebook today in the Sunday Telegraph once again turns the spotlight on DEFRA's "dishonesty and incompetence" For those of us who fear DEFRA's methods but also fear the connivance of others who would prefer the Department's gross negligence to remain a secret, the High Court ruling on the Ruttles claim a year ago has only now - a whole year later -come to light.
".... For Defra it was a shattering defeat. Yet all the parties involved were ordered to keep silent about the case until the judgment was posted on the Lord Chancellor's website. Although this remains unposted, permission has now been given by Court Services to report it.Read in full
As the Ruttles case confirms, Defra officials - presumably on ministerial instructions - used every possible ruse to avoid paying the contractors, accusing them of fraud, questioning every invoice, even for as little as 35p, and enmeshing them in thousands of hours of paperwork.
Mr Justice Thornton's judgment in the Ruttles case - as when he had previously found in favour of another firm, JDM Accord - was excoriating. He dismissed Defra's allegations of fraud out of hand. He found that its officials had repeatedly lied about what happened in 2001; that their own systems and paperwork were chaotic or non-existent; and that their claims to have investigated the case internally were largely fraudulent. On 26 points he found that Defra was in breach of contract ..."
September 12 2005 ~ "The policy was not, as stated at the time, "the only option for controlling the current British epidemic"...."
A letter this week in the New Scientist refutes an editorial which stated that "lack of foresight left the government with only one option, the dreadful slaughter of 6 million animals".
".....The "one option" to which you refer was the product of mathematical modelling during the epidemic, and this was indeed an untested and "ad hoc" approach. It is ironic that it was this very process that resulted in much of the extensive slaughter by instigating the automatic pre-emptive culling of all susceptible livestock on contiguous premises (farms neighbouring infected farms).The letter's authors, an impressive list, can be assumed to know what they are talking about.
Subsequent published analyses of data from the epidemic have shown that this policy was not, as stated at the time, "the only option for controlling the current British epidemic". Indeed, these analyses have vindicated the traditional policies and also demonstrated that the peak of the epidemic had passed before the extensive contiguous culling policies could have taken effect....." Read in full
( It is interesting that the arbitrary number of "six million" is still bandied about when the number of unfortunate animals who were slaughtered in 2001, as pointed out by the Telegraph in January 2002, certainly exceeds 10 million.
September 11 2005 ~ "the 1st vaccine arrived in the region after the disease had already broken out."
ProMed reports on FMD in Russia, where on friday a " total of 33 new cases of foot and mouth disease [FMD] have been registered in the Russian Far East in the past 24 hours." The news report from Tass says,
".......lawmakers said "the slow reaction of corresponding federal structures and complete ignorance of the alarming signs from the region by certain officials in the center had serious consequences".The ProMed moderator "AS" remarks, "Since the 3rd week of August, FMD -- caused by serotype Asia 1 -- spread into 2 previously unaffected regions along the Chinese border, namely the Khabarovsk and Primorsk regions. Contrary to the requirements of the International Animal Health Code, no notification of these outbreaks has been forthcoming from the Russian authorities. Their last follow-up report was sent on 30 Jun 2005; it related to a previous outbreak, in the Amur region, more than 1000 km northwest of the current outbreaks."
The main problem was the delayed delivery of the vaccine against FMD. During the June 2005 outbreak of the disease in neighboring Amur region, Primorye authorities requested the Agriculture ministry to supply the necessary vaccine. However, the 1st vaccine arrived in the region when the disease had already broken out.."
September 9 2005 ~ £154,678 spent on Cost Benefit Analysis - but we are no nearer a disease control policy that inspires confidence.
In January 2004, James Irvine at Land Care org.uk said, , "DEFRA itself should be familiar with the costs of different strategies.... Is it really an appropriate use of public money?"
A glance at DEFRA's Science and Research Projects shows that the sum was £154,678.00. The report did not propose any single strategy for dealing with a future outbreak. Private Eye's Muckspreader suggested that the exercise could easily be worked out on the back of an envelope.
Meanwhile, as the Animal Health Resources response to the Consultation made clear, there have been "many separate, uncoordinated consultation meetings ...".
The expensive CBA seems to have muddied the waters still further for DEFRA rather than clarified the situation with common sense conclusions. There is no independent Expert group to give genuinely informed advice as required by the Directive.
The Minister is to have a legal "duty" to slaughter animals on premises labelled "infected" - but we do not know if they are to be so labelled by the notorious 2001 method of mere clinical examination rather than proper diagnosis. DEFRA continues to ignore the latest in rapid on-site diagnostics or even mention it in contingency plans.
We do not yet have any definition of "dangerous contacts."
Hardly surprising then that trust in the Department and its contingency plans, for which this expensive CBA was to have been such a valuable resource, is depressingly low.
September 8 2005 ~ dysfunctional government agencies
An editorial in Nature today on the fallout from Katrina, speaks of " the habitual creation of dysfunctional government agencies by congressional fiat; and the failure of scientists to successfully convey their concerns to policy-makers..... "
" ..... ... the disaster should lead to an immediate re-examination of how the federal government is organized, and how it responds to scientific advice...
.....Knowledge of the risk of a storm-induced flood in New Orleans has been widespread in the scientific community for years, and researchers have sought to improve our understanding of it. Much of this work has taken into account stubborn facts such as the propensity of the poor, the elderly and the sick to ignore evacuation orders.
There seems to be a disconnect, however, between the process that identifies such risks and the people who make the decisions that might manage them ..." (More)
September 4 2005 ~ "..other objectives should never override the welfare of livestock, which are sentient beings, not just cheap lawnmowers. "
An article written by an Oxfordshire sheep farmer about the effects of the ESA on animal welfare:
Extracts:The farmer's clear explanation of how the ESA has "spectacularly failed" in its apparent objectives echoes what seems to us to be happening also in the field of animal disease control. In both, the people "pulling the strings" seem strangely removed from the reality of living, breathing farm animals, from the land itself, and from the people whose skill cares for both.
"British Agriculture seems to be entering an increasingly unnatural regime. As financial support from the public purse has more strings attached, the people pulling the strings are further removed from agriculture. ...
.......... It quickly emerged that this regime would not satisfy the nutritional requirements of a modern ewe with lambs. ......
.........The greatest difficulty in arable reversion was to promote biodiversity without encouraging thistles, ragwort or other undesirables. The ESA failed spectacularly..... ..
... the increased costs of combining conservation with farming stretches resources to the limit. .....
.........Sheep have created much of the landscape people love and the optimum level of grazing is the only way to preserve the landscape but other objectives should never override the welfare of livestock......The management of sheep must remain the domain of shepherds, not academics, bureaucrats or the pantheon of non-farming experts taking an interest in the countryside."Read in full
September 2 2005 ~ "... disease control should be a cooperative effort between government and the livestock sector... major efforts are needed to enhance communication and increase trust. ."
Comments from Animal Health Resources Ltd to Defra?s Consultation on the Transposition of the FMD Directive. For clear reasons set out in their response they ask for an extension to the deadline for responses
" . ..there appears to be many separate, uncoordinated consultation meetings .... Defra appears to place most weight on consultations with ?key stakeholders? (Defra?s terminology). While this sector is certainly important, there is some danger in excluding from the consultation process other sectors, including small and family farms, that play a role in disease control but have no coordinated, funded means of communicating with government...."Read in full
September 2 2005 ~ " we need confidence that the best tools will be used to identify and confirm the disease,....and the best strategy will be implemented, based on the advice of the permanently operational, balanced, Expert Group...."
The response paper above includes the following points - but it deserves to be read in full.
We believe that the consultation process has been inadequate, and that if the proposals are changed to take account of the points raised, we would all be better prepared for the next animal disease threat."
- None of the new proposals contain anything which would increase our capability to protect from and respond to the introduction of FMD or any serious animal disease...
- still no recognition of the role, or acceptance of, new diagnostic tools which can provide rapid identification of disease on site.
- still no mention of enhanced surveillance at entry points
- diagnostic tools such as RRT-PCR (real-time RT-PCR) which can identify infection in less than 3 hours....should be written into the contingency plans, practiced in emergency exercises and implemented.
- The current government approach to cost sharing with regard to disease control and other farming regulations does not encourage local production of food.
- we need confidence that (a) the best tools will be used to identify and confirm the disease, and to inform the control measures (including movement restrictions and vaccination strategies) that will be taken and (b) the best strategy will be implemented, based on the advice of the permanently operational, balanced, Expert Group....
- Infected Premises: How will Defra decide which premises are infected - by proximity? proof by PCR? culture at Pirbright?
- ?Dangerous contact?: How is a ?dangerous contact? defined?
- Decision to slaughter / decision to vaccinate: What animals would be slaughtered / vaccinated? On what basis would these decisions be taken? ...
- ... proposed changes have been rapidly and quietly instituted ...
September 1 2005 ~ EU gives 4.5 million euros to FAO to fight FMD
The European Commission will give euro 4.5 million to the FAO European Commission for the Control of FMD (EUFMD). An agreement between the EC and FAO was signed today. Keith Sumption is quoted in the press release
"The EC funding will enable us to improve FMD surveillance and control activities in countries that continue to pose a risk to Europe, mainly by strengthening their veterinary services. The lack of transparency and reliable information on the occurrence and scale of epidemics in some high-risk areas and the lack of reporting to international agencies like FAO and the World Animal Health Organization is still often of major concern.The EUFMD has 33 member countries. Its budget amounted to around euro 2 million in 2004. Read in full
In case of an FMD emergency, a rapid response is crucial for the success of any control measures. With the new EC funds, FAO will now be able to send FMD experts to affected countries within 24 hours to analyse the situation to provide technical support and assist in mobilising additional emergency resources.
Aug/September 2005 "...battling against over-whelming odds. .."
Hilary Peters, writes to warmwell this morning:?
".... I went from one organic and/or animal friendly farm to the next and met good people struggling hard to make the world a better place. They are still there, but seen from here, I realise they are battling against over-whelming odds.The food writer, TV chef and countryman Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has said that
The VAST majority( ie of large-scale farmers) are in it for a quick profit, have no idea that they are destroying the planet, have no feeling for animals or the land, no notion that they are controlled ....
And I have absolutely no idea how to say this in a way that people will take in."
".. the Government?s appalling and callous handling of the Foot and Mouth crisis undermined all the fundamentals of good farming and good husbandry....a warning, nationally and even globally... man?s chilling disassociation from the species that feed him....?Dr Colin Fink, writing in the Spring of 2001 about the UK's policy, in a letter that is just one of the many important documents about the disastrous handling of FMD in the UK:
".... a catastrophic loss of opportunity to gain basic knowledge and is entirely consistent with their retained medieval approach to the whole problem."Dr Fink mentions his colleague, Professor Fred Brown, who said sadly at the time," it is an unacceptable loss of animals without justification"..."
Over the course of the next few months, a selection of the most important scientific, veterinary, political and witness statements from the huge warmwell archives will be gathered together. This is something of a mammoth task and therefore the updating of this page of the website may not be able to continue for the time being. The archives in full (see also below) will, of course, remain on the internet and can continue to be easily searched using the Google Advanced Search engine for warmwell.com - or similar.
August 26 2005 ~ NFU Wales warns against vaccination in its response to the FMD consultation.
According to icwales, the Welsh NFU, in its response to FMD consultation, says that vaccinating animals in another foot-and-mouth outbreak could "financially cripple Welsh livestock farmers."
"NFU Cymru, in its response to consultations on the directive, says vaccination would not only add costs to livestock production, it would leave mountains of unsold meat......"Emotive language. One wonders if the NFU Wales leadership has understood the hard won derogations, the fact that vaccinated meat does not need to be labelled and what would actually happen in an epidemic if vaccination was once again to be ignored.
We have now been informed that the icwales article follows the report in Farmers Weekly yesterday:
".... Its first concern was that meat from vaccinated animals would not be able to go into the food chain unless it was heat treated, deboned and matured.Gary in the US fears that a , "... most "natural" reaction on the part of the American Public is: "Well, if it's there on the web like this, it means we can't vaccinate for FMD." To tell you this is sad in itself. We've all worked so hard to attempt to overcome the insanity of these old carry-over FMD policies from days-gone-by."
NFU Cymru said it had grave doubts as to whether there would be sufficient capacity in Wales to do this..... the market price of vaccinated meat was likely to be heavily discounted.
Another concern raised was that new directive also bans the collection and transportation of milk for sampling for milk hygiene purposes in laboratories not authorised to test for F&M. ....practical problems for those companies located in Wales where there are currently no such laboratories."
August 25 2005 ~ A reminder of the way effective technologies to fight FMD have been blocked
The paper U.S. Agricultural and Food Security: Who Will Provide the Leadership? mentions new technologies started fifteen years ago. (our own emphasis)
The authors said, "vigorous efforts were made to replace the BSL 3 facilities at Plum Island NY, Athens GA, and Ames, IA, and to provide the first BSL 4 facilities for livestock at Plum Island. We came very close ? but suffice it to say that after 6 years of effort there are no modern BSL 3 facilities for agriculture and the nation still has no BSL 4 facility in which to prepare for such dangerous livestock infections as Hendra and Nipah viruses and their cousins yet unknown."
- " From the mid-1990s, diagnostics were moved from performance in a high-containment laboratory to portable, on-site devices that did not require biological containment." Comment
- A test to discriminate animals that have been vaccinated against FMD from those that have recovered from infection .... APHIS did not pursue the regulatory procedures necessary for validation
- An antiviral drug that would block FMD virus infection.... stopped after early success for lack of funds.
- vaccines that can be manufactured in the U.S... for diseases that are both natural and biological weapons threats. ..... begun in the early 1990s but stopped after early success for lack of funds.
However, see below..
August 25 2005 ~Homeland Security wants to turn Plum Island into "a new, massive center for biological and agricultural defense" with the highest laboratory security level, BSL 4 .
The US GovExec.com's "Daily Briefing" yesterday says that the Homeland Security department announced in a press release on Monday that the US is considering upgrading Plum Island to Biosafety containment level 4 (BSL4) that the new facility would "replace" the "important but aging" more than 50-year-old centre.
Plum Island is still at present a Biosafety Level 3 facility and is still the only facility in the United States where official testing for FMD is allowed. According to the briefing, attempts in the past to upgrade Plum Island have "faced local protests and opposition ..." Read the "Daily Briefing" in full
Plum Island has had security lapses in the recent past, and it has been upgrading its security .
( Warmwell can only report on what it finds. Being itself unvalidated, it is never officially informed of anything. Nevertheless, appalled by the incompetent and bloody fiasco of 2001, warmwell has battled on regardless and unfunded for four years. Perhaps there is now some room for hope if threats of natural incursions of disease or bio-terrorism are now being taken so very much more seriously in the US. Modern technological breakthroughs, still astonishingly unvalidated may at last be going to be used officially. And if the US leads the way, is it then possible that our own contingency plans will start to acknowledge what has in fact been possible for the past decade in the way of vaccine, discriminatory tests, and rapid on-site diagnosis? )
August 25 2005 ~ ProMed reports on FMD in Russia "2 FMD serotypes are, reportedly, evolving now in eastern Asia/the far east:
type Asia 1 in Russia's Amur region (Khabarovsk province); type A in eastern Mongolia's Dornod province. They are more than 1000 miles apart; both share borders with the People's Republic of China". ProMed's report includes news from a Russian source that in the Khabarovsk region "....all measures have been taken to isolate the herd infected with FMD. Mass vaccination of livestock in the Bikinsk district has been underway since 23 Aug 2005. 30 000 additional doses of vaccine are to be delivered over the next few days, and 120 000 doses will eventually be necessary. The decision on stamping out the infected herd has not yet been made."
August 23 2005 ~ Western Morning News on the change of wording from discretion to duty
The WMN's headline is "MINISTERS WILL HAVE A 'DUTY' TO CULL ANIMALS", written by David Wilcock, doesn't really echo what our own concern about the proposed change of wording has been. A DEFRA spokesman quoted in the article has given more clarification than we have seen anywhere else - and we wonder why they could not have made this clear in the first place:
"This does not apply to premises where disease has not been confirmed, where we would retain full discretion to cull or vaccinate as is justified by the scientific and veterinary risk of disease spread. There are also a number of special exemptions to compulsory slaughter on infected premises, where we would retain the discretion to slaughter."(Read WMN article. In it, John Daw, chairman of the South West regional dairy board, is outspoken about Defra consultations. )
August 23 2005 ~ UK law has always allowed for the slaughter of actually infected animals and no one really argues against this.
However, what is worrying about the WMN article today is that farmers' leaders quoted do not, in their enthusiasm for the cull, acknowledge that healthy animals and pets were compulsorily and illegally slaughtered in 2001 and that for those affected, terrible memories are not easily erased.
If changing the wording from discretion to duty were legally to allow for slaughter on uninfected farms or to absolve the Minister from accountability for exceeding what is allowed in the EU Directive, then our worry about this minor technical amendment continues.
The infamous illegal "contiguous cull" of 2001 was a practice condoned by the leading farmers' unions at the time. A few determined farmers such as Guy Thomas Everard successfully fought Government attempts to cull his herd of 980 pedigree cattle, and Rosemary Upton successfully fought the illegal cull in the courts - much to Maff/Defra's fury- but most farmers were pressured or convinced into giving up their uninfected animals. Such documents as Chris Chapman's new book , the devastating evidence from Knowstone given to the EU Inquiry, the voices of ordinary people as in Fields of Fire, the report of the Devon Inquiry, the Cardiff university paper, Carnage by Computer, and the latest research done on the contiguous cull- and much more - all show that this disgraceful episode must never be allowed to happen again. The law was subsequently changed to give retrospective legality to the contiguous cull.
To find from the WMN article that there are farmers' leaders who seem still to believe that widespread slaughter was justified - and that the only thing that matters to farmers is compensation - is disheartening in the extreme. Many of the arguments, easily discredited, made by the NFU at the time, still seem to carry weight.
If farmers leaders themselves are ignorant about vaccination, rapid diagnosis and the acceptability of vaccinated food products, what hope is there, by September 1, for putting pressure on DEFRA to ensure that national adjustments to the EU Directive are sensible, ethical and scientifically sound? (Read WMN article)
August 20 2005 ~ Defra proposes changes to the FMD Directive
The excellent CA website on foot and mouth and CSF has highlighted concerns about lack of information to stakeholders who, by September 1 2005, are expected to be able to send comments to Defra on the transposition of the FMD Directive - changes that will affect all aspects of FMD disease control. One of the concerns mentioned is that highlighted by warmwell in the middle of June. Our most recent comments about this are now on the CA foot and mouth forum.
Extract: As for the semantic change from 'discretion' to 'duty', I think it is significant. It's also worrying that the phrase "including on infected premises" has been stressed. As you say, to what extent will this duty to slaughter be applied to non-infected premises?.....This point has, of course, been termed a "minor amendment" but one wonders how a minor change of wording provides the "necessary powers" needed by the Secretary of State if an obligation to slaughter - within clearly defined limits - is already laid down in the EU Directive.
"Dangerous contact" has still not been properly defined. Is a "duty" to slaughter to be applied to any animal to fall within this woolly category?.....
legal back-covering. ... If the phrase is "discretion" then the Minister must justify his decision - something this government does not much like being made to do. But "duty" implies that he or she has no choice and can't be held accountable.
(The CA forum pages (new window), will be monitored by the OIE and FAO. In the interests of openness and transparency, it would be useful if comments sent to DEFRA about the transposition could be copied to the CA website for us all to see.)
August 20 2005 ~ "more than sombre stories of horrendous killing and heartbreak..."
"Silence at Ramscliffe" (see below) has been reviewed by Independent Farm Business News (IFBN). Extract:
"The horror of foot and mouth disease in the Spring of 2001 has scarcely faded in the minds of any of the farmers and workers whom it affected ? but how long does it take for 'government', politicians and 'the public' to forget what happens if vigilance of disease observation and control is allowed to become negligent?....The book costs £25, and its ISBN is 0-9548683-3-1. It includes a DVD of the same name, courtesy of ITV West. See also full press release
The book contains more than sombre stories of horrendous killing and heartbreak. Towards the end, various kinds of analysis are included, factual, objective and subjective conclusions are reached, references quoted and historical connections made. It's one of those books that brings the whole thing back to life ? and should be kept in every college and public library......it should be drawn to the attention of politicians and accountants..."
August 18 2005 ~" a warning, nationally and even globally, of how man?s chilling disassociation from the species that feed him is, frighteningly, almost complete "
"Silence at Ramscliffe: Foot and Mouth in Devon" will be launched at the Chagford Show, Devon, today, Thursday 18th August from 10 am.
James Crowden, poet and co-author :
?Nothing prepared me for foot and mouth. Image and reality became inextricably linked. There is no tradition of rural poetry to encompass what we saw,? he said. ?The only conscious links were to the First World War and the poetry of Wilfred Owen.?
Zac Goldsmith, editor of the Ecologist said:
?This book provides not only a permanent reminder of the pain inflicted on Britain?s rural communities, but a valuable lesson too ? that the nightmare need never be repeated.?
Food writer, TV chef and countryman Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall described the book as a suitably provocative collection of words and pictures.
?Silence at Ramscliffe reminds us just how the Government?s appalling and callous handling of the Foot and Mouth crisis undermined all the fundamentals of good farming and good husbandry,? he said. ?It serves as a brilliant warning, nationally and even globally, of how man?s chilling disassociation from the species that feed him is, frighteningly, almost complete.?
See full press release
August 18 2005 ~ BSE vertical transmission in sheep? "....extremely unscientific conclusion"
See reports. Both James Meikle's Guardian report and the New Scientist report said, in what we consider to be misleading and mischievous language, "BSE has been transmitted naturally between sheep for the first time"
There is nothing natural about force feeding infected brain material to ewes, nor is it entirely clear how the lambs succumbed. As Mark Purdey commented in an email this morning: "...everyone knows that you can transmit BSE and other TSEs into as many animals as you want with almost 100% success - but only in the experimental context, where high doses of BSE brain homogenate have been used as the inoculum (the rogue metal microcrystals are the transmissible agents ).
It is extremely unscientific to jump to the conclusion that this is happening in the natural environment, particularly when no sheep have been diagnosed with clinical BSE to date, despite the rigorous post mortem TSE surveillance that has been in place in the UK." Read Mark Purdey's email in full
August 17 2005 ~ lambs at a government experimental station appear to have caught BSE from their mothers.
They were "experimentally fed with 5mg of BSE-infected material" and had lambs that died of BSE after showing signs of infection in their tonsils, 546 days after birth. James Meikle's Guardian report says
"Their mothers had shown no outward signs of the disease at lambing, one showing them 73 days after lambing, and the other 198 days after.... it is still not certain that the lambs were infected while in the uterus, or shortly before or after lambing. The disease may have spread through the birthing fluids or in some other way. The evidence so far suggests this is far more likely than the lambs catching the disease from other apparently unaffected sheep."So - much uncertainty. But this experiment will no doubt be seized upon as part of the evidence that has been sought now for several years, and it brings the possible end of sheep farming in the UK a little closer.
August 15 - 22 2005 ~ "..significant benefits by fostering information exchange and shared use of resources...by both animal and human health scientists"
New Zealand's National Centre of Biosecurity and Infectious Disease at Wallaceville will open within 18 months. It will be shared by both animal and human health scientists.
Scoop NZ quotes a parliamentary speech given at the launch. Extracts:
".....We think New Zealand will benefit from a closer working relationship between scientists, researchers, epidemiologists, and laboratory staff in animal and human health fields. .....This echoes what has been said by the virologist, Dr Ruth Watkins " I find the strategies for health of humans in our society, modern Britain, have been neglected or disregarded by the veterinary establishment for farm animals - BSE was the start of the consequences of so doing.."
It will cluster multi-disciplinary skills including microbiology, virology, epidemiology, incident response, disease modelling, and forecasting. Overseas research indicates that such clustering can produce significant benefits by fostering information exchange and shared use of resources... ..."
As for the dangers of illegal imports, the New Zealand Government appears to be taking both biosecurity and protecting its own agriculture very much more seriously than we do;
".. Government has done all it can to ensure that our environment and farming businesses are protected from pests and diseases. However, we're not complacent about our border control measures. We continually review our systems...""Not complacent" - but already in New Zealand instant fines for biosecurity breaches have been introduced, there is 100 per cent screening of all air crew and passengers, soft-tissue x-rays and detector dogs operate at all international airports, and a sea container screening programme has been put in place.
August 15 - 22 2005 ~"....Vaccination ..... its implications are now seen as practical ones..."
Defra's new page: "Stakeholder Engagement on FMD Control Strategies" has links to more detail and an Action Plan for meat treatments and processing. That "there should be no price differentials at the point of sale for products from vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals as the differences will not be identified..." is at last clearly and unequivocably acknowledged. Yet more modelling work on "a range of disease scenarios" has been commissioned from Risk Solutions, based on the FMD Cost Benefit Analysis. Read in full What seems so sad about all this is that what is being done now was just as possible before 2001. The arguments against vaccination that convinced many in the meat and retail industry were misguided or worse. But at least proper and practical preparations for this aspect of planning are now underway, as is an attempt to communicate the options more clearly. There are some at DEFRA who really are to be congratulated for this. So are some stakeholders, whose grasp of the realities and whose determined, gradual moving of mountains have begun to make a difference. It is a small but not insignificant step.
August 15 - 22 2005 ~" a warning, nationally and even globally, of how man?s chilling disassociation from the species that feed him is, frighteningly, almost complete "
"Silence at Ramscliffe: Foot and Mouth in Devon" will be launched at the Chagford Show, Devon on Thursday 18th August from 10 am.
James Crowden, poet and co-author :
?Nothing prepared me for foot and mouth. Image and reality became inextricably linked. There is no tradition of rural poetry to encompass what we saw,? he said. ?The only conscious links were to the First World War and the poetry of Wilfred Owen.?
Zac Goldsmith, editor of the Ecologist said:
?This book provides not only a permanent reminder of the pain inflicted on Britain?s rural communities, but a valuable lesson too ? that the nightmare need never be repeated.?
Food writer, TV chef and countryman Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall described the book as a suitably provocative collection of words and pictures.
?Silence at Ramscliffe reminds us just how the Government?s appalling and callous handling of the Foot and Mouth crisis undermined all the fundamentals of good farming and good husbandry,? he said. ?It serves as a brilliant warning, nationally and even globally, of how man?s chilling disassociation from the species that feed him is, frighteningly, almost complete.?
See full press release
August 15 - 22 2005 ~ ".... changing requirements for detection and identification, and input of cutting-edge science .."
The BBC reported again on Saturday the study to be led by Dr Abigail Woods into the history of infectious diseases. (see below) Professor Michael Worboys is quoted: "Our study will review the evolving risk of diseases, changing requirements for detection and identification, and input of cutting-edge science." ( see also University of Manchester press release.)
The input of the cutting edge of science into national policy for animal disease control seems balked by constant and depressing repetitions of "not until it is validated."
Validation? Lack of "validation" doesn't alter the existing usefulness of technologies already widely deployed elsewhere where urgency is acknowledged. It is the willingness to validate that has been lacking and the issue used as an excuse for DEFRA to sit on its hands. It is incomprehensible.
August 15 - 22 2005 ~ Consultation on what should constitute national discretion in the Foot and Mouth Directive ends in only a fortnight
- i.e. by September 1 2005 - but there are questions yet to be answered - questions about the new technologies, the actual make-up of the Expert Group, why and how a "minor amendment" changing the phrase discretion to slaughter into duty to slaughter is necessary to give "necessary powers" to the Secretary of State. Other practical matters remain unresolved.
There are 25 (sic twenty five) DEFRA consultations currently taking place. The presumption that all the stakeholders affected by legislation are first going to assimilate and then respond to consultation documents is unrealistic. Yet the practice of "consultation" is used to justify top-down decisions.
If only the Ministry were trusted to know its facts, seen to be being advised by disinterested experts and known to be communicating fairly and clearly with stakeholders. There would then be no need for such window-dressing. Public servants would be assumed to be just that. As it is, accountability, transparency and a willingness to share the information that is driving policy all seem as far away as ever and, except in the special interest groups, there is an apathy about responding to consultations that seems to us to be wholly understandable.
August 8 - 14 2005 ~ Rapid PCR "... same old leopard, same old spots.."
The FMD forum pages of the Coordination Action website are very interesting. On Friday, in response to Roger Breeze's paper Disease control: Ideas for cost sharing between industry and government "Matthew" disagrees sadly with the optimism I had tentatively expressed. He writes mainly about bovine TB and the government's whole attitude to agriculture, but on the subject of innovative technologies, he says:
"The use of PCR in disease surveillance or diagnosis is well advanced in other countries, and UK medicine is now putting its collective toe into the water in hospitals, but mention its use to Defra - and the reply is luddite and negative. VLA still seem to prefer to 'research' the theory rather than test the reality...."His post concludes "....I too had thought I detected a 'sea change' in attitude from Defra, but is a leopard spotty? After last week, it's the same old leopard, same old spots. "
It would be so refreshing if DEFRA could prove him - and the major part of warmwell - wrong and show that it has indeed changed its spots. Or at least one or two of them. (One does not need to register in order to read the posts on the CA forum.)
August 8 - 14 2005 ~ A sea change? The CVO thanked all Stakeholders present for having taken the time and trouble "..to attend and participate in this process - defined for the future as a partnership..."
Warmwell's reaction to a stakeholder's report of the recent meeting at DEFRA with the CVO, Debby Reynolds, is that real change could be in the air. There seems to be a shift
The report of this meeting was written by Chris Stockdale. (new window). Read in conjunction with Roger Breeze's article on the Coordination Action website, one feels that there may, at last, be reason for some optimism.
- in terms of communication and management skills
"....Confirmation that this was more than a window-dressing exercise was apparent before the meeting-room door had fully swung open ? large and readable name cards demonstrated where DEFRA personnel and the Chair were to sit (precluding the need for a guessing-game and last minute rush to change seats in order to hear).."
- In the genuine gesture towards openness and transparency..
"...The Agenda and papers will go on DEFRA?s website, where others unable to attend can view and contribute..."
- and in some of the points raised..
(example) ".... Prior to the meeting Chris (Sheep Veterinary Society lead vet, practicing sheep keeper from the Shropshire / Cheshire border, independent consultant, former SVS employee and a key man at the ministry in 2001), mentioned that at a meeting two days previously DEFRA had agreed never again to initiate what he was referring to as the ? Welshpool shambles?. In other words, Contiguous and DC culling would never be initiated until the supposed IP was proven to be infected."
August 8 - 14 2005 ~ "With all Performance Benchmarks met, by government and industry, the goal is to snuff out an outbreak in two weeks after diagnosis by active commitment of all sections of the industry and related industries. .."
The discussion paper by Roger Breeze on Industry Cost Sharing is short and easy to read, illustrating clearly how contributing towards " the costs of an effective program for earliest detection and most rapid effective response to disease" can bring about significant change. From a top-down, one way, series of decisions, cost sharing can make the government an accountable partner. Industry, suggests the paper, can expect "Performance Benchmarks" to be set for such components as an inducement scheme for early reporting, rapid verification, and rapid communications. " ... the government should ....be prepared to demonstrate that it is meeting its Performance promises..."
The paper shows a grasp of what modern technology exists both in combatting illegal imports and in early disease detection and control. Particularly interesting is that the paper also advocates rewarding vigilance instead of threatening negligence:
"The first owner to report a suspicious case that proves to be an infection of concern shall be compensated at four times the value of the stock; those subsequently reporting suspicious cases that prove positive within the first two weeks after a definitive diagnosis shall be compensated at twice the value of the stock.."Vaccination is assumed as the control method of choice since it would deter agroterrorists' hope of the"drama and visual theater of mass slaughter"
It is to be hoped that as many people as possible read the discussion paper - and give feed-back that will be seen by decision makers. (Register on the same page if it is your first visit.) The article below from Australia shows what happens when farmers feel they have no input into decision making and no control over the risks inherent in imports.
August 8 - 14 2005 ~ China: "... a simple and cost-effective technique to test live and dead animals for the disease,"
Biotech East reports
"The YaSheng Group, a Chinese industrial giant from Lanzhou, Gansu Province, announced today that it had mastered a gene cloning process that allows the creation of fortified cells that combat foot and mouth disease.In a global situation where the eradication of animal infectious diseases is more urgently needed than ever, a non-political consideration of effective new technologies and studies across international bounderies is surely vital. As the report of the EU Temporary Committee on Foot and Mouth Disease (paragraph 79 ) said:"Lasting success can be achieved in efforts to control FMD worldwide only if it proves possible, through close international cooperation.. ..."
Scientists at the company had also developed a simple and cost-effective technique to test live and dead animals for the disease, according to the announcement.
The company reportedly plans to use the technology to develop a vaccine for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). ..."
