Warmwell Front Page Archive - part 1 _ Spring 2004
June 26 - July 2 2004 ~ "For all the Commission's huffing and puffing, Defra, it appears, has not heard or learned a thing."
Private Eye this week: Muckspreader "Under the codename 'Operation Hornbeam', Defra recently staged a exercise to test its 'contingency plan' for any future outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Presided over by 'Baby Ben' Bradshaw, this bizarre charade inevitably revived memories of the FMD fiasco in 2001, one of the worst governmental failures of modern times. One recalls the illegal slaughter of 9 million healthy animals, the failure to vaccinate, the obscene funeral pyres, the closure of the countryside, the devastation of the rural economy. On the most conservative estimate, this all cost '8 billion, paid for by taxpayers, farmers, rural businesses and the tourist industry...."
June 26 - July 2 ~ Were any animals given emergency vaccination in the "Hornbeam" simulation'
The press reports we have seen imply that vaccination was not used in the mock exercise. Those of us who have spent the past three years monitoring the situation are deeply concerned that DEFRA has taken Article 8 of the Directive to give carte blanche for slaughter instead of, (as it does) spelling out the special and limited conditions in which slaughter may be used.
In letters both to the EU and to DEFRA, Anne Lambourn writes:
Lambourn: The EU Directive (Article 8) permits killing of stock that have been contaminated, but it in no way authorises the firebreak culling of healthy animals "to get ahead of the disease" as in the Animal Health Act.DEFRA's reply:
"You state that provisions for a 'firebreak' cull are not included in the new FMD Directive. Article 8 of the FMD Directive does, in fact, make provision for "preventative killing of animals of susceptible species", which would include pre-emptive or 'firebreak' culling."However, this is to ignore the actual wording of the Article. See below. "it is NOT acceptable to slaughter animals unless epidemiological information or other evidence indicates that the animals concerned are infected or likely to have been. And before any killing does take place, the " competent authority shall notify the Commission".
Were media invitees told this during Exercise Hornbeam' Did the exercise include testing and a mock-up of the communications to the EU required' Bryn Wayt has further questions to ask - and we await an " open and transparent" report of the exercise that will give answers to such queries.
June 26 - July 2 ~ "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."
"The action taken to control the foot-and-mouth diesease epidemics which struck certain Member States in 2001 has shown that international and Community rules and the ensuing practices have not taken sufficient account of the possibility offered by the use of emergency vaccination and subsequent tests to detect infected animals in a vaccinated population. 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......
The competent authority shall, immediately upon confirmation of the first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease prepare all arrangements necessary for emergency vaccination in an area of at least the size of the surveillance zone established in accordance with Article 21." The EU FMD Directive (See here in html version or pdf version) that came into force throughout the EU yesterday.
Yet the media have been told that firebreak culling is still on the agenda. See below
June 26 - July 2 ~ We chose the words suggesting vaccination as a tool of first resort with care, using the same phrase as in the Royal Society's report into foot and mouth
The government's present stance on vaccination, reported by the media following Exercise Hornbeam, reminds us of Labour's proposals to weaken the EU FMD Directive by making vaccination simply "an option to consider" in 2002. These proposals were rejected by MEPs. As Caroline Lucas, vice-president of the inquiry committee, said in November 2002
"socialist MEPs had been pressurising "the committee to adopt compromise amendment 10, which calls for slaughter of animals to be given consideration on a par with vaccination in future outbreaks. That to many of us is a make or break amendment. It would be devastating if it went through and would completely emasculate the report.Neil Parish, Conservative MEP and agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, said the report findings were surprisingly strong.
We chose the words suggesting vaccination as a tool of first resort with care, using the same phrase as in the Royal Society's report into foot and mouth. To change this completely undermines all our recommendations and makes it incoherent as it will not fit into the logical argument of the report."
"The author of the report, Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfler, is a German socialist and it was known that Labour sent Lord Whitty over to try to make him put in the report what the British Government wanted. It is an absolute condemnation on the handling of the foot and mouth crisis by the Government. Knowstone was probably the first time the MEPs really saw the human suffering which took place during the crisis. This has had a big influence over the report so far."(Knowstone transcripts)
June 26 - July 2 ~ " Vaccination would be used as a last resort. Slaughter is still the best solution," .
From the report in icBirmingham This is the view of a Staffordshire hotel-owner and farmer, John Lewis, quoted in the paper.
It is not the view of the The Royal Society inquiry, under the chairmanship of Professor Sir Brian Follett. The RS Society said " 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."
Nor is Mr Lewis' view that of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease, whose vice-chairman wrote a letter in Scotland on Sunday, 18 August 2002 which concluded: "Having examined all the issues, we recommended that for the future emergency vaccination should be a tool of first rather than last resort, with the vaccinated animals allowed to live and subsequently go into the food chain..."
June 26 - July 2 ~"Mr Bradshaw's comments caused dismay yesterday amongst those who lived through the 2001 crisis"..."It makes you wonder whether they have learnt anything at all....".
Ben Bradshaw: "We hope to avoid contiguous culling, but we have not ruled it out. "..... Mr Bradshaw said vaccination was "a very useful tool". But he said it would only be used as an alternative to culling in certain circumstances."WMN"....During the foot and mouth crisis, proposals to use vaccination to contain the epidemic - a measure used successfully in the Netherlands were ruled out by the Government over fears it would hit the meat and dairy export trade, worth '500 million. As the contiguous cull spread, the total cost of the crisis went on to top '8 billion.
Mr Bradshaw's comments caused dismay yesterday amongst those who lived through the 2001 crisis.
Mr Gibson....: "It would be very unpopular as it was last time, because it involves the culling of thousands of healthy animals."
David Hill, who served as the NFU's Devon chairman in 2001, said the notion of contiguous culling was "ludicrous" because it took no account of the situation on individual farms. "Any culling should be based on the likelihood that an animal has come into contact with the disease. It makes you wonder whether they have learnt anything at all."
Janet Bayley, of the National Foot and Mouth Group, said it would be "extremely worrying" if the Government moved culling back up the agenda. She said European policy now placed vaccination at the forefront of the control strategy.
........ Mr Bradshaw said he hoped the exercise would demonstrate that the Government had "learned the lessons of some of the mistakes made then". See also Inbox comment
June 26 - July 2 ~ Evening of Day 6 - Exercise Hornbeam - 17,400 animals dead
Farmers Weekly interactive ".... At a briefing on Tuesday, DEFRA said by that point in the outbreak it had "slaughtered" 17,400 animals which would be disposed of via rendering or incineration...."
And did DEFRA also say that - in the simulation - it had simulated the taking of samples and carried out clinical examinations of animals of susceptible species "at least in accordance with point 18.104.22.168 of Annex III"' Was the properly qualified Expert Group involved in the simulation' Had it gone through the motions of notifying the Commission "prior to the implementation of the measures provided for in this Article." ie slaughtering those 17,400 animals'
(See below) and Article 8 of the Council Directive which comes into force throughout Europe today, Wednesday.
June 26 - July 2 ~ "the slaughter of animals on infected premises and those suspected of harbouring foot-and-mouth will remain the first options, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said."
It sounds as though the media have been told that firebreak culling is still on the agenda. Although amendments to the 1981 Animal Health Act were rushed through parliament in 2002 to give retrospective legality to the killing of healthy animals, the terms of the EU Directive (See here in html version or pdf version) that comes into force today has this to say in Article 8
In other words, under the provisions of the now EU wide FMD Directive, it is NOT acceptable to slaughter animals unless epidemiological information or other evidence indicates that the animals concerned are infected or likely to have been. And before any killing does take place, the " competent authority shall notify the Commission".
Preventive eradication programme1. The competent authority may, where epidemiological information or other evidence indicates, implement a preventive eradication programme, including preventive killing of animals of susceptible species likely to be contaminated and, if necessary, of animals from epidemiologically-linked production units or adjoining holdings.
2. In that event, the taking of samples and clinical examinations of animals of susceptible species shall be carried out at least in accordance with point 22.214.171.124 of Annex III.
3. The competent authority shall notify the Commission prior to the implementation of the measures provided for in this Article.
Were media invitees told this during Exercise Hornbeam'
June 26 - July 2 ~ DEFRA would not allow the conversation to be filmed.
Didi Phillips writes to tell us that an apology has been received for 2001. " Nick has just returned from the DEFRA AH Office in Truro, Cornwall, where he was asked by the BBC to comment on "Operation Hornbeam." ..... did manage to get past Mr Anderson's minder... to talk to him, although DEFRA would not allow the conversation to be filmed.
Nick asked him why MAFF's FMD policy to control an animal health disease had resulted in the deaths of sixty farmers. Mr Anderson was totally taken aback by the question, but he apologised and said he was deeply sorry for the way in which we were treated during the FMD outbreak.
If anyone else would like to write or email him, maybe they too can elicit an apology from a senior vet ..." Read in full
June 26 - July 2 ~ Bovine TB "... 6 weeks down the road from our last 60 day test, we still have had no notification of the result"
An emailer writes, "... Alick Simmons was on Radio 4 this morning, saying that more than 4000 herds were overdue for their Tb tests.
Whose fault is that'
LVI vets get a list every month from Defra and if you aren't on it, then they can't test - or rather they can but YOU pay, not Defra!
Only when Defra give the vet instructions to test, will he get paid.
It's totally in Defra's hands, and their hands are very busy. Even more so this week with a pseudo FMD outbreak. Probably explains why, 6 weeks down the road from our last 60 day test, we still have had no notification of the result! (We have isolated the 1 slight inconclusive - but off our own and our vet's initiative)
June 26 - July 2 ~ the number of herds logged on the Defra website does not tally with BCMS 'active' holdings.
Vetnet (Defra) is showing around 96,000 herds registered as having cattle, but BCMS say that in 2003, only 81,000 holdings registered an 'event'. That is a birth, death or movement on/off. Could many of the 'overdue' TB tests be for holdings who have no cattle'
June 26 - July 2 ~ Hornbeam begins
As DEFRA puts it, "a role-playing exercise to test Government's responses to a foot and mouth outbreak" On June 30 the EU Directive (See here in html version or pdf version) comes into force throughout the EU. DEFRA has chosen to concentrate on days seven and eight of an FMD outbreak. DEFRA's contingency plan does not allow for the immediate ring vaccination of the area from "Day 1" when an outbreak is reported. DEFRA has informed the press that the exercise has been developed by the SVS.
It would be reassuring to think that members of the press who accept DEFRA's invitation to attend the Exercise are to be briefed clearly and correctly on all the issues surrounding vaccination - and that they ask pertinent questions about why it was not used in 2001: why it is not to be used as a matter of course but rather "considered" and for exactly what economic or political reasons it may be rejected yet again in the future when the technology- both rapid diagnosis and vaccination fit for any of the seven strains of the virus - exists to stop an outbreak in its tracks without any need for extended slaughter.
June 26 - July 2 ~ "...This change will enable decisions to be taken on the proper basis of disease control rather than economic and political considerations"
From Foot and mouth disease: lessons from the 2001 crisis, proposals for the future 17/12/2002 - EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT OPINION OR RESOLUTION "...Despite recent changes to IOE rules, the three-month 'trading penalty' that remains against vaccination should, in the view of many authorities, be removed by future resolution of the IOE so that slaughter and vaccination are treated equally. This change will enable decisions to be taken on the proper basis of disease control rather than economic and political considerations....
......-the Commission and Member States must actively strive to bring the waiting period for regaining FMD-free status after application of a strategy of vaccination without subsequent slaughter of the vaccinated animals into line with the period used when a slaughter policy is applied, in other words, three months in both cases."
June 26 - July 2 ~ "We cannot have a situation again where there is no clear-cut policy on whether and when vaccination is used"
From the Key Recommendations of the Report of the Public Accounts Committee into the 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Other extracts:
Read in full The EU FMD Directive (See here in html version or pdf version) is to come into force throughout the EU on Wednesday 30th June 2004. "The Department''s plans on vaccination" can hardly "be clear" when so much of what the Directive says about post vaccination treatment is not being explained nor perhaps even understood by those in DEFRA responsible for communicating this to the "farmers, vets, and representatives of the food industry."
- "The Department's plans on vaccination should be clear and set out the circumstances and factors that would determine when vaccination would be adopted
- The plans should be made known and explained to all relevant parties, including farmers, vets, and representatives of the food industry.
- ...Longstanding attitudes are in need of reform....."
June 26 - July 2 ~ Vaccinated (FMD) meat and confusion over the EU Directive
The EU FMD Council Directive has 226 pages. (See here in html version or pdf version) No one can be blamed for finding the language of the EU Directive unhelpful. However, Article 58 paragraph 13 of the EU Directive is key. If confusion reigns, ignorance must be admitted and questions asked at EU level by those in the UK who are making vital decisions.
Article 58 para 13 - By way of derogation from paragraph 8 a special health mark which cannot be confused with the health mark referred to in paragraphs 8(c) and 9(c), may be decided in accordance with the procedure referred to in Article 89(3) for fresh meat of ruminants not subjected to the treatment in accordance with Part A of Annex VIII, and minced meat and meat preparations produced from such meat, which are intended for placing on the market in the a specific region of the Member State of origin.Getting to the heart of the difference between fact and fiction about the treatment of meat and milk after vaccination is, of course, important for the livestock and meat industry. Vaccination itself is important for the humane and ethical treatment of animals. Anyone who says that "ordinary people" couldn't care less about what happened in 2001 are quite wrong. The realisation that government policies of mass slaughter were wrong is widespread in spite of the lack of a proper public inquiry. Even if government communications departments can ensure that the press generally print only what puts the most positive spin on DEFRA's actions, there is now a widespread loss of trust in the Ministry. There is also an awareness of just how politicised DEFRA has become. Trust will be regained only when spin is removed and we actually move towards the openness and transparency about which we hear so much.
June 26 - July 2 ~ Defra managing the statistics rather than the disease'
Paddy Swann, whose essay "Lies, Damned lies, and (Defra) Statistics." will appear in British Dairying, and who alerted us to the odd announcement of a 14% DROP in bovine TB last week writes, "I really wondered if I was blowing this up out of all proportion. But the general consensus is it's a serious misleading of the press, the public and parliament."
Extract: ".... late last year Defra were predicting a 20% annual increase in bovine Tb, but in June Mr. Bradshaw announced a 14% drop Jan.-April 2004. So is bTb under control' Or are Defra managing the statistics rather than the disease' Is the press office producing duplicitous, deceitful, dross or were the previous predictions an overestimate'"Read in full
June 22 - June 25 ~ Farmers are told that BSE "has caused a harrowing fatal disease for humans"
The Introduction to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Advisory Notes For Farmers (Crown Copyright 2004 PB 9445) "BSE has caused a harrowing fatal disease for humans, as well as bearing heavily on people involved in livestock farming"
A Wiltshire farmer writes with his exasperated comment to DEFRA
"...I presume you mean vCJD when it states harrowing fatal disease'
Have I missed the results of some new research in which BSE is shown to cause vCJD'
As far as I know the cause of BSE is yet to be established, despite the millions of pounds spent on research. Later in the publication there is mention of transmission from dam to calf, which you state "has definitely not been proved, but is nevertheless a possibility" This is because MAFF didn't know how to conduct a proper trial with a control group.
The statement "BSE has caused a harrowing fatal disease for humans" bears a lot more heavily on me than BSE itself, given that millions of pounds has been wasted on research and an inquiry, but still it is not known what caused BSE or vCJD...."
June 22 - June 25 ~ ".. the prospect of unlimited funding, if only they could keep the scare going."
From Private Eye's Muckspreader column last week:
"one lucrative sideline soon became the search to find BSE in animals other than old cows. ..... The only problem was that, try as they might, they just could not find a single BSE-infected sheep.Read in full
Then the EU entered the act. Just in case a link might one day be found, Brussels agreed to a 'National Scrapie Plan'. Millions of sheep must be tested, to see which were genetically most likely to contract scrapie. Steps would then be taken to stop those animals breeding, to eliminate the 'killer gene' from the national flock. But, with their eye still on the real prize, the scientists then came up with a brilliant new theory. It has only proved impossible to find BSE in sheep, they say, because it might have been 'masked' by the more obvious signs of scrapie.
Armed with this new thesis, Defra submitted to Brussels a new 'contingency plan', without revealing what they had in mind to Britain's 70,000 sheep farmers. But when they called in the press to explain their new strategy, one official, Michael Beuler, let slip that, if BSE was ever found in sheep, Defra might order the killing of every lamb in Britain, 23 million in all, then forbid farmers from allowing their sheep to breed for two years. When the farmers asked whether their lambs would be tested before being slaughtered, Defra said this would be too expensive, and anyway Brussels wouldn't allow it. ..."
June 22 - June 25 ~ Supposed drop in TB is not what it seems
Defra have released figures (pdf file - new window)
The absolute number of new TB herd incidents (herd breakdowns) disclosed in January-April 2004 fell by 14% on the same period of 2003 (1,264 against 1,473). The proportion of new incidents so far confirmed by post-mortem examination and/or culture testing has also dropped: 48% (601 / 1,264) against 52% (773 / 1,473) in 2003 (para 4 of pdf file)This statistical drop has been reported in the media. However, warmwell has received a message entitled "Lies, damned lies and (DEFRA) statistics."
".... If January - April 2004 is compared with the last year which had no atypical or extraordinary events, which carry Defra health warnings, then January - April 2000 is the next valid reference year with which to compare.Why should such statistics be "confidential" in DEFRA's new proclaimed era of openness and transparency' Can anyone shed light on this'
Number of cattle slaughtered in the same period that year (2000) = 3,100
Number of cattle slaughtered in 2004 = 7,701.
Increase = 149% .... ...Can't get the number of herds or new incidents from Defra. They say it is 'confidential' and referred me to the press office! I'd only got the monthly figures for 2000 because I'd printed them off 18months ago for another subject. After a year or so, the monthly figures on the web site are compressed into yearly, and comparison is difficult, unless one has squirreled the original away!
We've seen this before haven't we'" Read in full
June 22 - June 25 ~ Vaccinated meat will not pose a problem for supermarkets.
From Tuesday's Western Morning News report on Operation Hornbeam Ian Johnson (South West National Farmers' Union) said that
" the use of vaccination to deal with foot and mouth posed problems and pointed out that supermarkets had said they would not want to try to sell meat from animals that had been vaccinated."Which supermarket' The reporting of this in such a reputable paper as the WMN is worrying indeed. It seems that baseless arguments against which we have fought for over three years still hold sway in the minds of those who get quoted in newspapers. Their arguments are just as wrong now as they were in 2001. Vaccinated meat does not pose problems for supermarkets nor does it even have to be labelled. This argument ought to have been exploded long ago. The facts are these: Europe consumed vaccinated meat and milk for over 40 years. Supermarkets sell Argentinean beef - vaccinated at least twice - to no howls of outrage whatsoever. The National Consumer Council Press Officer, Kathryn Williams wrote in August 2001"we take the view that food from vaccinated beasts does not need to be labelled."
Perhaps Mr Johnson has also been misled by the ambiguity in DEFRA pronouncements about heat treatment and de-boning. We can only repeat as below - After vaccination, meat destined for the UK market does not need de-boning.
June 22 - June 25 ~ After vaccination, meat destined for the UK market does not need de-boning.
Possibly, officials at DEFRA themselves (many of whom are now making sincere efforts to implement the Directive) have not understood the key issues lurking obscurely in the language of the EU Directive on FMD control. The most important of these for meat producers ( Article 58 para 13) is that post vaccination and testing, meat destined for the UK market does not need de-boning. Yet paragraph 28 of the vaccination scenarios pdf posting on Defra implies de-boning for sheep meat would still be needed. Meat from ruminants for the home market does not require de-boning or heat treatment. It is essential that the UK sheep industry understands this.
June 22 - June 25 ~ The EU FMD Directive provides for derogation from heat treatments once the Protection or Surveillance Zone has been in place for more than 30 days.
The FWi report on DEFRA's real-time alert exercise, Exercise Hornbeam, stresses that "after vaccination, meat has to be heat-treated or deboned and matured until after the country's F&M-free status is established." This is not quite the case. A first glance look at what is being reported would suggest that all meat and milk would have to be heat treated in the UK for 6 months following vaccination to live - a strong argument, if it were true, for meat and milk producers to be very wary of vaccination. In fact, only meat and milk produced in the Protection and Surveillance Zones is required to be treated. (A Protection Zone has to be established with a minimum radius of 3km and a Surveillance Zone a minimum radius of 10km from an outbreak.) While it is true that the required treatments include heat treatment, deboning and maturing of meat and meat products and pasteurisation of milk, the Directive provides for derogation from these treatments once the Protection or Surveillance Zone has been in place for more than 30 days, subject to specific conditions laid down by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCOFCAH). See http://www.defra.gov.uk/footandmouth/directive/background_directive.pdf (Page 4, paragraph 7 referring to Section 6 )
June 18 - June 25 ~ The EU FMD Directive has to transposed into UK law by 30 June 2004
Detailed contingency plans are required which must cover the 'worst case scenario', including precise indications of how emergency vaccination would be implemented and what measures would be introduced in regions containing densely populated livestock areas. Contingency plans have to be reviewed regularly in the light of 'real time alert' exercises in the Member States and the results of these exercises have to be submitted to the Commission.
FWi - read in full" DEFRA has announced details of a live exercise on June 29/30 to test its contingency plan for foot-and-mouth disease. The staged event, called Exercise Hornbeam, will simulate days 7 and 8 of an outbreak and will focus on the role vaccination would play in controlling the spread of disease."The main features of the Directive (pdf file) are
- Member States have to have arrangements in place for possible use of emergency vaccination as soon as FMD is confirmed.
- New guidelines that, following emergency vaccination to live, disease free status can be regained six months after the last vaccination. This compares to a 12 month waiting period in 2001.
- The adoption of measures for zoos, wildlife parks and rare breeds.
June 22 - June 25 ~ Brucellosis, the UK Cattle Tracing System - and a threat to the last US buffalo herd
UN Observer says that the US Congress is "deciding the fate of one of the last free buffalo herds of North America." The apparent reason is a theoretical worry about brucellosis. "Hardly a reason for national panic" comments the UN Observer . There has never been a documented case of the disease being transmitted from wild buffalo to any visitor to Yellowstone or to domestic livestock. It is certainly not a reason to slaughter a national symbol of freedom, "home on the range". All this is very much a sign of the times. Animal disease can trigger slaughter even when only a possible threat to human health is suspected. When in doubt, kill should no longer be the first resort of incompetent policy makers who, for reasons of politics - i.e. their own careers - are unwilling to grasp and to make use of the knowledge of experts.