Similarly, the current Israeli policy to prevent and control FMD (its clear setting out of humane and effective policy should serve as an example to others ) concludes: "... Common, co-ordinated epidemiological studies leading to a common control policy should be sought and supported by the international community."
August 7 2005 ~ Farmers will be even more anxious about importing FMD after an Australian documentary
A news report from Farmonline.com.au. SBS documentary blasts Brazilian beef import fiasco reports that an SBS 'Dateline' documentary has questioned the credibility of Brazil's internal quarantine measures. The programme suggested that "the so-called 'FMD-free zones' within Brazil are highly porous" and that at the time of one import into Australia of Brazilian beef, a new FMD outbreak had been reported in one of the supposed "FMD-free zones".
The program revealed that Biosecurity Australia, at the time, did not inspect conditions in Brazil, before relaxing import restrictions, and subsequently issuing the import licence. (Read in full. The article also expresses concern about PMWS.)
August 5 2005 ~ "Cost sharing offers industry a chance to sit at the table as a partner to make sure that when it pays what is asked, it gets what is promised...."
Roger Breeze's Discussion Paper: Industry Cost Sharing appears today on the Coordination Action website. It is readable, informed and full of clear, good sense. Those who have an interest, who care about the human and animal cost of official disease control, ( many of us not even designated "stakeholders"), and who want to make our voices heard, now have the chance to respond to such articles on the Coordination Action website. It is a chance that should be seized.
Warmwell's comments below, for example, now appear on the FMD forum pages of the CA website which provide a platform for online debate - visible to policy makers and to the OIE and EUFMD/FAO who will undoubtedly take note of interesting comments.
Registering is a simple process requiring no private data except for your real name and email address. Warmwell has no hesitation in recommending that we participate, and hopes that farmers and stockholders will get to hear about the website without delay. The online discussions will be summarised and the summaries will be available.
Today's article by Roger Breeze can be read in full here.
August 5 2005 ~ What good is an Expert Group if Defra doesn't act on their recommendations?
An emailer asked yesterday, "What good is it to have an Expert Group or a SAC who make good recommendations if Defra don't act on them? That is surely not the intention of the EU FMD Directive, but is there anything in it that obliges the government to follow the advice?"
Warmwell has looked at the responses of DEFRA to the 20 recommendations made by the SAC sub-committee. Read in full Briefly, :
Full recommendations, responses and warmwell's comments appear on new page here.
- There is no sense of urgency at DEFRA but rather a sense of complacency - as if everything is under control (an unlucky phrase). DEFRA appears not to see that there could be different scenarios requiring different approaches.
- Where is the "permanently operational" expert group as required by the Directive? DEFRA seems to think that the Modelling Consortium (of which few have heard) and Defra itself should direct policy with no outside advice.
- SAC tactfully draws attention to the continuing lack of effective IT systems and the need for the new technologies to be reviewed as a matter of great importance: DEFRA seems to want to wait until the UK develops its own commercial pen-side tests before acknowledging this vital, time-saving technology.
- DEFRA seems unaware of the dangers inherent in its inability to communicate. SAC asks for clarity. DEFRA's impenetrable communications and documents and its reluctance to engage with people at regional and local levels all needs to be addressed. SAC recommends carrots rather than sticks to gain cooperation. DEFRA's responses miss the point, failing to grasp that ordinary people and ordinary farmers are the first line of defence in protecting the country. Such a widespread distrust of DEFRA is worrying. Many farmers are tired of and bored by the constant bureaucratic nagging and no longer interested in reading the glossy DEFRA publications that arrive so frequently.
August 3 2005 ~scientists in Beijing have developed a test for streptococcus suis which takes just 4 hours to provide results.
ProMed reports "... the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine announced yesterday, 1 Aug 2005, it has developed a testing method to identify _Streptococcus suis_ in pigs in 4 hours. The technique, known as the "multiple PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing method," can be used to screen pigs in an "accurate and convenient" fashion, said a statement by an expert panel that assessed and approved the method ...." In yesteday's post, ProMed reports ".. Vaccines to combat a deadly pig-borne disease were flown to south-western China on Sunday [31 Aug 2005], where the spread of the rare illness has already killed 36 people and infected 198. The unusually high numbers of people infected by the swine disease has led scientists to speculate that it may be being spread from human-to-human or that another disease entirely is to blame. ........the size and virulence of this current outbreak, in the province of Sichuan, has taken the World Health Organization by surprise."
August 2 2005 ~ "....the government belatedly realized that the critical monetary yardstick was not the animal product export sector..."
"...but the rural economy as a whole and that protecting animal agricultural interests by not vaccinating was causing huge financial losses in tourism and other sectors that had never been factored into the calculations of outbreak costs." From Roger Breeze's paper Agroterrorism: Betting Far More than the Farm - now available freely on the internet as a pdf file at www.liebertonline.com Extract:
Regulatory officials have not realized that onsite detection is a transforming technology. Onsite detectors should transform disease surveillance and control..... vigorous informed control measures backed by positive diagnosis can be implemented nationally within 6 hours.
.... neighboring herds would be monitored daily for FMD infection (the test will find virus before there are signs of illness), and only infected herds would be killed. Slaughter would not be based on proximity. " Read in full
August 1 2005 ~ Rapid on-site RT-PCR Diagnosis - a curious reluctance on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean
Following Operation Hornbeam, the Science Advisory Council sub group, (which included Professor Roy Anderson and Mark Woolhouse) identified, "major science issues" from the "exercise in its entirety, that require attention in the shorter term." They made some excellent recommendations
Recommendation 13: Accurate pen-side tests should be developed for the diagnosis of FMD in cattle and pigs. The Department should develop the capability to identify further research needs, including a review of current technology and the identification of novel future technologies.Similarly GAO, the US Government Accountability Office, reported that
"According to experts, on-site use of these tools is critical to speeding diagnosis, containing the disease, and minimizing the number of animals that need to be slaughtered"The USDA officials responded that " it is important to evaluate the costs and benefits of developing and validating these tools for use outside of a laboratory setting..."
Many are deeply puzzled at the reluctance shown both by UK and US officials to accept the use of the newest technologies that would, without doubt, transform disease control. Lip service is being paid - but neither UK nor US government department appears to acknowledge that on-farm rapid diagnostic tests are already highly developed and already being used in the field. The curious issue of "validation" which has, since the beginning of 2001, been used to justify their not being used is still being bandied about - almost as if it were an essential to making them work. Can anyone throw any light on this matter?
July 30 2005 ~ US still envisaging the slaughter of millions of cattle - Who will Provide the Leadership still not clear
Articles on Agroterrorism for the month of August on CSO online website warn that the number of agencies involved in agriculture and food oversight, the lack of coordination, the lack of clarity about what would happen in an outbreak, all add up to a "toothless tiger "
"... the huge feedlots, large processing facilities and a rapid distribution network .... through the infection of a single animal could lead to widespread infection that would necessitate the slaughter of millions of cattle ...." and "......"We're terribly inefficient in how we approach food safety," says Jerry Gillespie, director of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of California, Davis. "Different agencies have different legislative authority. It's also unclear who would be in charge ..."CSO online.com
July 30 2005 ~ Read again US Agricultural and Food Security: Who Will Provide the Leadership? by Roger Breeze and Floyd Horn.
As long ago as 1999, six years before writing their paper, the authors warned U.S. agricultural and food groups that the US
" was not prepared....unlikely to detect, identify and report; emergency responses were inadequate; working relationships were deficient....state and federal infrastructure would be overwhelmed....The Nation lacks a comprehensive national strategy .... Such a strategy is urgently needed: it will take years to implement and the threats will grow in the meantime. "When the paper was published in the Proceedings of the 107th Annual Meeting of the U.S. Animal Health Association, San Diego, October 9-16, 2003, pages 79-91, alterations were made, without the knowledge of the authors, that significantly changed the message intended. In particular, their ideas of how rapid, on-site test devices should be deployed were completely changed to create the false impression that validation was the next critical step. As we have said here on warmwell many times, the UK have similar areas of unaccountable blindness - indeed one expert member of last Monday's meeting (see below) said that he was unaware of the issues of rapid diagnositic on-site testing.
In 2001 the outbreak, with its mulit-foci hotspots due to lack of immediate understanding and action, could nevertheless have been efficiently dealt with had the issues of vaccination and rapid on-site testing been properly grasped. To say this is being wise after the event is nonsense. Experts advocating their use were trying very hard to be heard - but were sidelined with unpleasant contempt - one even being termed a Neanderthal. Yet arguments against both vaccination and on-site diagnosis have been shown to be specious. It looks as if the same reluctance to include them properly in Contingency Planning is happening today, perhaps because of ignorance and inefficiency. That it should be deliberate policy seems beyond belief.
July 28 2005 ~ "costs will influence the acceptability of a vaccination-to-live policy to certain sectors or individuals".
(Defra's Regulatory Impact Assessment June 2005)
In spite of the recommendations of the Royal Societies of both London and Edinburgh and the follow-up report of the Royal Society (see here) - a vaccination-to-live policy is, unfortunately, still far from being a foregone conclusion.. The questions asked on Monday to the sub-group of stakeholders concerned with processing and retail, are still raising problems about cost and practicalities. Several of these have been asked before, in 2003, in a consultation exercise. Yet Defra still seem both unclear in answering the meat processors and retailers and keen to shrug off responsibility for any costs that might be shouldered elsewhere.. Unbelievably, "consumers' fears about differentiation" even made an appearance. It is extraordinary that the answer to this after four long years- is not understood by all parties since it was a major (but unnecessary) stumbling block to vaccination in 2001.
DEFRA is now asking, "What proportion of the industry would want to see the derogation sought which enables the ending of the requirement to treat meat from Protection Zones and Surveillance Zones after at least 30 days and for Vaccination Zones at phase 3 of the vaccination programe" Such a derogation already exists, once herds and flocks have been tested, which would permit untreated meat from vaccinated cattle and sheep to be sold freely on the domestic market and "therefore approach more normal market conditions for livestock producers". A derogation also allows for untreated meat from vaccinated pigs to be placed on the domestic market and may, if requested by another Member State, be exported to them with a special mark. This extract from the April 2004 "Vaccination Protocol" makes the current situation clearer - but what remains very unclear is how effectively this information has been understood - even at DEFRA itself.
July 27 2005 ~ Defra's systems of management, information and communication were demonstrated on Monday morning at Page Street.
Questions - Processing and Retailing were not sent out until Friday evening for consideration at the meeting on Monday morning at Page Street. Nearly two years after the EU Directive of September 2003, questions are being posed by DEFRA about practical details concerning its demands. Queries raised by the stakeholders at the meeting about slaughterhouse use and disruption in supplies in the event of an outbreak were met with the view that "it is not part of HMG's remit to resolve supply chain problems" So it was pointed out that if purchasers promptly switched to overseas supplies the resulting cost of getting rid of perfectly usable UK meat would fall on the taxpayer.
At the meeting, it was said that any future outbreak won't be like 2001, that Defra/HMG considers itself to be better prepared, and any future outbreak "would be smaller". It is alarming to discover that there is still a lack of awareness and appreciation of the latest technologies, particularly of rapid on-site diagnosis.
The apparent assumption that the dense and legalistic language of the EU Directive, and in particular of its Annexes about required treatments can be readily followed and understood by anyone concerned reminds one of the story of the Emperor's New Clothes.
The fact is that the Directive is not easy to follow at all.
It had to be pointed out that "heat treated" means "cooked" and that treatments demanded by the Directive applied as much to Protection Zones, Surveillance Zones as to Vaccination Zones.
Defra has now been asked for clarification. "Processing and Retailing" stakeholders want to know what health stamps are, what they look like in reality. They want to rehearse in simulations just what would happen in various phases of an emergency. They want clear graphs and explanations of what will happen in the various zones and to the various species. They want what any member of the smallest organisation would expect from meetings: agendas and notes distributed well in advance, minutes taken, action points decided upon. In short, they want what does not yet exist - good systems of management, information and communication. (See also Inbox)
July 27 2005 ~ "Systems of management, systems of information, systems of communication"
The Lessons Learned Inquiry had, as one ProMed moderator pointed out, " to manoeuvre within a politically challenged landscape ". However, its Chairman, Iain Anderson, made his own recommendations to the EFRA Committee ( he was not expecting to be given the chance) loud and clear:
"....needs to be emphasised again and again is that in order to get this right for the future .... needs to be captured in processes which engages people from different agencies outside of the centre..
... The central importance is that adequate systems are in place ahead of time.... Systems of management, systems of information, systems of communication and all systems robust enough to cope with aggressive and severe challenge...
Speed of response, speed of decision making, speed of action.. through rehearsal and planning and discussion and rehearsal as a routine.."
July 25 ~ Thousands of Cambodian cattle and oxen have been hit by foot-and-mouth disease
Xinhua.net reports that thousands of Cambodian cattle and oxen have been hit by foot-and-mouth disease Yim Voeunthan, Agriculture Ministry secretary of state is quoted as saying that "...vaccines have been given to 1.5 million oxen nationwide to control the spread of the disease."
" In developed countries, mass slaughter of infected cows is the recommended procedure, but Cambodians are too poor for this policy," The Cambodia Daily said.
Meanwhile, in China, virus type Asia 1 is affecting 7 provinces, spread over distances of about 4000 km.
July 20 ~"..removing the source of infection rather than genetic selection is the route of choice for disease control"
One livestock farmer's response to the Hill report. "..... love the part when Hill states that the only way to minimize the risk of BSE is the exclusion of infective materials from the feedchain:
Genetic variation in susceptibility (17-21)Who cares about susceptibility if there is no agent that can start a disease ?..."
c) Even if genetic differences in susceptibility to infection were revealed, removing the source of infection rather than genetic selection is the route of choice for disease control ........
July 20 2005 ~ The Hill Report on BARBs
Professor William Hill, Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Edinburgh, has carried out an assessment of the possible causes of BSE cases born after the reinforced feed ban of August 1996 (BARBs) at the request of DEFRA.
Among the many interesting points in the report we read:
"Unless there is new evidence on BSE in cattle that lends support to alternative hypotheses underlying the cause of BARB cases there continues to be little justification for Defra to pursue research on them. Monitoring hypotheses and the free exchange of ideas is, however, encouraged."Paragraph 29 notes:
" A major EU funded study, FATEPriDE, is underway to examine environmental risk factors that affect the development of prion diseases such as BSE and scrapie (FATEPriDE Web site). The study is focussing on manganese and copper in soils, since replacement of Cu by Mn affects prion protein structure (Brown, D.R. et al., 2000), and on organophosphate pesticides that may influence Cu absorption. The group has brought it to my attention that they are unable to associate these environmental variables with BSE (including BARBs) incidence as they have not obtained the necessary data on location of cases from Defra. It has been suggested (Purdey, 2000) that susceptibility to spontaneous TSEs is affected by mineral imbalance in the ecosystem, but a source of infection remains necessary for BSE to occur, assuming it has a single source."The report can be seen here as a pdf file. (opens slowly in new window. Click once only)
July 19/20 2005 ~ EU outlines plans to relax BSE restrictions
Dated July 15th 2005, the EU's TSE Roadmap considers the relaxation of many restrictions. This, it implies, is because of " a clear improvement of the situation over the past years due to the risk reducing measures in place" There is talk of ensuring and maintaining the current level of consumer protection - but the Commission proposes, nevertheless, to relax restrictions .
Relaxation of the measures should be ".. risk based and reflect advances in technology as well as evolving scientific knowledge," it opines.
It is the "evolving scientific knowledge" presumably that has finally reached the understanding of the legislators and led to one of the "strategic goals" being to"stop the immediate culling of the cohort." - one of the most outrageous of all the many and manifold rules in place.
The Food Navigator website has more details of what is proposed.
One wonders where "evolving scientific knowledge" leaves such things as the National Scrapie Plan, based as it was on as yet non-existent evidence that BSE can be masked by scrapie. Can a case still be made for the justification of the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (England) Regulations 2002 SI 843 ? It was quietly introduced on the day after the Animal Health Bill had been thrown out by the House of Lords and is a measure that allows clear infringement of animal welfare and personal liberties.
Will any voice be raised loudly enough to question the basis on which more than 3 million cattle and ?4.6 billion had already been lost by 1999 and caused so many farmers to go bankrupt, losing their business, their livelihood and their homes even before the calamitous policies to combat FMD? In December 2003, Magnus Linklater raised such a voice and there have been others - but dissent in this area tends to get ridiculed, silenced and its funding removed.
July 19 2005 ~Animal Health at the Crossroads
A new report released yesterday by the US National Research Council:
"..... New tools for detection, diagnosis, and risk analysis need to be developed now, and the capacity of the existing animal health laboratory network should be expanded.....One Californian newspaper, Mercury News.com quotes Professor Mark Thurmond as saying that foot and mouth disease "doesn't directly impact human health, but it impacts every pocketbook" Yet the same newspaper, in spite of its article about the report, is still talking about the possible "rapid slaughter and disposal of " California's 300,000 cows.
Integrative animal health research programs, in which veterinary and medical scientists can work as collaborators, should be established. ...
The United States must address the importation and health of exotic and wild-caught animals and commit itself to shared leadership roles with other countries and international organizations that address animal disease agents....
. ... a collective effort should be made to raise the level of public awareness about the importance of animal health ..."
The executive summary of the report can be seen here. The pdf file of the full report is also free to look at and can be viewed here. (Click once only. Slow pdf files appear after some delay in new window).
July 18 2005 ~ Dr Abigail Woods is to lead a university review of the history of infectious diseases
The review has been commissioned by the Government and will be carried out at the University of Manchester. It is expected to last 3 months and will concentrate particularly on HIV/Aids, TB and foot and mouth disease. Dr Abigail Woods MA MSc VetMB MRCVS, the science historian and vet, wrote A Manufactured Plague and she wrote to warmwell in August last year to tell us that it had been published . Indeed, it was Dr Woods whose work was one of the first reasons for this website to be written at all. Her article in the Guardian in February 2001 just at the beginning of the outbreak, made clear from the outset that the policy being pursued was not correct. In March 2001 Geoffrey Lean, referring to Dr Woods' work, wrote in the Independent:
".... it was Britain, too, that pioneered the zero tolerance policy to foot and mouth, originally to protect a few wealthy stockbreeders, and was the first country to ban imports from countries with the disease. Now, hoist with its own petard, MAFF has no alternative but to continue the slaughter to stop British meat being excluded from export markets that have followed our lead.Science Daily reports today on the new project. "The report aims to produce a long-term perspective on the detection and identification of infectious diseases and inform policy at a national and international level. The study by the University's Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine (CHSTM) will reflect on the experience of dealing with human and animal disease problems to inform future research and management policies."
July 16 2005 ~ Four years on. The misery continues at Llancloudy
On June 1 this year Kevin Feakins finally won a court order to force the government to remove waste left in the clean-up operation during the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001. Now the villagers are up in arms at the way DEFRA is planning to remove the waste that includes 1,000 carcasses - and are threatening to lie down in the road in front of the lorries. They want DEFRA officials to visit the site. Ben Bradshaw says he will meet with them only in London and MP Paul Keetch is puzzled as to why this should be so. The villagers are concerned both about health risks from the waste and the damage that may be caused by the removal of some 8,000 tonnes, including sub-soil - and the involvement of between 700 and 900 lorries on the single-track lanes between their houses. Warmwell's News cuttings include the first "clear-up" at the farm on Thursday 08 March 2001 and other reminders of the suffering of that part of Herefordshire in 2001.
July 15 2005 ~ Breaking News
"...a reliable source of information at several integrated levels to decision makers, scientists and the broad stakeholder community"
Received today (Friday) has been this welcome announcement about the opening of the website for the Coordination Action project for foot and mouth and Classical Swine Fever, funded by the EU.
"The project will focus upon the coordination of research, global disease surveillance, risk analysis, vaccine reserves, diagnostics, laboratory preparedness, and control policies including vaccination, and will initiate new collaborations..... To make this a broad and responsive platform, we seek your participation, especially to contribute to the online discussion fora on topics of interest, to suggest new topics for discussion, and to send us relevant news items.."
".... From a stakeholder perspective, important benefits from this project will be that it will aim:
A. to improve stakeholder involvement in the scientific and technical developments, andRead announcement in full. View the website here
B. to facilitate policy development by providing a reliable source of information at several integrated levels to decision makers, scientists and the broad stakeholder community, and the opportunity to share and discuss concerns and priorities from different perspectives. .."
July 11 - 16 2005 ~ Bovine TB cases are found in pigs in Cornwall - " it might be only a matter of time before humans are infected"ProMed has reported the BBC article: "2 pigs and some piglets from a farm near Bodmin ... sent for slaughter... tests showed they had the disease..
.. The State Veterinary Service said it had no record of when it was last informed of a case of bovine TB, as it is not a notifiable disease in pigs "
The ProMed Moderator's comments on the article (read in full) :
[.....Contrary to views expressed by some interviewees, the spillover of bovine TB from the highly infected, dense badger population in Cornwall to other species, wild and domestic porcines included, should not be surprising. Though laboratory confirmation on the species identity of the mycobacterium isolated from the affected pigs (lymphnodes?) should be awaited, it may be assumed that it is _M. bovis_. If the current situation continues, it might be only a matter of time before humans are infected. - Mod.AS]See also report on TB in wild boar in Spain
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the first case of Bovine tuberculosis (in cattle) "has been discovered in a cattle herd on the border with Canada - the first finding in Minnesota since 1971- and will lead to the destruction of about 900 animals" according to this report in the Washington Post.
July 11 - 16 2005 ~ "The human health risk from BSE is probably far lower than the risk of choking on a toothbrush.?
An article in Choices, (of the American Agricultural Economic Association) calls for a measured response to BSE Risk The Response to BSE in the United States by John Fox, Brian Coffey, James Mintert, Ted Schroeder, and Luc Valentin of the Department of Agriculture Economics at Kansas State University:
"The human health risk from BSE is probably far lower than the risk of choking on a toothbrush.?The article notes that border closure in response to a very low BSE incidence in an exporting country is not endorsed by the OIE, particularly when control measures are in place.
?. . .to suggest, as did Judge Richard Cebull in granting the injunction blocking imports of Canadian cattle, that BSE poses a ?genuine risk of death for U.S. customers? is a complete distortion of the concept of what is really risky..."
".. a measured response may be one of enhancing the overall stability of food demand and making it less responsive to food scares that occur from time to time.?To read the paper, go to: www.choicesmagazine.org
The article emphasises the importance of an internationally coordinated response to managing risks from disease, notng that "the potential trade impacts of BSE discovery were not sufficiently weighted in the BSE risk management process?
July 11 - 16 2005 ~ GeneXpert launch expected soon
Cepheid.com (pdf) " The system purifies, concentrates, detects, and identifies targeted nucleic acid sequences, delivering answers from unprocessed samples in as little as 30 minutes.....
... The GeneXpert? System fully integrates and automates the three processes required for real-time PCR-based genetic testing: sample prep, amplification, and detection. Once a biological sample is loaded in a GeneXpert cartridge, the system does the rest...
... Its accuracy and ease-of-use has been extensively validated by a U.S. government interagency working group and by third-party university and private research labs..
.... truly portable, giving the capability to obtain bioanalytical results when and where they are needed...
... integrates the entire genetic identification process, requiring little operator handling or specialized knowledge. Users simply insert the biological sample for testing into a self-contained cartridge, and the GeneXpert System does the rest.
No laboratory facilities or laboratory training for operators is required. When testing is complete, the system will display a positive or negative answer for the presence of the targeted nucleic acid sequences. ."
July 11 - 16 2005 ~ Mr Bradshaw's accusation of "lies and scare-mongering"
Warmwell.com - while acknowledging that there are some at DEFRA who would like to see enlightening change in a Ministry with such sweeping powers - has long been very concerned about DEFRA's apparent inability to understand, communicate or listen. Both the politicisation of the Ministry and its bureaucratic arrogance have caused many farmers to distrust it - just at a time when the cooperation of farmers and fishermen is so vitally important. When DEFRA Minister, Mr Ben Bradshaw used a television debate on Sunday to accuse the Western Morning News of lying after reporting the details of a document actually on the DEFRA website, it is hardly surprising that Jason Groves, WMN's London Editor, should react with surprise. Mr Bradshaw denied that a recent report about the fishing industry, Securing the Benefits, contains the proposal that the inshore fleet of boats under ten metres in length should be charged £1,000 a year for a licence to fish "in order to recover some of the Government's regulatory and enforcement costs". Mr Bradshaw on the BBC's Politics Show, described the WMN's story as "fiction", adding that the BBC's follow-up to the story had been "based on lies and scare-mongering". The relevant paragraph in the report can be seen here. It is bizarre and worrying that Mr Bradshaw should use such vehement language to deny that any such proposal was being considered by the Government when it is there for all to see.
July 9 - 12 2005 ~ Unfit bushmeat and illegally slaughtered meat still coming into the country and ending up in food outlets
The risk of animal - and human - disease being caused by importation of illegally slaughtered bushmeat is a grave and increasing one. There is still a lack of a coordinated response to the problem from government, local authorities, police forces and the Food Standards Agency. Dr Yunes Teinaz, the Senior Environmental Health Officer for Hackney, writes today about a programme coming up on the BBC which he has supported in the hope that resources will at last be poured into protecting the UK from the disease implications of the Bush Meat trade:
Another dirty meat scandal ! This programme highlights the issue of unfit meat supply to takeaways and restaurants . An undercover reporter managed to sell fit meat as unfit to a kebab take away. Tons of illegally slaughtered meat and unfit food ends up in restaurants and takeaways without any public health controls checks or legal action against the perpetrators - who are making millions, tax free, at the expense of the health of the nation.See also warmwell's Dirty Meat pages
July 8 - 10 2005 ~ No double tagging derogation temporarily approved
The European Union's standing committee on the food chain and animal health has given at least temporary approval for the UK application for the derogation. Sheep farmers will - at least for the time being - be able to continue with the current system of movement (S) and replacement (R) tags instead of having to apply unwieldy, insecure and uncomfortable double tags. (Double tags will still be needed in the case of animals born after 9 July that are intended for intra-community trade.) See DEFRA page last updated in October, and Thursday's Scotsman
However, as with on-site rapid diagnosis technology, electronic identification systems, able to be linked with GIS to locate all domestic animals within Europe, don't seem to be being pursued. A secure, humane and up-to-date system for animal disease monitoring is possible - and yet, in spite of effective use of these technologies in the field, lack of "validation" is quoted as a reason for not adopting them.
1 - 7 July 2005 ~ FMD suspected in Vietnam
http://en.chinabroadcast.cn "Nearly 270 pigs in Vietnam's southern Ca Mau province are suspected of having died from foot-and-mouth disease. A local newspaper reported on Tuesday that testing on 19 samples from about 270 pigs which died last month indicated they could have been infected with foot-and-mouth disease. .Around two thousand pigs in the province have been infected with common diseases and suspected foot-and-mouth disease in the last few months. Local veterinary forces are boosting vaccination among pigs and tightening control over slaughterhouses. .."
1 - 7 July 2005 ~ UN Health experts call for mass vaccination of poultry in Asia. The FAO says it is "too early" for a mass culling of pigs
Since the end of 2003, more than 10 countries have been affected by the avian influenza, with over 50 human victims and with more than 140 million birds killed or culled. The WHO, OIE and FAO are searching for a strategy to keep the H5N1 virus from mutating into a more infectious hybrid capable of infecting humans. The Kuala Lumpur three day meeting, "Risk Reduction Measures in Producing, Marketing and Living with Animals in Asia", has been discussing how to protect workers at farms and markets and to prepare doctors and vets for an epidemic.
Joseph Domenech, the FAO's chief veterinary officer, has stressed the need to include pigs in surveillance plans when an avian influenza outbreak occurs in poultry.
"Avian influenza is not just an Asian problem. No poultry producing country is safe from the occurrence of the avian influenza as longas there are pockets of infection in Asia," he said.He said that it was too early for "mass killing of pigs, which are a crucial part of farmers' livelihoods and of food security in Asia" and called for more financial support from the international community, urging governments of those affected countries to better share information.
Active coordination on bird flu prevention and control strategies is vital .
Vaccination in risk areas remains one of the tools FAO and OIE have constantly advised to be used, and in some countries, such as in Vietnam, massive vaccination could be the only way to first reduce infection in poultry, which will further reduce human exposure and infection,said Joseph Domenech. The FAO and OIE will organize an international scientific conference next year to assess the results of ongoing research andof field use of veterinary vaccines,
See Google News search page
1 - 7 July 2005 ~ "they worked from the infection to the boundary and never caught up with it..."
The Hexham Courant reports that David Smith, the Haydon Bridge farmer who, as chairman of the National Sheep Association " went head to head with Government ministers during the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001" has been awarded the George Hedley Memorial Award for outstanding service to the sheep industry. The paper quotes him as saying
?When the foot-and-mouth outbreak started, I spent countless hours travelling from home to London to lobby and talk to ministers. It often felt like I wasn?t getting anywhere; I hardly ever met the minister for agriculture Margaret Beckett, and had to deal with junior ministers who could not give you a direct answer.
Any questions had to be deferred to the minister, and it would take a week or two to get an answer. But we managed to reduce the standstill time. We wanted farmers to be able to trade stock and getting the standstill down to six days did help things.?
He believes the Government could have handled things differently, and hopes that lessons have been learned.
?Things could have been better if they had worked from the 3km boundary to the infection; they could have stopped it from spreading. But they worked from the infection to the boundary and never caught up with it. That is why the infection went round the Cumberland spur. If they tried to get it quicker at the start, there could have been a lot less devastation ? they learned nothing from the outbreak in the 1960s.?
1 - 7 July 2005 ~ Foot and mouth outbreak: lessons for mental health services
David F. Peck is Professor of Health Research at the University of Stirling.
"The 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak in the UK was widespread and devastating. Some areas (e.g. Cumbria) were very badly hit, but all farmers were affected to some degree. Huge numbers of animals, infected and healthy, were slaughtered. Tourism was badly affected. Data from three systematic studies found elevated levels of psychological morbidity among farmers and other rural workers, especially those directly affected...."An abstract of the paper published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (2005) 11: 270-276 can be found here.
1 - 7 July 2005 ~ "Without on-site diagnosis to help monitor neighboring herds, animals would likely be slaughtered based on proximity rather than confirmed infection, unnecessarily magnifying the impact of an attack.
See warmwell's extracts from the pdf file at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05214.pdf from the US Government Accountability Office. GAO?s stated aim is simply "commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability."
"...... until USDA evaluates the costs and benefits of using rapid diagnostic tools at the site of an outbreak, the agency may be missing an opportunity to reduce the impact of agroterrorism. .... USDA does not use rapid diagnostic tools to test animals at the site of an outbreak. They employ this technology only within selected laboratories. According to experts, on-site use of these tools is critical to speeding diagnosis, containing the disease, and minimizing the number of animals that need to be slaughtered. DOD uses rapid diagnostic tools to identify disease agents on the battlefield, but USDA officials consider this technology to be still under development. Nevertheless, USDA officials told us that they agree it is important to evaluate the costs and benefits of developing and validating these tools for use outside of a laboratory setting..."Read extracts in full This is a very important report which has has much of relevance to the UK position on animal disease control.
June 27 - 30 2005 ~ Real Time PCR is "the most sensitive test is RT-PCR for the detection of viral RNA"
For avian influenza, use of the RT-PCR diagnosis tool is now considered essential ("The most sensitive test is RT-PCR for the detection of viral RNA": UK Health Protection Agency -pdf - new window)
We can find no mention of RT-PCR in the new Generic Contingency Plan - and it will be remembered that in 2001, the Chief Scientific Advisor, David King, chose to ignore it after Professor Fred Brown had, face to face, explained its use. A stakeholders' meeting about foot and mouth will take place on Wednesday 29th June. (See below comments on the Contingency Plan and its consultation)
June 18 - 25 2005 ~ Bovine TB. 420 vets - "including some of the most respected veterinary scientists in the country" - have now signed the letter to Margaret Beckett.
Of Margaret Beckett and Ben Bradshaw's response to the ever-increasing bovine TB problem Muckspreader in this week's Private Eye, writes that "... They are terrified by the outcry which would follow from the animal rights lobby if they followed the vets? advice, not least thanks to that £1million ?bung? the Labour Party was given by the Political Animal Lobby in 1997..... they set up a committee, the so-called Pre-Movement Testing Stakeholder group, to look into pretty well everything except the possibility of culling sick badgers. The committee duly came up with the kind of blandly meaningless report Defra were looking for. What they hadn?t counted on was that one committee, member, Truro livestock auctioneer Ben Messer-Bennetts, would break cover when the farce was over and protest very loudly that the whole exercise had been a stitch up. ..
.....Even greater embarrassment, however, has engulfed Defra?s other attempt at displacement activity, a three-year plan to investigate the possibility of vaccinating not cattle but badgers. Apart from the tacit admission that it is badgers which are the cause of the problem, the rug has already been pulled from under this plan by none other than Defra?s favourite TB expert Professor John Bourne....." Read in full - and see below for Mr Messer-Bennetts' comments to the Western Morning News
June 18 - 25 2005 ~ " the group had been presented with a "template" for the report at the start of its work"
WMN "....Mr Messer-Bennetts, a member of the nine-strong team that drew up the report (ie on aspects of TB control policy) said the group had enjoyed very little independence. He said the group had been presented with a "template" for the report at the start of its work and that the Defra "observers" who attended all but two of the group's meetings had had "far too much influence" on the debate..." Read the Western Morning News article (June 13) in full
June 18 - 25 2005 ~" the greatest risk is from their neighbours failing to report unusual illness or death among their stock."
"The Institute for Rural Futures at the University of New England... found that producers believe the greatest risk is from their neighbours failing to report unusual illness or death among their stock....The problem in Britain is that the consequences for farmers if they notice unusual symptoms and report them - the killing of an entire herd for one outbreak of the non-infectious, non-contagious scrapie, for example - will make them think very carefully indeed before reporting "unusual illness or death among their stock" In the UK, trust in the Ministry appears to be at an all-time low. If draconian laws insist on the slaughter of healthy stock then the net result of all the bureaucracy and regulations ostensibly designed to make disease less likely is to make disease more likely. What's more, regulations forbidding on-farm burial will be driving disease underground in more ways than one. Important diseases must be notifiable - but farmers should be encouraged to report them. If people are unreasonably coerced or frightened of the consequences of reporting disease it is inevitable that they will become secretive.
...The institute's Elaine Barclay says more attention should be paid to the social effects of disease outbreaks. "The experiences in the UK from the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak of 2001 are still being felt in many parts of that country," Dr Barclay said. ..."
June 18 - 25 2005 ~ At the same time, Defra plans to ?de-regulate? the most common of bee disease , called European Foul Brood, (EFB) by making it non-notifiable.
BBKA News ".. This will effectively leave the beekeeper alone in the difficult task of identifying and treating this disease. The net result will be increased frequency and spread of EFB, resulting in loss of bee colonies and a massive reduction in ?the pollination army? of honey bees, which currently contribute more than £120 million per annum to agricultural output, according to government figures. There are virtually no wild honey bees left due to the effects of another disease, the varroa mite, which is parasitic. Beekeepers are now the guardians of the honey bee population in the UK."
See also email from farmer in Cumbria and please consider printing, passing round and sending the beekeepers' petition (appears in new window).
June 18 - 25 ~ The FMD stakeholders meeting will take place 15 days after the closing date for consultation on the Contingency Plan
The next DEFRA Stakeholders' meeting, intended to discuss foot and mouth issues, will take place on Wednesday 29 June 2005. The closing date for consultation on the latest Contingency Plan is June 15
June 18 - 25 ~ " the Directive obliges Member States to ensure slaughter of all susceptible animals on premises where FMD is confirmed"
paragraph 2.6 of the REGULATORY IMPACT ASSESSMENT ( pointing out that "the transposition will be carried out by three separate statutory instruments") concerns the change from "discretion to slaughter" to "duty to slaughter" mentioned below
".....The 1981 Act currently gives the Secretary of State a discretion to slaughter in certain situations (including on infected premises) but this is not sufficiently binding to fully implement the Directive. Our policy is to fully implement the Directive and that requires a limited duty be placed on the Secretary of State to slaughter, but only where the Directive absolutely requires it. It is therefore also intended to amend the 1981 Act in respect of FMD to provide the necessary powers to implement the Directive."It is true that the Directive (page 8) says: "Community measures for the control of foot-and-mouth disease should be based first of all on depopulation of the infected herd.." but one fails to see why the wording of the Animal Health Act is considered not sufficiently binding to fully implement the Directive. The slaughter of infected animals on premises that have been proved to be infected is, for the purposes of pragmatic disease control in countries that are 'disease free without vaccination', deemed necessary and one that hardly needs the say so of a Secretary of State. The changing of the word discretion to duty seems curious. One wonders how a minor change of wording provides the "necessary powers".
June 18 - 25 ~ The EU Directive's definitions of "suspected" animals are clear
While there remains disquiet that the government's Contingency Plan leaves the door open for the killing of healthy animals as a quick-fix method of creating a "firebreak", it is worth reading the Directive for its definition of those animals that may be swiftly and humanely killed as part of the disease control policy.
(i) "animal suspected of being infected" means any animal of a susceptible species exhibiting clinical symptoms or showing post-mortem lesions or reactions to laboratory tests which are such that the presence of foot-and-mouth disease may reasonably be suspected;(These definitions would have excluded literally millions of those healthy animals and their young slaughtered during 2001)
(j) "animal suspected of being contaminated" means any animal of a susceptible species which, according to the epidemiological information collected, may have been directly or indirectly exposed to the foot-and-mouth disease virus;
June 18 - 25 ~ Illogical and unjust. The TB test for cattle is known to be deeply flawed - but DEFRA will not test badgers because "no reliable test for live badgers is yet available"
In spite of the insouciance of much of DEFRA's 2005 report, those at the sharp end of government regulations and bureaucracy are becoming more and more depressed by the widening gulf between reality and DEFRAspeak about animal disease.
As we saw in the example of one WMN article this week, there is an illogicality and cherrypicking of "science" that is effectively killing off livestock farming in many areas of the UK.
The recent past has seen anything but the "... caring for rural England and delivering a sustainable future for farming..." of the Report's Chapter One.
UK Foot and Mouth policies saw the unnecessary deaths of literally millions of healthy sheep, cows, lambs, calves and pigs, including heavily pregnant animals, rare breeds and breeding stock. The cruel absurdity of killing a companion group, herd or flock for a disease such as scrapie that is not infectious nor contagious - makes genuine veterinary science weep.
Regulations for BovineTB have killed more even than FMD 2001 - but it is not something the general public knows or cares about because the media - with some noble exceptions - are silent. DEFRA quietly insists that farms must be immobilised and reactor animals killed on the results of a flawed test. Yet they use as justification for NOT testing in other circumstances, the argument that a test might not be 100% accurate. This is surely not a logical exercise of the much vaunted "precautionary principle."
June 18 - 25 ~ "These simple measures could reap major savings for both animal life and the tax payer.."
We are living at a time when research funding appears to be limited only to those who don't rock the boat. Alternate theories that might save the country literally millions and bring back some sanity to farming do seem to be being ignored. An email today from Mark Purdey about the possible influence of increased iron levels in the pasture grasses of TB hotspots and resulting excess iron uptake in the biosystem of the grazing animals:
"....Trials in an area of intensive mycobacteria infestation in Michigan , involved the liming of pastures of the affected farms which produced a ten fold reduction in incidence of the infection. Why does DEFRA ignore this kind of published study?"Why indeed? Mark Purdey thinks that Ben Bradshaw is right to resist calls for a widespread cull of badgers. "Both badgers and cattle develop TB due to their separate exposure to the same iron-rich foodchain - and not by cross-infecting one another. For much research has shown that iron is an essential prerequisite in the TB disease process, enabling the TB mycobacterium to take a hold in the body....government should be looking into the option of subsidising farmers to spread lime in the TB affected/high iron areas, as well as feeding their cattle with iron-chelating lactoferrin protein. These simple measures could reap major savings for both animal life and the tax payer.
June 18 - 25 ~ "You need to slaughter the goat that has the disease and incinerate it if necessary - but not the whole herd..."
Scrapie is not an infectious or contagious disease. This fact is not preventing whole goat herds from being culled if one animal is found to be suffering from scrapie. The WMN reports on one farmer's exasperation with the DEFRA mindset where killing appears to have little to do with risk or science. A spokesman for Defra said the policy towards scrapie had been adopted because it had the potential to "mask" underlying BSE. But the whole BSE question itself poses far more questions than certainties (see BSE page) and the wholesale slaughtering of healthy animals will do nothing at all to protect humans or animals from disease.
" Totnes MP Anthony Steen, who has written to Defra through the department's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter. And Mr (Neil) Parish, MEP for the South West and a Somerset farmer, has also vowed to take up the issue with the European Commission. He said the disease was "not contagious".read in full
June 12 - June 17 ~ Consultation letter is highly misleading on the subject of required meat treatments
Defra's Foot and Mouth Disease (Control of Vaccination) Draft (96 KB) was updated on Wednesday June 14th 2005. The consultation letter is dated June 9th. The part of the summary letter relating to the treatment required for meat in the affected "zones" and for vaccinates leaves out the important hard-won derogations.
The letter suggests that "new" requirements of the FMD Directive require that "Fresh meat and meat products from animals originating or produced in protection and surveillance zones cannot go into the food chain unless they undergo various specified treatments, including heat treatment...." but it does NOT mention that this has a 30 day time limit. It is as if Mr Hewitt has not understood Defra's own 2004 "Emergency Vaccination Protocol" part 3 of which makes clear that:
"... meat and meat products produced in these Zones are also subject to treatment similar to that from vaccinated animals for at least 30 days after these zones have been applied. After 30 days derogation may be granted by SCOFCAH for untreated products to be allowed from the PZ and SZ"The summary (which is perhaps all that many of the 130 odd busy consultees may ever read) does not clarify the other time limits nor the granted derogations. It is vitally important that consultees are reaasured that:
"....derogation exists which would permit untreated meat from vaccinated cattle and sheep to be marketed freely on the domestic market (i.e. within the Member State), and therefore approach more normal market conditions for livestock producers ."The accidental or deliberate omission of these points is unlikely to remove the continuing fears of many consultees.
June 12 - June 17 ~ a "minor technical amendment" to the Animal Health Act 1981 is to change the Secretary of State?s current discretion to slaughter to a duty to slaughter
A legally imposed "duty to slaughter" is more likely to be motivated by political and trade reasons than veterinary ones, and would seem to absolve the Minister from blame and accountability in any future widescale slaughter.
The EU Directive, says the consultation letter from Defra's Simon Hewitt, leaves some "scope to influence the way we implement the Directive" although they are "necessarily limited". One area of "national discretion" - but one in which no views are sought - involves the personal discretion of the Secretary of State.The change of the word discretion to that of duty would appear to be a semantic change removing the Secretary of State's final say about whether slaughter is appropriate in certain circumstances;
".... the proposal is to change the Secretary of State?s current discretion to slaughter in certain situations (including on infected premises) to a duty to slaughter.."This is a considered a "minor technical amendment" by Mr Hewitt, requiring the "clearance of Parliamentary Counsel which we are currently seeking" Glossed over as minor and technical, the change is nevertheless considered important enough to require the clearance of Parliamentary Counsel. Its implications are not explained.
June 12 - June 17 ~ The June 9th consultation summary letter
Consultation on the transposition of Council Directive 2003/85 on Foot and Mouth Disease .
" ....this letter attempts to set out those areas where we do have some national discretion and the particular questions on which we want to know your views." (Read pdf file as html)Other "areas where we do have some national discretion" - ie not laid down precisely in the EU Directive - may be seen at this point in the letter. Defra asks for views about such things as the "control" of dogs and poultry at " zones established around an infected premises."
Will there be legislation to impose a "duty to slaughter" here too?
Read letter in full (See also the Defra website for the consultation index.)
June 12 - June 17 ~ "...a real-time PCR test, which is many times faster than the existing culture process currently used"
The Australian Sunday Mail
"Australian scientists have made an international breakthrough with the development of a rapid test to detect avian influenza, or bird flu. The test developed by the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) would reduce the time taken to detect the virus from three weeks to one day, state Agriculture Minister Bob Cameron said.The Australian Agriculture Minister is evidently delighted. Ironic that the available PCR rapid on-site test that can detect foot and mouth disease within hours was not only not used in the 2001 outbreak but has been strangely ignored in many quarters since.
"What Victorian scientists have been able to do is develop a real-time PCR test, which is many times faster than the existing culture process currently used throughout the world today," Mr Cameron said.
The test would be able to detect 15 different strains of bird flu, including the strains that are transferable to humans, he said.
"As with all disease outbreaks, the quicker it can be diagnosed the quicker the problem can be dealt with."
The negative response of the Chief Scientific Advisor, David King, to the face to face efforts of the late Professor Brown in early 2001 to make him understand and appreciate the device remains inexplicable to many. Its use would have removed all need for the pre-emptive strikes and so-called "firebreak" culling of "suspected" healthy animals - an option that astonishingly remains in the latest Contingency Plan. Real-time PCR assays are performed on a small, computer controlled and very portable device. It is specifically designed to be taken to the site of suspected or possible problems. As Professor Brown himself said, "People with limited training are perfectly capable of operating it. With GPS, distant experts can "look over the shoulder" of the person conducting the assay, to offer advice, expert analysis and validation of assay performance as it proceeds..." The Australian test for avian influenza is essentially the same test as was available to us in 2001 - but it is being welcomed with considerably more understanding and appreciation, it seems.
June 12 - June 17 ~ "My producer... called this a dead story when I first ran it past him last year, but he's come to realise what an extraordinary depth of feeling there is out there over the issue. "
Chris Chapman, joint author with James Crowden of the new book about the 2001 foot and mouth crisis "Silence at Ramscliffe" writes to thank the sponsors of the book which is now being printed and is to be distributed to schools and libraries by Devon County Council:
"...We closed the funding on Friday having raised a staggering ?19,000 to print it. My producer called this a dead story when I first ran it past him last year, but he's come to realise what an extraordinary depth of feeling there is out there over the issue. Judging by the response to our funding, I think people see this book as a way of healing wounds.....Read in full and see some of the now famous photos
During our research, Mary Critchley, (who runs the excellent website, www.warmwell.com) drew our attention to the words of the late Professor Fred Brown, a leading world expert on Food and Mouth, in a conversation he had with her in London after talking to the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee about vaccination and rapid diagnosis: "As time goes on scientists know more and more about less and less, while the politicians know less and less about bugger all.?.... Silence at Ramscliffe might just reverse the trend of his observations. James and I are hopeful that this book will help to heal the wounds of those that were so badly treated and by highlighting what was a grave injustice .... We will launch the book officially in September. Although our costs have risen well beyond our initial estimate, the level of sponsorship has covered a good 90% of it. With this in mind we have decided to donate a copy to every library in Devon and as a teaching aid to a number of appropriate schools. We have asked Devon County Council to draw up a list, and in response they have offered to distribute the book to them"
June 12 - June 17 ~ A national surveillance agency is needed. Britain monitors wildlife disease on an ad hoc basis, with different bodies sharing responsibility.
A Zoological Society of London report is calling urgently for a proper, unified national surveillance agency, using up to date methods.The Times:
"....In spite of the economic damage caused by the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 and the emerging threat of H5N1 avian flu in the Far East, Britain is less prepared than other countries such as the US, France and Canada.Read in full.
Three quarters of all new human diseases, such as HIV/Aids and West Nile virus, come from animals and other pathogens have devastated wildlife populations and severely affected farms. .............
Andrew Cunningham, head of wildlife epidemiology at the Zoological Society of London, said: ?The situation must improve if we are to avoid repeats of the tremendous socio-economic damage caused by foot-and-mouth, Sars [severe acute respiratory syndrome], bird flu, badger tuberculosis and others. It is essential that the UK has increased protection from the danger of emerging infectious diseases as they can devastate our already threatened native wildlife and pose a real hazard to human health.? At present, Britain monitors wildlife disease on an ad hoc basis, with different bodies sharing responsibility. The report calls for a unified national agency that would track animal disease continuously through clinical, post-mortem and population studies.... It could also employ newer methods of disease tracking such as satellite monitoring..."
May 28 - June 4 2005 ~ Contingency Plan. Last chance to comment
While few regular readers of warmwell are likely to be under many illusions about the nature of and motives for "consultations", there may be those who could still usefully - and more tactfully than warmwell - register to DEFRA their concerns about the latest Contingency Plan for FMD, now lumped together with the plans for avian influenza, Newcastle Disease and Classical Swine Fever. Among points that may be worthy of comment:
- Although the EU Directive authorises preventive culling of susceptible animals "should the epidemiological evidence support the hypothesis of virus contamination or incubating infection" it certainly does NOT authorise the killing of healthy animals in a firebreak cull - yet this persists in the Plan
- similarly, the concept - so vaguely defined - of "Dangerous Contacts" - can allow the indiscriminate slaughter of healthy stock
- The "problems" connected with vaccination are not veterinary ones. This is not made clear
- the present nature of the so-called "Expert Group" (4.58) - which is supposed to be independent and able to comment on and challenge policies from different standpoints of genuine expertise - is not in fact independent of DEFRA and not in the spirit of the Directive
- A failure adequately to include the available technological advances for rapid on-farm diagnosis and testing suggests either ignorance or incompetence
- A document for consultation of 308 pages of dense language is not helpful. There is a lack of clarity in the writing of the document and it is much too long for a general reader to get an accurate overview. If this is intentional and designed to reduce comment to a minimum, then it is disgraceful. If not, it is a measure of DEFRA's continuing inability to communicate with people most closely concerned.
May 28 - June 4 2005 ~ The last day for comment on the latest FMD Contingency Plan is 15 June 2005
The closing date for the consultation on the latest FMD Contingency Plan (308 pages) is 15 June 2005.
While there are improvements in some parts of the Plan, we deeply regret the language employed. Clear, common sense English would inspire trust in ordinary, busy stakeholders far more than the quasi military language of much of the document. A phrase such as "battle rhythm" means little to an anxious livestock owner. There are Command Structures, Communications Hubs (and Spokes) and Regional Cells, strategic, tactical and operational levels, strike teams, enforcement powers, a "transportable Mess room"... While it is sensible for different levels of risk to be made clear, "Red and Orange Alerts" seem too reminiscent of US false alarms.
We read "Action Plan in event of a crisis with Defra in the lead." If only this inspired confidence.
In 2001 Page Street appeared remote and impervious. Owners and vets alike were ordered about without any tact or management skill. Local expertise was ignored . "Communication" in the most recent document appears to mean again the widespread issuing of instructions from above to "officials" below - with a "Media Team" and lots of lawyers in readiness. Yet cooperation and a feeling of being part of a team effort in the event of a national emergency is essential if it is to be dealt with humanely and efficiently. In spite of references to stakeholders and their participation in something called "birdtable" meetings ("Timely involvement of stakeholders as an integral part of the communications picture. This must be pro-actively pursued at national and local level",) can this be more than vague good intentions when there have been no stakeholders meetings since January 2005? One stakeholder was recently heard remarking wryly;
"we have put in hours and hours attending meetings and responding to various consultations - all at our own expense - while Risk Solutions get paid a mighty fee..."A link to the most recent Contingency Plan (pdf file) can be found here. All 308 pages of it.
May 28 - June 4 2005 ~ Thomas Butler, Physician - Scientist, prisoner
ProMed Mail publishes this important and deeply disturbing article.
ExtractRead article at ProMed. Part of the moderators' comment : "We at ProMED-mail consider what has happened to Dr. Thomas Butler to be unconscionable and on a par with events that occurred in China and Cuba (see references below). " See the website of the Federation of American Scientists. "It's of grave concern that in a free society, such an Alfred Hitchcockian situation could emerge," said Peter Agre, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry. The link suggests how readers can help.
"our esteemed colleague, whose career and family have, as a result of his efforts to protect us from infection by this organism, paid a price from which they will never recover. ....In January 2003, Dr. Butler could not locate 30 vials of plague specimens and reported this to the safety officer at Texas Tech University.... ... questioned by FBI agents without legal counsel which he waived, because he felt he had nothing to hide.......after many hours of interrogation without sleep, and with the assurance that such interrogation would prevent any legal action, he signed a statement to the effect that the vials may have been autoclaved. He was then put in handcuffs and jailed, having been accused of lying to the FBI (a charge for which he was later acquitted). .... The role of the Texas Tech University administration in the prosecution of Dr. Butler has been of great concern..... questions have been raised about pressures that may have been exerted...."
May 28 - June 4 2005 ~ Dirty Meat - a very significant health risk
ProMed mail comments on news of substantial illegal meat seizures in Europe and elsewhere.
" These are not trivial volumes of meat. We can assume that equivalent volumes are entering other European countries. It is a very significant health risk. it is widely agreed that only a small proportion of such materials are stopped at borders -- we can assume that the participants include not just ethically challenged businessmen but also criminal organizations. The risks are extremely significant."One of the potential sources of FMD world-wide is the international trade in live ruminants and pigs. In view of the accelerating pace of animal disease, China's reluctant admission that they are currently fighting foot and mouth, outbreaks of which could well be happening at much greater frequency than admitted by the authorities, the fact that it is suspected in some quarters that the 2001 outbreak was a result of illegal imports of meat, livestock or even semen, and the worrying concerns of the brave few, such as Dr Yunes Teinaz, who are battling for them, the need for the UK to have proper controls of dirty meat beyond the handful of sniffer dogs and ineffective rules seems more than ever urgent.
(Australia is investing ?246 million this year to strengthen its border controls on top of a further ?116 million invested in their quarantine and inspection service- ?362 million in all. We understand that the figure for the UK is ?25 million )
May 28 - June 4 2005 ~ BSE - The problem with the bacterium theory
Mark Purdey has sent warmwell his paper, Metal microcrystal pollutants; the heat resistant, transmissible nucleating agents that initiate the pathogenesis of TSEs? (pdf) published in Science Direct (elsevierhealth.com), which argues that TSEs seem to follow on from the disposal of munitions following the various weapons treaties which demanded the destruction of Cold War stockpiles. The UK dumped theirs in the sea, the USA incinerated theirs. Pollution from the metal microcrystals contained in them contaminated the atmospheres of the environments involved in this mass disposal and the farm foodchain ( fishmeal ).
He points out that the bacteria theory of BSE cause has been around for 20 years, but that none of its adherents is addressing the fact that the TSE causal agent has to be capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 800 degrees C. What bacteria can survive such temperatures and still remain pathogenic? However, a metal microcrystal can survive that and still retain its multireplicating characteristic. Read the article (This is a pdf file. It takes some time to load. Click once only.)
May 28 - June 4 2005 ~ BSE - "... even if samples appear to infect animals, it is impossible to prove that prions are causative....Today the greatest hindrance to finding a cure for TSE's lies in the very theory they have become embedded in"
3 new cases in young cows have appeared in Wales. (see Times)
Lawrence Broxmeyer MD, lead author in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, isn't satisfied with the "infectious prion" explanation for mad cow disease. [Is mad cow disease caused by a bacteria' pdf] and sees some startling connections with bovine TB.
"... 55% of mice injected with cattle BSE, and who came down with disease, had no detectable prions. Still, incredibly, prions, are held as existing TSE dogma - and Heino Dringer, who did pioneer work on their nature, candidly predicts it will turn out that the prion concept is wrong.'......Today the greatest hindrance to finding a cure for TSE's lies in the very theory they have become embedded in.
....'there is no known disease which better fits into what is occurring in Mad Cow and the spongiform encephalopathies than bovine tuberculosis and its blood?brain barrier penetrating, virus-like, cell-wall-deficient forms. It is for these reasons that future research needs to be aimed in this direction.'...
Santana's oft quoted 'he who does not remember the past is condemned to relive it in the future' seems clear here..."Read article or pdf file
May 28 - June 4 2005 ~ Most people believe that farmers are to be paid to keep trees and hedges and so on. The single farm payment scheme does the opposite.
An intelligent and capable West Country farmer writes of his frustration with DEFRA and its handling of the Single Farm Payment Scheme
"......After days of wrestling with maps (another tale of unbelievable incompetence) and after many frustrating attempts to get advice on the esoteric distinctions decreed by the madmen who devised the form, the papers from the original package were well scattered. The thing that makes me particularly annoyed about the exercise is the way that all the comment in the media explains that farmers are now to be paid for providing some kind of environmental benefit. Most people believe that farmers are to be paid to keep trees and hedges and so on. The single farm payment scheme does the opposite..Read in full
..... I am to be paid for the forage area. Area of bushes that prevent grazing must be deducted. If I want to claim for grazed woodland, or grazed orchard, I must calculate and deduct the area of the tree trunks. The instructions decree that the area of any farm ponds must be excluded. The inference is that I should cut down any trees and bushes and drain those inconvenient farm ponds'
Staggeringly, the land use categories do not include a land use of 'grazed woodland', nor do they include 'orchard' grazed or otherwise. ......."
28 May - June 4 2005 ~ "The study does not identify a single scenario in which a contiguous cull would produce the best results."
The WMN reports on Risk Solutions' Cost Benefit Analysis (see below)
"....even a "much more limited, less intensive" version of the contiguous cull that was used in 2001 would "increase the number of animals killed overall and, when you feed that into the economics, often produce more cost".It is interesting that some "Senior Defra officials" are still clinging to the notion that the contiguous cull has not been wholly discredited. Read in full
Anthony Gibson, South West director of the National Farmers' Union, welcomed the new report's findings.
"This is a good piece of work, which provides some clear advice. If you have a small outbreak you should snuff it out as quickly as possible using conventional slaughter of infected animals and direct contacts. If it is a bigger outbreak then you should also vaccinate," he said. "The contiguous cull comes out of it as the option that involves the greatest number of animals slaughtered and the greatest expense without being particularly effective. The study does not identify a single scenario in which a contiguous cull would produce the best results"
28 May - June 4 2005 ~ Exposure to pesticides can cause Parkinson's
" The more pesticide you are exposed to, the higher your risk of developing the disease, say investigators who have studied almost 3000 people in five European countries." New Scientist magazine. Anthony Seaton and his team in Aberdeen interviewed 767 Parkinson's sufferers and 1,989 healthy people about risk factors for the disease, including their use of pesticides. Farmers were 43 percent more likely to suffer from Parkinsons.
See also our pesticides pages
Georgina Downs, the tireless campaigner for regulation, says in her Press Release that the new study, "highlights again that the controls that are currently in place for pesticides are not as strict as the Government, industry and others perceive them to be." There is currently no legal obligation to warn people before spraying takes place.
22 - 28 May 2005 ~ FMD Cost Benefit Analysis finally appears
and the results are available from our technical page (pdf).(pdf files take some minutes to load if you have a slow connection. Do not click twice.)
Anyone hoping for crispness and clarity may be disappointed. There are 120 pages of dense writing and many recommendations for "further work".The report does not propose any single strategy for dealing with a future outbreak.
Risk Solutions Consultancy were awarded the contract for the project which was continually to be monitored and evaluated by a Project Board. (a glance at which will reveal some familiar names) It was to take into account the possibilities of outbreaks of different size and with different predominating livestock, various different levels of virulence, and examine a variety of different disease control options, available resources and so on. Here is one extract where key parameters for the economic attarctiveness (sic) of a cattle vaccination strategy are placed in a table.
(In January 2004, James Irvine at Land Care org.uk also had some trenchant remarks to make about the CBA, wondering why DEFRA had not already done one, and including the comment, "The cost of this contract, awarded we are assured after the process of competitive tendering, was not declared in the DEFRA press release. Is it really an appropriate use of public money?" It may be remembered that Private Eye's Muckspreader had rather a cheaper suggestion, involving the back of an envelope. )
22 - 28 May 2005 ~ NAO slates DEFRA again
Under the headline "Dozy DEFRA's let us all down" and commenting on the new NAO report, the WMN, says:
" Government incompetence in translating European environmental regulations into British law has left farmers, businesses and taxpayers badly let down, the National Audit Office said yesterday. In a withering verdict on the performance of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the NAO says that a series of European commitments have been implemented too late or in the wrong way - leaving farmers and others to pick up the pieces. The NAO, which acts as Parliament's financial watchdog, said that although there were some recent signs of improvement at Defra, too many mistakes were still being made..."Read in full
22 - 28 May 2005 ~ China's vaccine against avian influenza
Reuters " China has developed vaccines that block the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu among birds and mammals, Xinhua news agency reported....."Experiments show the efficiency rate of the newly developed vaccines in preventing infection by the H5N1 virus is 100 percent," Chen Hualan, director of the China National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory, was quoted as saying in an overnight report. ....." Read in full
22 - 28 May 2005 ~ Desert Island delusions
In the most recent edition of Desert Island Discs, Sue Lawley asked Sir David King, the UK's Chief Scientific Advisor, how he could be knowledgeable about so many disparate areas of science - and cited as an example Foot and Mouth disease, so far removed from his own area of expertise.
Sir David opined that it does not matter if the subject is not one with which he is familiar since his scientific training makes it easy for him to grasp the principles. As regards the 2001 FMD epidemic, he said that he could call in experts - virologists, epidemiologists and vets to provide advice. He did not, however, add that the manner in which what became the Science Group was convened did not follow Nolan principles and was dominated by mathematical modellers with little grasp of the realities of FMD in the field. The advice he received from the experts as a result of modelling was presented to the Prime Minister as the preferred approach and comprised the slaughter of infected animals and those on neighbouring farms. He added with some pride that "the least number of animals had been culled at the end of the day".
We can only imagine the incredulous gasps from listeners who were involved in what Anthony Gibson calls the "flesh, blood, tears, sweat and heartbreak" of the policies of King and his associates. In December 2001, David King demonstrated his failure to grasp the issues when he was asked on the Today Programme about the available rapid diagnostic on-site test (about which Professor Fred Brown had talked to him face to face in an effort to get him to understand), muddling it up with the test to distinguish vaccinated from infected animals. The CSA model resulted in the contiguous cull policies and the deaths of 10 million farm animals and their young - a very large proportion of whom were uninfected. Many were breeding stock whose loss is incalculable. The stress and misery of this time on the owners of the animals has been documented on this website.
It is not surprising that the perpetrators of the lasting trauma of the 2001 FMD policies attempt to cast away their disastrous mistakes but few will now be impressed by the phrase "the correct option".
22 - 28 May 2005 ~ "... unease that Professor David King, during the foot and mouth outbreak, had " had enormous influence on policy without having formal responsibility for the consequences of its advice"
We remember that Professor King was referred to approvingly by Alastair Campbell at Lessons Learned as "a good media performer" and he added that the "Prime Minister had had a lot of faith in the CSA's broad approach."
The Prime Minister's faith is a fallible commodity. We now know that retrospective analysis of data shows that the ratio of new cases arising from each disease outbreak (which needs to be less than one for the epidemic to decline) had dropped below one before the new "contiguous cull" policy was even applied, just as the genuine experts had argued that it would.
Professor King may be clinging to the notion that his policies embodied "the correct option" - but he must be about the only person on the planet who continues to make such an assertion.
- The chief scientist at the Ministry of Agriculture and Defra during the BSE and foot and mouth crises Dr David Shannon told the Lessons Learned inquiry that there had been limited knowledge of agricultural systems and serology, and it contained no FMD experts from outside the UK. As the virologist Dr Ruth Watkins wrote to Lessons learned "None of the vets whom I spoke to, particularly the senior vets, understood the implications of control by vaccination..."
- David Shannon also expressed great unease that Professor David King, during the foot and mouth outbreak, had "had enormous influence on policy without having formal responsibility for the consequences of its advice" He had expressed his concerns to Professor King about the way in which the group had been operating, and had subsequently also written to the MAFF Permanent Secretary (Brian Bender) on 27 April. Dr Shannon cited some other lessons for the future regarding the science advisory committee:
- To the general disbelief, Sir David suggested in January this year that vaccination was still not a practical option for combating FMD - in spite of the fact that all the inquiries into foot and mouth have said that in future, vaccination should be the control method of choice. The Royal Society summary (page 3), for example, says "... Given recent advances in vaccine science and improved trading relations emergency vaccination should now be considered as part of the control strategy from the start. By this we mean vaccination-to-live...."
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ "One can hope that the ICA authorities will disclose what they know so that their lessons can be shared in these dangerous times..."
Foot and Mouth virus from a laboratory appears to have ended up infecting animals at a university farm in Bogata, Columbia. See OIE Disease Information: 20 May 2005; Vol. 18 - No. 20 "....As a result of laboratory testing and the epidemiological investigations carried out around the outbreak and in in-contact farms, the likelihood of a field origin has been ruled out."
ProMed moderator comment: "information on how this virus got from the laboratory to this university farm in Bogota has not been revealed, though obviously -- from the wording of the ICA report to Paris -- it is probably known. Fortunately it travelled but a short distance. One can hope that the ICA authorities will disclose what they know so that their lessons can be shared in these dangerous times."
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ multi-talented, multi-skilled - and close to despair.
"The ongoing fall-out from foot-and-mouth ..." Calls to Farm Crisis Network helplines have soared since January ahead of last Monday's (May 16) deadline for applications as farmers struggle to cope with form filling, new rules on agricultural payments and "high levels of stress in rural communities, many dating back to the foot-and-mouth crisis", according to FWi "....It's not just a few people struggling ' everyone is worrying. People are very frightened of getting it wrong because of the implications. Everyone is in the same boat..." Farm Crisis Network deputy national coordinator Helen Doggrell said.