June 22 - June 25 ~ "the department has failed to grasp the fundamentals of good system standards"
Readers of this website will remember how a closed pedigree herd of cattle in Duloe, Cornwall was slaughtered in March this year. DEFRA have been unable to discover if animals from herds not free of bovine brucellosis had been imported nor suggest any other reason for the outbreak. As one insider with knowledge of the CTS put it,
"the department has failed to grasp the fundamentals of good system standards. This is reflected in the number of software glitches and the lack of agricultural know-how, and bad system assumptions that ignore the essential business practices on farms.
CTS theoretically works. However in the real world it cannot ever hope to keep 100% accurate records. Postage delays and scanning errors further compound this problem. CTS going online is a good answer, but of course again it fails to understand that not every farmer is on or has the desire, money or time to get online.
.... Premium payments are going wrong. It is a software problem in relation to how locations are held on record and the migration to another system. The system is being transferred to an ORACLE database. This is the source of the problems. It can only sustain approximately 250 users. The system is having severe problems with data still revolving around locations."
June 22 - June 25 ~ "Rufus would have to go, Mr. Norden was told over the telephone. There were no exemptions for back-yard chickens in the sweeping cull
that claimed millions of birds this spring, the CFIA man said. But this time, the CFIA did not get their chicken. Rufus, it turned out, much like the expired parrot in the Monty Python sketch, did not have enough life in him to be killed. He was and is made of rubber. "I told him that Rufus was a fake, a rubber chicken bought for five dollars. . .," Mr. Norden recalled. "There was a long silence."....." Globe and Mail (Canada) Tracing systems failures are not confined to the UK - but this is not an amusing story in the context of so many healthy chickens, parrots, and other domestic birds being summarily slaughtered.
June 18 - June 25 ~ "a legal duty on all 25 EU governments "to prepare all arrangements necessary for emergency vaccination" immediately the first animal is found to have the disease.
Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday
"...Ministers now have more than 10 million doses of vaccine stored in Britain in preparation for another outbreak, and have 50 teams supported by 25 vets to administer them.
The Government now says that in the case of a new epidemic it would aim to select a strategy "which minimises the number of animals that need to be slaughtered ... keeps animal welfare problems to a minimum ... and minimises the burden on taxpayers and the public at large".
June 12 - June 18 ~ greater openness and transparency
DEFRA's Animal health: Chief Veterinary Officer's Annual Report - 2003 concludes "Through the strategy I intend to develop stronger collaborative links with the industry and encourage greater openness and transparency in Government thinking and decision making." These two virtues are often on the lips of politicians and policy makers but not quite so often in their practice. The new CVO, Debby Reynolds, suggests that there will now be "greater" openness and "stronger" collaborative links. She thanks her predecessor for his "clear thinking and measured approach" during the past seven years. (CVO Report as HTML - slow loading of images. Right click and save target for viewing off line if your connection is slow)
June 12 - June 18 ~ Alun Michael refuses plea for pesticide buffer zones
Georgina Downs spoke eloquently on Farming Today (Thursday) about the decision and says, "Government's very own documentation highlights the dangers of pesticides, the risks inherent in their use and the subsequent adverse health effects. This shows that they have been fully aware of the dangers but have sat on this information..." She has the support of an increasing number of leading toxicological and epidemiological experts from around the world and gets emails of support from all over the country. Supporters of Ms. Downs' campaign include Samuel Epstein, Professor Emeritus Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, Michael Meacher MP, Norman Baker MP, Caroline Lucas MEP and the Soil Association. (Press release) See also the warmwell page on Georgina Downs' campaign against pesticides.
June 12 - June 18 ~ 50th anniversary of the European Foot-and-Mouth Disease Commission held in Dublin.
FarmingLife reports: "...Among the Dublin gathering were some of the foremost global experts on Foot-and-Mouth Disease and representatives from the 33 members of the Commission.
Mr Walsh presented a number of awards to various individuals in recognition of contributions made in the fields of vaccination, diagnosis and epidemiology.
...while much had been learned by EU Member States in the aftermath of the FMD crisis of 2001, the Foot-and-Mouth Disease Commission continued to make a critical contribution, both in maintaining and preserving Europe's high animal health status, and in assisting in the control and eradication of the disease in risk areas outside Europe's borders...."
June 12 - June 18 ~ Exercise Crucible" Australia's first large-scale FMD laboratory simulation
Western Daily "NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald......"Exercise Crucible will test the readiness and ability of NSW Agriculture's laboratories to respond to a hypothetical foot-and-mouth disease incident," Mr Macdonald said. "A single case of FMD could devastate our livestock industries and our economy. NSW Agriculture laboratories provide vital testing and scientific support that would help expert staff quickly diagnose and eradicate diseases like FMD. This simulation will help improve how we prepare for and respond to such issues, should they ever happen in NSW."
Exercise Crucible will focus specifically on the State's laboratory network and its co-ordination with the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)..."
June 12 - June 18 ~ British Columbia: 17 million chicken, turkeys, ducks and geese ordered to be gassed or shot following discovery of avian influenza at one factory farm.
What the Director General of the OIE Bernard Vallet calls "The dangerous cocktail of globalisation" is likely to lead more and more to scenes such as those described in the article. Yet one of the recommendations of the OIE International Conference on the Control of Infectious Animal Diseases by Vaccination Buenos Aires, Argentina, April 13-16, 2004 was as follows:
For ethical, ecological and economical reasons, it is no longer acceptable to control and eradicate disease outbreaks mainly by applying mass slaughter of animals.Factory farming's industrial scale lack of concern for its sentient product and the pressures of so-called "consumer confidence" have meant that disease control is now largely in the hands of those for whom the health of animals is irrelevant. Possible measures are restricted even further, as Bernard Vallet points out, by "the slight margin for manoeuvre at the national level due to the international agreements signed under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as, for European Union members, the ad hoc directives adopted in Brussels." Many animal disease control measures are an unholy mess.
".... After the discovery of avian flu at a factory farm north of here, 17 million chicken, turkeys, ducks and geese were ordered to be gassed or shot, and the cull is nearing completion. .... Stella Purdy's award-winning show flock of 132 Black Polish chickens were among the first to be killed, in a portable gas chamber set up in her driveway. They were later found to be free of contamination.Guardian. Read in full
"They gassed them eight at a time," she says. "I couldn't stand to watch so I left, but when I came back and found the barns and incubators empty, I looked around for an escapee, an egg, anything. I found out later that my son did exactly the same thing. There was nothing, of course." ......"
June 12 - June 18 ~ Undiagnosed paralysis, bovine - ProMED posting
Stephen J. Nelson, MA, MD, FCAP Chief Medical Examiner in the 10th Judicial Circuit of Florida points out on Pro-MED that it was an error to label the mystery disease a type cattle poliomyelitis. Such a disease of white brain matter would be referred to as a leukoencephalopathy. :
"The previous posting said: "The Veterinary Laboratories Agency [VLA] is now trying to pin down the cause of the disease, which has been described as a type of cattle poliomyelitis. Analysis of this cow's brain showed that the disease affected the white matter. This led to paralysis for 5 to 6 days, followed by death".While it is perfectly understandable that vets and scientists should be unable fully to diagnose an apparently new form of disease, and such an open letter from the VLA very much to be welcomed, what is not understandable and not reasonable at all is the pretence at confident certainty that we saw throughout the BSE and FMD crises. The public, still told contantly that vCJD is "the human form of BSE", are fearful of zoonoses and any new animal disease report, unfortunately, makes dramatic copy. Particularly worrying is the way people have been warned several times over the past three years (example) that in a "worst case scenario" the entire sheep flock of the UK might be "removed from the food chain" (a euphemism for mass slaughter).
Poliomyelitis is a gray matter disease. A white matter disease would be referred to as a leukoencephalopathy."
June 12 - June 18 ~ Horse Passports - "...the first oddity of the scheme is why it was ever thought necessary"
Muckspreader in Private Eye last week "The latest farce brought to us courtesy of Defra stars Alun Michael, in his role as 'minister for the horse and the quality of urban life'. This is his decision that, by the end of this month, to comply with EU rules, all owners of horses and donkeys (or, as the EU insists on calling them, 'equines and asinines'), must have applied for an individual 'passport' for each of their animals. Brussels has been trying to get this system in place for years but in Britain, with more than a million horses and donkeys to be registered, it proved so complex to administer that it has several times had to be postponed. At last, however, thanks to the tireless officials of the 'rabies and equines' division of Defra's 'zootechnics section'. Mr Michael's spectacular is ready to roll. By next March not to have a passport for each equine and asinine will be a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to '5000.
The principle of the scheme, introduced to comply with EU directive 93/623 and commission decision 2000/68, is that each horse shall be given its own 'equine life number' (donkeys likewise), accompanied by a '20 passport showing the names of its parents and grandparents and which veterinary drugs it has been given. Thoroughbred horses must in addition have a 'silhouette' signed by a vet, at a cost of a further '80, showing its distinguishing marks. Defra itself admits that the initial cost of all this to owners may be as high as '18 million, with running costs of '1-2 million a year thereafter.
But the first oddity of the scheme is why it was ever thought necessary...
...In France and Germany only horses registered to take part in competitions need passports (although German officials have already detected the first horse passport forgery). Much the same applies in Holland and Greece. In Ireland no scheme is yet in place. No other countries have yet introduced fines for not having a passport. Yet so irrelevant to the UK is any need for this scheme that our 'minister for the horse' now justifies it by bleating about how useful it will be to have a 'national equine database', though he cannot explain why. ." Read in full. (We are reminded by an emailer that ALL horses require the sihouette)
June 12 - June 18 ~ "undiagnosed nervous condition" in the Cumbrian cow was, according to UK Zoonoses Group, caused by a virus not a new form of BSE
"Tests on the animal at VLA Penrith, Cumbria, showed on microscopy lesions suggestive of a viral infection in the brain. There was no evidence of a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy."
Pro-Med reports the DEFRA statement and the letter in the Veterinary Record from .J. Watson and S.F.E. Scholes of the VLA. The report and letter are followed by two comments from ProMed mail moderators about the case.
June 12 - June 18 ~ Scottish Executive to appeal against '267,000 Wallets Marts award
(See below for the report of the award on May 13 2004.) The Scotsman (Fordyce Maxwell) " The Scottish Executive is to appeal against the recent '267,000 foot-and-mouth "underpayment" award made against it by a sheriff in a case brought by auctioneers Wallets Marts Castle Douglas. The appeal was expected because success for Wallets could have opened the way to a number of other six-figure compensation claims by auctioneers who carried out valuations during the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic.
A spokesman for the Executive said last night: "There is a limited time in which to make an appeal. The sheriff's judgment" - Sheriff James Smith at Kirkcudbright - "raises a number of complex issues which we have to explore in depth and we have started that process." ...."
June 12 - June 18 ~ Researchers caution DEFRA that some farmers in disease-free areas would be unwilling to pay the "disease levy" while it could be ruinous for those in hotspots.
WMN "Government plans to impose a "disease levy" on farmers.....a new report by the University of Reading has warned the likely cost of the levy in disease "hotspot" areas like the Westcountry would be ruinous for many farmers. The three-year study, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, warned the costs involved "could, in some cases, outweigh current gross margins" of the farmers concerned - particularly those in the beef industry. In the first assessment of the likely costs of a levy, the Reading researchers concluded that farmers in hotspot areas would have to be charged '40 per beef animal and 0.5 pence per litre of milk for dairy herds, just to cover the costs of bovine TB. Costs would be lower if the levy was applied to the whole country, but the researchers cautioned that some farmers in disease-free areas would be unwilling to pay it. .....
Ministers had hoped to publish proposals on a disease levy last year, but the plans were delayed because of resistance from the industry and concerns by insurance experts."
May 27 - June 12 ~ "...The secrecy surrounding drug licensing is second only to defence policy."
The Food Ethics Council's paper (pdf new window) on drug use is its opening contribution to a regulatory review being undertaken by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate on behalf of Government
".. .. consumers and farmers face tough financial and ethical decisions.
Drug-based farming makes meat cheap for consumers. But with growing evidence that antibiotic resistance in humans is partly linked to overuse of similar drugs in livestock farming, this may come at an unacceptable cost to society. ...... the real problem is that farmers and consumers are denied the means to get out of it. At the moment, the rules on drug use make it more difficult and more expensive than it should be for farmers and consumers to do the right thing.'
The paper recommends that:
'The secrecy surrounding drug licensing is second only to defence policy,' said Tom MacMillan. 'Consumers and farmers need to work together to escape the vicious circle of drug dependence, but they can only do that with more information about the drugs they're using and about the alternatives.'
- Consumers and farmers should play a greater role in licensing veterinary drugs, particularly those intended to boost production on intensive farms.
- Animal health information to farmers should be greatly improved. This may mean that companies should not be allowed to advertise prescription drugs directly to farmers, because this tends to promote drug use as the only solution, instead of encouraging farmers to work with vets to remedy the systems causing ill-health.
- The regulatory process should be open to public scrutiny.
May 27 - June 12 ~ "The minister's comments demonstrate a dismal appreciation of the practicalities of farming.."
WMN reports that "Farmers who fail to protect their herds from badgers infected with TB could be fined, the animal health minister Ben Bradshaw hinted yesterday. In comments likely to infuriate many Westcountry dairy farmers, Mr Bradshaw said the Government was considering introducing financial "incentives" to encourage farmers to barricade their farms against diseased badgers... In practice, however, incentives are likely to include such measures as withholding a portion of compensation payments or other farm payments if farmers are deemed not to have taken "biosecurity" issues sufficiently seriously.
..... Ian Johnson, spokesman for the National Farmers' Union in the South West, said it was virtually impossible to barricade farms against badgers. ..... "The minister's comments demonstrate a dismal appreciation of the practicalities of farming. Unless you are going to keep your cows locked up in a concrete shed day and night it cannot be done. Footage has been taken of a badger scaling a nine-foot fence - if they are sick and looking for food they will pretty much get through anything."
Shadow animal health minister Owen Paterson said: "There was an awful lot of emphasis on blaming farmers for the disease ...... The committee heard some farmers had put up electric fences to keep out badgers and still gone down with the disease. What are they supposed to do'"
Colin Breed .....: "The message that the Government is going to try to deal with this by penalties on farmers won't go down well at all."
May 27 - June 12 ~ " ...the extra funding the Government has allocated to Biosecurity over the next four years will assist in protecting our industry from unwanted pests and disease, and will give us the ability to act quickly to protect our industry and interests.' .. New Zealand
Following the closure of the International Vaccine Bank in June (see below) our former partners, including New Zealand, will make their own arrangements.
Scoop.co.nz "This year's budget gives the agricultural industry something to smile about. ...
...the extra funding the Government has allocated to Biosecurity over the next four years will assist in protecting our industry from unwanted pests and disease, and will give us the ability to act quickly to protect our industry and interests.' Meat & Wool New Zealand is also pleased to see the Government taking the risk of foot and mouth disease seriously. If there was an outbreak of this disease in New Zealand, the effects would be devastating to farmers, and indeed our economy. The $404,000 (ie about '140,000) that the Government has set aside this year for a foot and mouth disease vaccine bank is a positive step to ensure New Zealand is able to respond in this way if it had to.'
May 21 - 27 2004 ~ Ben Bradshaw talks of "our successful eradication of foot and mouth disease in 2001"
"... our successful eradication of foot and mouth disease in 2001. Equally, we have invaluable veterinary expertise, technicians, laboratory diagnosticians and emergency managers in the UK that can be of real assistance to other countries. The Agreement formalises the existing arrangements by ensuring that the signatory countries can rely on expert support should they face a major animal disease outbreak."Extraordinary self-congratulation is here, just as it was in the jaw-dropping conclusion to the debate on April 30
"this House commends the action taken by this Government ..... on eradicating a major outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in seven months and on implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Royal Society Inquiries so that Government is better prepared to tackle a future outbreak of a major livestock disease."Moreover, no mention of the "Expert group" of Article 78 of the Council Directive has been made in any statement we have seen. Should not DEFRA establish a permanently operational group of genuine experts before wishing onto other countries the sort of "expertise" we saw in 2001'
May 21 - 27 ~ Toxic foods killing thousands, UN told
"....Countries must try to ensure food is produced, handled, and distributed more safely to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide each year from food-borne illnesses, officials told the UN-backed conference.Awareness of food-borne disease and concern about how food is produced is on the increase - and the realisation that "toxic" can mean more than "infected". See, for example, 'A Rough Guide to the UK Farming Crisis' - a new report from Corporate Watch (pdf file in new window) Meanwhile, food industry lobbyists are anxiously defending their interests at Whitehall. According to the Independent today, "the World Health Organisation published a global plan for reducing obesity rates, which included cutting sugar, fat and salt levels in food, and subsidising fruit and vegetables in canteens."
Recent reports .... the possibility of salmonella in raw almonds exported by a US company have underscored fears about how contaminated food can threaten people's health and disrupt international trade, said Hartwig de Haen of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)....The almonds were distributed nationwide and in the UK, France, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, and Taiwan. "From the farm to the final consumer, the risk of food-related outbreaks needs to be reduced."
It is beginning to seem that cheap food with its empty or harmful content is making obese those in the thrall of the giant food corporations. This awareness may be good news for the producers of organic vegetables and welfare friendly meat - but not for the world's poorer populations.
May 21 - 27 ~ DEFRA publishes its vaccination protocol - with its legal basis for pre-emptive culling
http://www.defra.gov.uk/footandmouth/pdf/vacprotocol.pdf (The pdf file opens in a new window and may take a few minutes on slower machines.)
Of great concern is the definition of 'pre-emptive' or 'preventive slaughter'; 'firebreak' cull
- This involves the culling of animals which are not on infected premises nor are dangerous contacts or necessarily exposed to the disease, in order to prevent the wider spread of disease outwith an area. Use of this power is described by a Disease Control (Slaughter) Protocol as required by the Animal Health Act 1981, as amended.In other words, the authorities have given themselves the legal right (which they did not have in 2001) to carry out the killing of any animal on any farm, not "necessarily exposed to the disease" Regular readers will remember the fury with which Lord Moran's successful amendment on the Animal Health Bill was met by the government. Use of Statutary Instrument 843 put paid to further democratic objections.
"Veterinary and scientific advice and judgement remain vital in determining disease control strategy." says the protocol. One is left wondering exactly from where, in the absence of a permanently operational Expert Group, this information will come. The scientific advisory group under Professor Roy Anderson - whose advice instigated the mass culling policies in 2001 - would appear to be the only advisory group available. We would appreciate information to the contrary - if it exists. (Protocol as html web page)
May 14 - 20 ~ Horse Passports delay "it would be much better if the Government faced up to reality that this is a hopeless and costly piece of bureaucracy "
James Gray, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, commenting on the Government's announcement today on yet another delay for the deadline for horse owners to obtain a horse passport.
"It is astonishing that twelve months after the Government announced their intention to introduce these ridiculous passports, Labour are still in a complete muddle... In September 2003, they made it law that every horse owner must have one by January 2004. On realising this would be too difficult, they extended the date to the 30th June 2004. Now they have put it back once again to the 28th February 2005.Read more about horse passports, including the debate in the House of Lords on February 5th last year and the Equiworld.net article "Defra's Horse Passport Pantomime"
Currently, only one fifth of horses have these passports. Whilst Conservatives welcome the delay, it would be much better if the Government faced up to reality that this is a hopeless and costly piece of bureaucracy which will adversely affect horse owners and riding schools across the country.'
May 14 - 20 ~ NSP: "required slaughter" of the so-called "most TSE susceptible" rare breed rams now in question - after RBST genotype survey raises concerns
DEFRA announces: " an extension to the time limited arrangements which permit keepers of recognised rare breeds of sheep participating in the voluntary National Scrapie Plan (NSP) to put off, should they wish to do so, the required slaughter of their most TSE susceptible breeding rams. Following the results of an NSP \ RBST (Rare Breeds Survival Trust) genotype survey, Defra commissioned a further more detailed study .....this detailed analysis will not be ready before the current temporary arrangements under the NSP for scrapie susceptible rare breed rams expire at the end of July 2004. ....."
The scrapie issue came to prominence when the idea that scrapie might be "masking" BSE was raised. One calm voice of reason was that of the knowledgeable Countess of Mar in the Animal Health Bill debate in October 2002,
" ... It is all supposition and theory....Every single sheep was killed in Iceland and sheep that were apparently scrapie free were brought in. Scrapie is now again found in certain valleys in Iceland. Shetland has a high incidence of scrapie in sheep. Yet, as I said, Scottish Blackface sheep do not appear to get scrapie. In Australia and New Zealand sheep do not appear to get scrapie. We need to look not only at genetics but also at phenotypes. Certain animals may have a genetic propensity to contracting a disease but they do not actually get it. We need to know why they do not get it. Much research needs to be devoted to that. ..."
May 14 - 20 ~ "... footrot is much more of a problem than scrapie."
From Improving sheep welfare on extensively managed flocks: economics, husbandry and welfare(pdf) Proceedings of a workshop held in Aberdeen, Scotland on 24 - 25 February, 2003. Edited by Pete Goddard, Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen
"The speed and rigour with which the UK's National Scrapie Plan is being implemented means that it represents such a danger. Hill breeds appear to have a lower proportion of animals with the 'desirable', apparently most resistant genotype and, hence, are at risk of a considerably reduced gene pool when the Scrapie Plan rules are applied. It should be borne in mind that from a sheep welfare, as opposed to a theoretical human health point of view, footrot is much more of a problem than scrapie...."
May 14 - 20 ~ Simulated FMD exercise in Hobart
ABC.net "Efforts to prepare Australia for a potential exotic disease outbreak are continuing in Hobart today.
Thirty-five members of the Rapid Response Team are leading more than 170 staff in controlling and managing a simulated foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. ... "Earlier this year Darwin hosted Exercise 'Noonamah'. This time round they've named the stimulated outbreak after Tasmania's famous devil, Exercise 'Sarcophilus'. The crew will be tracing the movements of a hypothetical outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in a region with a large number of small producers. Director of the exercise Terry Thomas, from Animal Health Australia, says a major plank in their response will be the establishment of two control centres. ..."
May 14- 20 ~ "Possibly they were reluctant to give evidence which might expose them to being party to the alleged mistake..."
A Dumfries and Galloway report into the successful Court case brought by the valuers Wallets Marts at Castle Douglas against SEERAD over foot and mouth payments. The Sheriff at Kirkcudbright was unimpressed by the evidence from a veterinary surgeon with the State Veterinary Service and an animal health officer at Ayr.
In short, they lied.
"Why Mr McLean and Mr Milloy were disingenous I know not......"We find it interesting that the Sheriff did not mince his words. Although tactfully finding a sort of excuse for the vet's behaviour in his alcohol problem, he nevertheless said that when it came to Mr McLean's evidence he had been caught out in a lie. This case exposes the reluctance of only two highly placed officials to tell the truth about FMD 2001. Perhaps the Sheriff's words give a clue as to why there has never been a proper inquiry into the outbreak...and why, more and more in public life in matters that concern more than late payments, officials of all kinds will lie and go on lying rather than acknowledge that dreadful mistakes have been made.
May 14 - 20 ~ FMD false alarm in Shropshire
Shropshire Star The unfortunate lambs had orf. Orf was wrongly diagnosed as FMD during 2001. Had yesterday's scare really been foot and mouth disease however, where is the Expert Group that, according to Article 78 of the new EU Directive, should be permanently operational' The Directive lists such a group's minimum responsibilities. Would DEFRA and the government have turned at once to the new independent Science Advisory Council, chaired by Professor Roy Anderson and among whose members is Professor Mark Woolhouse, a non-vet biomathematician who never retreated from his pro-culling position and who remarked early in the 2001 outbreak, "If we replace slaughter with vaccination we will almost certainly lose control of this epidemic...." (This view was refuted by a scientist with first hand knowledge.) A powerful inner circle does not necessarily constitute "the best scientific advice".
May 7 - 13 ~ Foot and Mouth in Israel: "the epizootic is thus seen as closed" No animals dead, destroyed or slaughtered
Foot and mouth disease in Israel - Final Report (OIE)
"...The only animals infected were young fattening cattle and sheep that had been vaccinated only once against foot and mouth disease (FMD), 6 months before, with a polyvalent vaccine that included FMD virus strain type O....No new cases of FMD have been reported since 17 March 2004. The epizootic is thus seen as closed thirty days after the completion of the favourable evolution of the epidemiological situation and the results of the epidemiological surveillance activities (screening, inspection, serological testing and additional studies), which indicated that the infection had not spread..."A Pro-Med Mail moderator comments: " An overview of the FMD situation in Israel and the Middle East, with some interesting maps, is available at http://www.israel-embassy.org.uk/agriculture/ Another very interesting summary [Foot & mouth disease - Kuwait & Israel 19980722.1384] has the comments of our own Mod. AS, submitted before he joined ProMED-mail on a regular basis. I have always contended that ProMED-mail archives, available on the website, are not only a valuable historic record but also interesting reading. You never know whose ideas you might come across. - Mod PC]
May 7 - 13 ~ "South America is expected to be certifiably and patently free of FMD within a few years"
Pro-Med Mail archives Foot & mouth disease - Kuwait & Israel 19980722.1384 ..... problems were all too common, until recently, throughout South America. Thanks to their efficient vaccination programmes, overseen by PAHO, Argentina, Chile, southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay are free of FMD. The rest will follow. - Mod.MHJ"
That was written in 1998, almost five years before the UK turned its back on vaccination and instead slaughtered ten million animals including hefted flocks and irreplaceable breeding stock. The EU is not prepared to compensate the UK for way it dealt with the outbreak. See below. The cost was an estimated 8 billion pounds - and the law changed (Animal Health Act of 2002) to ensure that the government would not need, in any future outbreaks, to be held up by the objections of the animals' owners that such slaughter was illegal as well as unnecessary. Those, such as Guy Thomas Everard and Rosemary Upton, who successfully fought in the courts to keep their animals alive were fully vindicated by the continuing health of their stock. They could not do so now. See (legality of the cull)
May 7 - 13 ~ Hearing the Real GM Story
Western Morning News
"...Wednesday May 12 at 7pm in the Committee Room, Municipal Hall, Taunton, Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception will explain how worldwide industry manipulation and political collusion, rather than sound independent science, have brought genetically engineered food into our daily diet.See also Friends of the Earth press release on Monsanto's announcement that it is stopping all further efforts to commercialise its controversial GM wheat
Also how the alarming evidence of health dangers are covered up, company research is rigged and intense political and corporate pressure is applied to accelerate the spread of genetically modified crops.
Jeffrey Smith has worked in the biotech industry for ten years and his book includes the internal memos by the US Food and Drug Administration scientists, which warn of toxins, allergies and new diseases - ignored by their superiors. When a top British scientist tried to alert the public about his alarming discoveries, he lost his job and was silenced with threats of a lawsuit.
Jeffrey Smith will also be Totnes on May 13 - for further information call Greenbooks 01803 863260 or www.Greenbooks.co.uk ..."
May 7 - 13 ~"...some seriously unique ideas about dealing with TB in both cattle and badgers"
Professor Derek Ellwood BSc. PhD. F.R.S.C. C.Chem. F.I.Biol. Consultant Microbiologist will give a talk and answer questions on the important issues of TB and other animal diseases on Friday 11th.June at 7.00pm at Penrith Rugby Club Winters Park, Penrith
It is an open meeting and admission is free. Further details: Suzanne Greenhill: Tel/Fax: 01900 822358
See also Inbox And see extract from The Observer April 2001
May 7 - 13 ~The shambles of Defra's"fallen stock" disposal scheme
Booker's Notebook "....Since May 1 last year, it has been a criminal offence for farmers to continue their age-old, harmless practice of burying fallen stock on the farm. Yet with no other arrangements in place to collect the stock, including millions of dead chickens, most farmers have been forced, with Defra's tacit consent, to break the law.
......because Britain still has not enough incineration capacity, Defra has concluded that its scheme can only work if hunts continue their traditional service to farmers by collecting larger animals....
The shambles of Defra's disposal scheme can be illustrated by the experience of Andrew Brown, a Leicestershire farmer, who, like any sheep farmer, recently lost a good few lambs during the lambing season. When he rang Defra, they said they could only collect sheep more than 18 months old and which had not been dead more than 24 hours. But they were closed from Friday to Sunday. Although they could not help with his lambs, Mr Brown did also have three ewes to dispose of.
Next day a lorry arrived from 30 miles away to take them to Stratford-on-Avon, where they were put on another truck to be taken to a renderer 150 miles away in Exeter. Here their heads were removed and trucked back to Stratford, to be tested by Defra scientists, under more EC rules, for scrapie.
Such madness would only be multiplied by a ban on hunting, leaving Defra's scheme wholly unworkable. ...... " Read in full and see also warmwell's fallen stock page
May 7 - 13 ~ UK need for rats in the sewers compared with Germany's "Green" waste food system
On the question of German pig swill (below) , we hear from Robert Persey.
"...Germany operates municipal cooking plants to which the waste food is delivered by collectors. The bins are steam cleaned before returning to the restaurants, schools and hospitals etc. The waste food is cooked under municipal control and the cooked soup is delivered by vacuum tanker to pig farms which feed 6 million pigs a year. Germany is not going to give up this practice because it is very green.
The UK has a major problem with waste food. It is either going to landfill ( with major consequences) or else it is going down the sewers. The waste down the sewers is feeding a massive rat population. However the rats are needed to remove a lot of the solidified fats that clog up the sewers. The whole issue needs to be addressed and I believe that Germany offers an example of best practice that we could learn and benefit from. I suspect that the economics would add up because the cooked swill would fund part of the cost of running such a system."
May 7 - 13 ~ International Vaccine Bank (IVB) in Britain to close in June. Update
The International Vaccine Bank (IVB) in Britain will close at the end of June "since it is no longer able to produce FMD vaccine of the quality that members now require." (BioSecurity - March 2004) Representatives of the partner countries have decided to make their own arrangements for provision of FMD antigen reserves from now on. We understand that Defra has acquired a reserve of new antigens which will be kept and maintained by a commercial company in the UK. The closure of the IVB should not affect Britain's preparedness for vaccinating against FMD. The EU vaccine bank is not affected by the closure of the IVB.
May 7-13 ~ Germany has not banned pigswill feeding
National Pig Association site reports:
"...Holland's slaughter figures continue to fall yet their exports of bacon to Britain are rising. And some analysts are wondering just where the Dutch processors are getting their supplies of processing pork - Germany, where swill feeding is still permitted'"We understand Germany obtains much of its meat from Britain's so-called "cull-sows" via Cheales Meats. The swill producers who have lost their livelihoods without compensation following the UK decision to blame pigswill for FMD will be among those wondering why Germany, fully aware of past and current pig disease in the UK, has NOT followed suit in banning pigswill in its own pig industry. Are these pigswill-fed pigs ending up as bacon in Britain' Possibly, the Ombudsman will be wondering too.
warmwell page on the Cheales Meat/Waugh connections.
May 7- 13 ~ 'the proper surveillance system will not be put into place, the proper response system will not exist.'
IPS News Experts from the OIE, WHO, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) this week gathered in Geneva to study emerging zoonotic diseases.
".... among the causes behind the expansion of these diseases, farming practices is one of the few factors that can be reformed to help fight the phenomenon. The same cannot be said of globalisation or climate change processes, which are more complex ....
One of the experts' recommendations was improved coordination in medical and veterinary responses when new diseases appear.
The next step, agree the OIE, FAO and WHO, is to raise political awareness and support for public and animal health infrastructure. Because, said Meslin, if infrastructure is not reinforced, particularly in developing countries, 'the proper surveillance system will not be put into place, the proper response system will not exist.' An international network is essential to support countries in efforts to assess the risk of new zoonotic diseases, he said."
May 5 ~ Rapid Diagnosis test could have saved "thousands" of cows and sheep from culling
Apart from the underestimate of "thousands" when the actual number is nearer ten million,and the confusion between bacteria and viruses, it is encouraging to see this report in the Financial Times today
"....Porton Down is spinning out technology to tackle bacteria responsible for hospital infections, food poisoning and foot and mouth disease.However, the UK Contingency Plan for FMD is still apparently dismissive of such rapid diagnostic tests, one of which was actually offered to the UK in March 2001 when they could have prevented scenes of carnage and heartbreak that cannot be forgotten or forgiven while the government continues - astonishingly - to congratulate itself on the handling of the disease.
Scott Robinson, the man behind the biological defence system, is working with the Veterinary Laboratory Agency on an animal health version. He thinks a 20kg "soldier-proof" gene detector, designed to test for anthrax and smallpox, could have saved thousands of cows and sheep from culling during the foot and mouth epidemic by telling vets which farms were infected and which were not...."
May 5 ~ "..West Nile Virus is non-native, and it is not known how it was introduced into the United States. "
From Invasive Threats to the American Homeland by Robert J Pratt Parameters, Spring 2004, pp. 44-61. As we say below, the US are taking very seriously indeed threats to its agriculture. "... the detrimental effects of invasive species and pathogens are potentially insurmountable. Local governments, state governments, environmental groups, farmers, ranchers, and scientists collectively have urged the federal government to coordinate the defensive effort and to make invasive species control a higher-priority issue....".
"....Once an invasive species becomes established, it is difficult if not impossible to exterminate it without a huge expenditure. Our history is replete with failures to control invasive species once they are established. The gypsy moth, zebra mussel, purple loosestrife, and Kudzu are just a few examples. The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in England is an example of an invasive disease being controlled, but at a high cost ($30 billion)
.... New methods of control would have to be developed, tested, and fielded .... Additionally, production and distribution of counter-mechanisms in large numbers would take significant time and resources..."
May 5 ~ FMD has become a permanent threat in Southern Africa
Irin News reports that
"the lack of foreign currency to buy animal vaccines has led to the outbreak of a variety of highly contagious cattle diseases in Zimbabwe that are threatening to spread throughout Southern Africa. As disease outbreaks continue to spread, Stuart Hargreaves, the director of the Zimbabwe Veterinary Services Department, told IRIN that the government had failed to secure funding for a comprehensive animal disease control and vaccination programme.... A senior disease surveillance and control officer in Zimbabwe's Livestock Production Unit, within the ministry of agriculture, told IRIN: "There is no improvement - outbreaks are becoming more rampant. Previously controlled diseases are re-emerging, and there is nothing we can do because there are no medicines. The little money that is there is in local currency, yet we need foreign currency to import vaccines. Communal dipping services remain suspended and we cannot promise farmers any help at the moment." He added that FMD had become a permanent threat, and encouraged farmers who could import vaccines to do so and consult the department for assistance in vaccinating their animals..."
May 5 ~ International Vaccine Bank (IVB) in Britain to close in June'
Meanwhile, we read - but have not yet been able to verify - that in June, "the International Vaccine Bank (IVB) in Britain will close, forcing New Zealand to make its own arrangements..." See New Zealand Herald
May 4 ~ The US takes the threat of bio-terrorism against agriculture very seriously
"....the federal grant to Texas A&M involves biological warfare aimed at cows, pigs, chickens, and other sources of animal protein. A successful introduction of a disease in U.S. livestock could imperil the nation's food supply. Experts say there could also be diseases introduced to animals that could then spread to humans.
Texas A&M researcher Neville Clarke, who worked on the grant proposal, says of the 60,000 scientists in the old Soviet Union who were involved in bio-weapons research about 10,000 were focused on developing diseases that attack plants and animals. He says the threat may not have disappeared with the collapse of the communist government. ..." Read in full
This grant is in addition to the '10 million granted by the US for a national centre for research into foot and mouth disease,avian influenza, Rift Valley fever and brucellosis ( reported last week )
Meanwhile in Taiwan, SARS has ensured that "crisis management networks have been established and rapid diagnostic tests and effective vaccines would soon be available." Taiwan has now established the basic infrastructure for the monitoring and treatment of the killer viral disease..... "We have come up with new ways of testing for the SARS virus, and also developed a bio-chip for its diagnosis. This bio-chip can also help to identify a host of other viral diseases..." Taiwan News
May 1 ~ "cooperative research efforts to help fight this disease" Foot and Mouth Disease Global Research Alliance.
Officials and scientists from the US Department of Agriculture are discussing collaborative research to develop better vaccines and antiviral agents against the virus that causes foot and mouth disease (FMD).
"This meeting is important to future research and prevention efforts," said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. "By bringing together world-class research scientists, we can more effectively focus on cooperative research efforts to help fight this disease."See USDA news
"USDA and the cooperating research organizations have formed the FMD Global Research Alliance to provide tools to countries affected with FMD to slow down the virus and to ensure that FMD-free countries do not have outbreaks of the disease. The alliance includes the Pirbright Laboratory of the United Kingdom's Institute for Animal Health; the Australian Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong, part of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation; Canada's National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory; and Kenya's International Livestock Research Institute.
May 1 ~ May Day, May Day - who's going to pay'
On the day that the populations of ten new countries join the EU and the last balloons begin to deflate, let us remember that the EU is not a charity organisation. For one thing, it is not prepared to compensate the UK for way it dealt with the outbreak - and with very good reason.
UK government has claimed 1499 million euros from the European Commission for the cost of responding to the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak.
In turning this down the EU speaks diplomatically of
"the deficiencies of the administrative control system."Is the UK Government then to be congratulated' The EU considers only a sum of 378.2 million euros to be "eligible", (of which EUR 355 million has already been paid as an advance). Who then pays for the inept handling of the crisis'
Who has compensated the victims of the emotional and financial fallout of the policies'
Who - finally - is prepared to look again at what was done and say, "We are sorry. It won't happen again"'
The government "bore down" on the disease with its "pre-emptive" mass slaughtering, and is still resolved in its present Contingency Plan to stick to its militaristic terminology, so appropriate for the current mindset of "kill before you think."
As Magnus Linklater wrote in February, "The contingency plans for a future outbreak are cast in belligerent language. They speak of war and peace. Next time there will be a 'war cabinet' to ensure that the slaughter is carried out more quickly..."
May 1 ~ "Be bloody, bold and resolute and laugh to scorn the power of man..."
- a bloody resolution at the end of Thursday's debate from a government which, like the doomed Macbeth, both scorns its people and underestimates them.
...it was resolved thatBy piling its absent MPs into the Chamber at the last minute in order to vote for this statement when there has been so much so much evidence to show that the opposite is true, the government further erodes public trust. Few now believe in its willingness to look honestly at the issues. As one respected emailer puts it, " by exonerating its dreadful handling of the crisis the Government deludes and deceives only itself. Only the Government could be so crass as to believe its actions require any congratulations - in the face of so much factual evidence and data to the contrary."
".... this House commends the action taken by this Government....congratulates the Government on eradicating a major outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in seven months and on implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learned and Royal Society Inquiries so that Government is better prepared to tackle a future outbreak of a major livestock disease..."
April 30 ~ "Crucially, we also know that cattle would be culled again.
That is still the official policy of the Government and this Parliament, and we are not going to disagree with the Government. A future outbreak will be controlled by a cull. .." Hansard
Unbelievable. It is as if all the desperate work of so many of us for the past three long years has been utterly in vain. But if a cull of healthy animals were tried again, the outcry would not be confined to the UK. As the OIE press release last week put it:
"During his intervention at the conference, the Director General of the OIE, Dr. Bernard Vallat said that this situation was no longer acceptable either to the international scientific community or to the public at large the more so that in many areas of the world, human beings are still being deprived of valuable proteins in their diet. 'It is urgent that scientists come forward with alternative methods of disease control .."
April 26 - May 1 ~ "the Government, far from reassuring people and answering their questions and concerns, have simply chosen to ignore them...
...However, those questions and concerns will not go away." In the Animal and Plant Diseases debate on Thursday, Theresa May called for a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreakShe called it 'possibly the blackest period in modern history for British agriculture. " The Government benches were deserted during this debate. Only Ben Bradshaw and a pitiful handful were there to hear the debate in spite of the fact that there had been a week's notice. Mrs May commented: "...for three Ministers to fail to respond to a debate on a subject that threatens the livelihood of British farmers is not only to treat the House with contempt, but sends a clear message to farmers that the Government are not interested in them or their future."
'We owe it to all of the farmers affected to ensure this can never happen again. But I have yet to meet a farmer who believes we are better prepared now.See Hansard for the full debate.
The Government has lost the confidence of the farming industry over their ability to prevent disease entering Britain.'
... "Since it became public knowledge that we were holding this debate, my staff have fielded a stream of telephone calls, e-mails and messages from people throughout the country. Those people feel strongly about the issue: each has something to say, and is able to uncover another piece of the jigsaw in respect of what happened in the outbreak......
.... the Government have not put in place the inquiry that is necessary to make sure that we get answers on why the outbreak occurred and the disease came into the country. ..
...We now know, of course, that an internal DEFRA investigation has cleared Ministers and officials of any wrongdoing or attempt to mislead. I might add that the existence of that internal investigation was revealed only after it had concluded that everything was above board and squeaky clean. That will give no reassurance to the many farmers who want to get to the truth. ... "
April 26 - May 1 ~ Mr Ben Bradshaw insisted that the Government had learned the lessons of the disaster
"...we have learned the lessons from that outbreak. We have taken new legislation through Parliament to ensure that we have better powers to tackle not just foot and mouth, but other exotic diseases in future. We have put in place new measures to protect against the import and spread of disease, and we have consulted on and published detailed contingency plans for tackling those diseases in the event of an outbreak."
Readers of this website will know that the "better powers" means the draconian new clauses in the Animal Health Act, making it retrospecively legal to slaughter healthy animals at the Minister's discretion and making it illegal for anyone to object, "new measures to protect against the import and spread of disease" can be summed up as two sniffer dogs and warning posters, and that the contingency plans fail still to take account of state of the art vaccines and rapid diagnostic tests and still talk of creating "fire-breaks". Mr Bradshaw might do well to re-read the conclusions of the EU Temporary Committee on the handling of the crisis by his government
"....the lack of effective contingency plans, inadequately informed veterinary staff, staff shortages at the locally established disease control units, and violations of animal welfare legislation during culls and in connection with the 'standstill'. In individual cases, it was also reported that farmers who were affected had been intimidated and pressurised in connection with the culls. These shortcomings and the sometimes inadequate information policy caused considerable stress among those concerned, many of whom were still suffering psychologically as a result months after the crisis."
April 26 - May 1 ~ Mrs May spoke of the 10 million animals slaughtered during the foot and mouth crisis
- a conservative figure but one that at least is nearer the truth than the figure of "four million animals slaughtered" which we see hear and deplore on all sides, a figure used even by Farming Today which ought to know better. See 10 million animals were slaughtered in foot and mouth cull by Robert Uhlig in the Telegraph, Jan 23 2002.
April 26 - May 1 ~ Horse export disappointment "There is now nothing stopping the Government from going for a complete ban under the existing legislation..."
WMN quoting MEP Neil Parish "In theory they could be challenged by the European Commission, but in practice that seems very unlikely. We need ministers to have courage because the existing situation does not provide enough protection for our horses and ponies."
April 26 - May 1 ~ "Should the virus reach Australia, rapid diagnostic tests would ensure appropriate control and public health measures are implemented quickly."
In view of the paragraph below on China's new tests and what we feel is an urgent need for international cooperation to reduce the time needed for research and development into the control and eradication of disease, here again is a news report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia last month (March 9 2004)
"...As the new tests will be based on molecular technologies it is expected that the two to three days it currently takes to detect H5N1 will be reduced to less than six hours.100 million chickens were killed in the mass cull during avian influenza. As Dr Bernard Vallet, Director General of the OIE says, this situation is no longer acceptable "either to the international scientific community or to the public at large - the more so that in many areas of the world, human beings are still being deprived of valuable proteins in their diet. ..It is urgent that scientists come forward with alternative methods of disease control that will not only avoid wastage of valuable animal proteins but that will also promote the international trade of animals and animal products by removing technically unjustified trade barriers caused by animal diseases."
"The tests should be available for use in laboratories by September 2004," Dr Prowse says.
The new tests will be developed within the microbiologically secure environment of CSIRO Livestock Industries' Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) in Geelong, Victoria. AAHL Director, Dr Martyn Jeggo, says the tests will be developed using technologies such as real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). ..."
April 26 - May 1 ~ China's new RT-PCR reagent kit is able to test three subgroups of avian influenza viruses simultaneously
"...Experts from the appraisal team held that the test reagent kit is efficient and easy to use. It is suitable for poultry quarantine, human disease control and epidemiological investigation. ......As early as in August 2002, the local quarantine bureau began to employ the fluorescent RT-PCR test approach to examine poultry to be supplied to Hong Kong, and it took about four hours to get the test result. To lower the test cost and raise test efficiency, researchers from the bureau have worked with their fellows from the Shenzhen Taitai Gene Co., Ltd. for three months to develop a new-type fluorescent RT-PCP reagent kit.This illustrates yet again the need for international openness and co operation on what the OIE calls the best 'state of the art' scientific knowledge on the use of appropriate diagnostic tests.
The scientific outcome, with independent patent, has met the world standards..."