Chris Coates, team leader at the Rural Emotional Support Team says
"....short-term worries have conspired with problems such as TB and the ongoing fall-out from foot-and-mouth ....high levels of stress in rural communities, many dating back to the foot-and-mouth crisis ...The disease has gone away ' but nothing else has changed. For some people, things are worse. Farmers often say they don't feel valued any more. They don't always believe how multi-talented and multi-skilled they are. .....Farmers are one of the highest occupation categories at risk of suicide" "
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ The flouting of legality, unnecessary pre-emptive strikes, cruelty, secrecy, bluster and a refusal to face up to mistakes made....
One of the things that strikes us about the measured and readable paragraphs of last week's Mishcon Lecture by Professor Philippe Sands about the flouting of international law before the invasion of Iraq, are its parallels with aspects of the 2001 foot and mouth disease policies. Extracts:
".. the manner in which political and legal issues became interwoven with the question of integrity and trust.Professor Sands writes with humane clarity - (for a website that must read so much DEFRAspeak this is a refreshing change) - and his lecture is illuminating.Read in full.
..the media went to sleep
No doubt the full story is yet to emerge about the circumstances ...a background of decisions taken on the basis of dubious intelligence and legal reasoning
the principal architects .... remain in precisely the same posts they occupied ...."
" it is a little fanciful to hope that everyone can move on. The issues are bound to persist. Little surprise that there will be calls for enquiries..."
15 - 22 May 2005 ~'Nature' didn't create the English landscape -Farming did.
A farmer's eloquent email arrived on Wednesday. Extract:
Nature' didn't create the English landscape - farming did. And the cattle and sheep are needed to maintain it. Without them, or with different or novel or even 'no' crops - the whole eco system changes. After FMD clearouts, and no cattle/sheep, friends report no dung = no beetles, no birds, no badgers (!) Death valley one called it.Like the writer, we feel a deep sense of impending disaster since it seems that no one in the carpeted corridors of power appears to have any understanding of the connection between the loss of the steep, light soil fields of mixed livestock farming (fields now forced into arable monocropping ) and the flash flood erosion now blamed on global warming. (See also Inbox) .
A whole lot rests on animal manures on the soil. Has an environmental impact study been done on the likely effect of SFP? Biomass for fuel means willows 10 feet high and 40,000 acres sown to support 1 small power plant! That within 10 miles of said plant. How 'green' is that?
(Mrs Margaret) Beckett has done an excellent job, distancing herself from rural issues, but she has openly said that food supplies for the British public would be sourced "from wherever they could be bought most cheaply".
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ The Chief Veterinary Officer's report for 2004
was published on Monday on the DEFRA website. Extracts from Part Two:
(Exercise Hornbeam)"...confirmed the need for speed in responding to the first case and deploying resources, and confirmed the importance of openness, engagement with operational partners and good communication both internally and externally with stakeholders and the public..Read extracts
(rapid diagnosis).. RT-PCR was found to be as or more sensitive than virus isolation and would be able to detect small numbers of infected cows by analysis of a bulk milk sample..
(vaccination discriminatory tests) .... new types of assay have been under development and may be suitable for use as confirmatory methods following screening with NSP tests. ..."
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ "...we heard nothing about this on-going epidemic from the mainstream media...."
High levels of abortion, infertility, failed matings and deaths among pigs in the biggest indoor sites: PMWS (post-weaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome) in the UK is silently playing havoc with intensive pig farming. We understand that antibiotic use is at record levels.
It was an emailer from America who brought to our attention the new website PMWSinpigs.org, the University of Warwick, Ecology and Epidemiology group's special website on PMWS for farmers . Of the 116 farms visited for the study headed by Dr Laura Green between August 2003 and July 2004, 83% of farmers said that they had PMWS on their farm.
The emailer from the US comments on the fact that most people have never even heard of this disease. The disposal problem alone - in these times of the fallen stock shambles - must require special dispensations:
"Thousands and thousands of dead pigs, most weighing in the neighborhood of 10-20 kg. And all the time, we heard nothing about this on-going epidemic from the mainstream media......"he writes, adding that it seemed to him throughout the period of 2000-2004, that DEFRA, BPEX and the NPA, were doing " whatever they could do, to squelch the mention of, or discussion of this problem." The animation of disease spread in the UK makes clear the seriousness of the situation over the past few years.
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ " I don't think that kind of 'scorched earth' approach would work here, and I don't think it is as acceptable there, now."
Encouraging article from Waldo County, which quotes the state veterinarian for Animal Health at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Don Hoenig. Dr Hoenig was in the UK during the foot and mouth crisis.".....It was absolutely heart-breaking,' Hoenig said. I learned a lot about how an outbreak is handled and what we could do differently.... I don't think that kind of 'scorched earth' approach would work here, and I don't think it is as acceptable there, now.? Maine, said, Hoenig should be different. ?We are much more prepared than we were four years ago,? Hoenig said. .."
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ hundreds of carcases of illegally slaughtered animals arrive in London this weekend
While bureaucracy and muddle can deem healthy calves unsafe for consumption and condemns them to a premature and wasted death (see below), the very real danger caused by the hundreds of carcases of illegally slaughtered animals sold in London this weekend continues. No effective action is taken.
Yunes Teinaz: 'In one of the biggest cases I was involved with, in which we had seized 250 rotten sheep carcasses and 100 sheep heads, the criminals ended up with a £250 fine and 140 hours of community service. I got my car clamped on the same day and it cost me nearly as much." See Dirty Meat pages.)
15 - 22 May 2005 ~ "the overall cut off date for passport applications needs to be clearly highlighted in the BCMS booklet."
One exasperated farmer has served a summons against the British Cattle Movement service in the hope that the inadequate communication over calf passports can be cleared up. The birth of the Aberdeen Angus bull calf in question was towards midnight on 10th March 2005. The farmer's application - posted first class and in good time - was received by the BCMS on April 7th.
The BCMS refused a passport saying the application was 24 hours late. Such a calf has to be slaughtered, since it can never be sold for meat nor can it be used for breeding.
The Cattle Identification Regulations 1998 shows" the period within which the keeper shall apply for a cattle passport shall be calculated, in the case of a dairy herd, from the date on which the second eartag is applied to the animal " However, the deadline is simply not clear in the booklet provided by the BCMS. The farmer says, "the overall cut off date for passport applications needs to be clearly highlighted in the BCMS booklet"and ".... it is the date when the farmer applies and not the date when BCMS receive the application which determines the 27 day deadline."
The BCMS have argued that clarity over this is DEFRA's responsibility not theirs. The cost for the farmer - who fully supports the cattle registration process but is determined to make a stand on this issue - is high. Meanwhile, 30,000 other healthy animals in the UK have been similarly refused passports.
8 - 15 May 2005 ~ Police in New Zealand are growing increasingly confident that the threat was a hoax.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz - It is to be hoped so - but even more importantly - that the mistakes made in the UK will at last be fully understood here and elsewhere in the world. It is still not clear is whether the available but "unvalidated" rapid diagnostic tests have been used at Waiheke island, nor what policies would be followed if FMD were found. We are now four years on from the UK disaster. Public ignorance is widespread. Few are aware that every one of the eight scientific expert witnesses to the EU inquiry in June 2002 said that vaccination must be used in any future outbreak ( as Robert Uhlig in the Telegraph reported) Extraordinarily, only three months ago the government's Chief Scientist, Sir David King, was still arguing that vaccination was not a practical option for controlling the disease, in spite of the fact that
The assertions that what was happening in 2001 had a sound scientific basis have been shown to be false - but no public inquiry has ever properly corrected the misinformation put about at the time nor correctly examined the origins of the outbreak. There is consequently little trust that lessons have been learned. The realities of vaccination, testing and diagnostic advances have failed to reach those who need to know. Foot and Mouth still remains a political instead of a veterinary issue. "Moving on" will require public exposure of the ignorant, wasteful and barbaric policies and what inspired them.
- tests to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals have been used in Turkey in Bulgaria, and in Macedonia and Albania since 1996 and cost very little.
- Vaccines against foot and mouth were fully effective in 2001 and sufficient supplies of the correct strain were available at the time of the outbreak.
- There is no risk of any kind involved in the eating of products from vaccinated animals.
8 - 15 May 2005 ~ New Zealand's Waiheke Island FMD threat " It's like a bomb alert at an airport, you can't afford not to take it seriously."
On Tuesday a letter was sent to the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, claiming a vial of the foot and mouth virus had been spread to animals on the island. New Zealand Agriculture Ministry officials believe the letter was a hoax. The letter demanded money and a change in the country's tax policies, and threatened another release of the disease elsewhere this week. The animals on the island will be tested every 48 hours until disease can be ruled out, which may be 2 weeks. See ProMed - which comments
"NZ officials are taking the letter seriously and taking appropriate precautionary measures. The updating of the website, the press releases and their situational reports, clearly indicate that are doing everything right. We appreciate receiving the official reports and the situation reports.."It would be interesting to know whether or not rapid diagnosis on-site equipment is being made use of - rather than waiting to see if clinical signs develop. Foot and mouth virus can be detected 24 to 48 hours before the onset of clinical signs of disease.
"..The incubation time for FMD is short (12-48 hours). The presence or absence of clinical signs in animals will soon show whether the threat was a hoax or a real attack. We would see clinical signs in 3 to 5 days (some estimates are 4-7 days) after yesterday's postulated release and exposure. I have even seen clinical signs of FMD occur after exposure in less than the period of time that has now elapsed in this incident. The New Zealand animal health authorities are to be congratulated for communicating the nature of the events and forestalling any speculation. - Mod.PC"
8 - 15 May 2005 ~ Dickinson is scathing about the British government's disregard of science
(quoted in Trevor Johnson's review in 1998 of Deadly Feasts by Richard Rhodes)
"The way you train the high-flying administrators, the mandarins, can be summed up in one sentence.
It is to train people to be at ease with their consciences when they take decisions about things they do not understand.... What is a 'recommendation'? Ah, it's a thing that's written in their final report, where they prenegotiated away whatever wouldn't be acceptable."Rhodes warns that, unless the government takes action, we could face a new "Black Death" deadlier than Ebola. "....working people cannot rely on a sense of public duty or social responsibility in ministers, civil servants or businessmen to protect public health. This demands a well-informed response by the millions who are being put at risk. From this standpoint, Deadly Feasts should be circulated as widely as possible."
(see also warmwell pages on Alan Dickinson)
Interestingly, the Observer today also carries two articles of the grave danger to public health (and to biodiversity) of the spiralling illegal trade in Dirty Meat. ".... a nightmare scenario in which Ebola finds its way into our food chain .."
1 - 8 May 2005 ~TB " Drastic action is required or we will see the destruction of our cattle industry, the spread of tuberculosis in our wildlife and the possibility of implications for human health."
Telegraph letter 6 May 2005
Sir - Rex Walters's comments on the foot and mouth outbreak (letter, May 4) could equally apply to the bovine tuberculosis epidemic now unfolding tragically in our countryside.
I write as the part-owner of a dairy herd, closed since 1966 and clear of BTB until a routine test last October. I have seen 40 per cent of the herd slaughtered in the past six months. Our policy of not buying in and our geographical position at the end of a peninsula have been no defence against this disease.
A swath of infection now runs from Cornwall through Devon, Somerset and Gloucestershire, into Wales and Cheshire, with new outbreaks on the increase in previously clear counties. And what have Margaret Beckett, Ben Bradshaw, et al come up with? A 60-page, 10-year plan. They are long on words but short on action.
New herds are being infected at an alarming rate - 142 in Cornwall in the first quarter of this year. Using Defra figures, I calculate that if no action is taken, all herds in Cornwall will be infected in six years' time.
This disease can be as devastating and costly as foot and mouth, and my impression is of a situation out of control. Drastic action is required or we will see the destruction of our cattle industry, the spread of tuberculosis in our wildlife and the possibility of implications for human health.
Margaret Miles, St Mawes, Cornwall"
1 - 8 May 2005 ~ Feral pigs in Australia are being anaesthetised to test whether a mock vaccine against Foot and Mouth Disease placed in a bait will be successfully absorbed.
ABC.net.au "... The entry of Foot and Mouth Disease into Australia would be a nightmare for the livestock industry, because if it got into the feral pig population, it would be very difficult to eradicate. A vaccine bait would be a vital tool in case of an outbreak..."
1 - 8 May 2005 ~ Telegraph Letter deplores the forgotten carnage, misery, waste and loss
Telegraph Foot and mouth issue
Sir - Like many people involved in the agricultural industry, I am very surprised and annoyed at the way the foot and mouth outbreak has been forgotten during the election campaign.email
There has been total silence about the slaughter of some 10 million animals, the loss of livelihood and, even today, numerous lost export markets.
In particular, there has been no mention of the fact that the EU disqualified the British Government from claiming ?850 million towards the cost of the disastrous outbreak.
The Commission's decision was based on the Government's failure to act swiftly to control animal movements, the concerns about the destruction of millions of healthy animals, the high cost of compensation paid for culled animals and the overall high cost of the eradication programme.
Dr Rex Walters, Peasemore, Berks "
1 - 8 May 2005 ~ "..USDA would not be able to deploy animal vaccines within 24 hours... these vaccines need to be sent to the United Kingdom (U.K.) to be activated for use. ".
According to a 'GAO report number GAO-05-214 entitled "Homeland Security: Much Is Being Done to Protect Agriculture from a Terrorist Attack, but Important Challenges Remain" released on March 9, 2005:
"...USDA officials told us that it has recently established a steering committee that will address vaccine stockpiling issues, but it is not clear that the committee will address the costs and benefits of developing ready-to-use vaccines that can be quickly deployed against animal diseases of primary concern. . .." Read in fullThe delays and prevarication make no sense. Widespread mass slaughter is what carries the huge social and financial cost appealing to terrorism - and such mass slaughter is - as experts clearly show - unnecessary. The US must surely understand that the UK turned an emergency into a catastrophe in 2001 because of its ignorance of what was available and its lack of an up-to-date plan. Its refusal to employ the vaccination strategies that ended Uruguay's similar outbreak in the same year and its unwillingness - for highly dubious reasons - to make use of the offered existing rapid diagnostic on-site tests "deployed nationally and internationally for years" led to a disaster. In U.S. Agricultural and Food Security: Who Will Provide the Leadership? by Floyd Horn and Roger Breeze, the authors say:
"None of the tests deployed by the Department of Defense or the Department of Health and Human Services have yet been validated .." in spite of the fact that " they have been deployed nationally and internationally for years".Perhaps the three-day conference, to be hosted in Kansas City, ( (see www.meatprocess.com) or the Buenos Aires meeting (below) and its "strategic vision document" may help bring about some action after all the words. But to think that the foot and mouth fiasco in the UK is now FOUR years ago and still so little has changed gives little cause for optimism."
:...the Nation lacks a comprehensive national strategy to prevent and deter the use of unconventional weapons directed against agriculture and the food supply system, or to control, respond to and recover from an attack. Such a strategy is urgently needed: it will take years to implement and the threats will grow in the meantime.." Read in full
1 - 8 May 2005 ~ "The GF-TADs mechanism was recognized as being a very useful coordination tool avoiding duplication and gaps ...".
OIE "At the meeting in Buenos Aires, it was highlighted that transboundary animal diseases and zoonoses in the Americas represent a serious hindrance for animal production and for the regional and international market access of animals and products of animal origin. This affects also public health and the livelihood of rural populations as well as national economy.
The meeting agreed to consider FMD, Avian Influenza, Classical Swine Fever, BSE and New World Screwworm as priorities in the fight against animal diseases in the Americas..
... the steering committee decided to carry out a strategic vision document on the regional harmonized policies for the control of animal diseases and zoonoses in the Americas, aimed at strengthening Veterinary Services. This document will include a business plan and a provisional budget. It was also agreed to then convene a meeting of public and private donors for the execution of the business plan. ...... The GF-TADs mechanism was recognized as being a very useful coordination tool avoiding duplication and gaps between the numerous regional and subregional organisation programmes. .."
1 - 8 May 2005 ~ The need for global, coordinated action against both animal and human disease has never been greater.
The need for easily understood, readily accessible information about such diseases as foot and mouth is very great. Yet knowledge and understanding among "stakeholders" is fragmented. Farmers and livestock owners, so bogged down in paperwork, red tape and "one size fits all" regulations, tend to be bewildered by conflicting information (as in 2001) - or else unaware that information is available at all.
Making information available should not, of course, be the job of a small unfunded, unsponsored and unofficial website - but the labyrinthine DEFRA website is not at all easy to navigate, while its language is often in a tone of such political self-congratulation (example) rather than of clear common sense that it is little trusted.
The ideal way forward for sharing genuine expertise on disease must include providing farmers and involved members of the public with easily accessible and authoritative current information - without political subtext. If any reader thinks this is being done somewhere, we should be very interested to know.
1 - 8 May 2005 ~ Foot and Mouth 2001 - an opportunity missed and few lessons learned.
The decision not to vaccinate, not to make public trials of the Rapid Diagnosis kit offered, not to conduct proper virological experiments and epidemiological studies at the time of the ongoing disease and the inability of the authorities to keep proper records or coordinate what was going on - were all part of the sad fiasco of FMD 2001. For various reasons, including the "it couldn't happen here" mindset, a disastrously delayed Contingency Plan, and the refusal to heed warnings (eg Drummond Report pdf) or genuine expert advice, the UK was caught on the hop
Two years ago, the World Health Organisation called upon 11 laboratories in 9 countries to join a collaborative multi-center research project on SARS diagnosis. Is this not a good model for other diseases?
"This network takes advantage of modern communication technologies (e-mail; secure web site) to share outcomes of investigation of clinical samples from SARS cases in real time. Daily assessment of research results supports immediate refinement of investigative strategies and permits instant validation of laboratory findings. Network members share on the secure WHO web site electron microscopic pictures of viruses, sequences of genetic material for virus identification and characterization, virus isolates, various samples from patients and post-mortem tissues"We hope that the forthcoming EU collaboration on FMD and Classical Swine Fever will be of enormous value. We hope too that it will keep the public informed, as far as is possible, about the best ways - veterinary not political - to treat animal disease. It is interesting that today's BBC article on the disability caused by a tropical parasitic worm infection, Schistosomiasis, quotes Lorenzo Savioli of WHO. He has urged countries to tackle communicable diseases together, in a coordinated way. If this does not happen we will continue to see, as we saw in 2001, disease control in the hands of politicians. The way political decisions are reached - be they about foot and mouth or war in Iraq - are all too evidently flawed and we must not allow them to happen this way in the future.
23 - 30 April 2005 ~"If we have progressed so far down the road to suburban safety that we can't appreciate the wild, we deserve to die out."
Of the threatened wild goats in North Devon (BBC) Hilary writes
"I know the goats in the Valley of the Rocks well and they are wonderful.For more than twenty years, these wild goats of Lynton have roamed the area and are an added attraction for visitors - indeed mentioned in brochures. Some of the goats have been grazing in the cherished gardens of some inhabitants of the village who now say that " the goats are ruining the area" . The Lynton and Lynmouth Town Council are to discuss culling their numbers - but have postponed a decision until all sides can make their views heard. The question echoes the article about biodiversity: Landscape fragmentation, biodiversity loss and the societal response by Ilkka Hanski in Nature ("Humans in developed countries increasingly perceive the entire world as their personal environment.")
They make the perfect fauna for this landscape and any local Council would be mad to get rid of them. There's not much wild left in Britain.
If we have progressed so far down the road to suburban safety that we can't appreciate the wild, we deserve to die out."
23 - 30 April 2005 ~ Avian Influenza: Why is the EU now more keen on vaccination than before?
The European Commission proposal for updated EU-level measures : http://europa.eu.int
"...the results obtained in Italy with the DIVA strategy were satisfactory and they were well accepted also at the international level. Nevertheless, this strategy was not able to prevent the very recent low pathogenic avian influenza outbreak which has occurred in Lombardy (April 2005). However, the strict surveillance led to the early detection of the virus and the vaccination programme probably contributed to containing it. These are key elements to prevent the virus from mutating into its highly pathogenic form. . ... "it must be noted that there are still many constraints to vaccination and that this tool is not a panacea to solve all problems"Whether the "problems" are thought to be problems of trade or of political / scientific wrangling - or whether the problems actually have to do with animal health - is not made clear.
23 - 30 April 2005 ~ "The supplier shall keep secret and not disclose any information of a confidential nature obtained by him by reason of the contract"
We understand, that when questioned under the Freedom of Information Act about the way farmers were made to sign the Official Secrets Act during the early stages of FMD, DEFRA's reply was unequivocal: NO farmers were asked(invited/forced/co-erced) to sign any such thing.
Would anyone care to comment? contact warmwell
( A reply reads:
" It is true. Farmers were 'required' to sign. In my experience (early on in the crisis) clean up couldn't start until they signed. Remember speaking to one farmer in Mid Wales who had to sign due to his antique farm vehicles which MAFF had buried in his field. No signature - no compensation, that was the rule at the start. Seem to recall that the national press covered this story pretty well and feel sure it was mentioned in the House - so must be on Hansard...")Clause 17 of the clean-up/compensation contract given to Bobby Waugh states:
"The supplier undertakes to abide and procure that his employees abide by the provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1911 to 1989. The supplier shall keep secret and not disclose any information of a confidential nature obtained by him by reason of the contract, except information which is in the public domain otherwise than by breach of this provision".It was reported at the time that Hexham Tory MP Peter Atkinson said the attempted gagging of Mr Waugh by use of the Official Secrets Act at the time was "sinister".
23 - 30 April 2005 ~ "Defra denied to me that it had ignored scientific opinion, and said that its methods were ?robust?..."
Magnus Linklater in the Times on Wednesday (This is life and death, not a spinning matter) increases our alarm at the mindset at DEFRA. Once again, it is evident that the apparently disparate issues on warmwell such as animal disease, pollution, oil depletion, wind turbines and the erosion of democracy and parliament, are actually very closely connected. Here, we read about the extraordinary decision by the government and DEFRA to rely on focus groups even in the matter of the country's need to dispose of nuclear waste - which in itself is of course linked to its growing realisation of the impending energy disaster and an embarrassing U-turn to be made after the election. Giant turbines, as James Lovelock has said loudly and clearly, are "not going to cut it" - so the government is now hoping to spin itself a public mandate for nuclear power. What about nuclear waste? Of DEFRA, Magnus Linklater writes:
".... when it comes to tackling an issue as critical and as far-reaching as storing nuclear waste, I need to know that it is backed by the very best scientific evidence available rather than that it reflects ?societal views and needs?. Professor Ball?s views are too important to be waved aside. This is one problem that will never be solved by a focus group."(Those who remember "Beyond the Fringe" may recall one sketch in which a man from the ministry addresses a public meeting on the nuclear question. It ended with instructions to the public on what to do in case of an "emergency": "But what about radiation, I hear a strangled cry... You must get into a brown paper bag. You're very manoeuverable inside brown paper. You draw it on, you see, rather like a shroud..." )
23 - 30 April 2005 ~ Healthy, living, happy, why do we need to kill ? A deep worry about DEFRA and the lunacies of 2001, of BSE and of regulations from Bedlam
Magnus Linklater in many recent articles has expressed a concern that we share - and his article today makes this concern even graver :
"... This is the body which, in its previous incarnation, refused to listen to the world?s greatest experts on foot-and-mouth during the 2001 outbreak, which allowed the leading scientists in its animal health laboratories to be poached by foreign governments, and which withdrew funding from Professor Alan Ebringer, who was reaching important conclusions on the alleged links between BSE and variform CJD. .." Read in full (and see warmwell's pages on Alan Ebringer's work)We really have tried not to be too scathing about DEFRA recently, for there are, we're told, brave people there who are trying to make changes for the better from within - but articles such as Magnus Linklater's above are deeply frightening. This really is the Ministry of Madness; too ignorant in 2001 to take advice from world experts on vaccination and rapid diagnosis (which, as well as everything else, kept our understanding of the epidemiology and virology of the disease in limbo) and with bureaucratic secrecy, unpleasantness and arrogance worthy of the Stasi. It is a Ministry that decrees that the shooting of three robins in a garden centre was "legal" and that is responsible (without accountability) for a series of blunders that make the rural population despair - and not them alone.
Yesterday's example, (see also Inbox) is symbolic; DEFRA, mouthing platitudes, said that two new born lambs must be slaughtered because of "rules". Even the hardened slaughtermen replied in amazement: "These lambs are healthy, they're living, they're happy, why do we need to kill them?"
23 - 30 April 2005 ~ "Knock-on Effects" indeed.
The Cumberland News report of the DEFRA workers investigated and sacked "for fraudulent expense claims during the foot and mouth crisis which cost Cumbria millions.." also says that in Cumbria
"..a total of 848 premises were affected by the disease with the knock-on effects being felt by 3,000 farms."The newspaper is presumably making reference to the premises confirmed as "infected premises" (currently considered 886) and the 3126 other farms where animals were slaughtered.
(Only 676 tests out of the only 755 conducted on Cumbrian premises were positive and yet IP numbers remain at 886).
The "knock -on effects" referred to by the Cumberland News were felt by ALL the farms, farmers and people of Cumbria. And all rural people everywhere. Many animals were slaughtered as part of the grotesquely named "welfare cull" and thousands of farms, placed under bureaucratic restrictions, were not compensated and many never recovered.
As for how necessary all this was, it is salutary to remember that in Britain as a whole, according to the latest DEFRA figures, (Source Defra Disease Control System database on 16/03/2005):
Dr David Shannon, former chief scientist at DEFRA, said in February 2002 that the slaughter policy was based on flawed, biased and poorly thought through scientific advice.
- on 10,420 premises in Britain animals were slaughtered.
- Of these, 2413 premises only were given tests and
- of these only 1329 showed positive evidence of current disease or of animals recovered from disease.
23 - 30 April 2005 ~ Neither a proportionate nor rational response - but the Contingency Plan still includes pre-emptive killing
The statistics for Cumbria are actually (Source Defra Disease Control System database on 16/03/2005) as follows:
These figures refer only to premises. The accurate number of actual animal deaths, together with the young or unborn that died with them, is not available. The Meat and Livestock Commission estimated the total at a minimum of 10 million. The figures we have obtained for the Great Orton burial site provide evidence that the measures so relentlessly pursued in 2001 were neither a proportionate nor rational response to control the disease. (Of the animals killed at Great Orton burial pit only 1 farm was definitely confirmed to have ever had antibody positive sheep. There was no current disease found. However, half a million animals, many in the last stages of pregnancy or with their lambs at heel, were slaughtered.)
County Infected Premises Slaughter on Suspicion Dangerous Contacts of which Contiguous CUMBRIA Cattle 797 21 540 361 Sheep 618 40 2861 552 Pigs 14 0 103 34 Goats 29 3 105 36 Deer 2 0 3 2 Others 2 0 2 2 Total Premises 886 44 3082 707
The current Contingency Plan (pdf new window) (p165) continues to include provision for ?Pre-emptive? or ?preventative slaughter? ?firebreak? killing of healthy animals.
Rapid diagnosis on-site for FMD can now take place in less than an hour; vaccination is an effective tool against the disease, vaccinated meat has no implications for human health and the EU granted a vitally important derogation to enable producers to accept vaccination.
17 - 23 April 2005 ~ The 'burn-piles', lighting up the night time sky should never be allowed to happen again, nor the indiscriminate removal of contiguous animals.
An English farmer's heartfelt letter, forwarded to us by the photographer Chris Chapman, deserves to be read slowly and carefully by all involved in animal disease control policies - especially by those whose feet rarely make contact with the earth
".....Re-generation under normal circumstances is time honoured; a calf spending nine months in its mother's womb and a lamb five months.Colin Pearse is one of those family farmers he himself describes. These extraordinary men have every right to be heard. If their voices are drowned yet again by spin, contempt and cynicism, the country will cease to exist in the way we have taken for granted for so long:
All this indicates to me fragility and something that can't be speeded up..."
"...habitual, generative farming folk engaged in a mosaic farming scene of field, hedge, ditch and moor, and living with their animals, defending the age old practice of natural birth, giving dignity to their animals and offering countless care and sacrifice to achieve a meagre living." read in full
17 - 23 April 2005 ~ ".... seize and destroy infected animals without a warrant...any vehicle or person can be stopped and searched
North Carolina Winston-Salam Journal
"The state House voted unanimously Wednesday to extend a law that gives sweeping powers to the state veterinarian to cope with a potential outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. It allows the state vet or his representatives to enter a farm and seize and destroy infected animals without a warrant. Quarantines also can be established and any vehicle or person can be stopped and searched. ...."Ever since the frightening and deeply worrying events of 2001, many have been wondering how a usually non-fatal animal disease that cannot affect humans and from which animals can be successfully vaccinated, should still inspire such a witch hunt. This law was, significantly enough, passed in Salem last Wednesday - but the ever tightening centralisation of animal disease control has been quietly happening in this country. As we know, in spite of wise protest, ( "it was left to the House of Lords to draw attention to its less savoury aspects") - our own Animal Health Act was amended in 2002 to give the same powers to DEFRA and the government.
The new FMD Contingency Plan is now "out for consultation" - a response to which involves a great deal of thought and yet more paperwork. On the whole, only the big agricultural organisations are alerted to this. For most of them, an easy relationship with DEFRA is a political necessity. We can only hope that the plan will be scrutinised by those with veterinary and scientific understanding and who have also a real awareness of the suffering involved when policies are applied with the blind rigour of central bureaucracy.
17 - 23 April 2005 ~ Parliamentary Question 220084 reveals some staggering answers
On March 23 2005, Peter Ainsworth asked Ben Bradshaw a parliamentary question about final Foot and Mouth statistics including
Read in full
- how many samples were taken from premises and
- how many samples returned positive results.
The "Notes", accompanying the data that form the answer given by DEFRA, attempt to explain the high number of negative results - but what the results clearly show is that a very considerable number of premises that were culled were not in fact tested.
What was told to the EU and claimed in Mr James Scudamore's "Origin of the UK Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic in 2001 " was that "Each of the 2026 FMD cases was subjected to a detailed clinical and epidemiological investigation... "
This is evidently not the case.
Pirbright received samples from only a small fraction of slaughtered farms - probably less than 20% of all contiguous culls and even many IP's taken out on clinical grounds.
(Source: DEFRA Disease Control System database on 16/03/2005)
Number of Premises Infected Premises Slaughter on Suspicion Dangerous Contacts ..of which Contiguous Current 2011 253 8156 3313 Sampled 1724 249 440 240 Positive Results 1324 2 3 0
17 - 23 April 2005 ~ Environmental Enrichment, which used to be regarded as a basic "stockmanship"skill.
Further details and a contents list online at: http://www.pighealth.com As the vet, Mike Meredith says in this email: "Environmental Enrichment (EE) has become a "buzz"-phrase in animal welfare and an EU legislation "cause celebre". Unfortunately all that controversy has obscured the rather ancient history of Environmental Enrichment, which used to be regarded as a basic "stockmanship"skill.
As many of us know to our cost, boredom and frustration are killers. ..."Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals" considers environmental enrichment to be one of the key factors in improving the welfare of any type of animal - be it pet, farm animal, laboratory or zoo species (and) is the most comprehensive one available on this topic, covering both scientific principles and practical implementation of environmental enrichment.."
17 - 23 April 2005 ~ "a constructive, non-confrontational and honest national public debate about the causes and impact and costs (social, economic and environmental) of the 2001 FMD outbreak in Britain."
Warmwell is very pleased to hear about the Cultural Documents of FMD International Exhibition and Conference planned for 7 - 11 March 2006. It will be held at Museum of Science and Industry and at the Town Hall in Manchester. Related FMD documentary exhibitions will be located at other venues in and around the city.
The conference and the FMD arts documentation exhibition project is supported by the Arts Council England, the Rural Cultural Forum, Lancaster University, Manchester University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Nottingham University, and the Museum of Science and Industry Manchester, and is being organised by the LITTORAL Trust and the Rural Cultural Forum for England.
The conference aims to widen public debate around related issues about animal epidemiology, veterinary research and animal welfare. It will include presentations from a wide range of rural community and grassroots experiences of FMD; including farming families, rural vets, artists, photographers, writers, teachers, the Army, Police, the rural business sector (tourism, rural and hotels), rural children and young people, farm auction managers, slaughterers, farm hauliers, rural doctors and health care workers. It will also take the form of a communal 'bearing witness' and learning experience, and will aim to try find out what actually happened, why it happened, and what can be learned.
April 8 -15 2005 ~"Since 1997 ... farming ministers...have displayed a contempt for Britain?s farming community without political precedent.."
Private Eye's Muckspreader pulls no punches:Read in full
"... the FMD debacle was only the most glaring example of how New Labour?s ministers have routinely bullied, blustered and abused their powers in tyrannising over the farming industry....