April 26 - May 1 ~ "We are bitterly disappointed and frustrated..
that improvements to the current conditions in which horses are transported into and across the EU for slaughter, will not now be introduced. This was an opportunity to improve the current situation where horses and donkeys suffer unnecessarily due to excessively long journeys and lack of rest periods with many journeys taking days to reach the slaughter house. This is a situation that can now only get worse with the imminent enlargement of the EU and the loss of border inspection posts.' Jo White, Campaigns Manager at the ILPH
April 26 - May 1 ~ "The OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals have thus been updated"
OIE press release
" to include the latest diagnostic tests capable of differentiating vaccinated from infected animals. With specific regard to the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, it is worth mentioning that these tests have already been applied to certain diseases such as FMD, and are being considered for other as regards disease control and recovery of disease free status following disease outbreaks."No doubt DEFRA is as aware of this as we are and will be discussing with their stakeholders the significant move forward by the OIE. (See also Inbox for April 26 2004)
April 26 - May 1 ~ "...a spokesman for Mr Michael last week refused to divulge whether Mrs Beckett would take public opinion on board...
and back an opt-out banning the export for slaughter of horses, ponies and donkeys.
Margaret Beckett, who along with her junior colleague, Minister for the Horse, Alun Michael, has consistently refused to ask for a clause protecting British horses, will meet fellow agriculture ministers from EU countries for the Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg. One of the items for discussion and vote is a draft EU Regulation on the transport of animals....(11.00 am update:)...officials continuing to insist that a simple ban on the trade would be legally unenforceable....The UK has been putting forward proposals which have been adopted in the run-up to the council and these include the requirement that all horses on a lorry be transported in single stalls, this is partly welfare and partly economics. Mr Bradshaw will be proposing a clause restricting the transportation of unbroken ponies, horses and donkeys to short road journeys and groups of four - which he claims would prevent low value moorland ponies from being exported.
. James Gray warned that the Government would not be forgiven if it failed to take up the opt-out clause being offered by Europe. ." See WMN and horse export page
April 26 - May 1 ~ DEFRA pays one of its bills
The Western Morning News reports, "DEFRA PAYS UP AT LAST
A Westcountry farming contractor owed '1.2 million for vital work carried out during the foot and mouth crisis has finally been paid, after a "nightmare" three-year battle with the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. ...The settlement was hailed as a major victory by small business campaigners who claim that Defra has used heavy-handed tactics and spurious excuses in a bid to avoid paying its bills. Three years on from the crisis, Defra is still refusing to pay bills totalling more than '50 million. ... " Read in full
April 26 - May 1 ~ Do you or do you not intend to press for the UK opt out'
James Gray's letter to Alun Michael
"As the Council of Ministers meets in Luxembourg I would now be most grateful for your confirmation of your general approach to the live export of horses for human consumption.Read press release and the warmwell page on horse exports.
Do you or do you not intend to press for the UK opt out which I believe is now on offer from the European Parliament, and which the European Commission have publicly stated that they would be open to examining' ....... you continually say you intend to prevent the live export of horses by putting in place stringent welfare conditions which would have that effect for economic if for no other reason. However, with the exception of individual partitions to be used in transporting horses, restricted journeys for unbroken horses and ponies, and EU export health rules on fitness to travel, you have not even begun to spell out what these very stringent welfare conditions could be. .....
This matter is now a matter of grave concern to the public .....'
April 26 - May 1 ~ the Government cannot continue to ignore the evidence of the damage that pesticides are causing
See pesticide page
Georgina Downs sends this press release today. Extract:
" Ms. Downs points out that the most comprehensive review ever done in Canada on the chronic effects of pesticide exposure at home, in the garden and at work has just been released by the Ontario College of Family Physicians.Ms. Downs points out that it is impossible for people living or working in agricultural areas to avoid exposure to pesticides, unless the Government take immediate action to ban crop-spraying near homes, schools, workplaces and any other places of human habitation. In written PQ number PQ2696 03/04 Alun Michael stated that "The UK's pesticide approval system provides robust safeguards to protect the public against health risks - a view that is endorsed by independent scientists on the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. Before any pesticide can be used it must first be proved that it is safe to humans, wildlife and the environment. ....." However, in the US it is actually a federal offence to claim that pesticides are safe The late Professor Dennis Parke, Former Chairman WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues stated "Not a single tested pesticide has ever been proven safe." Read in full
The college conducted a 14'month review of over 250 in-depth studies around the world on the effects of pesticides and found consistent evidence linking pesticide exposure to brain, kidney, prostrate and pancreatic cancer as well as leukaemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, neurological damage, Parkinson's disease and other serious illnesses and diseases."
April 19 - 25 ~ OIE International (Vaccination) Conference, Argentina, April 13-16, 2004 Conclusions and Recommendations
http://www.oie.int/eng/press/en_040422.htm Among the list of conclusions we read:
....8. For ethical, ecological and economical reasons, it is no longer acceptable to control and eradicate disease outbreaks mainly by applying mass slaughter of animals.and among the recommendations
9. Vaccines help to improve animal health, public health, animal welfare, and agricultural sustainability; to protect the environment, maintain biodiversity, and protect consumers of animal products. ...
Whenever feasible, OIE should formulate vaccination policies as alternatives to mass slaughtering of animals. .... The OIE develop and incorporate into its standards, recommendations and guidelines all relevant new information on diagnostic tests and the effective prevention, control and subsequent eradication of infectious animal diseases by vaccination. ..... the development of more flexible marketing authorization regulation..... .The OIE and the International Association for Biologicals (IABs) disseminate all information concerning this International Conference to OIE Member Countries, international and regional organisations and other stakeholders.Read in full
April 19 - 25 ~ It's much better than the original scheme, but so long as SFP is calculated on a regional basis rather than the basis of historic payments there are bound to be some losers" (Anthony Gibson)
The Journal and the Western Morning News on Mrs Beckett's rethink about subsidies. Read articles.
In her statement Mrs Beckett said: "We shall need to see that hill farming communities receive appropriate support from other sources, including the England Rural Development Programme."
April 19 - 25 ~ "..no reasons not to support the application by Syngenta for sweetcorn from genetically modified maize line Bt11 " says Elliot Morley
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): The Government are accepting the advice that there are no reasons not to support the application by Syngenta for approval under the European novel foods regulations for sweetcorn from genetically modified maize line Bt11.
Joan Ruddock : Is my hon. Friend aware that the Belgian Government, the French Government and the Austrian Government have all raised serious concerns about the scientific testing of this sweetcorn, which is designed for human consumption, and its safety' As that is the case, how can he support the marketing of this product when it has been tested under outdated and inadequate novel foods regulation, given that a much more rigorous testing regime has just become law in the EU' ...
More from Hansard for Thursday April 22 including bovine TB
April 19 - 25 ~ Tories back call for Foot and Mouth Inquiry
WMN "Ministers are to face a fresh grilling over the Government's decision to suppress vital evidence from the official foot and mouth inquiry when the Conservatives stage a full Commons debate on the issue next week. Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary Theresa May will renew calls for a full public inquiry into the 2001 disaster when she opens the debate on the Government's handling of animal health issues.
The debate will put a spotlight on the Government's decision to suppress a report in which state vet Jim Dring said he could have prevented the £8 billion disaster...."
(Theresa May said) : "The news that an internal investigation has cleared everyone will come as no reassurance at all to the many farmers who want to get to the truth. It is only a few weeks since another internal investigation cleared another Government minister (Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes) only for her to be forced to resign after fresh evidence came to light a few days later. The Government must now act to dispel the impression that there has been a cover-up by opening itself up to a truly independent inquiry into foot and mouth. ...... The debate promises to be uncomfortable for ministers who have frequently changed their story on the handling of Mr Dring's report. ..... . Opposition MPs are likely to raise a series of questions about whether the Government has fully learned the lessons of the events of 2001. Despite widespread concerns about illegal meat imports only six sniffer dogs have been introduced to guard Britain's ports and airports." Read in full
April 19 - 25 ~ Owen Paterson will address an Open Meeting in Cumbria on the future of farming
A meeting on the future of farming in this country, with the focus on Cumbria will take place on Friday May 14th 2004.
The speaker is Owen Paterson, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and M.P. for North Shropshire.
There will be an address from Mr Paterson followed by a question and answer session. Mr Paterson is keen to stress this is not a party political occasion; he really does want to learn about the experiences and views of farmers in the locality.
The meeting will start at 7.00p.m. and finish approx. 9.15p.m.
Location: The auction mart pub, the Hired Lad, near Penrith.This is an open meeting;all are welcome to attend ,and as many questions as are practicable will be put to Mr Paterson. All very welcome. It is hoped that Dr Richard North may be in attendance.
It is in the mart car park, sited at Skirsgill, ,just off the roundabout for Ullswater and Keswick
(junction 40 of the M6)
Friday May 14th
April 19 - 25 ~ '1m awarded for university disease studies
Fordyce Maxwell in the Scotsman
"University of Edinburgh researchers have been awarded a total grant of £1million for two animal health projects - foot-and-mouth disease in cattle and Marek's disease in poultry.See also Fordyce Maxwell's article in Wednesday's Scotsman about the dangers of ear tagging young calves. The British Cattle Movement Service has again been asked by farmers to ease deadlines on calf tagging and registration, this time with backing from the Health and Safety Executive. Calves have to be ear-tagged within 20 days of birth and registered with the service by 27 days in order to get their "passports" but an NFU Scotland survey
Professor Ivan Morrison, an immunologist with the veterinary studies department, will study how manipulation of the immune response to the FMD virus influences airborne transmission from infected animals to neighbouring, unvaccinated cattle.
It is hoped that the research will also help to identify the best way to vaccinate cattle quickly in any future FMD outbreak. Work will also be done on the differences between cattle that have been vaccinated against FMD and those that have recovered from infection. ...."
".. in the Highlands and Islands last autumn indicated that more than 20 per cent of farmers and crofters, of 2,500 taking part, had been injured, some more than once, by protective cows while trying to tag young calves, or while complying with separate requirements to clean-clip cattle going for slaughter. .."
April 19 - 25 ~ EFRA Committee to investigate the issue of bovine tuberculosis
According to FWi its terms of reference will be "to consider solutions to the problem of bovine TB, including particular progress made towards developing a vaccine...The committee also intends to consider a number of other matters, including the experience of Ireland, and the role played by trace elements."
See Conclusions and Recommendations of the 1999 Report and the follow up report in January 2001 which remarked,
"we believe that a more positive approach from the ISG towards constructive criticism of their analysis would be helpful, whether this consists of undertaking analysis to convince this Committee or of involving in their work other academics who have serious concerns about the scientific basis of the trial."and
"We are also disappointed that progress has not been more rapid towards the development of a more accurate test and hope that work will be pressed forward in this area......It is the responsibility of Ministers, not of the ISG, to make the ultimate decisions and we believe that this process must be put in train now and not delayed until the crisis of no clear results from such an expensive and controversial programme is upon us.."The third EFRA report of the past five years, 2003 EFRA report into bovine TB seems not to be available from the parliament link - but the government response is there with its many references to "stakeholders" and "consultations".
April 19 - 25 ~ "... the ISG is aware of the background scientific information available, but it has not been asked to consider any worked-up research proposals relating to this area."
The EFRA Committee - in its third investigation in five years into bovine TB - will consider among other things the role played by trace elements. One of its recommendations last time was : "We would therefore encourage the ISG to indicate why specified topics which have been drawn to its attention are not recommended for further study (paragraph 44)."
The government's response was: "...In the specific instance raised by the Committee - the effect of trace elements such as selenium on the disease status of cattle and badgers - the ISG is aware of the background scientific information available, but it has not been asked to consider any worked-up research proposals relating to this area..."
A paper by Hellen Fullerton PhD was offered to the then Agriculture Select Committee in 1999 "...Resistance mechanisms have been largely ignored since the introduction of antibiotics. It is proposed that resistance to M. Bovis could be enhanced by raising the trace element intake of cattle and also of badgers. ..."
April 19 - 25 ~ "...Perhaps I may say nice things about Defra for a change."
The Countess of Mar in Monday's House of Lords debate on Public Sector Local Food Procurement " My Lords, I declare an interest as a specialist cheese maker. Perhaps I may say nice things about Defra for a change. We have found Defra extremely helpful in the organisation of farmers' markets. We have received inquiries from various organisations such as schools and local hospitals in the West Midlands and particularly in Hereford and Worcester.
Can the Minister do something about food production in hospitals' Last year, while in St Thomas's Hospital for a week, I had to chew my way through the most obnoxious meat that was called lamb. God knows where they got it from. We produce wonderful English lamb - British lamb - so please ask hospitals to procure decent lamb which patients can chew and so get better quicker... "
April 19 - 25 ~ ".. spot checks on compliance in other member states. ..... would carry far more public confidence than the rather wimpish Commission."
Andrew George has tabled a series of Parliamentary questions about the timetable set for the new member states to meet the EU's existing regulations on food. There are concerns that former Soviet-bloc countries will not be able to meet existing health and animal welfare standards. According to the Western Morning News Mr George said,
"There is still a question mark at the back of many people's minds as to whether some existing EU states are meeting all regulations. It would be far better to have a series of bilateral agreements to allow inspection teams from one member state to carry out spot checks on compliance in other member states.
I think that would carry far more public confidence than the rather wimpish Commission." Mr George said he was also concerned that lax rules on GM labelling in countries such as Poland could make parts of Eastern Europe a "dirty back door" for imports of GM produce. The National Farmers' Union has warned that an influx of cheap imports from countries that do not meet British standards would undermine British farmers. The European Commission acknowledged that a "handful of implementation issues" to be resolved before the new member states complied fully with EU standards. But the Food Standards Agency has dismissed fears of any risk to human health."
April 19 - 25 ~ DEFRA says "it is for the Commission to enforce the standards across the community"
The Western Morning News has three articles today: "Concerns have been raised over public health and the impact the imports could have on the farming industry if they do not meet EU hygiene regulations by the May 1 accession date. ...."
" Liberal Democrat Food and Rural Affairs spokesman Andrew George "....There is already a problem with illegal meat imports - what we suspect was part of the reason for foot and mouth outbreak issue.... .... A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: "We work with, and have worked with, other governments in accession countries in order to help them meet the technical standards, but it is for the Commission to enforce the standards across the community. We have checks in place against meat imports from a potential animal disease perspective."DEFRA's checks include the now famous sniffer dogs and warning posters. As for the brucellosis outbreak in Cornwall, no further news has come from DEFRA about the source of the infection.
April 19 - 25 ~ New database to track animal movements
The Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) will create a single central database to track the movement of animals and certain types of products both within the EU and from outside the EU.
The UK has until 31 December this year to get the scheme working. Austria, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Finland joined the system from the starting date of 1 April.
David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said
"...The new database will reduce red tape for both economic operators and competent authorities. For example, a consignment of animals moving from Spain to Italy via France can be managed with TRACES using just one electronic form rather than the separate systems and paperwork that would previously have been involved."TRACES is expected to:
Details on PublicTechnology Net
- Improve the amount and quality of information to trace animal movements
- Improve the exchange of information between national and EU authorities
- Provide a system of electronic veterinary certificates enabling trade operators to enter the relevant information online
- Manage lists of establishments in non-EU countries that are authorised to export products of animal origin to the EU
- Manage rejected consignments at EU borders
- Make it possible to target controls on public and animal health and on animal welfare, including verifying that animal transport rules are fulfilled
- Centralise risk assessments of potential disease outbreaks
- Overcome language discrepancies, making information from other countries more accessible
- Integrate all users involved by creating a workflow for the exchange of documents between economic operators and competent authorities
April 19 - 25 ~ "International cooperation in epidemiological studies and indeed in the control of FMD is of paramount importance"
The comment from the Pro-MED moderator follows news of bovine FMD in Israel reported on the ProMED mail.org website. In Israel, vaccination and other preventive measures seem to have led to a situation where with the expert help of the World Reference Laboratory for FMD (WRLFMD) at Pirbright in identifying the strain, outbreaks of FMD are quickly and efficiently contained. In the most recent cases, "symptoms were mild and no mortality was recorded" and "all isolates were serologically closely related to the Geshur FMDV serotype, which is included in the vaccine applied in Israel and thus provides a good level of protection."
See also The current Israeli policy to prevent and control FMD Such clear setting out of humane and effective policy seems very different from the 163 pages of DEFRA's latest FMD Contingency Plan.
In spite of the regrettable reputation the UK now has for its handling of the 2001 crisis, at least Pirbright's role and expertise is highly valued across the rest of the world. The ProMED moderator says that it is of "paramount importance" that in their shared interest in disease control people work together disinterestedly across national bounderies and share knowledge openly and without reservation. In such grim times as we are experiencing now, this seems very sane advice.
April 12 - 18 ~ an "Achilles heel" for the FMD virus
We hear more in an email from Professor Joe Cummins about the use of interferon alpha (IFNa), in the feed of livestock to combat FMD. (see below)
"We know that there is an "Achilles heel" for the FMD virus, i.e. - the virus is extremely sensitive to interferon. USDA scientists have published that FMD virus must gain control of the host cells by
Our method of dealing with an outbreak of FMD is to use interferon orally, or some other immune modulator, to boost the host immunity against FMD. The FMD virus causes less than 1% mortality, but the government's response causes 100% mortality. In the post 9/11 world, we are forced to develop an alternative to depopulation. We simply can not kill livestock faster than terrorists can infect them with FMD virus." (We are very grateful to Prof Cummins for this explanation in layman's terms of his proposed solution.)
- suppressing interferon production, and
- blocking the effect of an interferon-inducible gene which codes for double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase R. If the FMD virus can not shut down interferon production by the cells, then the virus can not replicate.
April 12 - 18 ~ "This proposal offers an alternative to the depopulation of millions of animals in the face of a multi-centered foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak."
The pdf file of the proposal to to use orally administered Interferon to prevent and/or treat Foot-and-Mouth Disease can be accessed from the technical pages of warmwell. It is the work of Professor J Cummins in association with Amarillo Biosciences Inc. (new window)
Abstract "This proposal offers an alternative to the depopulation of millions of animals in the face of a multi-centered foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.The impact of a bioterrorist attack upon our animal protein food supply and our response by depopulation livestock will result in billions of dollars in lost revenue and put thousands of Americans our of work. The use of interferon alpha (IFNa), in the feed of livestock, with or without FMD vaccination, will minimize these national losses"A pdf file of Christopher Stockdale's dissertation on the FMD crisis in the UK can now be accessed from this site. Its advantage over the HTML file is that it contains the original footnotes. Please note that it opens in a new window and can take up to three minutes to load.
April 12 - 18 ~ Gamma Interferon, Bovine TB - other views
An email says
"..... It (gamma interferon test) was trialled for several years in N. Ireland, in fact reported on in 1994, and 2000 (Neill & Pollock) and I believe abandoned...... The Irish were amazed Defra were considering it, and wrote in Dec 2000 (Vet. Record) that after their several years of trials, "an optimist may say the results, hopeful, a pessimist equivocal". Read emailAs for new technology, the lengthier answer to questions about the RBS (Rapid Biosensor) see below, "....it is my belief that in a reasonably short period of time our technology, in some future guise, will be competent to detect the Bovine strain ..." may be read here.
April 12 - 18 ~ Is there any chance that the RBS (Rapid Biosensor) breathalyser could be or will be adapted for use in detecting the presence of Mycobacterium bovis'
We await a full answer to the question we asked the company - but the initial response was:
"From a biochemical point of view, the answer in principle, is yes, because the biochemistry is targeted at part of the TB bacterium that it common to both human and bovine TB." See the more detailed answer, received on Wednesday(The Cambridge based Rapid Biosensor Systems Ltd has developed a "breathalyser" device which is used to collect a cough sample from the patient. The cough sample tube is inserted into a portable optical reader which measures the presence of the TB bacteria in the cough sample. The screening technology is rapid, low cost and can be used by non-medical staff.)
Meanwhile, the stock response in the UK to many animal diseases continues to be to slaughter both those infected and any who might - even if the possibility is remote - be infected. Legislation (The Animal Health Act of 2002) has been changed in order to prevent protest. Testing, in many cases, is minimal and there seems very little genuine interest at DEFRA for vaccine or rapid diagnosis technology. Dr Ruth Watkins: "..The control of disease by killing farm animals is promoted unashamedly and, as in the FMD epidemic of 2001, no apology made for failing to apply methods in human medicine to the care of farm animals ..."
April 12 - 18 ~ TB has surfaced in Anglesey; there are no badgers there.
The gamma interferon test to identify bovine TB in cattle is thought more effective than the current skin test which can result in false positives and cause uncompensated movement restrictions. One National Farmers Union study has shown that a TB breakdown costs the average farm '36,000. When Defra was asked for clarification on its current use of the gamma interferon test they said that this 'decision-making' tool is used in special circumstances only where whole herd slaughter is being considered and that it is not to be used to back up the decision on individual reactors. Those animals are still routinely killed without confirmatory testing. Mary Marshall wrote in March that
"it would seem that Defra fails to define this as the purpose of using gamma interferon, and fails to rule out its use on an individual animal. The implication (perhaps by omission) is that this test could be used to confirm the individual reactor. In the covering letter on the Defra website, we are told that comments should be sent by 4 May 2004, to the TB Strategy Team, or by email to their consultation mailbox firstname.lastname@example.orgSee also Dr R Watkins on the subject of bovine TB: "....The presence of gamma interferon in the test indicates the animal has been infected with Mycobacterium bovis at some point in the past. Such a test has been licensed by the FDA for use in humans and has been developed for cattle. The tools of modern medicine are there to be used to combat the spread of Mycobacterium bovis and ultimately to eliminate the infection."
April 12 - 18 ~ Horse Exports. The Minister for the Horse questions the existence of a moral reason for a ban ....
Read the debate (Westminster Hall March 31) in full "...Mr. Gray : Perhaps I can assist my hon. Friend'this comes hot-foot from Strasbourg. I understand that the amendments state that it would be perfectly possible for member states to
"ban exports of certain species for moral reasons."
They would also allow a total national ban
"on the export of live equidae . . . for production or slaughter". in response to those amendments Commissioner Byrne said last night that the Commission supports stricter national rules:
"I am pleased that this would effectively maintain the UK's restriction on the export of horses destined for human consumption".
So, the European Parliament and the European Commission are happy for us to go ahead with the ban. ...
...Alun Michael : ..... Will the hon. Gentleman explain the moral grounds on which a ban might be founded' It is important to understand the principles of the approach that he is adopting. He is wrong to say that the opportunity is not being gripped by DEFRA; it is being gripped very firmly. .... "
Gregory Barker :.... ....I strongly believe that the British public would be horrified if we allowed our horses, even by default or with the best of intentions, to join the harrowing horse slaughter trade, in which economics dictates that noble creatures suffer a long, terrifying and degrading final journey. .."
...Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): ...... The horse passport is a disgraceful regulation. It is simply being pursued to feed the cruel and poorly regulated European slaughterhouses'largely to provide horsemeat for the salami trade, which is something that people in this country find repugnant. We should seek to stop the live export for slaughter of all animals from this country, not seek to extend it to horses. ... " Read debate in full
April 5 - 11 ~ Why "new scrapie"' Why now'
We are puzzled by DEFRA's latest press release on an "unusual" form of scrapie and by its choice of attendant notes for editors (See text of press release) because this story appeared in much the same way in the Guardian last September and November.
Could Fordyce Maxwell, a respected Scotsman journalist, have been aware of the press release when he wrote the article appearing on Wednesday morning about farmers failing to report scrapie - including the (surely easily misunderstood) sentence: "scrapie is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy similar to BSE in cattle that has been linked with more than 130 cases of the fatal human variant CJD"'
On April 6th we had the article in The Journal enthusiastically describing the NSP as a "new" scheme. Fordyce Maxwell - on the same day -reported that the Scottish Executive "has announced that it is to scrap the subsidised ram purchase scheme that helps crofters use better quality breeding stock than they could afford unaided " and commented, "The move seems to clash with announcement of a scheme to encourage farmers and crofters to eradicate the sheep disease scrapie (see this page) because the scrapie-resistant rams needed tend to cost more." Scotsman
News stories following the DEFRA release refer to a "New" form of scrapie. The press release of April 7 is extraordinarily reminiscent of the story in the Guardian for November 27, 2003 about the appearance of an apparently new strain of scrapie possibly being due to flawed testing. One is inevitably led to wonder about the timing and purpose of such stories. The Guardian story by James Meikle appears again today with slight changes from his articles in September and November to include the "four year old ewe". This sheep was not mentioned in the DEFRA press release but was mentioned by Martha Linden, PA News in the Scotsman article on Wednesday afternoon and then in the Guardian on Thursday. The Independent's first paragraph(Thursday) is "Scientists have detected the first signs that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may have crossed into sheep in a study that is likely to rekindle anxieties over the safety of lamb and mutton."
See also email received on Thursday.
April 5 - 11~ Own goals
Alun Michael, asked on friday by Bob Spink if the government will make it policy to "commence negotiations to withdraw the UK from the Common Agricultural Policy" replied
The Common Agricultural Policy is an integral part of the European Union's internal market. It would be bizarre to consider withdrawal at the point when we are achieving the reforms for which the UK has long argued. The changes will deliver a more rational CAP and we played a leading role in securing radical reforms last June. The reforms reflect our own goals for sustainable farming and will deliver better value for money to taxpayers and consumers, provide opportunities to boost farm incomes, bring benefits to the wider rural community, reduce damage to the environment and improve animal welfare. As a result the reforms will bring benefits across the EU and to agricultural trade and development worldwide. The UK played a leading role in securing these reforms and we will continue to work within the EU for a more sustainable CAP.Asked then, by Mr. Stephen O'Brien "what the (a) resource budget, (b) administration costs and (c) staff numbers were for 2003 of the (i) Agricultural Wages Committees for England, (ii) Home Grown Cereals Authority, (iii) Horticultural Development Council, (iv) Horticultural Research International, (v) Milk Development Council, (vi) United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards, (vii) Wine Standards Board, (viii) Committee of Investigation for Great Britain, (ix) Committee on Agricultural Valuation, (x) Committee on Products and Processes for Use in Public Water Supply, (xi) Consumers' Committee for Great Britain under the Agriculture Marketing Act 1958, (xii) Hill Farming Advisory Committee for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, (xiii) Pesticide Residues Committee, (xiv) Water Regulations Advisory Committee, (xv) Zoos Forum, (xvi) Veterinary Laboratories Agency and (xvii) Veterinary Medicines Directorate.  Mr Michael replied
"This information could not be provided without incurring disproportionate costs."(As for the cost of DEFRA's wage bill this year...it is £393,544,000 ) Hansard
April 5 - 11 ~ "we are disappointed to note that several of the points which we submitted in February 2003, in response to consultation on the earlier version of the Contingency Plan, have not been addressed."
DEFRA's Contingency Plan ( Version 4 (pdf) states: "This version of the Contingency Plan takes into account comments received, operational additions to the plan and lessons learned from exercises. It has been the subject of considerable consultation with stakeholders and reflects as far as possible the comments that have been made.")
Warmwell has been sent from the National Foot and Mouth Group their response to the previous draft of the Contingency Plan and its covering letter
"...A great deal of progress has been made in providing for the use of emergency, protective vaccination. In particular we welcome the derogation obtained from the EU which will allow vaccinated meat and meat products destined for the UK market to be treated in the same way as un-vaccinated product, post vaccination and testing. However, we are disappointed to note that several of the points which we submitted in February 2003, in response to consultation on the earlier version of the Contingency Plan, have not been addressedRead in full
- ... the inclusion in the Contingency Plan of the use of pre-emptive and 'firebreak' culling of animals not exposed to disease, as a means of FMD control. ..
- .....there is still no Vaccination Protocol element within the Contingency Plan.
- ....In addition there is also a need for a more simple 'Handbook on FMD Emergency Vaccination' to explain the process and what is entailed for those who will not want/need the detail contained in the FMD Contingency Plan...."
April 5 - 11 ~ "National, regional and specialist media are unlikely to devote much space to FMD, now that the controversy from 2001 has died down...."
"Therefore, apart from occasional items in the specialist media, there is unlikely to be much scope for preparing the ground now for an emergency vaccination campaign in the future. ." from the latest "FMD Disease Control Policy Communications Strategy" "now that the controversy from 2001 has died down...." - but the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, has agreed to investigate the ban on swill feeding after complaints from a number of MPs from all parties, Lib-Dem rural affairs spokesman Andrew George has said "the fact that with the benefit of hindsight the Government has issued no apology or compensation is regrettable," Michael Howard says he will pursue the Government over the Dring cover-up. Owen Paterson, Shadow Agriculture Minister: "I think there should be a full public and independent inquiry.."
April 5 - 11 ~ DEFRA has now published consultees' recommendations about their previous Contingency Plan
In July 2003 a letter was written to the Veterinary Times deploring the fact that DEFRA "still have not attempted to validate rapid technologies available to identify the presence or absence of FMDV in herds or flocks. This is despite continual re-evaluation of these technologies in the field." DEFRA has now published consultees' responses and recommendations to their Contingency Plan 3 and at one point, comments,
"Defra is sponsoring important research into tests such as these. Defra has a legal obligation to use the tests specified by the OIE and these tests are reviewed at their meetings. It is important that tests are fully validated and proven so that results can be relied upon. Developers of such tests must provide that data for others to assess, including the OIE. Defra will be using RT-PCR from the start of any outbreak and routinely for investigations."Consultees wrote: "We remain highly concerned that Defra continues to display an extreme reluctance to commit itself to consider vaccination in place of stamping out and culling.. "
DEFRA replied: "Under the EU FMD Directive, culling of susceptible animals on infected premises and those identified as dangerous contacts remains the basic disease control measure. Defra is committed to considering the option to vaccinate once disease has been confirmed and indeed it is a requirement under the Animal Health Act to consider vaccination. Vaccination will be considered but we cannot state in advance of an outbreak whether we will use it as the disease control strategy will depend on the circumstances."
April 5 - 11 ~ The general "we know best" tone of the DEFRA responses to stakeholders and consultees
.. can be seen from this example of DEFRA's reaction to one (not so minor) complaint from the consultees' responses and recommendations to the previous contingency plan . Consultees wrote :
"Concern at the use of military terms in the Plan."DEFRA's reply:
"These terms were introduced to us by the Armed Forces during 2001 and found to be invaluable in describing the processes involved in a fast moving operation. We see no reason to give them up."
April 5 - 11 ~ DEFRA redefines the word "majority"
a letter from Robert Persey "....In a written answer to Mr David Liddington M.P. about the consultation prior to the ban on swill feeding, she (Mrs Beckett) said on July 22 2002 'The majority of respondents were in favour of a ban on the feeding of catering waste containing meat or meat product as swill to livestock'.
Unfortunately Mr Ben Bradshaw M.P. ( The Minister with special responsibility for pigswill) has landed his boss in the pigswill by confirming that only 32% of the respondents supported a ban on the feeding of pigswill.
However all is not lost because DEFRA has now interpreted the meaning of the word 'majority'. DEFRA states 'The use of the majority was not a matter of numerical counting of letters, but that those in favour of a ban included major organisations representing widespread interests'. Read in full
April 5 - 11 ~ A mock foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak was staged to see how the different agencies would interact. More than 200 citizens attended two bio-security training sessions
Not the UK. At the end of March this year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Iowa State University Extension jointly "offered the training to map out strategies for reacting to possible livestock disease outbreaks, such as bird flu or foot and mouth disease. Meetings were held to prepare local officials and farmers for responding to an agricultural disaster. County emergency action coordinators, fire, police, public health, supervisors and farmers were among those present.
A mock foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak was staged to see how the different agencies would interact. .......producers and veterinarians are the first line of defense in the event of any disease outbreak..." Iowa Farm Bureau Compare:
Detailed operational instructions to carry out the requirements of the Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan are contained within VIPER (Veterinary Instructions, Procedures and Emergency Routines) Chapter 3. The existing VIPER Chapters are available to the public in the Defra library, Room 320A, Nobel House, 17 Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR and may be viewed by appointment by telephoning: 020 7 238 6575 (please allow 24 hours notice). As part of further improving the response of the Department to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, work to consolidate the existing version of Chapter 3 into a web based document has been on going. This has been a major project as it has also involved capturing and collating experiences gained during 2001 to allow a consistent response based on best practices identified during and following the outbreak. The new version will be published on Defra's website as a supporting document to Defra's Contingency Plan in April 2004.
April 5 - 11 ~ The Government is coming under increasing pressure over its handling of the foot and mouth disaster.
"....Ministers are facing intense scrutiny on two fronts. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has announced an inquiry into the Government's decision to ban the feeding of pigswill as the outbreak spread. And Tory leader Michael Howard is preparing to turn up the heat on Tony Blair over the Dring report..... Last night, Owen Paterson, Shadow Agriculture Minister, said it was not too late for a full public inquiry to be held to uncover the whole truth about what went on during the outbreak.Dring report pages and the warmwell note March 31 Did the PM sanction Mr Brown's attempt to mislead the House of Commons'
"I think there should be a full public and independent inquiry because we are still exposed," he said. "The Northumberland report established to the very square yard where the 1967 outbreak started but the Anderson report failed to do this. We still do not know where this outbreak began and we are vulnerable." ......
The consultation period on the swill ban lasted for just two weeks - substantially less than the normal three-month consultation for changes in regulations. And those affected claim that the Government misrepresented the outcome of the consultation. ...... the Government had previously licenced swill feeders, including Mr Waugh. And Mr Brown did not seek to argue that properly treated swill was unsafe. Ms Abraham has now agreed to investigate the rationale behind the ban, the handling of the consultation period and the refusal to pay compensation to affected farmers, some of whom had invested thousands of pounds in equipment that was rendered redundant by the ban. Mr George said "......the fact that with the benefit of hindsight the Government has issued no apology or compensation is regrettable."...." Read article in full
April 5 - 11 ~ Owen Paterson is demanding immediate answers from Ben Bradshaw over licences to cull badgers
WMN "Mr Paterson is keen to know under what circumstances the Animal Health Minister would issue licences. It follows last week's slaughter of a prized herd of pedigree Guernseys owned by Devon farmer Tony Yewdall. The 48 cattle, which were pregnant, were slaughtered after contracting TB believed to be rife among the hundreds of badgers on Mr Yewdall's land.
Despite pleading directly to Mr Bradshaw for a special licence to cull the badgers, Mr Yewdall was told permission was only granted in "exceptional circumstances".
Mr Paterson said: "If protecting a rare top quality pedigree Guernsey dairy herd is not exceptional we really need to know what is Ben Bradshaw's definition of exceptional circumstances." In the huge range of Parliamentary questions that Mr Paterson tabled earlier this year he was told that one of the grounds for issuing a licence for culling badgers was to prevent the spread of disease, but he was also told "Defra's current policy is not to issue any licences".
April 5 - 11 ~"... welfare is recognised in the title but remain to be persuaded that it will truly form a major plank of the strategy"
In January 2002, the Farm Animal Welfare Council wrote a report "Foot and Mouth Disease 2001 and Animal Welfare: Lessons for the Future" "welfare implications were far wider than mere consideration of those animals which were unlucky enough to become infected......we provided advice on many other issues including contingency planning, individual identification of animals, resources and the need for a wide ranging review in the aftermath. Most of this advice is available on the FAWC website (www.fawc.org.uk).
Their report 2002-2003 (slow pdf file. click once only) says, "With regard to the proposed Animal Health and Welfare Strategy, we were pleased to see that welfare is recognised in the title but remain to be persuaded that it will truly form a major plank of the strategy ......We firmly believe that there is a need for specific animal welfare surveillance as a distinctly resourced activity within the Veterinary Surveillance plan and not simply an add-on to disease inspections."
On the fallen stock scheme "we do have some concerns about the scope and effectiveness of this scheme. If it does not meet the requirements that we identified in our 2001 report (i.e. disposal of unwanted live animals as well as carcases) in an efficient and humane manner, it will fail to address this major animal welfare problem."
March 28 - April 4 ~ ".. again one is forced to wonder whether our ministers have any idea what they are up to."
"Britain's Armed Forces face their most devastating cuts in history, to save '1.2 billion...... the ban on eating beef from 30-month-old cattle was never imposed for health reasons in the first place. ...The so-called "Over 30 Month Scheme" (OTMS) was introduced at the height of the 1996 hysteria over BSE purely as a marketing measure, urged on the Government by the supermarkets to "restore consumer confidence" and then agreed to by the European Commission (it was set up under Commission Regulation 716/96). The scientists never recommended such a ban.
So what is the relevance of this to those defence cuts' Simply that the cost to taxpayers of pointlessly incinerating 4 million head of healthy cattle since 1996 under the OTMS has amounted to more than '3 billion, nearly three times the saving the Government hopes to make by bringing Britain's Armed Forces to their knees.
Add to this the fact that the Government proposes to waste a further '2 billion over the next 10 years by doing nothing to halt the runaway epidemic of TB in Britain's cattle, and again one is forced to wonder whether our ministers have any idea what they are up to." Booker's Notebook
March 28 - April 4 ~ ".. the contingency plan as just another step on the road to nowhere."
Northumberland NFU chairman Stoker Frater quoted in the Hexham Courant
'This is just another move by Defra, which proves that they are not really doing anything to safeguard against future foot-and-mouth outbreaks,' said Mr Frater, who farms near Alnwick. 'We have no real contingency plan on our office desk, and if there was a new outbreak tomorrow morning I do not have any clear idea of what I would be supposed to do.
'Recent reports about the Defra vets show they didn't know what they were doing during the last crisis, and even if real contingency plans are now put in place we will soon not have any vets to do it with. I honestly do not think we are any better prepared for foot-and-mouth than we were the day before the last outbreak.
And I would challenge Defra to say that they are!
It saddens me that we have had the opportunity to learn lessons from the disaster, but I don't think that we have.'
March 28 - April 4 ~ Suddenly, "the risk of mad cow infection in cattle over 30 months old is almost nil"
The government has ordered a new assessment to check that risks really are negligible. It now boils down, as Professor Neil Ferguson told the BBC , to
"a process of persuasion" needed to explain the findings to "the widest range of stakeholders"Significant, as always perhaps, is the wish on the part of the authorities to save both money and face.
BBC ".... many ministers, officials and senior scientists publicly say it is right such a potentially large risk to public health should be properly checked out. But privately they have expressed anger and believe the Health department is being excessively cautious. They argue it is easy for health officials to adopt a precautionary approach when another government department is footing the compensation bill."
March 28 - April 4 ~ Where does this PR exercise, this "process of persuasion", leave the responsibility for many indefensible decisions made in the name of science'
If the OTMS rule is unjustified, what about the myriad other EU rules and regulations about TSEs' The fear of "scrapie masking BSE" rests on the fact that the FSA and SEAC were convinced by the mathematical modelling of the "theoretical likelihood" of BSE in sheep. The NSP decreed that pedigree sheep without the 'scrapie-resistant genes' must be slaughtered or castrated - even though the notion of genetic "resistance" to TSEs was strongly cautioned against by Dr Dickinson, a genuine expert in TSEs with decades of experience. As we read in the Muckspreader column last November
"...Every step of Defra's tortuous logic is in fact based on a hypothesis for which there is no proof. There is no proven link between eating cattle infected with BSE and CJD (indeed this becomes ever more implausible). There is no evidence that any sheep has ever naturally become infected with BSE. There is no evidence that scrapie has ever infected humans. Even the theory about scrapie-resistant genes has been rubbished by one of the top independent scientists in the field. Dr. Alan Dickinson. The whole of the EU's scrapie eradication programme thus rests on a card-house of unproven hypotheses."And the responsibility for the lost millions, the wasted cattle and the mistakes' As Dr Kitching wrote in The Veterinary Journal "If the predictions for the number of new variant Creutzfeld'Jacob disease (vCJD) cases in the UK made in the late 1990s had not been sufficient to undermine the credibility of the predictive modellers, surely the FMD experience should have made the modellers appreciate the limitations of their science and accept at least some responsibility for the misery and expense that their models initiated. "
See warmwell's pages on the BSE/vCJD issue
March 28 - April 4 ~ Michael Howard has pledged to pursue the Government over the Dring Report cover-up
The Western Morning News
"Mr Howard said he was concerned that Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett may have "misled" MPs by describing Mr Dring's report as "notes that he made for himself" - giving the impression it had not been intended for consideration by the inquiry chaired by Dr Iain Anderson. Lord Whitty later acknowledged that it was clear Mr Dring wanted his personal statement to go to the inquiry in some form".
The Tory leader also said he was unhappy with the handling of the affair by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, once the existence of Mr Dring's memo was revealed by the WMN last month. Initially Defra insisted there was "nothing new" in the 12,000-word report, which it described as an "aide memoire". The department has since been forced into a series of climbdowns over the issue. ..... "This is yet another example of a very familiar pattern with this Government," he said. "When something is put to them which is inconvenient first they deny it, then they try and cover it up and finally they have to admit it. We have just had it over Beverley Hughes and immigration. It is exactly the same thing." Mr Howard said that he and his Shadow Cabinet colleagues would now pursue the issue when MPs return to the Commons after the Easter recess." Read in full on warmwell's Dring pages
March 28 - April 4 ~Horse Exports - a glimmer of hope'
See horse export page . James Gray (see below) warned Mr Michael yesterday that he would go down in history as the "Minister for Horse Slaughter" if he failed to take up the solution proposed by the European Parliament.
March 28 - April 4 ~ GM "If there were so many difficulties, why did the Government ever give the go-ahead'"
While Wednesday's news made many breathe a sigh of relief, some very curious questions remain about Bayer's decision to pull out of Chardon LL production.
What really caused their decision when Mrs Beckett had given the go-ahead'
German cattle died from intestinal problems from Syngenta Bt 176 maize. This is an unstable GM maize similar to Chardon LL and contains the same suspect CaMV promoter. Independent scientists in France have analysed five different commercially approved GMOs in Europe: three from Monsanto, one from Bayer and one from Syngenta. Their original transgenic structure has now mutated and is quite different from that specified in the original consent form. (See Transgenic Lines Proven Unstable from ISIS) This renders any release of the altered organism illegal under European law. What happened to Reading University feeding studies on Chardon LL' (See Scottish Green Party News Release) Astonishingly, DEFRA, in the person of Elliot Morley, said on Monday that since the Reading Study was privately funded research (it was funded by Bayer) , it is "therefore not a matter for Government" Similarly, Norwegian studies into the safety of the CaMV promoter used in Chardon LL were "yet to be published" and therefore, apparently, of no interest to DEFRA or the government. (See Hansard and letter from ISIS to Margaret Beckett)
In spite of this uncertainty about stability and safety and in spite of all the loudly dissenting voices, including those of the all-party Environment Audit Commmittee , the UK government gave the go-ahead anyway.
Elliot Morley said on March 15th, ".. The criterion for addition to the UK National List is that it should, taking its qualities as a whole, represent a clear improvement compared with other forage maize varieties already on the UK List. Chardon has been assessed on this basis and found to meet the performance standards set to indicate a clear improvement. " This whole affair has a very rotten feel.
March 28 - April 4 ~ Smelling Rats
Readers will remember other research that was not thought to be of interest or value to the government. The research on GM potatoes, commissioned by the UK Government itself and carried out at the Rowett Institute by Dr. Arpad Puztai was peer reviewed by six experts. It found intestinal lesions in rats. According to Andy Rowell ( 'Don't Worry It Is Safe To Eat - The True Story Of GM Food, BSE, And Foot And Mouth') "Political insiders say that pressure was put on the Science and Technology Committee and The Royal Society to discredit Pusztai, thereby enabling the government to take control again."
Why have Pusztai's experiments never been repeated' Andy Rowell:" A scientific body, like The Royal Society, that allocates millions in research funds every year, could have funded a repeat of Pusztai's experiments. Is it that it is easier to say there is no evidence to support his claim, because no evidence exists, than it is to say that no one has looked'"
March 28 - April 4 ~ The Government's love affair with green energy on the cheap could create a man-made environmental catastrophe which will change the British countryside for ever
Country Life See the article (full colour pdf - opens in new window ) has launched "... a cross-party campaign and petition to oppose the Deputy Prime Minister's Planning Policy Statement 22, which encourages the development of land-based wind farms in Britain. A growing number of politicians from all parties, environmentalists and NGOs have begun to express disquiet at inappropriately sited windfarms and the planning process itself. These include
- the environmentalist David Bellamy
- the RSPB
- the CPRE
- the Scottish National Party and
- the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Furthermore, Denmark, originally a pioneer in the harnessing of wind energy, has now stopped erecting wind farms due to environmental concerns. .." ( You can sign the petition online by visiting www.countrylife.co.uk/windfarms") See press release - and see also warmwell's Windfarm page
March 28 - April 4 ~ "The revised version of Defra's Foot and Mouth Disease Contingency Plan .... laid before Parliament today (Wednesday)"
says the DEFRA website. "... The Plans were laid in accordance with Section 18 of the Animal Health Act 2002." According to the DEFRA site, the revised plan now:
"..takes into account the provisions of the new EU Directive on Community measures for the control of FMD (Council Directive 2003/85/EC) in anticipation of it (sic) being transposed into UK legislation. incorporates the Biosecurity guidance which was the subject of a separate consultation; includes guidance on the release of data during an outbreak; anticipates (our italics) the establishment of a permanent Expert Group, as referred to in the FMD Directive, which will consist of epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists who will maintain expertise in order to assist Defra in ensuring preparedness against an outbreak of foot and mouth disease."Since Article 78 states that Member States shall create a "permanently operational Expert group composed of epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists in a balanced way" we are concerned that the expert group envisaged or "anticipated" by DEFRA appears to consist of "core DEFRA vets who specialise in disease control, core DEFRA administrative staff and disease consultants based at the National Reference Laboratory at IAH Pirbright." So DEFRA will be assisting itself "in ensuring preparedness against an outbreak of foot and mouth disease"... The revised Contingency Plan can be seen here. (pdf file)
March 28 - April 4 ~ Horse Exports. The Amendment has been passed. BECKETT MUST NOW WIN BACKING FOR UK OPT-OUT
The Western Morning News "An amendment to the EU Regulation on animal transportation, which would allow the UK to keep its ban on the export of live horses, ponies and donkeys has been passed. Now the pressure is on the UK Government to press its fellow agriculture ministers to ensure that amendment becomes law...... because the Commissioner for Animal Welfare David Byrne has now supported the principle of an opt-out to allow Britain to ban the export of equines, it becomes harder for the UK Government to justify not asking their fellow EU agriculture ministers to back such a clause. ..... Defra officials have previously told the WMN that the ban would be illegal under EU law. " Read in full
March 28 - April 4 ~ David Byrne says: "I am pleased that this would effectively maintain the UK's restriction on the export of horses destined for human consumption"
Commissioner David Byrne said in his closing remarks at the European Parliament yesterday: 'The Commission supports the proposal to open the possibility for the Member States to adopt stricter national rules provided that they are compatible with the Treaty. I am pleased that this would effectively maintain the UK's restriction on the export of horses destined for human consumption. I have consistently said that I would look at this matter with a view to supporting a legally sustaining text"
James Gray, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs:
'I am very pleased to have been able to arrive on horseback to Parliament today. I hope this calls attention to the purpose of this debate, which is to retain the current ban on the export of live horses to Europe for slaughter for human consumption. Regrettably, the British Government is planning to change the rules on the export of live horses but appears to be unwilling to continue the ban.See horse export page and also, Alun Michael's letter to the Independent in which he claims "...Our approach will improve horse welfare in the UK and Europe" As the WMN says, "The ILPH takes issue with Defra officials who say that there need not be special regulations to ban live horse exports from Britain, because such exports do not exist at the moment. The charity believes an export trade could start up again, particularly with the banning of the burial of livestock on farms, which could lead to owners having to pay hundreds of pounds to have old or sick horses destroyed."