... the astonishing and continuing shambles of the ?fallen stock? scheme
...the fiasco over bovine TB. ....which even Defra admits will end up within ten years costing the taxpayers ?2 billion.
.... The list of Defra?s blunders goes on forever, from the mass-closure of abattoirs to its ludicrous mishandling of the EU?s new single farm payment scheme, forcing farmers to grub up their cider orchards and robbing dairy farmers of ?600 million in compensation specifically allocated to them by Brussels. ..."
April 8 -15 2005 ~"...comprehensive information on the index case"
Foot and Mouth PQ April 5 ~
Hansard "Mrs. Browning: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions took place between her Department and Northumberland county council to ensure that all material relating to the index case of foot and mouth disease at Burnside farm, Heddon on the Wall was submitted to the Anderson Inquiry. Mr Bradshaw may be sincere in believing that the official explanations of the "origins" of FMD 2001 contain "comprehensive information". However, as the continuing questions show, there are many others for whom the official explanations simply will not do. The waste, the misinformation, the cruelty and bungling, and attempt to cover up the entire mess - none of this is being forgotten. (More on Heddon on the Wall )
Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 4 February 2005]: There was contact between my Department and Northumberland county council on the prosecution of Mr. Waugh, but there is no record of any such discussions concerning the submission of evidence to the Anderson Inquiry. The Origins of FMD paper (see here), prepared by the then Chief Veterinary Officer, which was submitted to the Anderson Inquiry, contained comprehensive information on the index case."
Mr Bradshaw's words "Burnside Farm was the first outbreak and no sheep were found on Burnside Farm" may yet come back to haunt him.
April 8 -15 2005 ~ The cost of the unpaid invoices
As for the Department's refusal to pay millions in late invoices and the hardship that has caused to many small businesses, we note that for all those heated allegations of "fraudulent claims", Hansard has reported (23rd March 2005) that precisely
six people have been prosecuted for fraud by Defra: three were Defra staff, who were convicted and dismissed, three farmers were prosecuted for making false compensation claims, one pleaded guilty and the other two were acquitted.In one judgement (Ruttle Plant Hire v DEFRA) the judge took particular care, over five pages, scathingly to dissect and reject allegations of deliberate and systematic overcharging.
Mr. Clifton-Brown asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on April 4 "how many ongoing claims and invoices for work connected with the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak have not been settled by her Department" No answer came from Mr Bradshaw except an oblique referral to pages 36 and 37 of the National Audit Office Report. This in fact reports ?40 million as outstanding. The amounts of contractual interest or Statutory Right to Interest are between about ?12 million and ?18 million respectively. SRI is mounting up at over ?100,000 per month, and has reached well over ?3million (from July 2002) without addition of interest for the previous late paid invoices. The cost of challenges on invoices in the cases of JDM and Ruttle Plant Hire is, we understand, in the region of ?6.6 million. (See also warmwell pages on the FPB campaign)
April 8 -15 2005 ~ Rapid Diagnosis
"...A collaboration between the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down is evaluating a prototype portable machine for diseases ... (Bovine Diarrhoea Virus and Foot and Mouth Disease). There are plans to evaluate it for use in detecting M. bovis in the field in the future. ..."Hansard
April 8 -15 2005 ~ it is vital that farming here continues in an environmentally sensitive fashion
The first pages in support of High Yewdale farm continuing as a viable fell farm can now be seen (in a new window). High Yewdale farm and land near Coniston in Cumbria is an environmentally sensitive area with a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest; it is vital that farming here continue to be carried out in an environmentally sensitive fashion, by someone with the necessary expertise. The current plans proposed by the National Trust are likely to have an adverse effect on the environment and animal welfare. Pollution control has not been a problem and there is already public access to most parts of the farm and its land.
April 7/8 2005 ~ High Yewdale Farm
Warmwell is preparing a series of pages on High Yewdale Farm in Cumbria. High Yewdale's fate touches so many questions that are of concern to warmwell that it might be said to be symbolic of them. See InboxX
The National Trust has implied that the changing nature of agriculture makes High Yewdale no longer "viable". Experienced local opinion emphatically does not agree. Much consternation has been expressed by local farmers and members of the public in Cumbria and elsewhere .
" I feel it will be the beginning of the end of all fell sheep in this area as Yewdale farm is the corner-stone of the Coniston fells. Some managers of the National Trust do not understand the gathering of fell sheep.... 'says one letter in the Westmorland Gazette
"... All over the world the small farms are disappearing in the rush to pander to global big business. With the loss of the farms goes the unique co-operating culture, which demonstrated a balance in competitiveness and social cohesion. The real heritage is the human network stretching over generations, not just the walls, fields and open views which they created"says another
It is very mch to be hoped that the National Trust - for decades a much-loved and trusted institution - can be persuaded to put its plans on hold while other avenues are explored.
April 3 - 10 April 2005 ~ Farmers Weekly makes the EFRA report on pesticides their top story (Wednesday)
FWi "The Voluntary Initiative on pesticides is not challenging enough, according to the environment, food and rural affairs select committee.
The MPs criticised the government for not placing sufficient priority on the safe and sustainable use of pesticides.
Moreover some of the VI's targets were insufficiently challenging, claim the committee..."
April 3 - 10 April 2005 ~ "Health issues are hardly considered at all within the existing scope of the VI"
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee?s (EFRA) report ?Progress on the use of pesticides: the Voluntary Initiative,? (pdf file)
"...We consider it vital that the Government now make significant progress with its strategic approach to the sustainable use of pesticides and show a clear commitment to prioritise pesticides issues. The potential effects of pesticides on human health, together with the public concern surrounding this issue, make it even more important that the national pesticides strategy be developed and implemented.Although the EFRA report did not set out to address the possible health effects associated with the use of pesticides, it would seem that Georgina Downs, the tireless campaigner for the regulation of pesticides, has been right all along. She has had first hand knowledge of the suffering that can be caused and has worked to bring evidence to the notice of the authorities - who have been largely dismissive. She says, ?...there is no monitoring for chronic effects - acute effects are commonly dismissed by the authorities as being unrelated to pesticide exposure. ?
The Ontario Family Physicians Review of pesticide literature found that children were particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticide exposure. No action has been taken in the UK. Read Ms Downs' press release and read the EFRA report in full
April 3 - 10 April 2005 ~ Private Eye reveals a ?600 million theft from dairy farmers by Margaret Beckett and DEFRA
The dairy farmers of England should have been entitled to a total of ?600 million between 2005 and 2012, based on the amount of milk quota they held on 31 March 2005. Private Eye's Muckspreader explains how Mrs Beckett has given this to the arable and grain barons instead by simply adding the ?600m to the general EU farm subsidy pot - a clear breach of the law.
"..... But on 26 January Brussels issued an amendment to the original regulation which the lawyers fear may give Defra the power to do with the money whatever it likes. In other words, having been caught breaking the law, Defra may have been retrospectively let off the hook ... leaving England's dairy farmers ?600m the poorer. But they are still expected to compete with their Scots, Welsh, Irish and other EU counterparts, who will receive the special dairy subsidy as planned..."Read in full
April 3 - 10 April 2005 ~ Food Standards Agency is found to be prejudiced against organic food, too pro GM, and of questionnable independence
In the Independent on Sunday, Geoffrey Lean reports that an official review of the FSA makes it clear that "its support for GM and its attacks on organic produce has caused a widespread loss of confidence in its judgement and independence." Read in full
March 28 ~ April 3 2005 ~ Current research programs into the bird 'flu problem are working on improved vaccine development.
Michael Meredith writes: "....Current research programs into the Bird 'flu problem are working on improved vaccine development. A research project was shown which is combining H5N1 with human influenza strains under laboratory conditions in order to predict the form and behavior that a recombination virus (potentially resulting from dual infection of a person or pig with a common human and an avian influenza strain) might take. More info about H5N1 HPAI in poultry, humans and swine at http://www.pighealth.com/influenza2.htm"
March 28 ~ April 3 2005 ~ Illegal Meat Trade - Lucrative, Easy, Highly Dangerous - and going on all the time in the UK
Diseased meat, illegally slaughtered in the vilest of conditions, is getting into the human food chain.
Carcases can be bought from the criminals who - with good reasons - laugh all the way to the bank at the government's " wide-ranging action plan to tackle meat crime". They know that neither local authorities nor the Food Standards Agency has the time, inclination or expertise to stop them - and that even if they do end up in the dock it will cause just a brief and inexpensive hiatus to their activities. (examples from last year) Agencies getting government money to check on safety and hygiene are simply not doing so - and the FSA says that to introduce a new law against a newly defined offence would "breach European Community law".
Watchdog on BBC television, Tuesday 29 March at 7 pm is going to shock and disturb viewers.
See Dirty Meat pages - and for the email received from the one man in the country who is fighting the meat criminals on behalf of the people of London, Dr Yunes Teinaz, see today's Inbox
March 28 ~ April 3 2005 ~ "the obscene absurdity of a law which in every respect defies reason."
Booker's Notebook in the Sunday Telegraph on ".... the horrendous implications of one of the greatest regulatory shambles Brussels has ever created." (see warmwell pages on the fallen stock scheme). It seems that DEFRA is now insisting that each breach of the scheme will carry a fine of ?5,000:
".....Under the EC's Animal By-Products Regulation, 1774/2002, all "fallen stock" must be gathered up and placed in sealed containers, to be collected by contractors, at a cost of up to ?50 an animal, then transported, sometimes hundreds of miles, to be rendered down or incinerated in a licensed plant.Read in full
..... Farmers must thus wait up to five weeks to have carcases collected, often by vehicles so filthy that they make a mockery of hygiene or "biosecurity". .."
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ "It does seem to me that if we are going to learn lessons then actually identifying where and why it broke out is a vital step."
WMN reports (Friday) that Angela Browning has
" stepped up calls for a fresh inquiry into the foot and mouth disaster after ... she was alarmed by comments made by Sir Brian Bender, which suggest Government inspectors had ignored breaches of animal health laws at Bobby Waugh's Northumberland pig farm. ... Speaking in the Commons yesterday Mrs Browning...said: ".... we still have not had a definitive answer from the Government about the cause and the lessons to be learned. We've had many inquiries, but none of them seem to have been joined up."Sir Brian's comments came in a letter to the Association of Swill Users. See also warmwell pages on Burnside Farm etc.
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ " No member of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides should have current commercial considerations"
The Ontario College of Family Physicians' recently carried out a Review (link to pdf) of over 250 in-depth studies around the world on the effects of pesticides. The study took 14 months of careful, balanced consideration. It found consistent evidence linking pesticide exposure to many cancers, neurological damage, Parkinson?s disease and other serious illnesses.
The government's Pesticide Advisory Committee dismissed the worry and the government consequently refused to provide regulatory protection for people living close to sprayed areas.
Christopher Stopes, who was a member of the government's Advisory Committee on Pesticides at the time the Committee issued its original critical statement on the Ontario group's review of the literature, has expressed his Minority View. , viewing with deep concern the unbalanced ("robust") criticism of the Ontario study by Professor David Coggon.
Although the respected campaigner, Georgina Downs, in her Press Release today, does not mention the article, we remember the Observer's, "Anger at Advisers' Biotech Links" , an article on 13th July 2003, that revealed worrying connections between science experts and leading drugs firms. About the Advisory Committee on Pesticides we read:
"A former deputy chairman of the committee which examines the safety of pesticides, Professor Alan Boobis, received research funding from GlaxoSmithKline for his department at Imperial College but never declared it. Other members of this committee have links to agrochemical firms like Aventis, Astra Zeneca and Monsanto. ....." Read in fullThe article also mentions how the much lamented Michael Meacher, whose own integrity and judgement is beyond question in our view, scribbled his concerns in the margins of an internal Defra document: ' ...No member of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides should have current commercial considerations because this fundamentally undermines their integrity and judgement."
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ The "Expert group" in the new Contingency Plan
"This group comprises of (sic) five teams with expertise drawn from Defra Animal Health and Welfare Directorate General, SVS , Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Institute of Animal Health and the Meteorological Office as appropriate." See pdf file of new Contingency PlanSo, in addition to Defra's Animal Health and Welfare Directorate General, the "Expert" group comprises: the SVS who will be an agency of DEFRA from April 2005; the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Executive Agency of DEFRA; the Institute of Animal Health which is funded by DEFRA - and the Meteorological Office.
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ "Defra has commenced an annual review of its Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan
and its AI and ND Contingency Plan which will conclude with the laying of revised plans before Parliament at the end of July 2005.
Your comments are invited on this revised version of the plans.
The deadline for responses is 15 June 2005." DEFRA website.
Among the changes in the two page Annexe A (pdf file) we see "Improvements to the battle rhythm for the strategic elements of the plan." and once again wonder at DEFRA's choice of language.
Read Annexe A "Main Changes from previous plans outlined in Draft Document, Exotic Animal Disease Contingency Plan for England, 2005" as a html webpageand the pdf file of the new "Contingency Plan Version 1.0 (replacing the FMD Contingency Plan version 4.0 & avian influenza / Newcastle disease Contingency Plan version 1.0)
There are no changes to the policies that would be followed.
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ BBC1 tonight: Panorama Special - Nothing to declare
Will Panorama tonight (Wednesday) reveal why so many million buys only 6 sniffer dogs and a handful only of prosecutions?
"Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (HMCE) is under investigation by the Metropolitan police. How did the agency, whose investigators were once regarded as the gold standard of criminal justice in Britain, fall so spectacularly from grace?
Hundreds of millions of pounds have been squandered in lost revenue, the department has lost control of its powers to prosecute and two of Custom's most senior personnel - its Head of Law Enforcement and Chief Solicitor - were suspended last year. . .."
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ "Customs should build with Defra on its existing campaigns
The NAO summary advocates close collaboration between HMCE, DEFRA and the local authorities (and the FSA) in the fight against illegal meat imports.
The report implies that cooperation, use of new technologies and intelligence are not done as well here as they are in the countries visited by the NAO team, particularly Australia and New Zealand. Greater collaboration across agencies and sharing of information within the UK would be admirable. All the same, in view of the real and many dangers, the ideal situation would be that cooperation should be international and global.
"....... To increase the detection and seizure of illegal imports of animal products Customs should:Read pdf file of executive summary
- Continue to work with local authorities to gain better intelligence on the markets for illegal animal products and the supply chains involved with a view to improving the targeting of checks particularly on freight;
- Refine its intelligence assessments to respond to the latest trends on infection risk in illegal imports;
- Keep progress on the IATA initiative (i.e. International Air Transport Association) and new technologies under review to assess whether they could in time provide new ways of identifying whether passengers travelling to Great Britain may be carrying illegal imports of animal products..."
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ "Foot and mouth still a threat"
Wednesday's Times on the NAO's conclusion (see press notice and link to report) that "Illegal meat imports are threatening a repeat of the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak"
" 12,000 tonnes of meat and meat products are thought still to enter illegally each year. Tighter controls, including on-the-spot fines, are needed and more people should face prosecution, the audit office said. Britain should learn from Australia and New Zealand, where much more is spent on keeping potentially contaminated meat out.
Sir John Bourn, the Auditor- General, said: ?Since taking over responsibility for controls over imports of animal products from outside the EU, Customs has improved protection. My recommendations should help to tighten controls further.?
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ FMDV 3C protease would block the replication of the virus
Scientists at Imperial College have announced the development of a FMDv 3C protease inhibitor for FMD. Research was in progress before the 2001 FMD outbreak. See News Medical.net
"... A drug that binds and inhibits FMDV 3C protease would stop its spread by blocking its replication and thus its ability to infect a herd.Curiously enough, Imperial College was also the College of Professor Roy Anderson, who with Professor David King, Sir John Krebs, Mark Woolhouse and others, convinced the government to opt for the infamous contiguous cull. Neither vaccination nor available on-site rapid diagnosis tests were permitted during the outbreak. Instead the "pre-emptive strike" of killing literally millions of animals and their young was ruthlessly carried out. Recent research shows that there is no evidence to support the effectiveness of the policy. Now that vaccination is at last becoming acknowledged as a part of UK policy it is ironic to remember that four years ago, Professor Fred Brown FRS OBE of Plum Island spoke on the Today Programme about the efficacy of vaccination and about the lamentable delay in "validation" for discriminatory tests.
"In an outbreak we would 'dose up' the animals and in theory they would be protected immediately," said Dr Stephen Curry of Imperial College London ..." Read in full
21 March - 28 March 2005 ~ The ?25 million recently awarded by the Government for control of illegal meat imports ....
From www.parliament.uk "The Bushmeat Trade" pdf
"Emerging zoonotic diseases are among the most important public-health threats facing humanity.......The 2004 VLA report estimated that 4,000 ? 29,000 tonnes of illegal meat enters the UK each year ... Meat smuggled via EU borders can pass undetected into the UK. The ?25 million recently awarded by the Government for control of illegal meat imports has funded initiatives such as publicity campaigns and the training of 10 meat sniffer-dogs at Heathrow Airport.
This compares with ?246 million spent on border control in Australia
( The weight of illegal seizures by HM Customs and Excise last year was 174,206kg (pdf file))
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ "We take these issues seriously..."
~ Hansard March 17
Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): It is encouraging to hear that the number of prosecutions has now just surpassed the number of sniffer dogs, as there are apparently only six such dogs in the whole country for dealing with illegal meat imports.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Wrong.
Mr. Paice: .... perhaps someone will tell me exactly how many sniffer dogs there are now, as there were certainly only six a few weeks ago. ...
Alun Michael: New equipment is coming on line, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there are now nine sniffer dogs?
[Hon. Members: "Oh!"]
?soon to be 10. Conservative Members should know that we were the first EU country to introduce sniffer dogs, and that we did so because we take these issues seriously. "
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ The "Equinox" foot and mouth cross-border simulation.
Next Monday and Tuesday, Canada and the U.S. will test
- the effectiveness of the North American FMD Vaccine Bank
- the capabilities of geospacial mapping to chart the spread of an outbreak
- the logistics of vaccine transportation
- the use of a wind dispersion model to predict movement of a virus.
Read about this at www.news.gc.ca
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ Another foot and mouth scare.
In an article from Pendle Today we read that livestock were turned away from a Pendle abattoir on Wednesday. Blisters were seen on the legs of a pig and on some other animals. A spokesman for Morrisons said: "There is nothing to worry about. There are precautionary procedures in place for such incidents. We had vets from Defra on site, and they were able to give the animals the all clear."
We should be very interested to know how quickly and by what methods the "all clear" was given.
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ Foot and Mouth - Terrorists be advised
An upcoming US Homeland Security Department report outlining about a dozen nightmare scenarios of attacks, including the deliberate infecting of cattle with FMD, has been leaked. "The department did not intend to release the document publicly, but a draft of it was inadvertently posted on a Hawaii state government Web site. ....The agency's objective is not to scare the public, officials said, and they have no credible intelligence that such attacks are planned." (NYT) Suggesting to putative terrorists that infecting cattle with FMD would indeed be one of the nightmare scenarios ( Blogcritics.org's Bin Laden Thanks Administration Officials For Planning Assistance is worth a look..) still falls short of the lunacy of not being able to deal promptly, in spite of the technology available, with an FMD epidemic.
Formerly of USDA, Roger BreezeBVMS, PhD, MRCVS does not appear sanguine about the way - in spite of the urgency of the advice and the efficacy of current technology - his government would react. "Naturally, when there's never been a Noah-like flood, people don't want to prepare for it," he said last year.
FMD infection would only be a tempting agroterrorist weapon because of UK and US continuing reluctance to loosen central control and to allow the use of rapid on-site diagnosis and vaccine technologies. It is mass slaughter with all its attendant economic and emotional costs that would give such an attack its appeal. Read in full about the efficacy of current technologies - which, four years after the UK disaster, are still not fully "validated". (NYT report)
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ Tories pledge to hold Foot and Mouth Inquiry
is the front page news on Monday's WMN "....In a move that reflects continuing suspicions of a Government cover-up over the 2001 outbreak, the Conservatives will pledge to hold a full inquiry to establish exactly how the disease entered the country - and how it was able to come into contact with the nation's livestock.
Shadow Agriculture Minister Jim Paice told the WMN that the continuing uncertainty over the origins of the outbreak made it more difficult to ensure that the disaster was never repeated..."
".... Mr Paice also tabled a series of Parliamentary questions in a bid to uncover more details about the origins of the outbreak and to establish whether other material had been withheld. : "We are getting nowhere with the questions - they are just being ducked and rebuffed. In the circumstances we now need a proper inquiry." Read in full and see also below
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ Mrs Browning is still waiting
On February 23rd (three weeks ago) at the Public Accounts Committee Meeting, Angela Browning M.P was told by Sir Brian Bender in answer to her questions about Burnside Farm that
" I am very happy to provide the Committee with a note on that. I have not come prepared with sufficient, to be fair either to Mrs Browning asking the question or, indeed, to Mr Dring in the way I respond to it. I am very happy to provide the Committee with a note afterwards. I apologise for not being able to answer it now."DEFRA have asked her for a copy of the map she produced at the hearing but we understand that she is still waiting for DEFRA responses to the questions.
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ Co operation and trust now urgently needed
Denial and cover-up of what happened in 2001 has led many to fear that it could all happen again. Quite apart from the enormous cost in terms of animal welfare, social and psychological well being and colossal financial considerations, the contiguous cull has been shown by the latest researches of both Honhold and Thrusfield to have been an unnecessary and counter productive measure. Even so, it is still defended by its perpetrators and the government as a success (a "howling success" according to Mrs Beckett in February 2002.)
Positive ELISA test results for FMD virus can be obtained in about 3 hours - but rapid diagnosis was dismissed in 2001 and there is still a suspicion that modern on-site rapid testing is to be used here only if politically and commercially expedient.
Sir David King, still Chief Scientific Advisor, showed himself in January to be as apparently ignorant of vaccination as ever - whereas, thankfully, the new CVO, Debby Reynolds, says "from day one we will be looking at emergency vaccination to allow the animals to go on and live." (see PAC )
We hear that Conservatives would hold a Public Inquiry into FMD - but perhaps a political stick with which to beat the present government just before an election is less urgently required at a time of ever-present global threat from disease than commitment to a wholly new approach. To regain co operation and trust we need independent, competent epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists, with no political axe of any colour to grind, to be getting on with the job of protecting animal and human health. Farmers, the first line of defence, who are sick to death of political interference and have lost trust in DEFRA (don't miss this FG letter) , would cheerfully buy into animal health systems that were seen to give them benefits. Animal health policy must be wrested from the grasp of politicians. It should never have been there in the first place.
14 March - 21 March 2005 ~ "evidence for direct transmission of the H5N1virus from person-to-person is still equivocal.."
Although journalistic warnings of a pandemic of Avian Influenza seem to be increasing ProMed Moderator comment on possible person-to person infection of the virus is cautious
"Despite the possible infection of a 2nd nurse from patients in her care, evidence for direct transmission of the H5N1virus from person-to-person is still equivocal. In none of the situations where person-to-person transmission might have taken place is there evidence of onward transmission of a H5N1 variant with enhanced virulence for humans. Assessment of the extent of asymptomatic infection in the human population is still lacking, and remains a barrier to proper evaluation of the risk of generation of a pandemic virus. - Mod.CP". Vaccination of poultry in Vietnam heralds a significant change in the country's official control policy.
6 March - 13 March 2005 ~ " imperative to find approaches whereby emergency vaccination can be employed in situations where pre-emptive action is required"
It would be interesting to know how far the Royal Society Follow Up Review of December 2004 has been acted upon. Extracts:
Read in full
- "We also remain concerned both about the effectiveness of arrangements for securing independent expert advice from outside Defra during an outbreak and about the mechanisms whereby this advice is then fed into decision making .."
- ".. essential for NSP tests in cattle to be validated."
- " priority is the development of sensitive rapid tests that can be used outside of reference laboratories, to aid rapid diagnosis during an outbreak. Ideally these tests should be applicable in the field. Commercially used equipment is already available which, with appropriate reagents, can rapidly detect very small amounts of FMD virus in preclinical cases.
- increasingly unacceptable across Europe to cull and destroy large number of animals, as occurred in the 2001 outbreak, either as part of wider pre-emptive disease control or for welfare purposes... If there are problems associated with a non-slaughter approach then these need to be resolved.
- Failure to clarify both the exit strategies and meat treatment protocols will undermine Defra?s sterling work in securing derogations when the Directive was being drafted.
- Further information is required to assess whether the arrangements for scaling up vaccination capacity would meet the EU Directive requirements for a worse case scenario
6 March - 13 March 2005 ~ Singapore's Agri Veterinary Authority considers testing and disease control the business of a responsible government - not of industry.
Singapore's Agri Veterinary Authority is now ready to adopt a risk management, instead of the current risk averse, approach in screening food and imports. By accepting manageable risk, rather than striving for a totally no-risk solution, they intend to improve consistency of food supply and prices.
This is now possible because Singapore has managed to learn the lessons of disease management and food crises; laboratory testing facilities are now more advanced and include the use of rapid diagnostic tests. Food import from a disease-infected country will continue, but only from specific disease-free zones in that country.
Singapore's approach accepts the responsibility of the government both for national protection and taking its share of a global strategic approach against the ever-increasing problem of antimicrobial resistance. In the UK we hear more and more about costs of protection falling on farmers and food producers. The Singapore policy is likely to involve a lot more adequately funded testing than is undertaken in the UK . Farming Today This Week showed how alarmed Sir Hugh Pennington feels that DEFRA issues no guidelines for any but the most cursory testing of imports such as feathers - yet they could be carrying the avian flu virus. There is no provision for pathogen testing. Sir Hugh Pennington is not alone in suggesting a ban on such imports and a rethink about inspections. (See also ChannelNewsAsia )
6 March - 13 March 2005 ~ Proper vaccination of domestic ducks and geese will have a positive impact on control of H5N1 HPAI in Asia.
" vaccines have been shown to significantly reduce AI virus replication and shedding in domestic ducks and geese and thus decrease environmental contamination (especially in ponds, lakes and rivers) and prevent contact transmission. ..." From ProMed Mail's background information on vaccines and vaccination to control avian influenza by Dr David Swayne of USDA.
6 March - 13 March 2005 ~ Trans-border animal health crises have recently been happening every year.
A new international campaign to control outbreaks of animal diseases such as foot and mouth and avian influenza has begun. (Japan is hosting a three-day meeting at the moment.) One of the aims is to get earlier and more accurate warnings. Veterinary officers worldwide say that animal health crises - which used to occur only every twenty years or so - have recently been happening every year. Bernard Vallat, the director general of the World Organization for Animal Health, says that since diseases such as bird flu pose a potential threat to the whole planet, it is vital to ensure early detection and a rapid response. Read report
All this puts into sharp focus the EU concerns about failures in the UK mentioned below. The pdf file of the EU Contingency plan Inspection can be accessed here. Among its concerns was the absence of a permanently operational Expert Group - and although, since the report, DEFRA has said that the "Expert Group has held its first meeting" and a "programme of work is being planned" we have yet to hear that the group comprises "in a balanced way" epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists as directed by the EU rather than a committee all of whom are connected to DEFRA.
6 March - 13 March 2005 ~ Britain is still "at serious risk of new foot and mouth outbreaks..."
Read in full the article about an EU report last week castigating DEFRA and saying that Britain is at serious risk of new foot and mouth outbreaks IoS.
DEFRA's aggressive regulations and red tape are no substitute for proper veterinary input, good management, and proper funding from the Treasury to protect animal and human health. Defra talks of "hit squads." The tone of such language reveals much of the problem. The DEFRA mentality of wanting aggressive control but no responsibility is a major cause of anger and despair among livestock owners - yet the current threat from very serious disease means that a trusting cooperation is desperately needed and, as the Breeze/Horn paper asked recently in connection with a similar problem in the US, "Who will Provide the Leadership?".
One major UK abattoir gave rise to "serious concerns" that the vets were too overworked to carry out adequate health and hygiene checks. The veterinary profession suffered greatly in 2001 and there are few incentives to encourage vets into large animal practice. Drummond was ignored - but so were submissions to the Lessons Learned Inquiry which stated very clearly what ought to have been learned from 2001. Here, for example, are the informed and practical recommendations of Dr Peter G.G. Jackson MA, BVM&S, DVM&S, FRCVS of the Cambridge University Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine. Had his submission alone been read and acted upon we would have a very much healthier situation in the UK today. As Sir John Bourne said recently, a "co-ordinated and co-operative approach" is still far from likely if we are faced with another emergency.
February 28 - March 6 2005 ~ If Heddon-on-the-Wall really was the index case then the government cannot deny its own responsibility for Foot and Mouth 2001
The Northumberland Trading Standards video of Bobby Waugh?s farm during was shown to a group of MPs on Thursday at Portcullis House. The licensed pig swill industry was one of the innocent scapegoats of FMD 2001. Their livelihood - a ?40 million industry - was brought by the government to an abrupt end in 2001 - a slamming of the stable door when no horse had ever been present. The government was quick to designate Heddon-on-the-Wall the index case for FMD and to blame pigswill. Having stated so explicitly that Bobby Waugh's farm was the index case, the government cannot now deny its own responsibility.
The video shown to MPs indicated that Jim Dring and the government State Veterinary Service - in contravention of the Animal By-Products Order 1999 which made it "an offence to allow livestock access to catering waste containing meat or products of animal origin, or catering waste which originates from a premises on which meat or products of animal origin are handled." - failed to take notice of the unprocessed swill at Burnside Farm on several occasions. A "more rigorous" inspection of Waugh's farm would have led to the removal of Mr Waugh's licence - as Mr Dring himself, undoubtedly a decent man, said in the statement he intended for the Anderson Inquiry but whose existence only came to light a year ago.
In the future, animal health policy must have the trust of those in the front line. Four years ago, crass reliance on the untried and unsound mass kill policy of such as David King, Roy Anderson, Mark Woolhouse and John Krebs led to almost incalculable losses both in terms of money and in social and psychological misery. Then as now, an election was coming and the government wanted a quick fix. The emergence of zoonoses that seriously threaten human health will not be countered by a quick fix. Policies to combat them must be taken seriously, properly funded and the mistakes of the past acknowledged.
February 28 - March 6 2005 ~ Public Accounts Committee Questions on vaccinated meat. Sir Brian gives a helpful answer....
Q127 Mr Steinberg: We do eat vaccinated meat now but vaccinated for other diseases, is that right?
Sir Brian Bender: Correct.
Q128 Mr Steinberg: So what is the difference between meat vaccinated for one disease against another disease?
Sir Brian Bender: None.
Q129 Mr Steinberg: What did you say? None? What the hell is all the trouble about?
Sir Brian Bender: People in Argentina have been eating meat vaccinated for foot and mouth for many years, so there is no public health issue here and the Food Standards Agency are on the record as saying that.
Q130 Mr Davidson: Farmers are still against it.
Sir Brian Bender: Not necessarily. Mr Davidson says that farmers are still against it but I do not believe the farming industry is against it. The NAO report has a sentence talking about "some farmers may take this view". Some farmers would be against it but I do not believe the NFU, as the leadership of the farming industry, is against the use of vaccination in the future, not from the conversations we have had with them.
Q131 Mr Davidson: So they have moved from their previous position?
Sir Brian Bender: That is my understanding, yes.
Mr Davidson: That is helpful............." Read uncorrected oral evidence and inbox
February 28 - March 6 2005 ~ FMD Index case : Did these witness statements go to the Anderson Lessons Learned Inquiry?
A press release from the Associated Swill Users asks some dramatic questions Extract:
".....State Veterinary Officer Leonard Mansley MRCVS made a written witness statement that ?unbroken ovine vertebrae? were present in the pig pens at Burnside Farm at the time that FMD was discovered.Read in full
Question. Did this witness statement go to the Anderson Lessons Learned Inquiry?
..... A witness has recently stated that four sheep, less tongues and ears, were added to the fire at Heddon View Farm by MAFF officials. These sheep did not come from Heddon View Farm.
Question. Where did these sheep come from? Were these sheep tested for FMD?
Mr James Dring MRCVS made a witness statement confirming that he had the opportunity on two occasions, at Pirbright Laboratory in Surrey, to see and handle live animals with FMD. Question. Did this witness statement go to the Anderson Lessons Learned Inquiry?
Question. Were healthy animals deliberately infected with FMD? How many other vets handled such animals? .."
February 28 - March 6 2005 ~"What I am really asking you is if Defra had managed to uphold its own regulations could they have prevented the foot and mouth outbreak occurring?"