This ban has been in place for 70 years and following yesterday's decision in the European Parliament, the British Government could still retain it if they have the will to do so. I am glad that Commissioner David Byrne has endorsed the idea. I hope today's debate will persuade the Government to think again."
March 28 - April 4 ~ Swill: "Did the PM sanction Mr Brown's attempt to mislead the House of Commons'"
email received today from Robert Persey
On 26 April 2001 Mr Nick Brown M.P., Secretary of State at MAFF made a statement to the House of Commons with regard to the proposed ban on swill feeding, following the outbreak of FMD. Mr Brown said 'We received about 150 responses, nearly all of which favoured a ban'. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has confirmed that she is going to investigate the backround to this statement.Read in full
Mr Ben Bradshaw M.P. has just responded to a written Parliamentary question by Mr Boris Johnson M.P. No 162497. Mr Bradshaw stated 'There were 357 responses (not 150), there were 37% against the ban,32% in favour and 31% expressing no preference'...A title for the story could read 'Bradshaw lands Brown in pigswill'..."
March 28 - April 4 ~ How many research staff re TB vaccines' Four. What assessment made of the relevance to the UK of the results obtained in the Republic of Ireland following use of BCG vaccine on badgers' ...As this work has not yet been published, we are unable to comment on its significance.
Some of Mr Paterson's written answers on TB yesterday. Extract:
Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what (a) establishments and (b) research staff there are to provide the experimental resources needed to develop TB vaccines in badgers. 
Mr. Bradshaw: Defra funds research projects to develop diagnostic tests and vaccines for TB in badgers. These are collaborative projects between the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) at Weybridge and researchers in the Republic of Ireland. Four staff are engaged at VLA on these projects."
March 28 - April 4 ~ GM giant abandons bid to grow crops in Britain
Independent "In a huge blow to the genetically modified food lobby, Bayer Cropscience has given up attempts to grow commercial GM maize in Britain. The decision, blamed by the company on government restrictions, means no GM crop will be grown commercially in the UK in 2005 and raises questions about the future of GM in this country. ..... Only three weeks ago in parliament, Ms Beckett controversially announced her decision to allow Bayer to go ahead with its maize project. The decision came after 15 years of field trials and four years of farm-scale evaluations. Ms Beckett told the Commons the GM maize could be grown as soon as next year and said non-GM farmers who suffered financial losses because of crop contamination would be compensated by the industry, not the taxpayer. At the time, Mr Meacher said: "This is the wrong decision. It is driven by the commercial interests of the big biotech companies and, no doubt, pressure from the White House." See GM page
March 28 - April 4 ~ "Political interference in animal health matters is not a new phenomenon; an example thereof was seen during the 2001 FMD outbreak in the UK. "
This comment, made yesterday on the respected Pro-Med website by a highly qualiified moderator, shows that it is now an acknowledged fact that political interference can blight attempts to bring common sense to animal health. To see the UK government's role in the 2001 crisis thus described on Pro-Med is salutary. The Power to Panicby Lee and Campbell, first published as an analysis piece in the Autumn 2003 issue of Public Law,  P.L. 382 : "It did indeed prove to be the case that the combined apparatuses of the UK state, including its army, wielded by COBR had a greater capacity to kill domesticated animals than FMD to spread, at least once animal movement restrictions were in place, and DEFRA has claimed this as a success (DEFRA, Autumn Performance Report 2002, Cm.5698 (2002), p.2.) But, to state the obvious, if this was a success, one would not like to see a failure..."
Viet Nam plans to declare itself free of deadly bird flu on Tues 30 Mar 2004 so it can rebuild it devastated poultry industry, even though U.N. agencies fear new outbreaks and despite a dispute over the cause of a boy's death this month. The Pro-Med Moderator's comment continues:
The main concern is that political decisions, such as the one currently underway in Viet Nam, might negatively affect professional, science-based attitudes -- with special reference to the highly needed but politically unpopular early reporting of possible new cases. The reversed attitude in Thailand, now more cautious, is to be commended"Read Pro-Med
March 28 - April 4 ~ The Parliamentary Ombudsman has confirmed that she is going to investigate possible maladministration by DEFRA
We hear from Robert Persey that "The Parliamentary Ombudsman has confirmed that she is going to investigate possible maladministration by DEFRA in the way they forced swill feeders out of business without compensation following FMD. She received many requests from various MP's to investigate the case of the swill feeders, with the driving force being Mr George Howarth MP."
March 29 - April 4 ~ No Live Exports Lobby takes fight to Europe
Western Morning News' campaign against the live export of horses ponies and donkeys
" will beat on the door of the European Parliament. As MEPs meet for a crunch vote on an amendment which would allow Britain to legally ban the cruel trade, a deputation from the Western Morning News and the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) will make Europe aware of the depth of public anger over the issue..... ....Read in full and see also warmwell's Horse Export page. *Tomorrow, James Gray will be riding through Carriage Gates outside the entrance of Westminster Hall just before the debate on horse exports begins. Other riders and horses from the International League for the Protection of Horses will accompany him .
... MEPs will vote on the amendment - tabled by Westcountry MEP Neil Parish - tomorrow, just hours before Minister for the Horse *Alun Michael will face criticism in the House of Commons for refusing to lobby fellow EU agriculture ministers for an opt-out to protect British horses, ponies and donkeys.
.....if MEPs back it, it will be increasingly difficult for Mrs Beckett to argue that there is no support in Europe for an opt-out.
March 29 - April 4 ~ Food Standards Agency "It loves GM. Hates organics. Exalts science to the position once occupied by gods. Pays no more account to public opinion than it might to the clucking of a hen...."
A long and interesting article in the Sunday Times (March 28) says of the FSA (referred to by some members of the press as the Food Scares Agency):
"...Its findings smell fishy, its dietary advice is confusing and doesn't amount to a hill of beans. It's had to eat humble pie and runs around like a headless chicken. Is Britain's food watchdog dressed mutton as lamb' The World Health Organization laughs at it. Consumer organisations rail at it. Environmentalists despair over it. MPs ridicule it. Even the Women's Institute is unhappy. ...Read in full
...Half-truths abound. Krebs says people who buy organic food are "not getting value for money". Well, they are and they aren't. Unlike customers for "conventional" foods, they are indeed paying the real price for what they eat, without much in the way of subsidy. The true cost of supermarket food can be seen in the degradation of the farmed landscape, from which every kind of agricultural pollutant floods into groundwater and streams, with devastating effects on wildlife. ..... he (Sir John Krebs) told the Guild of Food Writers in October 2001 that pesticides had passed the scrutiny of an expert committee and were therefore preferable to the many natural toxins in fruit and vegetables that did not have the benefit of official approval.
The irony here is that Defra itself has published an action plan encouraging organic food.... ...
This February (the FSA) found itself in deep trouble with another group of MPs, the House of Commons select committee on environment, food and rural affairs.." (See report on The Food Standards Agency and Shellfish ) " .... The FSA, it said, "had not lived up to its core value of being open and accessible". Its standards of communication and co-operation had been so poor that they had led to "an atmosphere of distrust and, at times, hostility". The science had been a shambles....."
March 29 - April 4 ~ James Gray protests against live export of horses "This practice has been banned for the last 70 years with good reason."
Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, James Gray MP, will be taking part in a debate against the export of live horses on Wednesday. He will arrive to the Palace of Westminster on horseback. The Chief Executive and Campaign Manager from International League for Protection of Horses will accompany him and will also be on horseback. Mr Gray says, ' I am certain that most people hate the idea of exporting our horses to be made into sausages and salami on the continent. I call on Alun Michael to withdraw the ridiculous horse passports regulation, and to stand up to the EU to prevent live horses being exported to EU slaughterhouses.' See horse export page
March 29 - April 4 ~ It is time to discover new scientific weapons in the battle to detect and control emerging infectious diseases. US Vice President Al Gore
Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem. See below . Considering the news today from the BBC that Oxford's Professor Gould says "potentially deadly diseases like the West Nile virus are entering Britain" together with DEFRA's inability to discover the source of brucellosis in Cornwall, the huge surge in bovine TB and in pig disease, the urgency for DEFRA to take seriously the new technologies is surely even greater. Moreover, if terror threats can be taken so seriously then the awareness that disease can be artificially imposed on the country by agro-terrorism should be prompting new measures. Foot and mouth is not in itself the terrible disease it is popularly perceived to be - but, considering the lengths to which governments will go to protect their "disease free status" for trade - the economic consequences of a disease such as FMD are enormous and present a tempting target. Why does the current FMD contingency plan still not include the new technologies in rapid diagnosis' We have yet to hear any convincing explanation.
March 29 ~ the Ministry of Defence still finds reasons why it is unable to buy the bulk of its meat and fresh food for military staff from British farmers
"As ministers prepare to scale down the size and responsibility of the Countryside Agency, Sir Ewen Cameron, its outgoing chairman and Mr Blair's rural advocate, makes a public plea for it to retain its influence inside government..... The farmer and landowner, who has tasted life in the corridors of power, singled out John Reid, the Health Secretary, and his department for failing to take into account the rural dimension.
.... .made clear his frustration. He spoke of his concern that the Health Department may not even continue to support the Rural Health Forum, a group of GPs who promote best practice for remote outlying communities.
He is also concerned that the Ministry of Defence still finds reasons why it is unable to buy the bulk of its meat and fresh food for military staff from British farmers. 'They say their purchases are so big that local farmers could not do it. Well, I'm not wholly sure about that,' he said.
Ministers are seeking a successor to Sir Ewen. Among the names being canvassed are David Fursdon, a Devon landowner and surveyor, who is a vice-president of the Country, Land and Business Association, and Elinor Goodman, political editor of Channel 4 News and a keen countrywoman."
March 29 ~ "If they try it again they will have a real fight on!"
Instinct Training. co.uk Behind Chained Gates - By Moira Linaker Paperback 151 pages (March 2004), Publisher: Hayloft, ISBN: 1904524168.
"A very human story of an ordinary woman dealing with a lifetime of extraordinary events, including her protest at what she saw as heavy handed and ill-informed bureaucracy in the fight against the unseen and deadly opponent of foot and mouth disease. " More information, and reviews. "During the Foot and Mouth Crisis in 2001, Moira resisted the culling of her sheep, (see press items below), and wrote to the Prince of Wales who has an interest in the rare and minority breeds.When Prince Charles came to Cockermouth, Moira had a private meeting with him, and he is now the owner of two of Moira's Ryeland sheep who will be taken to Highgrove. At the launch of her book last Thursday, Moira met many who supported her at the time of the 2001 crisis. One emailer who was there writes to warmwell; "I attended Moira`s book release evening at the Shepherds Inn Carlisle last night. I met up with some familiar faces. Just for interest there is still massive anger and dissatisfaction at the events of 2001. I was quite shocked at the depth of feeling. It`s not just a few of us. One farmer, still smarting from how they were treated, coldly and factually announced; "If they try it again they will have a real fight on!" ..."
March 21 - 28 ~ Growth promoters - still widely used in America and elsewhere - and the link with resistance to antibiotic drugs
Research work Antimicrobial Resistance Gene Delivery in Animal Feeds , supported by the Canadian Bacterial Diseases Network, voices deep concern about the continuing link between animal feed and resistance to antibiotic drugs
".... the prolonged use of avoparcin in agriculture led to the uptake of glycopeptide resistance genes by animal commensal bacteria, which were subsequently transferred to humans.Read in full (We are grateful to Pat Gardiner for sending this link)
...... In Europe, an estimated 100 mg of antimicrobial agents are used in animal feed for the production of 1 kg of meat for human consumption. We believe that this regimen would have favored the selection and maintenance of rare bacterial transformants carrying the resistance genes. If one bears in mind that large numbers of pigs and chickens were exposed to the antimicrobial agent, the probability of gene pick-up by bacterial commensals in the animal gastrointestinal tract would be favored, and once incorporated into a gut commensal genome, further dissemination would have followed under antimicrobial selection...... The finding of resistance genes in crude antimicrobial products intended to be fed to animals adds to the already strongly voiced opinion that use of antimicrobial agents in this way constitutes a serious public health concern and further emphasizes the need for prohibiting the use in animal feed of all antimicrobial agents .....
.... delivery systems provide the opportunity for resistant strains of bacteria to evolve and so create an enormous gene pool for antimicrobial resistance determinants in the environment..."
March 21 - 28 ~ Horses Campaign goes to Europe
Western Morning News (Saturday) http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/displayNode.jsp'nodeId=103354&command=displayContent&sourceNode=103331&contentPK=9359180
".... The European Parliament meets in Strasbourg on Tuesday to debate putting an amendment into a draft EU Regulation aimed at improving the welfare of animals, to give legal basis in EU law for Britain to ban horse exports.Read in full on horse export page
MEPs will vote on the amendment on Wednesday, hours before Minister of the Horse Alun Michael is due to come under fire in the House of Commons for refusing to lobby fellow EU agriculture ministers to obtain a ban for British equines.
If MEPs back the amendment, drafted by Westcountry MEP Neil Parish, there will be increasing pressure on the UK Government to argue for an opt-out clause in the EU draft Regulation, due to be voted on for the final time by ministers - including Britain's Margaret Beckett - at the meeting of the Council of Ministers in Brussels in April.
Ministers could decide to remove the parliament's amendment, but if MEPs back it, it will add weight to the case Mrs Beckett would be able make to her European partners for an opt-out."
March 21 - 28 ~ Defra's TB consultation document ".. it would seem that Defra fails to define this as the purpose of using gamma interferon, and fails to rule out its use on an individual animal."
Mary Marshall writes
"After watching with interest the item on the gamma interferon assay in last Sunday's BBC Countryfile broadcast, including a discussion with Defra about the problems of being able to use this assay as part of a testing regime, I was surprised to learn that it has already been introduced by Defra to "... resolve suspected cases of non-specific reactions (NSR) ... as a decision making tool...". This was published in February 2004 in a bovine tuberculosis consultation document (PB 9066), "Preparing for a new GB strategy on bovine tuberculosis", http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/tbstrategy/consultation.pdf, on page 34, Chapter 4:Read in full together with links from this website on the use of the gamma interferon test.
"4.9.5 Moreover, we have already introduced the use of gamma interferon to resolve suspected cases of non-specific reactions (NSR) to the skin test as a decision making tool when considering whole or partial herd depopulation."
I ...was informed that this 'decision-making' tool is used in special circumstances where whole herd slaughter is being considered and that it is not to be used to back up the decision on individual reactors.... it would seem that Defra fails to define this as the purpose of using gamma interferon, and fails to rule out its use on an individual animal. The implication (perhaps by omission) is that this test could be used to confirm the individual reactor.
In the covering letter on the Defra website, we are told that comments should be sent by 4 May 2004, to the TB Strategy Team, or by email to their consultation mailbox email@example.com In the interests of transparency, warmwell would be most grateful to receive comments too since the only way one can discover what comments consultees have made is to go in person to Page Street and ask to see them.
March 26 ~ Genetically Modified Organisms Bill collapses - Elliot Morley "did not bother to turn up"
Press release received "Paterson: Embarrassed Labour kill GM Bill"
Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Owen Paterson MP, commented on the collapse of the Genetically Modified Organisms Bill, which the Government engineered today. He said:
'Today, Labour has killed off this important Bill which would have ensured that regulations on liability could be debated and approved by the Houses of Parliament. This makes it even more extraordinary that the Minister, Elliot Morley did not bother to turn up. This Bill was designed to address the legal and compensation implications of the issues surrounding GM crops. Bearing in mind that the issue of GM is one of great national controversy, the Bill is all the more important. We are now left without any idea of how the Government will proceed with the fundamental GM issues of liability.
All parties agree that the issues of liability must be resolved before GM plantings can proceed. The Government's actions today are astonishing.'
March 26 ~ "We have had to drag information out of Defra day by day"
Andrew George (MP for St Ives) is demanding an inquiry into the Dring affair. He is quoted in the WMN
"...We have now had series of admissions: firstly that the report actually exists; secondly that it was intended for the inquiry; and thirdly that it was a mistake not to have forwarded it. Initially Margaret Beckett was dismissing this report as Mr Dring's private 'musings'. We now know that it was a detailed submission, which clearly took a significant amount of time to draw up and which could have been one of the most important documents received by the inquiry. "We now need a short, sharp, independent inquiry into what happened to it and whether the material it contained would have materially affected the findings of Dr Anderson's inquiry. Defra has got away with murder on this and it leaves a very bad taste in the mouths of the many people who suffered tremendously in 2001."(After ten days, few developments in the brucellosis outbreak in Cornwall. Six out of seven farms already have negative test results and are now free to move again - but we are no nearer to knowing the origin of the disease after ten disease free years... Questions are bound to be asked about the efficacy of checks on imports.)
March 26 ~ "There's a lot of selective and tendentious stuff going on, Mr Scudamore, but it is not coming from the Western Morning News."
" It is Defra, not the WMN, which persists in personalising the issue by focusing on Jim Dring," wrote the editor of the Western Morning News in response to a letter from Mr Scudamore (See Dring issue page)
"This will not succeed in diverting attention from the real point which is that Mr Dring's document, clearly addressed to the Anderson inquiry, never got there - a situation which the chairman, Iain Anderson, himself described as "regrettable" in an interview with Farmers' Weekly at the weekend.Read in full
It was not the WMN which said that the foot and mouth disaster could have been prevented if Mr Dring's inspection of the Waugh's premises had been more rigorous but Mr Dring himself in the document which was withheld from the inquiry. He also wrote that staff shortages caused him to cut corners.
The WMN has paid tribute to Mr Dring's honesty and courage and stressed several times that it would be wholly wrong to make him a scapegoat - as have MPs who have raised the issue in the House of Commons.
To argue at the same time that his document should have been made public through the Anderson inquiry is not inconsistent.
It is demonstrable nonsense to accuse the WMN of "selective and tendentious" reporting of Mr Dring's document. We published it in its entirety and were doing so well before DEFRA put it on its website.
There's a lot of selective and tendentious stuff going on, Mr Scudamore, but it is not coming from the Western Morning News."
March 25 ~ "Clearly, foot and mouth is far too important to be left on the shelf."
Lords Hansard for yesterday "Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:
Why the evidence of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs veterinary officer Jim Dring was not forwarded to Dr Anderson's "Lessons Learned" inquiry into foot and mouth disease. (read the short debate in full)
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge that the cover sheet on Mr Dring's 30 page memorandum apparently had been removed when it explicitly stated that it was to "The Anderson Inquiry, Room 207, Ashley House, 2 Monck Street, London SW1P 2BQ"' Dr Anderson's report is entitled, "Lessons Learned". What lessons have Defra learnt as a result of this alleged sleight of hand' Is not the best action now to hold a very brief inquiry into this matter' Clearly, foot and mouth is far too important to be left on the shelf.Read in full. See also WMN comment
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, was Dr Anderson aware that he was not receiving this information' Is there any other information that he did not receive that he should have received'
Lord Whitty: .....as far as I can ascertain, it does not appear to be the case that other material was withheld for the same reason or for any other reason. .... ...
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, what right or power does some official in Defra have to suppress a communication from Mr Dring to Dr Anderson without the permission or the knowledge either of the author of the document or the person to whom it was addressed' ....
March 25 ~"The National Farmers' Union says it will go straight to Prime Minister Tony Blair with a formal complaint
if Government vets do not produce results of tests from blood samples taken from cattle in and around the Cornish brucellosis outbreak by the weekend." says the Western Morning News.
"The threat came from Westcountry farming leader Richard Haddock following news that the test results would not be released, at the earliest, until this evening, nearly a week after the samples were taken and having been first promised for Tuesday afternoon.."A breakdown of the relationship between the Government and local vets could affect the future handling of farm diseases..." The WMN today, in an article headlined "GROWING STRAIN BETWEEN VETS AND DEFRA", points out that the discovery of the brucellosis outbreak was thanks to the relationship between farmers, vets and the local Veterinary Laboratory Agency but that " the relationship with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was under growing strain."
..."This is the nearest thing to foot and mouth since that terrible crisis. If it takes this long to test the blood samples of a small amount of animals, what hope do we have if there is a serious disease outbreak' .......
It seems nobody learns at Defra. The local community near the outbreak is holding its breath and the rest of British agriculture is watching with intense interest. Defra expects farmers to keep on jumping through hoops - but it seems to be a one-way process. They are dragging their feet and not doing their image much good." ...."
March 21 - 27 ~ EU expansion, the closure of slaughterhouses and the unsavoury practices of Smithfield
We are grateful to Captain Bryn Wayt for sending this link to an article on Smithfield, now operating in Britain and, as we reported in Wednesday's Inbox, about to supply cheap pork to British supermarkets
Ecomail.com "... large high-tech slaughterhouses do not make for a safer food supply. In the US and the UK the closure of small slaughterhouses coincided with huge increases in meat-borne disease (by 300 per cent and 500 per cent, respectively). This is because large centralised slaughterhouses encourage the consolidation of pork production on factory-farm lines; disease is rampant in factory farms, and the long transport distances resulting from centralisation stress the animals and spread disease further. In addition, technologies that increase line speed inside the slaughterhouse multiply worker errors and make proper inspections impossible. Now the big slaughterhouses are insisting on the controversial technology of irradiation in order to solve the problems of disease.