Angela Browning asked questions at the Public Accounts Committee that were extremely uncomfortable for DEFRA given that it is the government itself that has so stoutly maintained that Burnside Farm was the index case and that the feeding of untreated swill was to blame for the outbreak (No proof of the origin of the outbreak has in fact ever reached the public domain) :
"Sir Brian, are you aware that Bobby Waugh, whose farm was identified as the index case for foot and mouth in 2001, was contravening Article 21(2) of the Animal Byproducts Order 1999 at Burnside Farm? ....Are you aware that the State Veterinary Officer, Jim Dring, made a signed submission to the Anderson's Lessons Learned Inquiry in which he admits that he was aware that Mr Bobbie Waugh was bringing unprocessed catering waste on to Burnside Farm prior to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001?.... I would ask you whether you accept that there was negligence within the management structure of the State Veterinary Service which allowed Mr Dring's work to go unmonitored?....Will you let us know whether you accept that the SVS accept responsibility for Mr Dring's actions?...... What I am really asking you is if Defra had managed to uphold its own regulations could they have prevented the foot and mouth outbreak occurring?... "Read oral evidence in full.
February 28 - March 6 2005 ~ " Are you prepared to share anything from that report about the impact and effectiveness of a contiguous cull?..."
Many will remember the Labour MP and member of the EU Temporary Committee on FMD Gordon Adam shouting angrily at Devon farmers that
".. without the contiguous cull the disease would not have been brought under control in the time in which it happened." BBC transcriptSir Brian Bender was asked at the Public Accounts committee ( the uncorrected oral evidence from which is now in the public domain) what the FMD Cost Benefit Analysis , now overdue, has to say about the contiguous cull. His answer was merely to refer to the NAO report in which "different epidemiological experts have examined the data on the 2001 outbreak and reached different views on the value of a contiguous cull." Sir Brian failed to add that those whose comments were supportive of the contiguous cull were the very epidemiological experts who had advised the government.
February 28 - March 6 2005 ~ ",, more work is needed to engage with local authorities and others to facilitate a co-ordinated and co-operative approach should another outbreak arise."
The Sunday Herald reports that the EU is again investigating Britain for breaches of rules including "Several rules on foot-and-mouth disease, the movement of farm animals and the trade in plants" and also "a directive controlling trade in ?semen of domestic animals of the bovine species?. . .."
Four years after the FMD outbreak Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, while trying to put the best construction on what DEFRA has been doing for the past four years, had to point out that the Department "has not finished work to upgrade its computer systems to help manage an outbreak " As for the British Cattle Movement Service, this letter on the Land-care.org.uk website, from its director, Dr James Irvine FRSE shows how the BCMS online service is doing.
The Royal Society has shown its impatience that Defra fails to "engage in regular information exchange" about "advances in the medical field". We have yet to see a proper balanced Expert Group whose independence from DEFRA would gain the trust of those affected in the event of an outbreak. Fifty seven contractors who helped MAFF in 2001 still have invoices of ?40 million unpaid. ?37 million has been spent by the Department in moving some 150,000 tonnes of ash from 200 farm burial sites where risk assessments have indicated a potential risk. Illegal movement of dirty meat (updated today) is still a national scandal, and there has never, of course, been a proper public inquiry into why "untested, unvalidated and unproven methods of control", leading to such an unnecessary degree of misery, were allowed to be used in 2001.
As the NAO suggests, a "co-ordinated and co-operative approach" is still far from likely if we are faced with another emergency.
February 21- 28 2005 ~ Edward Leigh said that there had been a number of inadequacies in the way the Department had dealt with the crisis and warned DEFRA officials not to expect a positive report from the committee.
The Public Accounts Committee heard from DEFRA officials on Foot and Mouth on the 23 February when considering the National Audit Office report "Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Foot and Mouth Disease: Applying the Lessons" The chairman, Edward Leigh, warned DEFRA officials not to expect a positive report from the committee.
Representing DEFRA at the meeting were: Sir Brian Bender KCB, Permanent Secretary, Debby Reynolds, Chief Veterinary Officer and Director General for Animal Health and Welfare and Glenys Stacey, Chief Executive Designate of the State Veterinary Service (SVS)
Mr Leigh asked how DEFRA justified the huge expenditure of taxpayers' money. He also asked why some compensation had yet to be paid out to farmers. Sir Brian Bender told the committee that the delay was " a result of further investigations into whether all of the payments were justified."
Mr Leigh asked whether mass pyres would be used again. When Sir Brian responded that it was the Government's intention not to use them again, Mr Leigh said that this was a "brave pledge".
Mr Leigh asked about DEFRA's Cost Benefit Analysis Report. Sir Brian explained that the report would "be available within the next few weeks "
February 21- 28 2005 ~ In future, says Sir Brian Bender, the cost of slaughtered livestock would not fall on taxpayers but on farmers " who had a responsibility to look after their animals"
At the PAC meeting on the 23 February, (see above) Angela Browning called on the SVS to take responsibility for the outbreak at Burnside farm, particularly since, in the light of recent evidence, it seemed that Jim Dring had been aware not only that Mr Waugh was not treating pig swill effectively, but also, contrary to the By-Products Order, catering waste was being stored on the farm. She held up a map of the farm showing how close to the pig sheds the waste had been stored. Sir Brian said he would give more information on the case of Burnside farm in writing.
David Curry criticised the Department's lack of leadership in 2001. In his answers to Mr Curry, Sir Brian said that in future the cost of the loss of livestock would not fall on taxpayers but on farmers, " who had a responsibility to look after their animals" (See Robert Persey's response to this on the NPA forum website)
He also said that if vaccination was decided upon in the future, it could be rolled out within five days. The decision to vaccinate would depend on the strain of the disease and "whether there was a diagnostic test available" but that DEFRA were not considering universal vaccination or the vaccination of sheep. He also made it clear that there was no public health reason why vaccinated meat should not be consumed.
Brian Bender told the Public Accounts Committee that farmers had changed their position since 2001 and that the National Farmer's Union now showed "some support" for vaccination.
(As for Sir Brian Bender's query as to "whether there was a diagnostic test available" he might consider what the Royal Society Follow Up Review had to say on the subject.)
February 21- 28 2005 ~ the conference will lead the way in bringing world-renown speakers to address issues of emerging infectious diseases and advances in diagnostic techniques
12th International Congress on Infectious Diseases to be held in Lisbon in June 2006. ISID website
".....You will all undoubtedly be familiar with ProMED-mail. This ISID program has made a major contribution to outbreak reporting--it has led the way with information on outbreaks such as SARS and avian influenza. Likewise the program of the conference will lead the way in bringing world-renown speakers to address issues of emerging infectious diseases and advances in diagnostic techniques as well as practical sessions on therapeutic problems and their solutions, infection control issues, and the ever-increasing problem of antimicrobial resistance..."
February 21- 28 2005 ~ a global strategic approach that will require sustained donor support to countries in SE Asia.
Many of the countries affected by bird flu have limited capacity to control the virus, and lack effective diagnostic tools and surveillance systems.
"Affected countries need more help to search for infection and conduct analysis. Veterinary services also need access to better tools for diagnosis and disease control, including vaccines that are efficient, cost-effective and safe,"Samuel Jutzi, director of FAO?s animal production and health divisionMr Jutzi called upon the international community to respond to Asian countries? requirements for support.
ProMed Mail comments: "The current meeting should enhance massive and effective international support to the affected countries in need in order to control this largest and longest HPAI outbreak ever recorded. Unfortunately, the panzootic begins to show signs of becoming endemic, affecting the region and beyond. The impressive list of prominent experts and donors may give hope for significant progress; let us wish them all a very successful meeting..."
February 21- 28 2005 ~Avian Influenza. The destruction of wild birds and their habitats "inappropriate from a wildlife conservation viewpoint..."Samuel Jutzi
After the first day's meeting on Avian Influenza in Ho Chi Minh City (23-25 February) Shigeru Omi, the Western Pacific regional leader of the World Health Organization, called for cooperation between animal and human health experts. "We at WHO believe that the world is now in the gravest possible danger of a pandemic," he said
We read in The Scientist that Vietnam will be distributing rapid diagnostic kits to the country's remoter regions. On February 20th, Thailand's government announced it will agree to vaccinating selected healthy poultry against the disease, including chickens kept in pens by small-scale farmers and families - but not intensively reared birds for export because of the (some might say catastrophically ill-advised) trade rules on vaccination.
FAO "FAO advises against the destruction of wild birds and their habitats as such practice is unlikely to contribute significantly to disease control and is inappropriate from a wildlife conservation viewpoint " Samuel Jutzi, Director of FAO's Animal Production and Health Division.
February 21- 28 2005 ~ What happened to the FMD Cost Benefit Analysis?
The Lessons to be Learned Inquiry recommended (LL R52) that ?cost benefit analyses on FMD control strategies should be updated and maintained. These should be undertaken at both UK and EU level.? The government in its Response to the Reports of the Foot and Mouth Disease Inquiries (pdf) (page 50) agreed.
Risk Solutions Consultancy were awarded the contract for the project which was continually to be monitored and evaluated by a Project Board. It was to take into account the possibilities of outbreaks of different size and with different predominating livestock, various different levels of virulence, and examine a variety of different disease control options, available resources and so on.
It was estimated by DEFRA last January (2004) that it would take about a year to complete.
It would be much appreciated if any knowledgeable reader of warmwell could tell us what stage the Cost Benefit Analysis has reached. ( It may be remembered that Private Eye's Muckspreader had rather a cheaper suggestion, involving the back of an envelope. James Irvine at Land Care org.uk also had some trenchant remarks to make.)
February 21- 28 2005 ~ Recommendation: "To continue to develop tools for risk analysis... and a research programme to develop the underlying science that is the basis of risk analysis."
FMD, Risk and Europe - a paper by John Ryan, veterinary consultant on behalf of EUFMD, FAO, is available on the internet. Dr Ryan emphasises the necessity for clear scientific guidelines in a disease control strategy:
"The provision of hard information and good science not only makes decision making easier, but has a nice side effect of de-politicising the decision-making process."Read in full
"The uncertainty around such difficult decisions (e.g whether, when, where to vaccinate etc) leaves gaps for political exploitation and sub optimal decision-making. The only effective defence against such politicking is sound science, hard information, good communication and good emergency preparation where these issues have already been discussed with key stakeholders...."
February 21- 28 2005 ~ "Thousands of animals were unnecessarily culled in Dumfries and Galloway"
- is how the BBC reports on Michael Thrusfield's report in the Veterinary Record this week.
"Michael Thrusfield said there was no need to kill animals simply because their farms neighboured those infected. More than half a million sheep and 80,000 cattle were slaughtered in the area...."the BBC article continues - but quotes the figure of 177 farms "infected".
As an emailer wrote this week, having looked at the report in the Vet Record, "What grieves me about all of these studies is that they work on the basis of incorrect figures for IPs. (I presume they have just used the SERAD figures, which included so many negative IPs). So how can this be meaningful? The only official figures are the DEFRA ones, but what I wish is that a study is done of the outbreak using the number of IPs that returned positive tests, so for Wigtownshire, your map of distribution would show only 2 outbreaks/foci of disease, as opposed to the supposed 15.
This obviously produces a very different picture from the official map which had Wigtownshire virtually blotted out with incidence of disease, with its 218 premises "requiring" slaughter. Anyone who is doing a proper study/analysis of the disease should look at the actuality, i.e the actual test results, and not the hypothetical picture of infection, as suggested by the computer modellers."
February 21- 28 2005 ~ "The potential advantages of the PCR cycler over the gamma interferon test is that it ... can be used on farm and give a result within 30 minutes."
See Bovine TB Control in Great Britain A Paper for Discussion by the National Beef Association
"A variant of this system...was recommended by Professor Fred Brown of the US Plum Island Animal Disease Research Center in 2001 to the UK Government to rapidly diagnose Foot and Mouth on site. One individual went as far as ordering one....but the Government intervened to prevent this without providing the industry or even the individual with an explanation...Read the 18 NBA recommendations for TB control in full
...The potential advantages of the PCR cycler over the gamma interferon test is that it should be able to differentiate between bovine TB and avian TB in blood and can be used on farm and give a result within 30 minutes. In the case of cattle this would save the wait of 3 days to read the skin test and the further wait of 6 to 12 weeks for confirmation of TB by culture test.
However the PCR cycle seems potentially to be of even more use in identifying bovine TB in badgers ...
....Conduct a full analysis of the DEFRA database and link its information to industry databases to construct a clear national, regional and farm cluster (not merely parish) description of the incidence of TB nationwide..."
February 21- 28 2005 ~ " I even had a big metal sign given to me that says FMD Precautions Start Here, on the reverse FMD Precautions Finish Here."
The Reverend Patricia Pinkerton has written to tell us that
".. the FMD archive is well underway. Thousands of entries are being logged, although I am still giving Philip Sheppey hundreds of documents, with people coming forward and offering research, old reports from '67,and worn bundles of clippings people have kept with an elastic band from early FMD outbreaks.No. It's not over. And thank goodness for the Stoneleigh archive.
It's quite touching.
I even had a big metal sign given to me that says FMD Precautions Start Here, on the reverse FMD Precautions Finish Here. I am just touched that people feel moved enough to contribute.
Warmwell has been my flag ship, and what you do keeps me at the task.
It's not over yet is it?"
February 21- 28 2005 ~... "ways of including farmers in the disease control system with a view to involving them more closely.."
There are undoubtedly good people at DEFRA who feel as concerned as we do about what happened in 2001, about the lack of appreciation of new technologies, and about the existence of an Expert Group that is not, as was directed, "composed of epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists in a balanced way".
Our fear is that as time passes, memory becomes muddled and the lessons that should have been learned are as far away as ever. It is particularly trying when the media wrongly report on what was actually said - by, for example, the EU Court Of Auditors. Far from blaming farmers, as the UK government does, it is highly critical of the EU Commission, recommending that "the Commission carry out regular evaluation of the prevention and control arrangements outside crisis periods and study ways of including farmers in the disease control system with a view to involving them more closely.."
The archive at the Royal Agricultural Society of England at Stoneleigh under the care of the archivist, Philip Sheppey, will ensure that the truth of what happened in 2001 can be examined by anyone who is interested, and we are very grateful indeed to the Reverend Patricia Pinkerton and to the RASE.
February 21- 28 2005 ~"We are saying that four years is a totally unacceptable delay in paying hard working contractors who have submitted accurate invoices."
" Mr Morley is using the same old hackneyed excuse that the delay is because contractors are overcharging the Government, but as the FPB has argued repeatedly the facts show there is little evidence of this. On the fourth anniversary of this terrible outbreak, where the contractors did all in their power to help the Government and the country, it is time for an end to the prevaricating. Defra must pay up." Nick Goulding of the FPB
. See Western Morning News
Feb 13 - 20 2005 ~ "DEFRA?s over zealous policing of State Aid Rules is failing to exploit the opportunities taken by many other EU countries "
A new report commissioned by the National Beef Association and Tenant Farmers Association, "exposes the market barriers faced by the farming industry and highlights the urgent need for a coherent food and farming policy"
Read press release :
".... The French government, by contrast, has recently funded a national week celebrating French food in schools, a campaign for home-grown apples and it has registered 135 protected products under the EU?s quality assurance scheme, 100 more than in the UK. ...we are subject to lax country of origin labelling. It is either absent or misleading because it is also allowed on food produced abroad but packed in the UK (e.g. chicken from Thailand and beef from Argentina or Brazil).Read in full the press release and the pdf file (NB for pdf file Save Target As - right button-recommended) of the report Farming Industry Marketing Strategy by British Agriculture Marketing.
This is despite growing consumer interest in provenance, which is linked to a perception of higher animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards.."
13 - 20 February 2005 ~ "Farmers have reacted angrily to claims that the unregulated movement of infected cattle has led to the spread of bovine tuberculosis.
See icNorthWales "Unregulated movements of infected cattle almost certainly helped spread bovine TB, the government's Independent Scientific Group has concluded. It recommended more effective movement controls "without further delay"."
The WMN reports on the outrage this suggestion has caused.
".....Westcountry farmers hit back, pointing out that herds with bovine TB are under movement restrictions. They also said that cattle could not be considered on their own when it came to tackling bovine TB and other factors, including the spread of the disease by badgers and other wildlife, had to be taken into account. ..
..."Nobody spends years breeding cows just to lose them to a bullet. These are not milking machines - they are all individuals. This is our livelihood, but nobody seems interested." ..." WMN
Feb 13 - 20 2005 ~ "How is it that the most efficient dairy industry in Europe could have been brought to near-terminal collapse
with thousands of farmers forced out of business every year (numbers have halved since 1997, to below 20,000)? How is it that supermarkets can squeeze down the going price for milk to below the farmers? cost of production, but then charge their customers more than twice what they pay for it?" Private Eye's Muckspreader has the answer Read in full
Feb 13 - 20 2005 ~ The new heresy - scientific dissent
Our fear that politics is quietly taking over science is reinforced by this Times article Global Warming Hotheads would burn Sceptics at the Stake by Mick Hume, 4 February 2005
"....What we ignorant laymen are rarely told is that there remain serious uncertainties about the extent and causes of climate change - as even some scientists working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will quietly concede. Yet woe betide any expert who tries to raise such questions in public. ....Timothy Ball, a leading climatologist, says that those trying to test the theory of anthropogenic climate change - "a normal course of action in any real scientific endeavour" - are now being "chastised for not being in agreement with some sort of scientific consensus, as if a worldwide poll of climate experts had been taken, and as if such a consensus would represent scientific fact. Nothing could be farther from the truth; science advances by questioning, probing and re-examining existing beliefs."While the controversy about climate change may not have a direct bearing on animal health, there is an underlying worry about this field that applies equally to the field of animal health. To disagree with the current dogma may spell the end of funding, one's department and even an assault on one's scientific credibility - as Alan Ebringer and others were to discover. As government-funded scientist NASA scientist, Roy Spencer, wrote in the Washington Times, ".. if global warming is proven to be a dire threat, I hope I am the one who proves it. But in today's politically correct climate, I can guarantee you no one will ever receive a Nobel Prize for proving it was not a threat."
We need to separate the science from the politics. Let the experts thrash out the evidence. But let them do so free from the pressures of a political climate..." The Times
Feb 13 - 20 2005 ~ As we approach the four year anniversary of the misery of the Foot and Mouth policies...
When lambs are seen in the fields it is not a mere cliché to say that Spring brings new life and new hope. That, thank heaven and a hitherto healthy planet, is the way it has always been. Except in 2001. We have no intention of forgetting the consequences for the helpless of the foolish policies of the powerful.
This photo appeared with the caption:
"This day old lamb, trapped in a sea of mud, is just one of thousands across Britain unable to be moved because of the foot and mouth restrictions. Farmer Pat Key, 37, has 400 ewes giving birth on a seven-acre field near Acle, Norfolk. He said, "It's a sickening scene"
A MAFF official said the animals would be slaughtered as soon as possible"
Too many of those same MAFF officials, rebranded DEFRA, who directed operations from their London offices or who strode about dressed in a little brief authority, refused to respond to the extent of the tragedy for ordinary people. Perhaps they were helped by the aggressive military language emanating from the Downing Street spin machine at that time. It was an unnecessary tragedy for several million healthy animals and their young - including priceless breeding stock and healthy, much-loved pets. "Bearing down on the disease" by following the politically expedient plan of modellers - who had neither veterinary experience of the transmission of the virus nor any intention of seeking advice from those who had - led to a bloody mayhem in Cumbria, the West Country, Dumfries and Galloway, the Forest of Dean, Yorkshire and elsewhere.
There has been neither apology nor Inquiry. As Lord Monro of Langholm said in 2002, "A year ago, many of us called for a public inquiry and continued to do so all through last summer and autumn. Eventually, the Government refused to hold one and went ahead with their own separate inquiries with the obvious intention of minimising the criticism that they were bound to receive for their handling of the whole affair......"
The perpetrators have not been censured . One wonders what their true feelings are now.
Feb 7 - 13 2005 ~ photographs 2001.
At the time of the carnage, we assumed that imagination would supply images, and that to place them on the site would be unnecessarily distressing.
However, the FMD killing now appears to have been largely airbrushed out of both the political conscience and public consciousness. Those with strong stomachs may want to look at the photographs.
Political spin, both then and now, blamed farmers for just about everything connected with the epidemic and its spiralling costs - but, as has been pointed out, the outrageous expenditure was the result of the political policies and flawed science.
The levels of so-called "compensation" for the taking of their stock was never set by farmers, while those affected by the restrictions of form D, whose heavy losses were also frustrating and equally unnecessary, were never compensated at all. Terror of the disease made farmers desperately careful about anything that might infect their animals, but the authorities, the slaughter teams and even some vets were often ignorant or unscrupulous or both. Here, for example, is MAFF "biosecurity" in June 2001. Dead ewes lie under loose tarpaulins next to an abandoned slaughterman's suit, blowing towards the road. This sort of behaviour is documented many times, such as in this extract from the Knowstone evidence to the Temporary EU Committee. One Devon vet speaks of her shame at belonging to a society that can, in sheer incompetence, inflict such cruelty on people. She talks of the animals she cared for professionally who died: "They needn?t have been in that stinking heap at all as they were so far away from the infected premises."
See more photographs from Cumbria, sent in response and the email from Devon.
See also the photographs from Cornwall. Memories endure.
Feb 7 - 13 2005 ~ we read constantly in the press - vCJD is the "human form of mad cow disease"
The test mentioned below by Dr David Brown - that of injecting a sample of human brain infected with vCJD into an experimental animal - seems no more unethical than the sort of test carried out by the VLA or the work to be carried out by Dolly's creator on motor neurone disease. Yet it would be of incalculable importance. It would prove whether or not - as we read constantly in the press - vCJD is the "human form of mad cow disease" passed on by the consumption of infected meat. At present that assumption - never proved - is what is driving policies and funding research costing literally billions of pounds. The assumption may be correct. But it is at present only an assumption because the test is not being done. Can it really be simply because it is considered "unethical"?
Feb 7 - 13 2005 ~ No result on Scots goat for two years
Three different test methods : western blot, ELISA and immunohistochemistry (IHC) are used to distinguish scrapie from BSE. Besides goats and sheep experimentally infected with scrapie or BSE, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, (the EU reference lab for BSE) tested two brain samples at random from within a selection of goats thought to have died of scrapie. One of them gave an IHC result that looked like BSE The New Scientist quotes Danny Matthews of the VLA . :
"..... "We haven't had to test many goats in the UK," says Matthews. "We thought we should test our current IHC on goat brain to make sure it distinguishes BSE....We can't do the other two tests as we processed all the tissue we had from that animal for IHC," says Matthews. But the team will nevertheless attempt to extract enough tissue from the IHC test material to do the definitive BSE test. This involves injecting tissue into mouse brain to see if BSE develops. But that will not yield results for two years.80% of healthy slaughtered goats over the age of 18 months, plus "high risk" goats will now be tested.
Feb 7 - 13 2005 ~ Possible finding of BSE in a 1990 UK goat ..
A goat in Scotland that died fifteen years ago from possible BSE, has led to Tuesday's Food Standards Agency press release The FSA "... will also be seeking scientific advice from its own independent experts, SEAC.."
We are reminded of the words of MP Teresa Gorman in connection with SEAC a few years ago. It is only fair to point out that SEAC's membershp has changed since Mrs Gorman said:
"... the basic science has not yet been done. All the money has been cornered by the SEAC people, who were dealing with scrapie at the time of BSE, and it is hard to wrest that from them. I do think Mark Purdey's theory deserves more attention, but there's a huge vested interest at the SEAC end, and a lot of members from industry on this committee. They have a position to maintain and it has been difficult to get funding for alternative research " Read in fullHowever, the official explanation for the origination and spread of BSE and vCJD continues to leave many questions unanswered. And it is, of course, vCJD that creates the fear. Dr David R Brown, co-author in January 2003 of a paper in the Veterinary Times on TSEs, wrote:
"..It is quite surprising that the one experiment that would confirm a link between BSE and vCJD has not been carried out. If BSE and vCJD are the same strain of disease and take on different characteristics dependent on the host organism, then infecting cows with vCJD should lead to the cows developing BSE. This would prove BSE and vCJD to be the same disease. However, those who could have carried out the experiments have classed them as "unethical" because of the need to inject human brain into an animal."We see that Dr Brown is now a member of the SEAC committee.
Feb 7 - 13 2005 ~ ".. its use in the field might be a true and much needed achievement..."
Pro-Med Mail comments on the avian influenza vaccines. http://www.promedmail.org "..... Regarding the published data on the new, genetically modified Chinese AI vaccine, its application by drinking water for farmed poultry might be perfectly feasible, and its use in the field might be a true and much needed achievement, provided the vaccine's safety for animal and man and its efficacy have been satisfactorily secured and tested. However, putting the vaccine into "rivers and lakes" is another story; it will be interesting to get more information on the research and tests which will enable such an application....."Mod.AS]
".........The scientists at the Harbin Institute have clearly mastered the technology of reverse genetics and produced a candidate live attenuated vaccine virus...... - Mod.CP]
Feb 7 - 13 2005 ~Chinese scientists claim to have developed a vaccine to prevent the spread of avian influenza.
China developed advanced bird flu virus test technology (RT-PCR reagent kit) last April. This can detect H5, H7 and H9 subgroups of the bird flu simultaneously in several hours. Vaccine targeting H9 and H5N2, the less dangerous subtypes of avian influenza, has now been developed and mass-produced. Using a technique called reverse genetics, scientists at the Key Laboratory of Animal Influenza, affiliated to Harbin Veterinary Research Institute, altered the genome sequence of the virus to construct a vaccine that is believed to be safe to both poultry and mammals. The vaccine will be administered to fowls in China's waters, rivers and lakes.
"... field tests also indicate that upon receiving two shots of the vaccine, ducks and geese can each produce antibodies effective for 10 months and three months, respectively. The birds could then fight the H5N1 strain of virus. "The vaccination thus makes it impossible for ducks and geese to become the load of H5 subgroup bird flu virus. Therefore, it can cut a key link for the highly pathogenic avian influenza to spread," said the ministry statement. . .."China Daily (See also below)
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ "Unless and until this crucial aspect of the 2001 epidemic is fully scrutinised and evaluated, neither the NAO or the Public Accounts Select Committee will be able to determine how the costs of 2001 arose"
In our frustration at the way the enormous costs of the FMD epidemic appear to have been widely accepted as inevitable or as somehow the result of unreasonable demands from farmers and contractors, we are grateful to the National Foot and Mouth Group for this timely and clear-headed reminder that it was "untested, unvalidated and unproven methods of control" that led to spiralling costs.
"... millions of healthy animals... that need never have been culled.... all incurred further compensation costs. .. the divergence of resources to the mass extermination of healthy animals actually resulted in infected premises not being slaughtered as quickly as they should have been.Read in full
We know now how few premises actually had the disease confirmed. For example, in Wigtownshire, only 2 premises were laboratory confirmed as having FMD - but 219 farms were culled. ..... At the Great Orton burial pit - where nearly 1/2 a million sheep were slaughtered, yet only 1 farm had FMD identified....massive costs in digging the pits, employing slaughters teams, and transporters. And now the site requires on-going expensive maintenance as the unlined pits leach gallons of toxins which in turn require treatment - and will do so for many years to come. ...."
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ vaccination "..a less effective strategy because of the ability of the disease to leap outside the vaccinated area" (sic)
Is this the sort of statement that is continuing to fuel uncertainty about the efficacy of vaccination? The assertion (and at least the NAO report makes clear that " ... this is only one conclusion from a research group - that advocated the contiguous cull in 2001.") quoted in the NAO report page 24, that vaccination is a less effective strategy because of "the ability of the disease to leap outside the vaccinated area" was countered in 2001 by informed comment from an academic with field experience. He also happens to have been, we notice, one of the technical advisers to the present NAO report.
He wrote, "Animals on UK farms are almost entirely kept in groups (what we know as farms) with little or no animal movement between groups once movement controls are imposed; they are not mixing and milling about the countryside, in contrast to the usual situation with people which epidemiologists are used to. ..a vaccinate exposed to an infected animal (a non-vaccinate) produces almost no virus.... ....In other words, no "leaping" can be done by virus when a farm has been vaccinated. Without vaccination, virus can be spread disastrously without anyone being aware. ." Read in full
In contrast ....the enormous contamination produced by infected non-vaccinates can easily move off farm, inadvertently by people or before knowing it, by aerosols..."
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ Comment on the NAO report
please see warmwell's NAO report page
- "....a less effective strategy because of the ability of the disease to leap outside the vaccinated area" (sic) NAO report page 24. Please click here
(For comment on this statement quoted in the NAO report from the paper of Prof Woolhouse et al, see this important and informed comment )
- Today's NAO report looks at the progress made by the Government in implementing changes recommended following the 2001 epidemic. Interesting to see how media have interpreted NAO press release here
- Confusion continues. Ignorance reigns. here
- More than 500 people involved in Hornbeam - but " the value of the Department?s exercise (Hornbeam) could have been increased by including a simulation at farm level" NAO report page 21 here
- some ?37 million has been spent by the Department in moving some 150,000 tonnes of ash from 200 farm burial sites here
- FPB says the NAO report is flawed ".. as it accepts Defra's findings uncritically." here
- "When we criticised Defra for paying too much, we didn?t mean it to stop paying any of its remaining contractors.." here
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ Wednesday's National Audit Office report erroneously suggests that contiguous premises will be slaughtered if a new outbreak got "out of control". How can they have got it so wrong?
The NAO report suggests that if the veterinary and epidemiological evidence directs contiguous slaughter OR if "efforts to control the outbreak are ineffective" then mass slaughter will happen again. This is wrong. There is no "OR" about it.
Even if the disease were to get out of control, veterinary and epidemiological appraisals WILL take place.
Further, the report suggests that vaccination is still surrounded by uncertainties - "the decision to vaccinate would have to be taken in the face of many uncertainties".
This website is close to despair. How can things be so wrongly suggested to the press? So many of what were uncertainties are resolved.
- The Food Standards Agency has asserted that the products of vaccinated animals have no health implications for humans.
- Food retailers have confirmed that they would not be seeking to differentiate between meat and milk from vaccinated and unvaccinated animals.
- Internationally recognised laboratory tests able to differentiate animals that have been vaccinated from those that have been exposed to the virus. Such tests are available commercially. All that is needed is the political will to declare them "validated" - a woolly term at best. (See also below)
Only Sir David King has put the cat among the pigeons by his curiously uninformed assertions (see below)
The decision not to vaccinate has been laid at the feet of farmers - as in the NAO report - but in the 2001 outbreak the NFU assertion that farmers opposed vaccination was contradicted by many farmers themselves. In April 2001, a survey taken by MP David Maclean in his affected constituency of Cumbria showed 140 commercial farmers wanted vaccination against 19 that did not. "Commercial producers for - particularly those closest to approaching F&M"
31 January - 6 February 2005 ~ Dutch research shows "severe post-traumatic distress" in half the farmers whose animals were culled.
An article: "Impact of a foot and mouth disease crisis on post-traumatic stress symptoms in farmers" in The British Journal of Psychiatry (2005)186: 165-166 by a team of Dutch psychiatric researchers has the following abstract:
"Culling 27 000 farm animals during an epidemic of foot and mouth disease in The Netherlands in 2001 resulted in substantial psychological distress among Dutch farmers. We investigated the association of exposure to this crisis with symptoms of intrusions and avoidance as found in post-traumatic stress disorder. Survey results from the Impact of Event Scale administered to 661 Dutch dairy farmers showed that about half of those whose animals were culled suffered from severe post-traumatic distress; we conclude that such agricultural crises can have a substantial impact on mental health."In the Netherlands the number of animals killed was a small fraction of those put to death in the UK. Here, the number of animals killed was between 6 million (government figure) and over 10 million (Meat and Livestock Commission ). Blood tests that were done came back negative in heartbreakingly high numbers, and indeed were often refused. As this email from the 2001 epidemic shows, the distress among the UK rural community was of a kind never before experienced since it was so apparent that there was unforgivable chaos - and that policies were being driven, not by veterinary expertise and under proper supervision as in 1968, but by political expediency.
31 January - 6 February 2005 ~ "All chicken farms are routinely vaccinated with inactivated H5N2 vaccine, and 60 unvaccinated sentinels are kept in each batch of chickens..." Hong Kong
ProMed Mail today includes an update on the avian influenza situation as of 28 Jan 2005 from the FAOs Animal Production & Health Division.
The moderator comments
"This timely issue of the FAO AIDE news also provides a useful overview on the use of vaccination....."The FAO Workshop on Social and Economic Impacts of Avian Influenza Control ( pdf file here) says, "Countries are taking a range of approaches to strategy - planned, opportunistic, or laissez faire. Elements of strategy can include: stamping out of outbreaks that occur; compensation / "support" / credit; surveillance / monitoring; import control; the use of vaccination; compartmentalisation..."