The Polish government took a number of other steps to facilitate Smithfield's takeover of Polish agriculture. First, it legalised the uncontrolled use of liquid manure and tried to dismantle the country's Animal Welfare Act. Then it allowed Smithfield to use front companies to buy and lease farms in Poland, despite official policies forbidding foreigners to purchase Polish agricultural land. Finally, it gave large pork-export subsidies to Smithfield amounting to 55 cents per kilogramme. The subsidies were supposed to aid Polish farmers, but as Smithfield imports both its pigs and the feed it is difficult to see how. With this help, Smithfield has converted as many as 35 Polish state farms into pig factories. ..." Read in full
March 21 -28 ~ The market is bound to bite back
The behaviour of Smithfield and the Polish authorities mirrors that of MAFF at the time when so many of our own slaughterhouses were forced by EU regulations (rigorously enforced by MAFF) to close. The manipulation of EU rules has allowed "empire building" and the taking control of the meat industry by those who should never be allowed near a live animal. Council Directive 91/487/EEC with its application to all slaughterhouses, was interpreted by MAFF (now DEFRA) in a way that made Britain abandon its well-run, safe and reasonably humane system.
The Directive was interpreted to force swingeing costs and new highly paid and unnecessary jobs for both SVS vets and Meat Hygiene inspectors. It was disastrous for the slaughterhouse owners who closed their operations in droves, and thus consequently for those who depended on them. Animals themselves were subjected to stress, long journeys and exposure to contageous infections. DEFRA still cannot seem to tell us where brucellosis in Cornwall came from but it was somehow allowed into Scotland from Ireland. Disease, particularly in British pig farms for example with their widespread PWMS and PDNS, is now unofficially known to be rampant.
Illegal trade in meat and livestock is a national scandal. We are no nearer knowing for sure where Foot and Mouth came from in 2001 - although the "guesswork" by DEFRA has led to much misery and loss of livelihood. Unanswered questions about BSE and billions of pounds lost as a result create panic in world markets.
When the new countries, withh their endemic diseases, join the EU in May things will be even more difficult to control. Ludicrously, they will no longer be allowed to vaccinate against, for example, CSF. Wild boar do not respect bounderies. It is a mess.
In 2001, Dr Richard North wrote in the Ecologist
".. BSE and the foot and mouth disease do have something in common; a market forcing farmers to feed their animals with the cheapest and most unethical of feed and a market forcing farmers to transport their animals crammed in lorries and for long distances is, in the Burkean sense, 'inorganic 'and bound to bite back." Read "Burnt Out" in full
March 21 - 27 ~ who owns the "genetic rights" to England's wildlife'
We are chilled today (Tuesday) to read this Friends of the Earth Press release
"Patenting the genetic make-up of England's wildlife could lead to companies commercialising genes without any benefit for the British public or the environment and should be resisted by the Government, according to Friends of the Earth.* Today Programme (Tuesday 23 March): www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listenagain/
The warning comes as England's official wildlife watchdog, English Nature is said to be "on the verge of striking a deal to bio-prospect some of Britain's most famous Nature reserves" * despite no legal or ethical framework being in place to ensure any genetic exploitation benefits the British people.
Friends of the Earth has written to the Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett calling on the Government to resist moves to allow companies to profit from genetically patenting wildlife and urgently address ethical and practical questions, including whether the public, Government or opportunistic companies own the genetic rights to England's wildlife. .."
March 21 - 27 ~ Defra Urged to Act in Horse Export Row
Scotsman " I call on Alun Michael to stand up to the EU to prevent live horses being exported to EU slaughterhouses,' says Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs James Gray
'This practice has been banned for the last 70 years with good reason.See warmwell page on the horse export question and the ILPH link at the top of the Inbox page
"... The British Event Team has also signed up the ILPH campaign. Eventer Pippa Funnell, ranked number one in the world and recent Rolex Grand Slam winner, said 'I cannot believe that every year tens of thousands of horses travel in misery for days on end across Europe for slaughter, just for somebody to eat. 'We must not allow this traffic from the UK to start again. We owe it to our horses and ponies to protect them. We must act now and support the ILPH.'
March 21 - 27 ~ "Outbreaks of diseases such as BSE, foot and mouth and brucellosis could be avoided using animal health monitoring implants designed to raise the alarm at the first sign of infection.
Researchers have developed a "cattle telemedicine tracking system" which relays information about the health of herds to farmers, vets and government agencies. The device, part of which is placed under an animal's skin, contains sensors which monitor heart rate, temperature, movement and the oxygen level in the blood. Data is then sent using wireless technology to a nearby computer. The system, being developed at Kansas State University (KSU) in the United States, is designed to identify and contain contagious diseases earlier than at present.( A particularly significant aspect of this monitoring project is the monitoring of animal position using global positioning systems (GPS). See http://www.cis.ksu.edu/~dan/job/cv.pdf)
Prof Daniel Andresen, one of the team at KSU, said: "A cow with mad cow disease for example does not have normal energy levels and so we hope we would be able to detect the on-set of the disease early. "When you consider the dramatic effect this could have in reducing numbers of cattle that have to be killed and the size of areas to be sealed off, we're talking about potential saving of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars." Field trials will begin this summer. The prototypes cost about '350, but the researchers say this will drop to '60 for the most sophisticated models, and as little as '6 for simpler versions."
March 21 - 27 ~ How was it that animals from herds not free of bovine brucellosis were imported'
Article 126.96.36.199. of OIE's Terrestrial Animal Health Code states that "a Country or zone shall satisfy the following requirements to qualify free from bovine brucellosis " These include the slaughtering of all reactors and the banning of vaccination. In addition, requirement 6 states that:
6) animals introduced into a free country or zone shall only come from herds officially free from bovine brucellosis or from herds free from bovine brucellosis. This condition may be waived for animals which have not been vaccinated and which, prior to entry into the herd, were isolated and were subjected to the serological tests for bovine brucellosis with negative results on 2 occasions, with an interval of 30 days between each test. ...."It is certain that the bovine brucellosis in Scottish cattle in February came from animals imported into Scotland from Ireland. It is now vital to know from where the Cornish thoroughbred cattle in the closed herd in Duloe got the disease. WMN " ... National Farmers' Union regional spokesman Ian Johnson said it was vital that Defra kept the farming community in the area informed of developments.
It was one of the most important lessons it should have learned from the foot and mouth disease outbreak of 2001, he said. "We need complete transparency from Defra, with regular updates on what is going on..."
DEFRA's investigation involves the checking of records of any cattle imported from abroad into Cornwall and Devon during the past few years.
March 21- 27 ~ In order to qualify for disease free status, the UK was obliged to follow the OIE requirement for importing livestock.
A Pro-Med moderator, in a note on the Pro-Med website following the news of the Cornish test results, makes mention of the article 188.8.131.52. of OIE's terrestrial animal health code.
If imported livestock from Ireland has slipped through the surveillance net then DEFRA must surely accept responsibility for what has happened. If the Ministry claims that it is not responsible, then it would be implying that illegal imports of livestock have been taking place. ( If illegal importation of livestock or semen has been happening in the case of brucellosis it is not hard to imagine its having happened before - perhaps with even more far reaching and heartbreaking consequences. No evidence of the origin of FMD has been made public and the government itself - although very ready to imply that swill was to blame - did not state this categorically until Mr Bradshaw's somewhat naive assertion on February 5th)
If the disease spreads, will the government be ready to use the new, effective vaccine RB51 to stop it - or will it try to slaughter its way back to disease free status again'
Kevin Pearce, the NFU's chief livestock adviser (Farminglife) said:
"It is not good news because we have not had a home-bred problem with brucellosis in 10 years. We need to let DEFRA to continue with its investigations to find out how this diseased animal arrived on the farm. We can then decide if it has come through an imported route because there are other members states of the EU which have problems with brucellosis. We are disappointed but we would tell farmers not to panic yet and that part of this is in our hands. We must tell the authorities of any aborted calves.''Great Britain gained formal recognition as a region of the European Union with Official Brucellosis Free Status in 1991. OBF status is not necessarily compromised by occasional, quickly contained outbreaks.
March 14 - 20 ~ "This proves that the government has not learned from the FMD outbreak, as sufficient measures are not in place to protect our own farmers from the diseases of other countries..."
We are grateful for having been sent this link to a page which deals with brucellosis from Land-Care.org.uk On February 20 this year the disease was confirmed in Scotland - a country free of the disease since 1973 - and was traced back to heifers imported from the Republic of Ireland.
"...In telephone discussion with Land-Care, Sandy Clark (Scottish Chairman of the British Veterinary Association) said it is unfortunate this had occurred considering the amount of money the government has spent over the last 50 years eradicating brucellosis.All 124 cattle, from Landare Farm near Liskeard, have been slaughtered as a "precautionary measure" and it appears that DEFRA is "focusing on imports of animals to Cornwall from Northern Ireland"
This proves that the government has not learned from the FMD outbreak, as sufficient measures are not in place to protect our own farmers from the diseases of other countries. Mr Clark thinks that there should be more stringent controls on animal imports from countries that have diseases we don't. The open border policy of the EU is a big problem and could result in diseases such as bluetongue coming to the UK.
Both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have tuberculosis and brucellosis yet the UK still allows imports from both countries."
March 14 - 20 ~ "They are a lovely family and would do anything to help anyone. Their cattle and sheep are absolutely beautiful - so solid and healthy. It seems so hard on them, and so difficult to believe it could have happened."
"Mr Mitchell said it was a terrible blow for his 16-year-old son David, who is currently taking his school exams and will one day take on the farm, and his nine-year-old daughter Katherine, who had a pet heifer which had recently calved.The Western Morning News reminds us of the human side of the tragedy of brucellosis. In addition to words from sympathetic and shocked neighbours, National Farmers' Union chairman for Cornwall James Moon is quoted:
Gerald Mitchell, who now lives in a bungalow on the farm with his wife Viv, has farmed all his life and was very sad that his pedigree herd was lost.
"It's rotten - and also very upsetting for our neighbours," he said."
" ... "Brucellosis was a fact of life in the 1970s and 1980s, but then we started using a vaccine called S19 which cleared it up, and we have not seen any major outbreaks since then..."One wonders how many vets and how many people at DEFRA are aware of the huge strides made in brucellosis vaccine since the use of S19. The vaccine RB51, now the official brucellosis vaccine for control of brucellosis in cattle in the United States, enables animals that are vaccinated to be distinguished from those infected. Louisiana State Universtity site.
March 14 20 ~ " International Conference..
..on the Control of Infectious Animal Diseases by Vaccination." Buenos Aires, Argentina 13-16 April 2004 OIE From the introductory comments from Bernard Vallat, OIE Director General
" .... During the past few years we have witnessed the global emergence and re-emergence of several infectious animal diseases that have had a major impact on both animal and human health. Fortunately, as a result of the incorporation of new scientific and technological knowledge, we have methods of prevention of many of these infectious diseases by vaccination. ..... It is expected that all Member Countries will benefit from this International Conference, so I look forward to welcoming you in Buenos Aires."Objectives of the Conference include "Experience gained in the control and eradication of foot and mouth disease and other animal and zoonotic diseases through the use of vaccination when appropriate ~ Current methods of vaccination ~ New and future trends in the control of diseases by vaccination ~ Impact on international regulations and trade"
March 14 - 20 ~ "RB51 vaccine has become the official brucellosis vaccine for control of brucellosis in cattle in the United States."
The DEFRA brucellosis "Q&A" page
"...given that the infection is very unlikely to be widespread in the national herd, vaccination would not be appropriate. As it is difficult to distinguish between infected and vaccinated animals vaccination would compromise our efforts to identify any undisclosed pockets of infection and, in the longer term, compromise national surveillance procedures."However, the brucellosis research team in the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, working with Dr. G.G Schurig, have developed a "stable rough mutant of a smooth virulent Brucella abortus", Strain RB51
"...RB51 protected cattle against infection when RB51 vaccinated cattle were experimentally challenged with virulent Brucella abortus. After the initial reports of these findings, others began conducting studies with larger numbers of experimental animals to demonstrate that... RB51 did not cause vaccine-induced serological reactions that confuse diagnosis of true infections.. RB51 vaccine has become the official brucellosis vaccine for control of brucellosis in cattle in the United States. While providing levels of protection against infection equal to those observed with Strain 19 vaccine, RB51 has eliminated the very costly persistent serological titer problems of Strain 19. Contact: Fred Enright, Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station, LSU Agricultural Center 225-388-4194 FAX 225-388-4890"."http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Communications/impactreports2000/vaccine.htm
March 14 - 20 ~ More slaughter as response to animal disease
BBC "Six cattle on a farm in Cornwall have tested positive for (brucellosis) Five cows and a bull were humanely killed on Thursday and the whole herd of 80 animals will be put down on Friday."
(Great Britain has official brucella-free status. As an emailer puts it, "Here we go again")
"Vaccination is an effective method to prevent brucellosis infection. Calves up to the age of eight months can be vaccinated with a live vaccine based on a B. abortus strain. This vaccine will confer life-long immunity. In older animals, this live vaccine has to be used with care because it can cause abortion in females and orchitis in bulls. A dead B. abortus vaccine is also available to use for adult animals, but requires a repeated vaccination every year."The Animal Health Act 2002 allows for slaughter of healthy animals without the irritating interference of owners who might object to this and wish to protect their animals rather than the trading interests of a minority. They now have no redress in law and, as DEFRA points out on its brucellosis compensation page for 2004, "If the owners choose to make their own arrangements for sale and slaughter, (which must be acceptable to the Department), it must be made clear that they will forego the right to compensation."
March 14 - 20 ~ Why was vet's report not sent to Anderson'
Western Morning News
"The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been urged to "come clean" about an 11,700-word document which it has attempted to pass off as an "aide memoire"...There would seem to be some confusion in DEFRA's statements as reported in the article as to whether the Anderson with whom the report was discussed was Dr Iain Anderson, chairman of the Lessons Learned Inquiry, or Professor Roy Anderson, the architect of the contiguous cull policy. Perhaps the DEFRA spokesman was not sure which is which. See also Inbox comment
Andrew George, Lib-Dem MP for St Ives, said it was obvious the document was more than an aide memoire. "I think the cover sheet is quite critical. The cover sheet changes the whole nature of the document. I have seen the document on the Defra website which is what they wanted us to see and they did not want us to see the cover. The document is not something that was dashed off in five minutes. We can't simply allow this matter to be shoved under the carpet." Mr George is seeking an independent inquiry into why Mr Dring's report was not submitted to the Anderson inquiry. "
March 14 - 20 ~ This is not a question of anyone wanting to blame Mr Dring
Western Morning News (Wednesday) "... he gave no explanation of why the report had been withheld from the Anderson Inquiry. And he dismissed calls to reopen the inquiry so that the evidence of Mr Dring's report could be considered properly.
The report was published on Defra's website last night. But it was missing its cover sheet, in which Mr Dring makes clear that his report was intended to go to the Anderson Inquiry.
.....Mrs Browning said: "I have read Mr Dring's report and the WMN's reporting of it is certainly not misleading. "This is not a question of anyone wanting to blame Mr Dring and it is not a political game. It is about getting a definitive answer on how the 2001 FMD started and ensuring that its lessons are fully learned."
March 14 - 20 ~ "At the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there perished in this country a practice that has taken place for thousands of years.."
Boris Johnson yesterday at Westminster Hall (Hansard) ".... it was illogical to penalise innocent swill feeders for the irresponsible behaviour of one, who may or may not have been implicated in the outbreak of foot and mouth. I hold out no hope that the Minister will do the right thing and revoke the ban, but it is right to draw his attention to its adverse effects, which, like so many pieces of regulation, is adding to the costs of business and industry. ...
... the Government have been triply culpable in their behaviour
Hansard records how in 1996 the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), now the Minister for the Environment, clamoured for compensation for the head de-boners saying that the Government had a moral duty to compensate them. Someone has changed his tune...." Read in full
- There is the simple moral case: many swill feeders were urged by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to buy very expensive equipment and a few months later that machinery, like their profession, was redundant. ..
- the UK Government failed adequately to enforce their own regulations, never mind EU regulations
- Mr. Dring accepted that had his inspection "been more rigorous than it was, had the licence not been renewed, or renewed subject only to radical revision of Waugh's patently deficient feeding technique, then this awful 2001 foot and mouth epidemic would never have come about." ..had the state done its duty properly, there would have been no need to ban an innocent and ancient practice.
March 14 - 20 ~ Mr Bradshaw's words during the Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday raise more questions.
Mr Bradshaw stated publicly on February 5th 2004 in the House of Commons that "swill feeding was identified as the source of the FMD outbreak".
He is aware of the case against DEFRA being brought to the High Court by Staffordshire pig farmer Jason Podmore. Conditions noted at Burnside Farm should have made the renewal of Mr Waugh's licence unthinkable - but all was ticked as "satisfactory". (This is hardly unusual. The notorious Scotpigs operation owned by Arthur Simmers has been far worse and is only now being closed down as a result - not of outrage at the cruelty, dirt and disease - but simply because of large debts.)
Robert Persey's notes emphasise that ".. Jim Dring failed to fulfil his regulatory responsibilities under the Animal By Products Order 1999" Our questions now include:
Brian Friend, who is giving legal representation to Jason Podmore, said that Ministers tried to put the blame for foot and mouth on farmers who fed swill to pigs. 62 swill feeders have lost their livelihoods without compensation. Although possible, there has never been any evidence presented to the public to prove that swill caused the FMD outbreak. It is not Mr Dring, one of a dwindling number of overstretched SVS vets whose morale has been notoriously sapped by systematic government cuts, who is being held responsible for incompetence by any press reports; it is the Ministry. To say so publicly, as does the independent newspaper the Western Morning News, can hardly be termed 'misleading and mischievous'. These words might seem more appropriate to the dodging and weaving of the authorities in their efforts to avoid a public inquiry.
- If "dangerous and illegal activity" (As Mr Bradshaw said in the debate) refers to Mr Waugh's practices, why, after the annual inspection for 'The Holding Premises Licence' under The Animal By-Products Order 1999, was Mr Waugh's Article 26 licence renewed'
- When was the full text of Mr Dring's statement put on the DEFRA website' Before or after the time of the Anderson Inquiry (Spring/Summer 2002)' If before, then the "concern" which "centred on putting material into the public domain before it had been dealt with in court" (BBC) was just as valid and putting it in the public domain on the DEFRA website was just as likely to be prejudicial to the Bobby Waugh case. If after, just how recently did it appear'*(Why is page 22 of the statement apparently missing') *We see from Mr Bradshaw's words in the Hansard report that he put it up only yesterday.
- Why would a vet's mere "aide-memoire" or "notes he made for himself"- as Mrs Beckett described it last week - be posted on the DEFRA website and published in the Commons, yet deemed by DEFRA's departmental lawyers "not material" to an inquiry'
March 14 - 20 ~ Ben Bradshaw forgets that it was Mr Dring himself who implied that he was responsible for the foot and mouth outbreakThe Scotsman
Minister Defends Vet over Foot-and-Mouth Accusations and BBCFoot-and-mouth vet 'not to blame'
".... Junior environment minister Ben Bradshaw condemned as 'misleading and mischievous' press reporting of an official document in which Jim Dring said he should have performed a more rigorous inspection of a Northumberland farm, later identified as source of the epidemic.
Mr Bradshaw said: 'To suggest that Mr Dring was responsible for the foot and mouth outbreak, as some have sought to, is like saying that a police officer who misses a piece of evidence at the scene of a crime is responsible for that crime rather than the criminal himself,'
The minister announced he had published the full text of Mr Dring's testimony in the Commons, as well as on the Defra website. 'Far from showing any incompetence on Mr Dring's or the, then, Agriculture Ministry's part, I believe it shows a dedicated and conscientious vet dealing with some very difficult customers who went out of their way to conceal dangerous and illegal activity on their farm,' he said. ....."
March 14 - 20 ~ Bobby Waugh was told to sign the Official Secrets Act
The article from the Evening Chronicle (June 2001), from which this extract came, has since disappeared from the internet
"A 12 page Ministry of Agriculture contract, dated June 4 and leaked to the Chronicle, details the agreement, which could pay Mr Waugh '10,000 in clean-up compensation. But to begin the clean-up procedure - which almost every other foot and mouth infected farm has been allowed within days of its animals being culled - Mr Waugh must abide by Clause 17 of the contract.On June 13 2001 the Government backed down from a move to force all farmers affected by the foot and mouth outbreak to sign the Official Secrets Act. Why did it want them to in the first place' Government vets certainly did have to sign - as the Times revealed on January 31st 2002. It may also be remembered that DEFRA official, Bryan Munro, made to sign the OSO, broke it in order to reveal "the catalogue of foul ups" (as the Evening Chronicle put it), made in the course of the government's handling of the FMD crisis.
This 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".
March 14 - 20 ~ "...the first visible signs of FMD would, in his opinion, have been seen on the farm on or about 12 February... "
The WMN is publishing in instalments the so-called "aide-memoire" of the SVS vet, Jim Dring; the submission he made to Iain Anderson which was withheld by DEFRA from arriving at the Lessons Learned Inquiry. The extract chronicles the disposal of the unfortunate pigs, showing how cursory were the attempts at disinfection. It also raises a question about the date of infection at Burnside
"The trailer-loads were not individually sheeted due to lack of suitable sheet and delay in (i) acquiring one and (ii) applying it to each load. Neither were carcass heads and feet individually bagged, due to impracticality, time-constraints and also lack of suitable materials. Neither was any pre-slaughter disinfection carried out. ...."Very odd is the paragraph about "antibodies". Did Mr Dring mean antibodies or evidence of active virus' If antibodies were indeed found to be widespread, is not the guess about "duration" wrong' We would very much appreciate guidance here.
"Dr Kitching's team blood-sampled 221 Burnside pigs on this day. All 221 samples were tested for FMD antibody, with 195 (or 88 per cent) proving positive. This constitutes (a) further confirmation (if any be needed) that disease was indeed present on this site at this time as well as (b) a telling indication of the weight (and thus duration) of infection here.... I saw no notifiable disease there before 22 February 2001, nor was it ever suggested to me that such was present. On 24 February 2001 Dr Kitching expressed the opinion to me that the oldest FMD lesions he had seen on that day were 12 day old - ie, that the first visible signs of FMD would, in his opinion, have been seen on the farm on or about 12 February. With an added incubation period of eight-ten days, he told me he believed the virus would have been introduced into the herd between 2 and 4 February."Read in full See also comment in the Inbox
March 14 - 20 ~ Waugh's pig farm - "in those strictly narrowly-defined terms they were good at their job" says the Dring document
Mr Dring wrote too about the apparent health of the pigs at the farm.