However, the UK DEFRA contingency plan for avian influenza says para 4.1 "Vaccination for Avian Influenza is not viable with current technologies.."As a recent emailer wrote, "It gives one a very unpleasant feeling of deja vu"
According to the FAO avian influenza pages: "...it is essential that country emergency plans are reviewed frequently and regularly in order to assimilate new scientific knowledge in this fast-moving field."
29 January 2005 ~ Following the confirmation of BSE rather than scrapie in the French goat that died in 2002 (entire herd slaughtered), the EC now wants to test 200,000 healthy goats
in the 25 EU member states over the next six months. There is no live test used yet.
Pro-Med report here The total UK figures of deaths from definite vCJD 106, deaths from definite or probable vCJD 148.
To put this in perspective; in the UK alone, 37,215 people were killed or seriously injured in 2003 as a result of road accidents Department of Transport figures.
25 - 31 January 2005 ~".... decided that the farm isn't viable because we haven't changed our Land Rover and don't buy big tractors. "
A decision by The National Trust, one of those organisations we used to feel was above reproach - is the subject of a very concerned letter, just received about the Trust's decision to split up the Lake District jewel in their crown - High Yewdale Farm - when the present tenants retire. The emailer tells us that the letter from the Nat Trust to other tenants "contains some worrying inaccuracies as justification for the changes..." and continues:
"High Yewdale Farm is run as a viable economic unit with excellent stockmanship and very high levels of animal welfare..Read email in full
the proposed changes will not bring about any animal welfare benefits....
Neither will there be any environmental benefits with the proposed restructuring, rather the reverse....
The handling has been crass and it is obvious that no one with fell farming expertise is involved.. ..."
Monday's Telegraph covered the story and quotes the farmer Mr Birkett who is acknowledged, even by the National Trust, as a "fantastic stockman''. The majority of his 700 Herdwicks are descended from the sheep once owned by Beatrix Potter :
"...... what do we want with a new Land Rover if the old one works well enough? We've had such a happy life here. When I was young there was not a day too long. Now we feel we've worked for nothing.''See also Inbox
25 - 31 January 2005 ~ "the long and sorry saga" of OPs
WMN article on the comprehensive report, sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which "..analyses the experience of victims of OP poisoning, ranging from sheep farmers to Gulf War troops". It was presented yesterday, by Paul Tyler, chairman of the All Party OP Parliamentary Group, to Defra Minister Ben Bradshaw.
"OP chemicals were formulated with one aim in mind: to poison by destroying the nervous system," the report says.No one from Defra was last night available for comment." Read the WMN article in full and see warmwell pages on the effects of organophosphates.
.... It also highlights the fact that successive Governments had relied on advice that "the products are safe until there is evidence which proves they are not", despite warnings dating back to 1951 by scientists, who said that the "main danger was from chronic effects". It criticises the lack of medical support given to OP victims, whose conditions were often dismissed out of hand. The report concludes: "The causal link between exposure to OPs and ill-health has been demonstrated by research....
" ...short of exposing human guinea pigs to doses of these extremely dangerous chemicals, we will never have more conclusive evidence," Mr Tyler said last night. "Ministers in successive Governments not only approved their use, over several decades, but effectively forced sheep farmers to use them. "The Government has a moral responsibility to look after their victims, and to ensure appropriate compensation."
25 - 31 January 2005 ~ "positive ELISA test for FMD virus can be obtained in about 3 hours..."
From the ProMed Mail website. Following the press report of negative results of the suspected case of FMD in Ireland, the moderator comments,
"The negative results of the current clinically suspected case are preliminary. Preliminary negative results might be based upon ELISA testing. A positive ELISA test for FMD virus can be obtained in about 3 hours. To declare a case finally negative, virus isolation has to be attempted, a procedure that requires two 48 hours passages in cell culture i.e. 96 hours in total."While this moderator's comment helpfully explains a reason for the long delay in reassuring the public, the way the case was reported in the press gives the unfortunate impression that at least 48 hours is needed for any result at all. A positive result would have been evident within three hours - but the negative result has to be checked and double checked. In any future outbreak, it is important to know that a positive result can be obtained "in about 3 hours."
24 January 2005 ~ Government's plans for tackling a future outbreak of foot and mouth disease have been thrown into disarray after the government's Chief Scientist suggested that vaccination was still not a practical option
David King's comments "desperately disappointing" says Anthony Gibson.
Jason Groves, London editor of the WMN writes today:
Government's plans for tackling a future outbreak of foot and mouth disease have been thrown into disarray after the government's Chief Scientist suggested that vaccination was still not a practical option for controlling the disease. .... His comments will fuel fears that the Government has done little more than pay lip service to vaccination... appear to directly contradict the official policy of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which suggests that it would give early consideration to using vaccination in any future outbreak, despite the lack of a validated test. Defra suggests that a "vaccinate to live" policy would be possible.....Read in full and our comments about what Sir David King had to say in the Independent last week
.... Mr Gibson said Sir David appeared to have "no understanding" of farming or the "heartbreak" suffered by farmers who were forced to watch the destruction of entire pedigree herds in their farmyards. He added: "To him it appears to be a dry statistical exercise, whereas to those involved it was flesh, blood, tears, sweat and heartbreak."
23 January 2005 10:03 ~ Carlow samples show no sign of foot & mouth
Irish Press RTE News
"Preliminary tests on samples taken from pigs at a meat plant in Co Carlow have shown no evidence of foot and mouth disease. .... final results will be available within the next two days..."What is implied here is that it takes 4 days for a suspect case of FMD to be fully confirmed or denied. Yet, Roger Breeze's Agroterrorism: Betting Far More than the Farm emphasises that what is actually available now - if only the US and UK governments so chose - are: "... PCR assays designed to be performed as real-time assays outside specialized laboratories like Plum Island (or Pirbright) on portable devices taken to the site of the problem......vigorous informed control measures backed by positive diagnosis can be implemented nationally within 6 hours." Read pdf file in full
22/23 January 2005 ~ Pirbright is testing samples from pigs in Carlow, Ireland, for foot and mouth disease
Preliminary results are expected today. The Scotsman "The animals were discovered with suspicious symptoms by Department of Agriculture veterinary inspectors at Ballon Meats in Carlow yesterday. The factory was closed off, while the farm which supplied the pigs was also closed. The pigs were slaughtered and samples were sent to a British laboratory in Pirbright, Surrey. The Department of Agriculture said the laboratory was able to carry out a range of tests not available in Ireland. ?It?s a precautionary measure,? said a spokesman. He said the preliminary results of the tests would be available later today. ?If it turns out to be positive, we would have to take appropriate action to prevent a possible spread.?..
"... 12 animals were slaughtered and the factory and a nearby farm were sealed off. A team of vets yesterday inspected all of the remaining pigs on the Co Carlow farm from where the suspect batch originated, and checked neighbouring farms. No further animals showed any clinical signs of foot and mouth disease. There is no question of the pigs having been imported and an investigation is under way to find out what kind of feed they were receiving. Restrictions on the farm will continue until the outcome of the tests are known."We find it quite extraordinary that tests used officially in the UK are still taking 48 hours. (Inbox "The multiplex test showed to be a simple, economical and reliable tool for rapid diagnosis of vesicular diseases in clinical samples, spending less than six hours in obtaining the results and it can be used even in the cases of an hypothetical co-infection." FAO link)
22-29 January 2005 ~ "All exercises identify issues that need clarifying and addressing and Exercise Hornbeam was no exception.
The Government are not complacent and the exercise has helped to identify the areas where we need to focus efforts further to improve procedures and to fine tune policies and strategies for all stages of an outbreak.
Defra will be providing a detailed response to the Royal Society Infectious Diseases in Livestock Follow-Up Review later this month."
From the answer by Ben Bradshaw to David Drew's Parliamentary Question to Margaret Beckett about Exercise Hornbeam.
January 16 - 22 2005 ~ The UK's Chief Scientific Advisor appears unaware of the current official stance on vaccination against FMD
This is the link to the FMD Q and A's on Defra's website. David King's alarming statement in the Independent that: "My worry is that if there were an epidemic tomorrow, the British public might be expecting vaccination to be used " suggests that he does not yet know the extent to which the UK position on testing and on other points about FMD vaccination has shifted since 2001.
54. Defra says that the absence of an internationally validated test would not prevent the use of vaccination in the event of a future outbreak. "We would use a herd based NSP test on a statistical basis and, where positive results were found, we would use a higher discriminatory test (Probang)."Read Q and A page in full at http://www.defra.gov.uk/footandmouth/disease/methods/vaccinationqanda.htm
46. Defra says that current vaccines are good enough to control the disease. (No vaccine used for humans is 100% effective, as Dr Ruth Watkins points out on this website.)
47. Defra says there is no evidence that FMD can mutate in response to the vaccine.
As for the vexed question of so-called "carriers" Defra's position now is that
48. "Once vaccinated, animals are considered fully protected and should not develop disease. Expert scientific advice is that spread from vaccinated carrier animals is a rare event: the amount of virus excreted is many orders of magnitude less than that excreted by animals during the acute phase of disease or during sub-clinical infection. Excretion from carriers is intermittent and at a diminishing level over time, occasionally up to three years."
49. On the risk of spread from infected animals to those already vaccinated, Defra says that there is a theoretical risk for 3-5 days following use of high potency vaccine.
( However, the likelihood of vaccinates coming into contact with infected animals is very unlikely indeed. Farm animals cannot mingle in the way humans do. This article about vaccination and transmission makes things very clear. It was contributed by a scientist now holding an eminent position at the FAO in connection with FMD control.)50. Defra says that stress should not normally inactivate the vaccine.
51. Disease free status can be recovered six months after the last case or the last vaccination where stamping out and ?protective? vaccination to live is used, provided that absence of infection in the remaining vaccinated population is clearly demonstrated..
January 16 - 22 2005 ~ Sir David King is still trying to justify " the scientific rationale for the ruthless culling of livestock" and saying that " Britain had no choice but to kill and burn or bury thousands (sic) of animals"
"... Sir David provided the scientific rationale for the ruthless culling of livestock on affected farms and ones with common boundaries. It was, and still is, a deeply unpopular decision, especially when some commentators were calling for vaccination rather than slaughter. Even today there are those who say the Government should have used vaccines rather than culling, a strategy vehemently defended by Sir David who insists many people still do not understand why Britain had no choice but to kill and burn or bury thousands of animals. "The option to vaccinate but not to subsequently kill the animals was actually not with us," Sir David says. "The Dutch government used vaccination and we did not; as a result the Dutch government had to slaughter vaccinated animals subsequently before they could begin exporting again."This is both misleading and wrong.
The Dutch government chose to slaughter its vaccinates - against the wishes of the farmers and of the population who protested in their thousands. On the 23 March they were granted suppressive vaccination (where slaughter would follow) in a 2 km area round confirmed outbreaks. But on 3 April they obtained permission for protective vaccination in addition. The farmers, many of them dairy farmers, were led to believe their animals would be allowed to live and thus agreed to the protective vaccination area being much wider than was truly necessary for control of the disease. After vaccination was completed, their Government changed its mind and insisted on slaughtering the animals in a bid to qualify for normal trading after three months. Dr Frits Pluimers CVO of the Netherlands made an impassioned speech at the Brussels conference of 2001, stating that he could not in the future ignore the will of the Dutch people - and that protective vaccination would certainly be used should they be unfortunate enough to have another outbreak; they would never again follow a policy that slaughtered vaccinated animals, proved by tests to be uninfected. ( See also this transcript of an interview in 2001 in which Prof King told the Today Programme " what I was happy to achieve in the FMD outbreak was showing that science in real time could provide a sound basis for policy advice" )
The late Fred Brown called Britain's handling of the disease "a disgrace to humanity". Magnus Linklater spoke for many when he agreed.
January 16 - 22 2005 ~ Food Standards Agency says it would be a breach of EU law to create a new offence to fight the ?1bn a year criminal meat trade. It offers instead an "action-plan"
In answer to the Parliamentary Question from Charles Hendry on January 12th 2005 "... what punishments may be imposed upon those found guilty of selling or trading in dirty, diseased and illegal cuts of meat..?", Miss Melanie Johnson said that the
".. Food Standards Agency has, with its partners in other Government Departments and enforcement bodies, a wide-ranging action plan to tackle meat crime."(See below)But illegal imports of bushmeat, unlicensed and disgraceful methods of slaughter in the UK and the fraudulent use of health marking can bring huge profits to criminals. There is a very low chance of being prosecuted and inadequate, even derisory penalties if convicted. Urgently needed are
Important professional and trade associations, such the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) have called for new legislation to deal with serious food crime. The urgent call for legislation by Chartered Environmental Heath Practitioner, Dr Yunes Teinaz, spells out the problem.
- stringent financial penalties
- prohibition orders giving powers to close down businesses
directors and employees banned from further involvement in the food industry
- powers to give substantial prison sentences - such as up to 10 years.
(See also last September's Channel 4 Dispatches programme suggesting that corruption and collusion can be found even among those paid to guard our food standards.)
January 16 - 22 2005 ~ "To redress the reputation of organic farming, to put animal welfare first on permanent pasture farms, I propose the creation of a new category of organic farmer that I will call Organic "B". ..."
Extracts from an Open letter to the Soil Association and the Organic Farmers and Growers by Dr Ruth Watkins: "There is much good modern science on healthy nutrition and prevention of infection in farm animals. The attitude taken by the organic rules to mineral and vitamin supplements and the use of vaccines and anti-parasitic preparations is without scientific foundation. ....
.....Magnesium is bitter and the organic forms I am allowed to give they find unpalatable. They would rather die than lick them. I was lucky to save one cow from my small herd of seven but then lost another to low magnesium, 'staggers', two days after she calved. The liquid molasses with magnesium I need to give, on the vet's recommendation, is not permitted under organic rules as it contains vitamins. ...
.....I could not have been more wrong about organic animals from upland farms. I never dreamt that they were refused mineral and vitamin supplements, modern vaccines or medicines, should they be needed to keep them healthy and prevent disease. ....
....Surely it is the conservation of the soil and its fertility that is important in the organic movement. .."
January 9 - 16 2005 ~ an economic conflict of interest.
Evidence submitted to the Royal Society Inquiry of Edinburgh by the Director Patent and Licensing Affairs United Biomedical Inc. quotes a letter to UBI from Pirbright on 5 November 1997:
"we have ultimately decided it is not in our interests to collaborate with a company which intends to develop a commercial diagnostic kit in direct competition to our own intentions."Early in the FMD epidemic (March 9 2001) an offer of help came from USDA collaborating with Tetracore, another U.S. biotechnology company, to provide a sensitive real time PCR farmgate test. Pirbright, as the World Reference Laboratory the only lab allowed to validate FMD tests, rejected USDA's offer on the grounds of "lack of time". Throughout the epidemic, Pirbright refused to entertain PCR as the routine method of diagnosis of FMD in animals, claiming "PCR was not validated".
It would appear that Pirbright, working on its own commercial test, was unwilling to countenance the use of any rival kit - even when such rapid diagnosis would have made unthinkable the mass killing of animals during the epidemic. Literally millions were slaughtered, untested and - as it was to emerge - uninfected.
Four years later - the emergence of the UK's own rapid diagnostic PCR machine - which "...has already attracted ....confidence in its profit-making ability" is described in this DSTL press release The government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory proudly claims that its
"...spin-out company, called Enigma Diagnostics will launch two rapid, fully automated diagnostic machines, which have adapted the PCR process and created unique features that can provide in-the-field testing for animal diseases including foot and mouth ......?
January 9 - 16 2005 ~" the Inquiry procedure has not fulfilled its brief and many of the lessons of the 2001 FMD experience have not been learned."
From the Memorandum by the National Foot & Mouth Group (GBI 23) http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk to the Select Committee on Public Administration's report, the INQUIRY INTO GOVERNMENT USE OF THE INQUIRY MECHANISM
"The National Foot & Mouth Group submitted detailed written and oral evidence to all the Inquiries set up by the UK Government in relation to the UK Foot and Mouth epidemic of 2001. We were also fully involved in the EU Parliament FMD Inquiry. We submit the following in relation to the manner in which the Government's Lessons Learned Inquiry was conducted. It is our contention that the way the Inquiry was conducted militated against many of the key issues being raised, investigated and appraised. As a result the Inquiry procedure has not fulfilled its brief and many of the lessons of the 2001 FMD experience have not been learned.We note that the important appendices attached to this evidence have not been published. In particular, the list of those invited to give evidence to the Lessons Learned Inquiry is - as far as we can ascertain - no longer anywhere on the internet except on the warmwell website. As the NFMG says
Our representation is based on our experiences of that Inquiry...."
" it is apparent that, with the exception of our organisation and one other, the remaining witnesses were all those that had been involved in delivering the Government's policies and responses to the epidemic. ....the vast majority were drawn from Government offices, Government advisers or Government agencies. .."Read evidence in full
As for the implementation of recommendations included in Government Inquiries, the Memorandum by Robert Francis QC (GBI 06) (pdf file of written evidence) is of importance: "Much lip service is paid to inquiry recommendations when they are published, but often there is little continuing monitoring to ensure that, once officially accepted, recommendations are actually implemented."
January 9 - 16 2005 ~ "The U.S. can implement this new policy tomorrow and work with the OIE and WTO to modernize international regulations on animal health so that all countries that wish can follow the same path...."
It is interesting to compare Roger Breeze's (Read pdf file in full new window) examination of present capability in rapid diagnosis linked to GPS, continuous real-time surveillance, strictly limited slaughter and the practicability of vaccination at least 3 to 4 days after the initial detection - with the 98 page report by DEFRA of its 2004 Hornbeam exercise in which, among phrases such as "battle rhythm" and "hot washing-up sessions", none of those things are discussed. A decision on vaccination was still unresolved by the end of the exercise and was, as far as we can infer, dependent not on input from a balanced Expert Group of "epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists" - but on a decision from Downing Street. While it is appreciated that there have been tremendous efforts made in certain sections of DEFRA to improve their ability to respond to a disease crisis, the DEFRA report itself acknowledges "... there was little or no experience within the team of planning large exercises" and, "There should be a clear statement of strategic intent which outlines the desired outcome of the disease control policy."
January 1 - 7 2005 ~ " vigorous informed control measures backed by positive diagnosis can be implemented nationally within 6 hours.."
"Agroterrorism: Betting Far More than the Farm" ( http://www.biosecurityjournal.com/breeze.pdf ) Roger Breeze, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, formerly Associate Administrator USDA-ARS and perhaps one of the most knowledgeable people in the world on FMD and modern technologies to combat it, echoes the exasperation of many in the UK that ".. dangerous livestock diseases, long an exclusive responsibility of governments everywhere, is the only area of veterinary medicine that still relies on technologies introduced before veterinary schools were established..."
Given the total dependence of agriculture, and by extension the entire rural economy, on the actions of the government, it is critical that new policies be adopted to deal with the threats posed by inadvertent or deliberate introduction of FMD and other transboundary diseases in the 21st century.
"... .... a state official equipped with an Internet-linked detection device should be on the site of any suspected foreign animal disease outbreak within 4 hours or less of notification so that vigorous informed control measures backed by positive diagnosis can be implemented nationally within 6 hours.. the detectors are connected by wireless to the Internet and contain a global positioning system (GPS) to allow geographic information systems to be overlaid.Read pdf file in full (new window)
The USDA test is more sensitive than the so-called ?gold standard? of cell culture, and it detects all FMD virus serotypes and subtypes ...it is a preclinical test that detects FMD-infected cattle, swine, and small ruminants before clinical signs of disease are apparent..
.... Once the presence of FMD is confirmed, as part of an Internet-based command, control, and communication system, continuous real-time surveillance must be employed to define the extent of the problem around the initial detection and to predict and track the progress of infection through the national agricultural commerce streams.
This means that neighboring herds would be monitored daily for FMD infection (the test will find virus before there are signs of illness), and only infected herds would be killed.
Slaughter would not be based on proximity. ... the first animals could be vaccinated starting 3 to 4 days after the initial detection. This timeline can be shortened with known technology that has not yet been applied to FMD...
The U.S. can implement this new policy tomorrow and work with the OIE and WTO to modernize international regulations on animal health so that all countries that wish can follow the same path...."
January 1 -7 2005 ~ ".... I intend to...expose the briefing notes we were never meant to see, nail the rumours that will make or break the reputations of the highest in the land."
Magnus Linklater, writing in Wednesday's Times. He says, "The new Act opens a chamber of secrets, but only if journalists remember their old skills. I want some red-hot government secrets, and I want them now. .. Just think what it is going to take to prise open a genuine, cast-iron secret. There are 23 exemptions to the Act, which cover everything from national security, defence and foreign relations, to foggy concepts such as "formulation of government policy" and "information provided in confidence".
...I have, ... three test cases to apply to the Act, and they do not include the Attorney-General's legal advice on the legitimacy of war in Iraq - I doubt if that will see the light for 30 years or more.."
"...The second is more recent: who dreamt up the infamous three-kilometre pre-emptive cull during the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak, which condemned millions of healthy animals to death on the basis of no scientific evidence? Who proposed it, who approved it, and what advice did the Chief Scientist give to ministers to persuade them that it was the right thing to do? The minutes of ministerial meetings held in the fraught, early weeks of the epidemic would tell us much about scientific evidence and how it is used for political ends..."Read in full
January 1 -7 2005 ~ "I can?t understand the continuing obsession... with the foot-and-mouth epidemic of almost four years ago. .." says Fordyce Maxwell in the Scotsman.
"... It?s over, let it go. Alleging that there was video evidence of conditions on Bobby Waugh?s farm - probably the origin of the epidemic - before FMD was confirmed won?t impress a court.As far as calls for a Public Inquiry is concerned, Mr Maxwell is probably right, unfortunately. The public's trust in Public Inquiries has been severely dented. But that doesn't mean that it would be sensible to forget the FMD misery of 2001, the quite extraordinary mistakes of science and the bureaucratic lack of cohesion - even if he is quite right to suggest that farmers (like the politicians involved) must move on for reasons of self-preservation. The continuing lack of communication skills at DEFRA, the inadequacy of the Contingency Plan, the time it is taking for the epidemic data be publicly analysed, the concern that ".. it is not clear that full regard is being taken of advances in the medical field" -for all these reasons and many others, it is right and proper for an analysis of the mistakes of 2001 to continue and even now, after 4 long years, for lessons to be learned. The Royal Society evidently thinks so - as the recent RS review so forcefully shows. So do many others, such as the authors of the stakeholder paper given in Crete and those who so tactfully (unlike some of us website loonies perhaps) argue for change. Behind the scenes and for no reward they are driven to continue. They have made a difference and are continuing to do so.
... all a public inquiry does is waste time and money. It never convinces the critics or the website loonies...."
January 1 - 7 2005 ~ Will 2005 be the year for a proper reappraisal of TSE related legislation?
It seems that the media are now stating without qualification that eating parts of a BSE infected animal can cause a human to develop vCJD. And what rests upon this possibly mistaken notion is the entire fantastic structure of BSE hysteria, political anxiety, lucrative trade rules, strangulating farming regulations, and the contingency plans for mass killing. No one must say anything that might topple it - for down with it would come enormous fees, salaries and research grants, careers and reputations, and even governments.
January 1 - 7 2005 ~ Sheep with the ARR genotype normally associated with the highest degree of resistance to scrapie - get scrapie
In early December, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge confirmed that 83 "atypical" cases of scrapie have been found over the past 3 years in samples from 110 000 sheep brains tested. Of those 83 abnormal results, 12 have been found in sheep with the ARR genotype normally associated with the highest degree of resistance to scrapie: Common sense suggests that eradication programmes based on selective breeding should be reappraised but DEFRA has confirmed that the National Scrapie Plan will continue in its current form.
In November, Peter Greenhill in the Farmers Guardian wrote:
"...the characteristics which identify and separate specific breeds are not generally contained in the sheep with the ARR/ARR genotypes which are permitted for breeding. This ill-thought-out programme may well succeed in destroying many (all?) of the characteristics which over the years have made British sheep unique and successful. We could lose meat quality, hardiness and disease-resistance to name just three..." Read in full
January 1 - 7 2005 ~ the "theoretical possibility" of BSE being present in sheep -
DEFRA's " contingency plan for the emergence of naturally occurring BSE in sheep" (external link pdf or warmwell webpage) involves the mass killing of healthy sheep.
"Numbers will vary from 14 million to 23 million depending on the time of year and on the number of ewes which had been tupped.."is the casually given estimate in the latest version of this plan. (The Royal Society of Edinburgh calls the plan " too complicated and discursive" but appears not to question its basis.) An article in the New Zealand farming press- comfortably far away- remarks dryly: "New UK BSE plan: kill 23 million lambs.."
The plan assumes that slaughtering - but not on farms and with no on-farm burial - would be straightforward. Meat from ARR sheep would be allowed into the food chain - which, in view of the fact that such sheep have also been shown to be susceptible to scrapie, casts even more doubt on how much joined-up thinking this blueprint for Armageddon contains. The plans depend solely on the notion that sheep consumed the same feed which is thought to have given cattle BSE and that "research has shown" that if the brains of healthy sheep are injected in laboratories with infected BSE material they will get infected too. As the scientist quoted above by Peter Greenhill remarked, "under such conditions one could infect a rhinoceros"
It is almost unthinkable - but the entire National Flock of 37 million was nearly exterminated in October 2001. Just in time, as was revealed by a reluctant Mrs Beckett, it emerged that there had been a "fairly disastrous error"; scientists at Edinburgh thought they were examining the brains of sheep when, in fact, they were looking at the brains of BSE infected cattle.
Will 2005 be the year for a proper reappraisal of TSEs and other animal diseases or of more fairly disastrous errors?
January 1 - 7 2005 ~ Beth Williams and Tom Thorne
We are sad to hear that veterinary neuropathologist, Professor Beth Williams, who identified Chronic Wasting Disease as a TSE in 1977, was killed with her husband, wildlife biologist Tom Thorne, in a car crash on Thursday night. The Rocky Mountain News reports her death.
Of BSE, the article states: "Mad cow has been spread to humans consuming meat from infected cattle." and, with reference to CWD, mentions "the killing of infected bison wandering out of Yellowstone National Park to prevent transmitting the illness to cattle."
As we say above, newspapers now assert unquestioningly, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, that TSEs can be transmitted by animal to animal contact. In addition, ignoring the fact that a link between BSE, and vCJD remains to be confirmed, the media state without qualification that eating the infected parts of a BSE infected animal can cause a human to develop vCJD. And what rests upon this possibly mistaken notion is the entire structure of BSE hysteria.
January 1 - 7 2005 ~ ".. transmission experiments prove nothing in terms of demonstrating whether TSEs are caused by a microbiological infectious agent or not.."
Long after the feed ban in August 1996 was meant to stop the infection spreading BSE continues to emerge.(The 40,000 cases of BSE that appeared in UK cows that were born after the 1988 ban on MBM seem to have been quietly forgotten.)
As the Guardian reported about a year ago, Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith, the Cambridge University scientist who was on the BSE inquiry panel, has said the hypothesis that "infected animal feed is still reaching farms becomes increasingly untenable as time goes by....Surely it is now time to consider more carefully the genetic hypothesis for the origin of the BSE epidemic."
Common toxic denominators
Mark Purdey, whose self funded field analyses in isolated TSE clusters all over the world challenge most forcefully the current assumptions, claims in his article The Wasting Lands:
the " whole hyper infectious myth has been based on the fact that TSEs can be transmitted in the laboratory ... I believe that my observations have actually now identified those common toxic denominators ? low copper/high manganese combined with high intensities of low frequency infrasonic shock - the key factors which have subsequently been shown to produce the fully fledged prion in laboratory cell cultures - eg; the malformed prion protein which characterises the brains of all animals affected with spongiform disease. .." Read in fullFrom the German Institute of Food Science & Technology Statement last month we read: "Prion infectivity and transmission mode: Although research indicates that the lymph system plays an important part in the transmission of infectivity to the central nervous system (CNS) the exact mechanisms by which this occurs are insufficiently understood..." This might be thought something of an understatement. Alternative theories to the infectious prion are treated as heresy or submerged in bland statements - yet urgent questions continue to demand answers.
December 26 - 31 2004 ~ "These RT-PCR devices offer not only more rapid results, but also are sufficiently sensitive to detect virus before clinical signs are apparent. .... it is not clear that full regard is being taken of advances in the medical field...." Royal Society IDL Review
The virologist Dr Ruth Watkins wrote recently that
"There is only one vaccine in human medicine that can be made to work perfectly in preventing disease in all instances.... immunisation against rabies....Surely we should not wait for perfect vaccines before applying them to animals when we have taken such favourable advantage for our human selves. Doctors of human medicine are pragmatic, and humbled by the success of the imperfect vaccines they have had the good fortune to be able to use and receive. ."(Vaccination strategies for health)As for rapid diagnosis tests for use in both human and veterinary contexts, and which have been ignored or disparaged in the UK Contingency Plans for reasons that remain obscure, the Royal Society in its Review following the 2002 Infectious Disease Inquiry (paragraph 8.3) maintains that:
"There is significant development work being undertaken on the development of portable tests to aid rapid diagnosis in the field, much of it in the United States as part of the anti-terrorist activities. Hence it is important for Defra to engage in regular information exchange. These RT-PCR devices offer not only more rapid results, but also are sufficiently sensitive to detect virus before clinical signs are apparent. Despite this progress in veterinary tests, it is not clear that full regard is being taken of advances in the medical field."Read the Royal Society Review in full on this html page or in its original pdf file on the internet.
December 26 - 31 2004 ~ "Failure to clarify both the exit strategies and meat treatment protocols will undermine Defra?s sterling work in securing these derogations when the Directive was being drafted."
Meat and milk from vaccinated animals can be sold on the domestic market without having to undertake costly deboning or heat treatment [Articles 25-27, EU Directive (EU 2003)]"..... The recent publication on the role of vaccination (Defra2004d) does not mention these derogations in the sections dealing with each of the various animal species (cattle paragraph 17, pigs paragraph 23 and sheep paragraph 28) although they are described later in the document. This has caused some confusion..."
December 26 - 31 2004 ~ IDL Report follow-up is now available on the internet.
We are studying the Royal Society Infectious Disease Inquiry Follow-Up review (pdf file) in which, in the most tactful language, the Royal Society ".. highlights some particular issues and concerns identified in a more detailed review of progress on the various recommendations in the IDL report ".
" We welcome the detailed work that Defra has undertaken on many aspects of our recommendations. We acknowledge that some aspects will require longer to implement than the two years since the publication of our report, and provide below, as bullet points, some areas that require further attention, largely building on work already in progress "A certain dismay at lack of progress in the implementation of its 2002 recommendations is evident. The Review has been endorsed by the Society's Council. See bullet points The Review can be seen as a webpage here.
December 26 - 31 2004 ~ " If there are problems associated with a nonslaughter approach then these need to be resolved."
It has been reported in FWi "The UK is not ready to tackle foot-and-mouth disease using vaccination, says the Royal Society"- this gives a very simplified and perhaps even misleading view of what the Royal Society appears to us to be saying in its Follow-Up Review. The Royal Society's recommendation in 2002 - that
"... Given recent advances in vaccine science and improved trading regulations, emergency vaccination should now be considered as part of the control strategy from the start of any outbreak of FMD. By this we mean vaccination-to-live, under which meat and meat products from animals vaccinated and subsequently found to be uninfected may enter the normal human food chain. "It was clearly in favour of emergency vaccination to live, recognised its effectiveness and expected that the Government would
" ..prepare the regulatory framework and practical arrangements (e.g. validation of tests, and the supply of vaccines) There must at the outset be an exit strategy agreed among the main stakeholders that would allow this..."Progress on this is dealt with on Page 10 For example, (page 11) "It is not clear how the Defra arrangements for vaccination could be deployed at sufficient levels over the critical timescale." .... More detail
December 26 - 31 2004 ~ "Expert group", "Data collection", "Identification of DCs", "portable tests to aid rapid diagnosis in the field"
Below we direct you to some extracts from the Royal Society Review (see above) that readers of this website may find particularly of interest and concern.
- ...Expert Group "......that the core and enhanced membership of the Expert Group are currently made up of staff from Defra, the Veterinary Laboratories Agency and the Institute of Animal Health, with no independent members..."
- .. Dangerous Contacts .."Defra should commission research to improve the methodology used to identify dangerous contacts"
- ... development of portable tests to aid rapid diagnosis in the field.....Despite this progress in veterinary tests, it is not clear that full regard is being taken of advances in the medical field.
- ...Data Collection The capture and handling of data during an outbreak..... whether pre-emptive action beyond the culling of infected premises and dangerous contacts is required to control the outbreak.
December 18 - 25 2004 ~ "....the access to this wealth of scientific research and expert opinion will serve as reference material for years to come."
The EUFMD 2004 Open Session of the Research Group of the Standing Technical Committee Chania, Crete, Greece - 12-15 October 2004 - one important paper of which we reported below - has now published its Report of the Session on the EUFMD website - including over 80 Appendices with full papers for almost all of the presentations.
"The Commission hopes the access to this wealth of scientific research and expert opinion will serve as reference material for years to come."
December 18 - 25 2004 ~ " there are also ethical issues related to the mass slaughter of animals when controlling an outbreak.."
At least Mr Kyprianou is prepared to state the obvious. Mr Kyprianou said : ".... The new EU animal health strategy therefore aims to develop the policy of disease prevention, make emergency vaccination a more viable option, simplify the legislation and make better use of financial resources. The existing EU animal health policy will soon undergo an external evaluation..." More information: Europa.eu
December 18 - 25 2004 ~ EU must lose fears over vaccinated meat -Dutch Agriculture Minister
PlanetArk.com "European consumers must overcome fears over eating meat from vaccinated animals if mass slaughter of livestock affected by disease is to be avoided, Dutch Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman said on Wednesday. ...... Europe faced a dilemma, he said, with trade interests on the one hand and public opinion on the other. "We have to find a way to get the products of vaccinated animals on the market," he said. "I see a key role for the retail sector here, they have a public responsibility." Scientists saw no danger from vaccinated animals, with no risks of diseases being transmitted. .."
December 18 - 25 2004 ~ "products from vaccinated animals are not discriminated by distinctive labelling or marking..."
Among the list of recommendations from last week's conference held in Brussels; "The Material and Immaterial Costs of Animal Disease Control", we are pleased to see:
See all 16 recommendations, particularly those dealing with the cost of controlling epidemic animal diseases and the "establishment of insurance schemes" which may be contentious. From the executive summary, we learn, among other things, that the results of a survey which focused on "prioritising epidemiological, economic and social-ethical aspects", the CVO's (20 of whom took part) considered the social-ethical criterion to be of 17% importance compared to 53% for the epidemiological criterion and 30% for the economic one.
- measures taken to control outbreaks of major epidemic animal diseases should take into account epidemiological as w ell as economic and social factors.
- ....strong involvement of external stakeholders in the policy process.
- .... to limit, to the extent possible, the killing and destruction of healthy animals.
- ...Vaccination should be accepted as one of the regular options for the control of animal disease outbreaks.
- .....products from vaccinated animals are not discriminated by distinctive labelling or marking.
- Differentiated disease control measures may be appropriate for animals not kept for commercial purposes and other special categories.
- Industry and authorities should work together for the development and the licensing of new vaccines and diagnostic tests designed for specific (strategic) purposes.
December 18 - 25 2004 ~ "...you will see why Lord Whitty and his colleagues are so keen on this brilliant new system..."
Private Eye's Muckspreader has added his voice to that of farmer Jim Hosking (below) about the EU regulations that would ban farmers from using tractors in the rain
".... The hidden agenda ...Read in full
..the trick is first to make farming subsidies even more unpopular by withdrawing subsidies from food production, so that people will ask why farmers are paid so much money just for doing nothing.
Second, you tell farmers that, unless they comply with all the legislation, their subsidies will be withdrawn.
Thirdly, you then dream up all sorts of ridiculous new rules, which it will be impossible for them to comply with.
.... national governments are allowed to keep 25 percent of all the money they save in this way (the rest going back to Brussels) and you will see why Lord Whitty and his colleagues are so keen on this brilliant new system....."
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ In Hereford and Worcestershire 66 farms were named "Infected Premises" but only 15 tested positive. Nearly THIRTY MILLION pounds was paid in compensation
Hereford and Worcs together (separate figures were not given) had 66 so-called IPs, but only 15 of the 49 tested actually had the disease. However, nearly 400 premises were slaughtered out in total.IP SOS DC of which CONTIG. TOTAL
(PQ 2164 (P. Ainsworth)
Hereford & Worcester
The cost of compensation PQ 7563 (Paddy Tipping's PQ) was a staggering ?29,467,357.48 pence.
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ ?355,000 was the cost of cleaning two farms in Worcestershire in 2004 because of " inappropriate burial of material associated with the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic"
( Worcestershire had hardly any foot and mouth) As the BBC reported in December 2002, DEFRA "breached its own regulations on the disposal of carcasses during the foot and mouth epidemic. Robin Feakins' property, Sparum Farm in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, was chosen as a site to incinerate 5,000 cattle and 6,000 sheep which had been culled. ... the ashes from the carcasses were only buried six inches deep instead of the regulation three feet." Of these, an unknown number were OTMS cattle and therefore, according to the current dogma, were likely to cause BSE or vCJD if not properly disposed of. DEFRA, it seems, were not too bothered at the time. Although Mr Bradshaw's bland answer gives no clue, it would seem likely that this breaching of regulations by DEFRA itself was the cause of the wasting of ?355,000 of taxpayers' money. (Mr Feakins' home farm was designated as IP25 but no Pirbright test results appear to exist and it would seem that no samples were taken.)
Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many farms in Worcestershire have been subject to decontamination activity by her Department this year as a result of inappropriate burial of material associated with the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic; what the cost of such activity has been; and how many more farms she expects will be subject to similar activity. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Two farms in Worcestershire have been subject to the removal of agricultural waste or pyre ash this year. The Department has removed buried agricultural waste from one farm, and buried and unburied pyre ash plus a small quantity of scrap metal from another. Agricultural waste, which could not be adequately disinfected, was burned and/or buried on the affected premises during the 2001 FMD outbreak to prevent the risk of disease spread. The total estimated costs of these operations in Worcester are ?355,000. Based on current knowledge, no other farms are expected to be the subject of similar activity in Worcestershire."
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ What "technical and financial inadequacies"?
"... the EC cited certain "technical and financial inadequacies" as the reason for reducing the UK's claim." Ben Bradshaw Hansard Foot and Mouth
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for what reason there is a difference between the amount required from the European Commission to assist in defraying the costs of implementing emergency plans to manage the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease and the actual amount agreed by the Commission. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The Commission undertook a full and detailed audit of the UK's claim for re-imbursement following the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak. Following the auditors' work, the Commission reported that the valuers engaged by Defra had overvalued the animals prior to slaughter. In addition the EC cited certain "technical and financial inadequacies" as the reason for reducing the UK's claim. "
December 10 - 17 2004 ~?It is the lack of answers to these questions which provoke concerns that DEFRA has something to hide.
Simple assurances are insufficient - farmers and taxpayers are entitled to know what really happened.? James Paice MP
The Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, has written to Ben Bradshaw, demanding answers to some key questions about Foot and Mouth. Mr Paice's letter to Mr Bradshaw concludes, ".. After the 1968 outbreak and the Classical Swine Fever epidemic a few months before this outbreak there were clear efforts to discover how the diseases entered Britain. Will you now explain what steps DEFRA has taken to answer this question?"
December 10 - 17 2004 ~" JULIAN JONES smelt strongly of rotten meat. His clothing was dirty and stained, as well as his hands which were bloodstained. .."
The largest "smokies" criminal meat case came to a conclusion on Monday at Wood Green Crown Court. Two years of painstaking and heroic work by Dr Yunes Teinaz, showing cast iron evidence of guilt, cruelty and disregard for public safety - work that was carried out in the face of actual death threats and intimidation and on behalf of the public health of the entire country, formed the prosecution. The result? Fines and community service for Julian Jones and James Elliott.
From the evidence: "...Some livers showed signs of parasitic cysts. The lungs had lesions consisted with parasitic pronchopneumonia. The udders of lactating female animals had not been removed from the carcasses. The kidneys also remained attached to the carcasses without having been removed from their covering membranes. ..the carcasses were in a warm condition. There was a noticeable foul smell when the door was first opened. There were no health marks or evidence of inspection on the carcasses. ..."There is a stench of corruption here. Meat criminals are rich, dangerous and influential.
The most absurd regulations and red tape in the name of food safety are putting good farmers out of business - but when it comes to the real criminals, the government loses its nerve...indeed, DEFRA just days before the latest of his convictions for meat crimes last June, chose to use Carmelo Gale as a "consultant". Meat Crime page for more detail.
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ "a gross and disgraceful affront to the knowledge, skills and judgement of farmers.."
New EU regulations would ban farmers from using tractors in the rain ( Monday's WMN: "... a scathing open letter to (Lord Whitty) from...Jim Hosking, who runs Fentongollan Farm, near Truro, and manages some 1,800 acres....
".... your support for such utter nonsense clearly shows that you have little regard for the basic principles of farming, even though you are prepared to meddle with the everyday decisions that farmers have to make to feed their animals or to sow and harvest their crops. .....Read in full Read also another email about the Single Farm PAyment (SFP) that arrived on Tuesday:
...the greatest threat to the environment is that there will be dangerously few farmers left to look after it. In fact, they are the endangered species that should be giving you the greatest cause for concern."
"...He (Hosking) is right of course re expertise etc. but EU / Defra have totally got this SFP sussed. Defra draw down the moneys from the EU fund in total. Then send out hundreds of cross compliance checks - including puddles - which will be inspected. Any that a farmer cannot, does not, has not 'complied' with result in a fine, or reduction in the money available to him. But, any moneys so 'fined' by Defra's army of inspectors does not have to be returned in total. They get to keep 25 percent of it..."(More)
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ A sheep that refused to move from a busy roundabout was shot dead by armed police yesterday
Sunday Telegraph "... Wiltshire Police claimed that officers had been left with little choice but to shoot the animal. "It was standing on the roundabout and at times wandering into the carriageway," said Joanne Summers, a spokesman for the force. ..... A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union expressed surprise at the police tactics and said that a full explanation would be sought. "It certainly is an unusual situation. We would hope that every effort was made to repatriate the sheep with its owner and that the authorities did everything possible to ensure the welfare of the animal," he said. Sheep often wander on to roads in rural parts of Britain, such as the North Yorks Moors, and are usually easily avoided by motorists. There is no previous occasion on which armed police are known to have been called to deal with stray animals on the roads."
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ A footnote to Friday's false alarm
An abattoir in Carlisle was closed on Dec 10 because of a "case of foot and mouth" It was in fact ORF. An emailer writes, "Mind you, during the FMD disaster of 2001, Defra would not have allowed a proper investigation and hundreds of healthy animals would have been butchered. Of such cases, the worst was the identification of FMD by a Spanish vet (already famous for her lack of English and the question about Herdwick sheep "what sort of goats are these?). Whilst driving past a farm she "saw a positive case of FMD".( from the car window??)
All the sheep were subsequently butchered.
The farmer mentioned that his cattle were "away" being farmed for more than a year by a friend working 12 miles away. He had not been near them. The ever-cautious Defra butchered all of these cattle and all of the host farmer`s stock as well.
And the post-mortem result on the sheep...... yes, you`ve guessed it...........orf. ( Oh sorry, final analysis was the after effects of eating nettles.)
Why is it that Defra find they are mistrusted?"
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ An abattoir in Carlisle was closed today because of a suspected case of FMD.
Had it been FMD in fact, rather than orf, a condition with which it was so often tragically confused in 2001, we should have found ourselves in deep trouble. Where is the Expert Group that, according to Article 78 of the new EU Directive, should be permanently operational? Except for a degree of improved animal movement restrictions, the Contingency Plan is still medieval. Three and a half years ago, Dr Michael Tas, then Maff director of disposal operations, used that adjective when describing the outdated technology and woefully inadequate "Contingency Plan". He also said, "a method of confirming a case of foot and mouth within two or three hours, which had been pioneered in the US, had not been looked at because Maff did not have the time or the scientists to look at it properly." (Guardian)
With the ever-present threat of FMD we need a Contingency Plan which takes into account individual electronic animal ID and the use of the rapid portable virus diagnostic tests to which Dr. Tas referred. When linked to an updated GIS database the rapid on-site diagnosis methods, now peer reviewed and widely used elsewhere, provide a modern response to disease outbreak of a very high order.
They are not even mentioned in the current Contingency Plan.
As Floyd Horn and Roger Breeze wrote in U.S. Agricultural and Food Security: Who Will Provide the Leadership?
"...Other than use of the telephone, control measures still closely follow those introduced by Cardinal Lancisi almost 300 years ago."One is left wondering why.
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ "overwhelming public support for a diverse range of farm sizes"
An open letter to Sir Terry Leahy, Chief Executive of Tesco, inviting him to respond to FARM's Just Milk Campaign can be read here. The letter demands that Tesco
- recognise how grave is the current situation facing dairy farmers and the overwhelming public support for a diverse range of farm sizes
- commit to a process of developing a transparent system of pricing
FARM will be staging an action with banners and placards outside Tesco's flagship store in Earls Court from 10.30am - 12.30pm on Friday 10th December
December 10 - 17 2004 ~ "...viruses were detected much earlier after infection and more frequently by ReTi-PCR tests than by conventional virus isolation methods .."
Central Institute for Animal Disease Control - Link to "Detection of economically important viruses in boar semen by quantitative RealTime PCR technology." (abstract)
".... All five developed ReTi-PCR tests are very rapid compared to virus isolation, highly specific, and even more sensitive (lower detection limits) than conventional virus isolation methods for the detection of mentioned viruses in semen. .... The high throughput of these rapid ReTi-PCR tests makes it possible to screen large numbers...These ReTi-PCR tests will improve the control of viral diseases transmitted via semen. "There are still those who think FMD may well have been introduced into the UK via boar semen.
December 8 - 14 2004 ~ Gutted
Magnus Linklater in the Times writes, "This report is just another chapter in the tragic story of the destruction of our fishing fleet....Gutted is the title of a powerful documentary directed by David Peat that charts the decline and possible death of an industry which supports some 40,000 jobs in Scotland alone, but which is being asked this week to commit collective suicide." Read in full
"Another independent report this year ? from the Royal Society of Edinburgh ? concluded that decision-making had been far too centralised, had ignored local expertise and had lost the respect of the very people who were needed to make it work. ?The present gulf between scientists and the industry must be bridged,? it said."
To readers of this website, this will be a conclusion that sounds horribly familiar.
December 8 - 14 2004 ~ Another reasoned, serious call for an independent peer-reviewed inquiry is ignored.
The letter to Mr Blair from General Sir Hugh Beach, formerly deputy commander in Chief of the Land forces, and more than 40 others, asking for a proper examination into Iraqi civilian casualties has been dismissed. Similarly, the calls for a proper inquiry into FMD 2001 were ignored. 3 million people on the London streets on February 15th 2003 who foresaw exactly what is now happening in Iraq, were neither counted nor taken account of. The government juggernaut rumbles arrogantly on; the old nonsenses continue to be trotted out. "...a full-scale public inquiry would take too long and be too costly.." is also the decision on the Deepcut scandal.
"If neither Parliament nor the inquiry system can lay a finger on the executive, who can?" asks Sir Simon Jenkins in the Times today, with his article "When Blair calls in the poodles, we have only the press wolves to save us." He says that "..there remains the proxy democracy of the media, the accountability of hue and cry and the lynch mob..." And in the case of the private life of the Home Secretary, he is probably right. As for the real issues, however - the refusal of the government to learn from past tragic mistakes, blatant lying, falsely making claims to stifle objections against an illegal and horrifying war, using fear tactics that would have done credit to fascist regimes of the past - we see little sign, with only a handful of honourable exceptions (Simon Jenkins, Matthew Parris, Magnus Linklater, Christopher Booker and the last few independent papers such as the Western Morning News), of the press taking on the role advocated by H L Menckhen:
"the function of a newspaper in a democracy is to act as a sort of chronic opposition to the reigning quacks"
December 8 - 14 2004 ~ "... independent expert epidemiologists.."
We hope that history is not going to be allowed to repeat itself with "independent expert advice" turning out to be nothing of the kind. In 2001 a Maff News Release of the 23rd March ran:
"The Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Standards Agency held a joint meeting on 21 March to receive urgent advice from independent expert epidemiologists..."The modellers of the subsequent "Science Group" ( convened when the disease was already in the decline phase) had no knowledge of FMD. They ignored the advice of those who did. They were advised that it was necessary only to slaughter proven infected animals and those in direct contact with them, and then to carry out the testing and monitoring recommended by the Northumberland report. They assumed that any case after the movement ban was a "new" case rather than one that had a link with a pre-movement ban outbreak - and, most importantly - they failed to realise the significance of the delays in slaughter times. The contiguous cull was very bad science in action.
The resultant vast, costly slaughter of 2001, the inflated "compensation" payments and bullying tactics made to ensure compliance, the subsequent withholding of data that showed the true extent of infection, in short, the worst errors of the crisis that have never properly been investigated, can be traced back to the lack of knowledge of that unelected group. By mid March, 90% of cases were being confirmed by "clinical diagnosis" alone - something which the group were told is virtually impossible in sheep. Analysis of data will reveal that many of these so-called IPs had no FMD at all.
December 8 - 14 2004 ~ Defra Science Advisory Council "To provide independent scientific advice to Defra?s Chief Scientific Adviser and through him to Ministers"
runs the declaration at the top of the Defra science webpage. This leaves us puzzled about who advises whom. It would seem that, unless a powerful and official body can demand otherwise, the political agenda of Downing Street is still likely to be the real instigator of veterinary policy, as it was in 2001. We read that SAC followed SAG (SIC) set up, according to DEFRA,
"in response to recommendations including: the Anderson "Lessons Learned" report about foot-and-mouth disease (partic. recommendation 34, p.31); the Phillips report about BSE (which called for robust and external challenge, plus greater openness and engagement with the scientific community about the quality and direction of Defra science); the Office of Science & Technology?s (OST) Guidelines 2000 ; and the Cross Cutting Review of Science (SR 2002)."
December 8 - 14 2004 ~ Independence, openness, engagement with the scientific community, quality and direction....?
How far these laudable aims (see above) were met by the Science Advisory Council review of the FMD Contingency Plan and Exercise Hornbeam is questionable. Professor Roy Anderson and Professor Mark Woolhouse, had every reason to eschew engagement with the independent scientific community since they themselves were the architects of the modelling whose flaws led to the illegal killing of eight million healthy animals and the truly horrible consequences for ordinary people caught up in the tragedy.
No mention is made of the EU Directive, with its emphasis on a properly balanced Expert Group "composed of epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists in a balanced way", its acceptance of disease control where necessary "by means of emergency vaccination without subsequent killing" and its acceptance that "too much importance was attached to the trade-policy aspects, with the result that protective vaccination was not carried out even when it had been authorised."
In its "Criteria and Requirements for Contingency Plans" the EU Directive clearly states:
"real-time alert exercises...Member State shall ensure that farmers, the rural populace and the population in general are kept informed. Direct and accessible contact shall be provided for the inhabitants of affected areas (inter alia via helplines), as well as information through the national and regional media."Yet Exercise Hornbeam was carried out with the same secrecy as in 2001. Not even officially recognised "stakeholders" were involved in it. The SAC review of both Hornbeam and the Contingency Plan, with its dismissive comments about vaccination, appears to have been quietly placed on the DEFRA website - under Science rather than Foot and Mouth. It has not been properly discussed with stakeholders nor shown to them.
December 3 - 7 2004 ~ "Let?s cut the jargon and the ?governance?
and get back to the direct representation of individuals and their families and communities at grass-roots level..." begins this letter published in the Newcastle Journal. Its new definitions will please those readers who share our despair at the miserable, advertisers' language that the government uses in place of English.
December 3 - 7 2004 ~ What really caused costs to spiral out of control is being quietly buried
600 million of taxpayers' money has been withheld by the EU. The blame now seems to be being spun onto compensation claims from farmers. There has been no official examination of how it was the enormous and unnecessary scale of the killing - not the "compensation payments" used to buy acceptance from uneasy farmers caught up in it - that made the UK outbreak unprecedented in its costs. (It should be added that farmers were also bullied into believing they had no choice. Of those brave few who did mount a legal attempt to save their animals, many were vindicated and their animals all remained healthy. The law has since been changed.)
No one has been held to account.
Firebreak culling looks set to remain a central part of the contingency plan for the UK - and the Science Advisory Council's review of Exercise Hornbeam has even called the FMD Contingency plan the "gold standard" for other disease control plans.
December 3 - 7 2004 ~ The EU was misled about how widespread actual disease was.
IPs which were shown to be free of FMD were not removed from the IP category. A completely false picture of the pattern and scale of the epidemic was presented to the EU. Mr Scudamore wrote that "each of the 2,026 FMD cases was subjected to a detailed clinical and epidemiological investigation." The idea conveyed is that each was properly tested. This simply did not happen.
Unless such misinformation is brought into the open, lessons about accurate diagnosis and testing, data recording, local expertise, proper veterinary advice and an independent and powerful Expert Group will also be buried forever in the government's desire to absolve itself from blame. The distress and slaughter we saw in 2001 could happen all over again.
December 3 - 7 2004 ~ Another fiction: "Each of the 2,026 FMD cases was subjected to a detailed clinical and epidemiological investigation. ..."
The real cause of the spiralling costs - the huge number of "contiguous" premises slaughtered next to premises that were not infected at all - is being quietly buried.
We re-publish this paragraph from March 2004
"Each of the 2,026 FMD cases was subjected to a detailed clinical and epidemiological investigation. ..." is the claim in DEFRA's Origin of the UK Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic in 2001 (new window)
What did Mr Scudamore mean by "each of the 2026 FMD cases"? In their Jan 2002 submission to the EU for the resumption of Disease Free Status, DEFRA appears to make the same claim - i.e. that it had tested all Infected Premises. This is very odd. We know that many slaughtered premises were never tested. Farmers' requests for lab tests were very often curtly denied.
"Each of the 2026 FMD cases"? In addition to the 2,026 so-called IPs there were also 7,494 "dangerous contacts" premises (of which 3,329 were contiguous premises) and 257 "slaughter on suspicion" premises. In total, about 10,000 farms were slaughtered. (See PQs) Pirbright received samples from only a small fraction of slaughtered farms - information contained in PQ 2164 would indicate that on average it was about 10%, but in some regions it was much lower than that. DEFRA's claim to the EU was surely wrong. And the EU, because they are apparently unhappy about the way the crisis was handled, capped the UK's right to claim repayment..."
December 3 - 7 2004 ~ Chief vet Jim Scudamore's signed witness statement a "fiction"?
Janet Hughes sank her life savings into fighting the illegal mass cull in Wales. In the Private Eye Muckspreader column about the taxpayers' missing ?600 million, we read that when DEFRA intervened in Janet's court case against the Welsh Assembly, the then CVO James Scudamore's signed statement, produced at the last minute, asserted that " in one case no fewer than ?140 rams? had all been found clinically diseased....a "heavy weight of infection?..."
"... She tracked down the site where they (the rams) had allegedly been slaughtered and the farm from which they were supposed to have come. It became obvious there was no way so many rams could have been included in the sheep slaughtered in that area: that there could have been as many as 140 was physically impossible. It seemed those infected animals which had swung the case were a complete fiction."Muckspreader shows us the contempt for the law and for the truth shown by those in high places, and their attempts to silence and humiliate anyone who tried to inject sanity into the official madness . Janet herself writes
" My book ... is the only means left to me to place this evidence in the public domain. The Government hid behind a wall of excuses, and escaped any accountability with the weak promise that lessons would be learned..."Order the Killing Pens from Amazon. Read its Foreword here.
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ Hornbeam: "Currently there is insufficient scientific evidence to be confident that vaccination will be an effective tool in controlling an outbreak."
This extraordinary sentence comes from the "Review of the Foot and Mouth Disease contingency plan, including Exercise Hornbeam: recommendations of the Science Advisory Council" (html page here)
The review and its recommendations, dated September 2 2004, has appeared on the DEFRA website. How long it has been there is not yet known. Two of the four SAC members concerned were Professor Roy Anderson and Professor Mark Woolhouse - and as perpetrators of the contiguous cull policy themselves, they were hardly likely to remind anyone that vaccination proved its worth in Uruguay at the very same time that healthy animals were being slaughtered in their millions in the UK. Even now (and after three laborious years of selfless work from so many in trying to reveal the truth of the disastrous errors made), their empty words about vaccination will carry weight.
The review says, "Many lessons have been learnt as a result of the 2001 FMD outbreak and it is clear that many have been incorporated into the plan." Read in full See also news today of Professor Anderson, Halliburton, and the ?4 billion warships contract.
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ OTM rule costs the taxpayer ?360 million a year to avoid the theoretical chance of one death every 120 years from eating OTM beef
Margaret Beckett announced on Wednesday "the start of a managed transition towards the lifting of the OTM rule owing to the much reduced risk from BSE" That the risk now suddenly appears to the government to be "much reduced" suggests that the political risk on the opposite scale is now perceived to be "greater".
Government delay in ending the OTM rule prompted a warning from the European Commission that the UK could end up in the European Court for breaking Single Market rules.
In a Tory party press release, Jim Paice comments " ....the Over Thirty Months Rule should have been lifted long before now.". and notes that the announcement comes one day before the Smithfield Show.
WMN ".. Michael Hart, of the Small and Family Farms Association, questioned why the ending of OTMS should take so long. "I can't understand what the problem is. I find it incredible that the Government are taking so long," he said. "But anything that can be done to help beef farmers can do nothing but good, although I think the delay is pathetic." Mr Hart also questioned who would bear the cost of the testing regime. "Will it be another cost for farmers to bear?" he said. "It is a public health issue and I think it should be paid for out of the public purse."
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ Contractors are still owed "around ?50 million"
WMN "....The Forum of Private Business warned that the Government must not be allowed to use the EC decision as an excuse for further delays in paying contractors who are still owed around ?50 million for work carried out during the 2001 crisis.
Chief executive Nick Goulding said: "....It is thoroughly unacceptable to treat small businesses operating on tight budgets in such a deplorable way; these bills have now been outstanding for more than three years. The Government has no credible reason not to pay these contractors with immediate effect." See also FPB page
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ Alun Michael declined to apologise
WMN Reporting on Tim Yeo's demand for an apology from the government over foot and mouth ( and while we welcome a call for lessons really to be learned, we do not remember Mr Yeo's contributions during the actual crisis with any great enthusiasm) "... Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael declined to apologise for the Government's conduct, suggesting that ministers had done well to persuade the EC to pay as much as ?349 million as it had initially wanted to pay far less. He also suggested that the Government's record on farming and rural issues was a good one......"
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ SVS changes: "broad backing from the public" actually meant "20 out of 500"
Consultation responses ".....500 organisations, bodies and individuals were invited to comment and we received a total of 20 responses from England and Wales....A parallel exercise was conducted in Scotland and 6 responses were received."
"Several commented on their perception that political and policy drivers appeared to have more prominence in the decision making process than animal welfare. A common theme was a plea for an outward facing organisation focused on the animals and their welfare and the prevention and control of disease. All urged greater involvement of and partnership with the community out on the ground in the evolution of best practice and effective delivery"So it will be interesting on April 1 2005 (and several emailers have made the obvious comment) to see how far the new Executive Agency aka the SVS is able to reassure those who are concerned at how much politics is obscuring animal welfare.
Mr Ben Bradshaw said "The consultation exercise has been extremely valuable .." but a return of 20 from 500 may perhaps cause DEFRA and the government to ask themselves whether inundating organisations with consultation documents - who then fail to return them - does not raise questions both about the value and the concept of "consultation" carried out this way.
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ " a consensus amongst stakeholders that: We will not carry out the mass slaughter of healthy animals. We will not incur the financial and social costs to the livestock industry, tourism and the rural economy, or cause unnecessary loss of genetic diversity..."
Dr Iain Anderson's words below about engaging "people from different areas outside of the centre..." and "well balanced and well trusted scientific advice" are exemplified in the invited paper presented at the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (EUFMD) Research Group Open Session in Crete, October 2004, entitled "Policy and science of FMD control: the stakeholders? contribution to decision making. A call for Integrated Animal Disease Management" be published by the EUFMD Commission in early December. It has been sent to warmwell by the authors.
From the paper's abstract: "... integrated animal disease management as a cooperative effort between stakeholders, scientists and decision makersThe paper appears also on Land Care org's website and on warmwell's updated science and technology pages. An EU funded collaborative research project aiming to achieve some of the goals described in the paper will begin early in 2005.
.. levels: local, national, regional and international
..the science and technology that is available now and to develop new technologies that will lead to significant improvements
..not to allow .....politics to drive disease control policies at the expense of the ethical relationship between man and animals. "
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ Where is the DEFRA report on Operation Hornbeam?
Defra website "Relevant recommendations will be taken into account in preparation of the Report on Exercise Hornbeam which the department plans to publish in October. ... "
Could any reader of this website direct us to the report? Our own page about Operation Hornbeam quotes Dr Iain Anderson's very relevant remarks to the EFRA Committee
"The one area which I believe needs to be emphasised again and again is that in order to get this right for the future .....it needs to be captured in processes which engages people from different agencies outside of the centre. These processes need to become part of routine ... ... it is regrettable that a formalised system of engaging well balanced and well trusted previously communicated scientific advice was not deployed from the very early days........"Read more.
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ SVS to get a new name
The State Veterinary Service is, it seems, to be repackaged as an "Executive Agency". Ben Bradshaw, after referring to a consultation (" broad backing from the public received") that had escaped our notice, says, with the usual New Labour ministerial preference for the first person pronoun, " ..I have therefore decided to continue with the programme to launch the new agency on 1 April 2005." His words include
The press release's "Notes for editors" repeats all this in similar language - but even then we should appreciate an ordinary person's guide as to what will actually change next April.
- "..further the aims of the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy
- .. a new partnership
- ..a lasting and continuous improvement in the health and welfare of kept animals
- ..protecting society, the economy and the environment from the effect of animal diseases.
- .. pledged to working with all customers and stakeholders
- ..listening to their concerns and their counsel
- ..taking their views into account as the agency takes shape."
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ BSE "We want to eradicate this disease and it is important for us to be sure that we are not overlooking any important factors..."
CVO Debby Reynolds in a DEFRA news item "....... there are also other possible explanations for at least some of these cases. We want to eradicate this disease and it is important for us to be sure that we are not overlooking any important factors and that the work we are doing is comprehensive and scientifically sound. We have therefore invited Professor Hill (i.e.Professor William Hill FRS, Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences of the University of Edinburgh ) to take a look at what we are doing. We have deliberately chosen someone who is eminent in his own field but who has not been involved in TSE work before. He can be expected to probe and challenge the evidence. ..."
See also warmwell pages on TSEs which consider other "important factors" that have, it seems, been "overlooked". An independent examination to look at the entire system of controls and to challenge conventional wisdom is much needed and long overdue.
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ ".. this cull was in breach of criminal law, since the Government had no legal power under the Animal Health Act 1981 to kill healthy livestock."
Booker's Notebook, Sunday Telegraph
" ....Also making the news last week was the ruling by Brussels that it will withhold ?600 million from payments claimed by the British Government for its costs in the 2001 foot and mouth disaster.Booker's Notebook. Read in full
This represented part of the sum that, according to the Commission, was overpaid to farmers, to buy their acquiescence in the pre-emptive cull of about eight million healthy animals. As was reported here at the time, this cull was in breach of criminal law, since the Government had no legal power under the Animal Health Act 1981 to kill healthy livestock that had not been directly exposed to infection. ....."
November 27 - Dec 3 2004 ~ Taxpayers' ?600million foot-and-mouth bill
James Chapman in The Daily Mail, Friday November 26th 2004. Page 15
"..... The European Commission is to disqualify almost two-thirds of the compensation claim for dealing with the outbreak of the disease. It will pay only ?350 million of the Government's ?950million claim, leaving a ?600million shortfall - equivalent to ?10 for every man, woman and child in the country.
Last night the EC confirmed it had effectively 'fined' Labour because of serious concerns over the way the outbreak was handled. A spokesman said it was clear that millions of healthy animals had been destroyed needlessly, some farmers had been paid way over the odds in compensation and ministers had been too slow to respond when the epidemic started.
Around ten million animals died during the outbreak, which cost the public sector more than ?3billion, including compensation to farmers, and the private sector an estimated ?5billion as tourists shunned the UK. The Conservatives are demanding an apology from Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett for the Government's mistakes.
Euro MP Neil Parish, the party's agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, said "The very least we should expect is a formal apology from Mrs Beckett, not only to farmers but to taxpayers who are going to have to pay for this to the tune of ?600million".
From .... FMD 2001(new window)
"... measures used to prevent and control FMD were primarily based on agro-economic considerations
....authorities in charge were justifying their policies with doubtful scientific arguments....
The public in general, including veterinary and agricultural communities, were misinformed by scientists and veterinary authorities..."
For FMD home pageIRAQ Situation
Forum of Private Businesses Campaign
The EU FMD Directive (See here in html version or pdf version) Contact the site here ~ Exercise Hornbeam
Warmwell commentary on The UK foot and mouth disease outbreak- The Aftermath by Kitching et al
Dr Abigail Woods' book: A Manufactured Plague
Archive - Warmwell front page Autumn 2004