"The herd at Burnside was routinely a strong and healthy one.... This herd was routinely strong, vigorous, well-grown, well-fed and healthy.. Read in full
Certainly I saw no notifiable disease there before 22 February 2001, nor was it ever suggested to me that such was present.... On the strength of this independent epidemiological assessment, therefore, I feel safe in asserting that I did not on that date miss the presence in Waugh's herd of FMD. I say this not because I believe myself incapable of such a thing, but simply because disease at that time was not there .."
March 14 - 20 ~ The problems arising from the ban on feeding pig swill will be raised in a debate in the House of Commons today by the Conservative MP for Henley, Boris Johnson.
"I think what the Government has done is disgraceful," he said. "I think Mr Podmore has a very good case in law for the frustration of his legitimate expectations." WMN Tuesday
March 14 - 20 ~ Defra under fire after BSE case verdict
The Scotsman (Tuesday) reports that the " High Court in London has condemned the "manifestly unfair" way the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs treated a farming couple suspected of breaking anti-BSE feed rules with their beef herd. In one of the strongest critical judgments to be given against a government department, a senior judge criticised Defra's "inexcusable" behaviour, following suspicions that the couple had fed pet food, containing ingredients banned to ruminants, to their herd. Laurence and Rachel Banks were the victims of "procedural unfairness" after Defra "failed to tell them the true nature of the case against them, thus preventing them from mounting an effective answer to it," said Mr Justice Sullivan. .............
........... Tests carried out after Kent County Council trading standards officers went to the farm were said to reveal the presence of small quantities of "animal products" - banned under anti-BSE rules - in a feeding trough and in a dung sample. The judge said: "A large beef herd built up over many years has been effectively condemned upon the basis of no more than an inspector's suspicion they had been fed prohibited material."
The judge said that Defra had been evasive and "passed the buck" to the council. He said he was considering further submissions before deciding on awarding costs." Read in full
March 14 - 20 ~ Dr Ruth Watkins comments, "Mr Morley's remark is so stupid I can't believe he made it."
Our pleas for a virologist to comment on the comments made by Ben Bradshaw and Elliott Morley when they were fending off questions by Paul Flynn (see below) have resulted in this detailed reply from Dr Ruth Watkins BSc Hons, BFA Oxon, MBBS, MSc, MRCP, MRCPath. Mr Morley said that without the mass slaughter policies of 2001 foot and mouth disease "would still be going on". The implication was that vaccination could not have brought the disease to a timely end far sooner. Hansard
Part of what Dr Watkins says in support of vaccination:
If vaccination had been used in the 2001 FMD epidemic Pirbright could have conducted very informative and useful field trials. ....There is nothing to replace the potential and power of vaccination in controlling virus infections. (A new pandemic of influenza will be a global tragedy unless a vaccine is developed against it.)She adds, in this tribute to Fred Brown, "So many scientists might stand back - particularly after being rebuffed publicly by the powers that be - and rage unquietly in the wings at the stupidity and folly of refusing to use vaccination and modern diagnostic techniques to combat an epidemic.
Fred never backed away or down. His high sense of integrity prevented it when he knew how FMD might have been managed differently. Those wonderful tools - Fred's work so outstanding in its contribution to their development - that science had given us were never used. What an anathema that we never applied them to FMD..."
March 14 - 20 ~ The Podmore case could in effect become the best public inquiry we can hope for.
Radio 4 Farming Today, (Monday 15) featured FMD and swill feeding legal action against Defra Listen again (the link expires each week. See Monday's programe) An emailer writes, "the BBC summary leaves out some important information, especially on the right of disclosure. This would give to Jason Podmore and Robert Persey the right to seek any documents they wish to obtain; the High Court case would become, in effect, a public inquiry into the foot and mouth epidemic."
March 14 - 20 ~" His understanding of the structure and function of FMD led to the development of new vaccines and test kits."
The Times adds its voice to the tributes to Fred Brown, who died on February 20th. " After his retirement, he continued his research at the US Department of Agriculture Plum Island Disease Center, where he was a visiting scientist from 1995.
In February 2001, when the most recent British outbreak of FMD was first diagnosed, Brown announced that it "would be crazy not to operate a programme of mass vaccination immediately".
Mass vaccination had been abandoned in western Europe in 1992, after defective vaccines had been thought to be the cause of outbreaks of the disease. But, Brown maintained, the new vaccines could not cause infections, and new testing could differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals.
Despite his attempts to persuade the authorities of the benefits of vaccination, to Brown's dismay the Government opted for a policy of mass slaughter, which he later described as the destruction of "innocent animals".
March 14 - 20 ~"In the event of an outbreak, be it an accidental introduction or an act of bio-terrorism, it would be critical to have a fast and reliable method to quickly identify infected animals."
pdf file of Real-Time Reverse Transcription PCR Detection of Foot-and-Mouth-Disease Virus Using the R.A.P.I.D.® System by Katy M. Andrews, Michael D. Powers, Gordon B. Ward, Thomas McKenna, Deepika de Silva Idaho Technology Inc., Salt Lake City, UT, 2APHIS USDA, Plum Island Animal Disease Ctr., Plum Island, NY.
"This study evaluates the ability of two real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) assays to independently detect the presence of Foot-and-Mouth-Disease Virus (FMDV) RNA. Assays to amplify the internal ribosomal entry site (IRES) and RNA polymerase regions of the FMDV genome recognize all seven existing serotypes. Both assays can effectively evaluate the presence of FMDV in various bovine samples, including blood, serum, saliva, nasal swabs, and epithelial tissue..... Real-time RT-PCR using the Ruggedized Advanced Pathogen Identification Device (R.A.P.I.D.) System is an ideal platform for fast, sensitive, and specific identification of FMDV...."The US is taking the rapid diagnostic tests very seriously indeed. Canada is conducting a project to focus on the development of new diagnostic tests ".. based on the key platform technologies that have the greatest potential as field tests for Veterinary First Responders. These tests will be mobile and robust for use in the field. They will produce highly reliable, accurate results, support differential diagnosis, allow for automation for handling large numbers of samples, and allow for electronic collection and transmission of data. These tests will be applied to rapid diagnosis of FMD, HC, AI and NV..." (Government of Canada website) Meanwhile, in the UK, such tests are not even mentioned in the latest Foot and Mouth Contingency Plans. (See again the Marshall comments on the Contingency Plan) including the need for a properly constituted Expert Group)
March 14 - 20 ~ DEFRA update on National Scrapie Plan
a pdf file from DEFRA including news of the Defra- funded project Selective breeding on PrP Genotype set up " to address the sheep industry's concerns about the narrowing of the gene pool since the launch of the National Scrapie Plan ...", NSP Flock Register, Slaughter Period, Application Forms, Results, Progress Report, Subsequent Annual Visits, Certificates, Welsh Ewe Genotyping Scheme II, Strategy Review, Export to EU, Semen Archive, Scrapie Flocks Scheme, Breed Society Forum, National Events 2004
March 14 - 20 ~ Scotland and Wales 'bullied' over GM crop veto
Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday "Ministers are threatening to take unprecedented steps under the devolution agreements with Scotland and Wales to ensure that they accept GM crops, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment, made it clear last week that the devolved administrations - which are much more sceptical about the technology than the Westminster government - could not have a veto on planting GM maize across Britain. Her move, immediately described by environmentalists as "bullying", is bound to lead to a storm of protests in both devolved assemblies, where GM crops have become an explosive political issue, and could cause a constitutional crisis..."
Sunday midday update: Opposition MSPs in the Scottish pariament are to push for a vote on plans to roll out GM crops north of the border. (epolitix.com) "Following Margaret Beckett's decision to sanction the commercial planting of GM maize, the SNP is demanding that the Scottish parliament is given a vote on the issue. The call comes amid reports that Whitehall wants to convene a special cross border committee to try to force Wales and Scotland to accede to the decision to allow GM crops..."
March 14 - 20 ~ "Mrs Beckett must wake up to the fact that Jim Dring failed to fulfil his regulatory responsibilities under the Animal By Products Order 1999
and she and DEFRA must carry the can." writes Mr Robert Persey. "She only deludes herself by saying, '..he (Jim Dring) is not responsible'.
The 14 page document ( the last page was originally passed to the press) has now gone to the WMN and Farmers Weekly and has the title 'My involvement with the Waughs'.
Read Mr Persey's notes in full
March 7 - 13 ~ "The revelations will put even more pressure on ministers..."
WMN "Explaining the lack of records on visits to Waugh's farm in 2000, Mr Dring said: "Contrary to normal working practice, no such official record was made. The reason for this has to do with local staff depletion creating too much work and too little time to do it in. The inevitable, if regrettable, result of such depletion is, subject to opportunity, the cutting of corners." ..."
"...The revelations will put even more pressure on ministers to explain why they withheld Mr Dring's report from the Anderson Inquiry. It also raises serious questions about the resourcing of the SVS, which is on the front line of the battle to protect the UK from infectious animal diseases like foot and mouth...." Read in full
March 7 - 13 ~ "Withheld Memo sparks Anger
".... .... Mr (David) Hill said: "....All the time these little stones were being turned over and it transpires there was this enormous rock with an open invitation to look under it, but somebody decided there was no need to look under that rock. The only word that comes to mind is negligent. It was negligent not to take that information into account. I am not a great conspiracy theory man. I think it was negligent."Inbox comment
Angela Browning.....pointed out that the Government were the only people who could decide to hold another inquiry and she added: "I think they will do everything they can to keep it down the list of priorities of what they are doing. They will say they have had three inquiries, but these were all inadequate because they were not comprehensive." Mrs Browning suggested that the admission that Mr Dring's memo had been withheld could open the way for fresh compensation claims from those who lost out because of foot and mouth disease..."
Read article in full
March 7 - 13 ~ China to vaccinate against avian influenza, fears of fresh cases in Thailand
Xinhuanet.com"The epidemic control headquarters of southwest China's Guizhou Province has decided to vaccinate all poultry within 10 kilometers of the Caohai Lake area to prevent bird flu virus spread by migratory birds..."
From Thailand's The Nation"..Uttaradit's caretaker livestock chief, Wannee Nakbua, said samples had been collected from a number of chicken farms in the province for lab tests to determine whether there was a new outbreak there. She expected results of the tests on Monday. If they are positive, the districts the samples came from will be declared bird-flu epidemic areas, she said."
March 7 - 13 ~ Without the mass slaughter policy, say Bradshaw and Morley, foot and mouth "would still be going on"
See Hansard from March 11. We await the comment of any virologist to this extraordinary statement.
Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport, West, asked Mrs Beckett "What her most recent assessment is of the role that vaccination may play in a future outbreak of foot and mouth disease." Ben Bradshaw replied predictably that it would be considered as an additional tool to the culling of susceptible animals on infected premises, and those animals that were epidemiologically linked.DEFRA's intentions and overall competence - about which we have worried for three years - must now, surely, be called into question elsewhere.
"Only 'considered,''" asked Mr Flynn, " ... Should we not have a firm policy -not merely consider it - that we shall never again slaughter millions of animals without good reason' If there is another outbreak of foot and mouth, the great danger is that we shall be subject to the waste, futility and cruelty of mad cull disease..."
Instead of answering the question, Ben Bradshaw leapt to the defence of the policy and said that without the mass slaughter, "the epidemic would have lasted much longer and would have been much more serious" "It would probably still be going on," Mr. Morley added
No vaccination protocol has been made available. What we have detailed in the Contingency Plan instead is a comprehensive Slaughter Protocol, based on the new draconian slaughter powers invested by the Animal Health Act.
Where is the Expert Group' The so-called Scientific Advisory Council does not fulfil the requirements of the Directive, and does not include any of the world/EU experts on FMD vaccination.
March 7 - 13 ~ "what strategic discussions or reviews have been conducted by the Department with vets to ensure that we have enough vets in the right places'"
When Lawrie Quinn Labour MP for Scarborough and Whitby asked "what strategic discussions or reviews have been conducted by the Department with vets to ensure that we have enough vets in the right places.." she was told that "All those things were considered in the Government's response to the Anderson inquiry. As my hon. Friend may know, we intend to hold a contingency exercise this summer'in case of a future foot and mouth outbreak'in which vets will play a central role." Read Hansard for yesterday.
March 12 ~ FMD leak could cost £billions
Some newspapers are beginning to take the Dring leak even more seriously. Farmers Weekly quotes Richard Lissack QC who has been approached formally to consider whether there is a proper claim in law for economic losses caused by FMD Mr Lissack said, "We need a client to come forward to represent. The figures at stake here ' that have been suggested to me ' could be in the order of £11bn."
The WMN today says,
"....Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett was under mounting pressure to order a public inquiry into the 2001 foot and mouth disaster yesterday... Mrs Beckett yesterday admitted that the document had been "withheld" from the Anderson Inquiry. But she insisted that the "issues behind the memo" were discussed with Dr Iain Anderson who chaired the investigation. Although Mr Dring's report was addressed to the Anderson Inquiry, Mrs Beckett described it as "notes he made for himself". A Defra spokesman told the WMN this week that departmental lawyers had decided Mr Dring's comments were "not material" to the inquiry."The attempt by Mrs Beckett to suggest that Mr Dring is being unfairly hounded, and that (presumably for that reason) the department would continue to block the full publication of Mr Dring's report, is nonsense. What everyone who feels concern wants is to know why a vitally important piece of evidence was withheld from an "independent" inquiry. There are many unanswered questions about the 2001 FMD crisis; what caused it, where it really began, why so much about it has been and continues to be shrouded in secrecy - and why DEFRA seems so set, in its contingency plans, on ignoring the advice and the technology that could prevent its happening all over again.
March 7 - 13 ~ "We have still not got to the bottom of the start of foot and mouth so that lessons can be learned. ...."
says Angela Browning MP in today's article on the Dring case in the Western Morning News. "...Neil Parish, Conservative MEP for the South West, said: "My position all along has been that there should have been a full public judicial inquiry in the UK where we could cross-examine witnesses. .. " Lib-Dem MP Nick Harvey, whose North Devon constituency was badly hit by the crisis, agreed that only a full public inquiry could uncover the truth about how the epidemic was handled." Read in full
March 7 - 13 ~ Full disclosure and accountability - rather than Public Inquiry
The Dring material and its implications are too important to await a long drawn out Inquiry (followed possibly by a meaningless report at the end of it). What is needed to be made available are all Dring's reports, notes, memos, tapes and all video material relating to Bobby Waugh's farm, from the date of his first inspection on the 27 Jan 2001. Once this information has been obtained, accountability should be sought from Defra. It is the Ministry responsible for disease surveillance. There is no interest at all in trying to "scape-goat" Mr Dring. It is the Ministry that should take responsibility for this - and previous non-disclosure.
March 7 - 13 ~ "I attended this conference... There were seats made available for a formal UK representative but they remained empty.."
We received this email in response to that of Dr Sutmoller below - from one of the organisers of the Houston conference
I attended this conference as one of the organisers. There were seats made available for a formal UK representative but they remained empty throughout the one & half days. OIE, IICA, OIRSA, FAO were strongly represented by sound officers, as well as ministers from all the South American countries, some in Central America, as well as Mexico, US, & Canada, plus industry representatives.Read in full
It was a useful meeting which essentially laid out the ground rules for the eradication programme. Now to see how the directing Working Group sets it all up and ensures adequate funding. From the enthusiasm of the various South American delegates though the official target is 2009, I would not be surprised if effective eradication is achieved in 2007."
March 7 - 13 ~"I sincerely hope that the apparent lack of DEFRA's interest in the Conference... is based on some gross misunderstanding"
Dr Paul Sutmoller,PhD DVM, in a reply to Bryn Wayt after learning from him that DEFRA sent no representative to the Hemispheric Conference on the Eradication of FMD.
"Thank you Captain Bryn Wayt for including me in your mailing list. It is very hard to believe that DEFRA did not send one or more representatives to the (Western) Hemispheric Conference on the Eradication of FMD, Houston, Texas 3-4 March organized by the PanAmerican Health Organization (PAHO). It would be a clear signal that DEFRA is intent on following its own concepts of FMD eradication in the UK without input of knowledge and experience gained at the other side of the Atlantic ocean involving the eradication of FMD in most of the South American continent and in more than 150 million head of cattle.
I sincerely hope that the apparent lack of DEFRA's interest in the Conference, as shown by your e-mail exchange, is based on some gross misunderstanding."
March 7 - 13 ~ The disagreement could scupper plans to plant GM maize in Britain
Guardian Government and industry divided over compensation
"Giving the go-ahead for the first commercial GM crop in Britain, Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, said GM companies would foot the bill if anything went wrong. The industry says that is not acceptable. .."
March 7 - 13 ~ Starved of the truth
George Monbiot asks (Guardian 09/03/04) "The question is as simple as this: do you want a few corporations to monopolise the global food supply' If the answer is yes, you should welcome the announcement that the government is expected to make today that the commercial planting of a genetically modified (GM) crop in Britain can go ahead. If the answer is no, you should regret it. The principal promotional effort of the genetic engineering industry is to distract us from this question.
GM technology permits companies to ensure that everything we eat is owned by them. They can patent the seeds and the processes that give rise to them. They can make sure that crops can't be grown without their patented chemicals. They can prevent seeds from reproducing themselves. By buying up competing seed companies and closing them down, they can capture the food market, the biggest and most diverse market of all. .....
The biotech companies are not interested in whether science is flourishing or whether people are starving. They simply want to make money. The best way to make money is to control the market. But before you can control the market, you must first convince the people that there's something else at stake." Read in full
March 7 - 13 ~ he remained disappointed that, when the disease had first been diagnosed, his advice had not been taken. The mass cull, he said in 2002, was "barbaric conduct" and "a disgrace to humanity".
From the Telegraph tribute to Fred Brown
"...Brown maintained, the new vaccines could not cause infections, and new testing could differentiate between vaccinated and infected animals.
Despite his attempts to persuade the authorities of the benefits of vaccination, to Brown's dismay the Government opted for a policy of mass slaughter, which he later described as the destruction of "innocent animals".
.....continue to maintain that vaccination and testing could have prevented the unnecessary slaughter of millions of animals. After the 2001 outbreak, Brown was appointed to a Royal Society inquiry set up to learn lessons from it. But he remained disappointed that, when the disease had first been diagnosed, his advice had not been taken. The mass cull, he said in 2002, was "barbaric conduct" and "a disgrace to humanity". ... Brown discovered that one of the aziridine compounds (AEI) gave the desired result: a safe and effective vaccine. This was a major breakthrough, and aziridines are now used universally in foot-and-mouth disease vaccine production units. ..."
March 7 - 13 ~ "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" 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, http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/int-trde/misc/foot/OIE_FMD_report.pdf 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 - probably less than 20% of all contiguous culls and even many IP's taken out on clinical grounds. 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 at £250 million, leaving almost £1 billion outstanding - and it seems that the UK government may now never be able to get this UK taxpayers' money back . It is time for a public inquiry.
March 7 - 13 ~ "airborne spread to sheep from Burnside Farm on a nearby holding, Prestwick Hall Farm."
DEFRA's own version of the sequence of events causes the reader to wonder the extent to which Mr Scudamore was misinformed during the "full inquiry" of which his paper "Origin of the UK Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic in 2001" was the result. Speculation about the Waugh situation is not backed up with evidence
" Initial spread of disease from the index case was by two routes, the first linked to the movement of infected pigs from Burnside Farm, Northumberland to Cheales Abattoir, Essex, the second associated with airborne spread to sheep from Burnside Farm on a nearby holding, Prestwick Hall Farm"Prestwick Hall Farm is the farm five miles away at Ponteland. For virus to travel five miles in the air, probably against the prevailing wind, would be wholly contrary to the findings of Dr Donaldson who said that even cattle, the most susceptible species to airborne infection, would need to be within 2 kilometres of a plume from 100 infected pigs. In the wake of the Jim Dring revelations, it would be reassuring if these matters could be re-examined.
March 7 - 13 ~ "As pressure mounts on the Government to hold a full inquiry into the foot and mouth outbreak, Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, has announced that she will be jetting off to foreign parts for nearly two months."
WMN "Mrs Beckett, who is also under pressure from angry farmers worried that reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will destroy their businesses, will be travelling to climate change summits in New York, Australia and New Zealand. She will also be fitting in a holiday.."
March 7 - 13 ~ "the Government had failed to incorporate into British law part of an EU Directive which banned pig swill from being transferred between farms prior to the crisis."
The Western Morning News today on the Dring case. See also email last November"This licence contravened EU law"
March 7 - 13 ~ They're now calling it a "memo" or merely an "aide-memoire"....
More about the a 27-page report (WMN) in which SVS vet, Jim Dring, admitted negligence. The "This is Cornwall" website
"...Mr Dring prepared a memo for submission to the Anderson Lessons Learned inquiry, which MAFF's successor body, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said yesterday had only been an "aide memoire" and was not submitted to the inquiry. .....The spokesman added: "The Government was fully committed to helping the Lessons Learned inquiry in any way possible."Yesterday, Martin Hann, the chairman of Devon NFU, said questions over what was done with the memo highlighted the need for a full public inquiry to have been held. He said: "This document should have been in the public domain much earlier, then we would have seen the proof of the Government's failings, which we in the agricultural world always knew were there."..."
Although Professor Bob Lee is quoted as saying he thinks compensation unlikely, the 62 swill producers who had their livelihoods taken away may take a different view, as does the Conservative Party, and will press even more strongly for a public inquiry. See warmwell page of the sequence of events
March 7 - 13 ~ The Trial of Bobby Waugh was given as a reason not to make public Burnside Farm's test results
See warmwell's chronology of the events of early 2001
Extract: When Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Lord Whitty (14th May 2002) (Hansard) "Whether the tests for foot and mouth disease carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs veterinarians in February 2001 at Mr Bobby Waugh's farm at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, were positive or negative; and whether the results of those tests have been made public.[HL4130]" Lord Whitty replied, "The results of the tests for foot and mouth virus in February 2001 at Bobby Waugh's farm are likely to form part of the evidence at the current trial."
Why the prevarication' Were the test results positive and why should the results not have been made clear even before the trial' The same reason of pre-trial confidentiality was given by DEFRA to explain why Mr Dring's signed statement was not processed by the Anderson Inquiry. But neither was it mentioned during the trial, it seems.
As for the laboratory confirmation of disease, Mr Waugh was given the "A" form to signify an infected premises by Mr Dring on Friday morning, after a telephone conversation between Mr Dring and London (sic) confirmed FMD on the premises. However, the form had been signed and dated by Mr Hine, a third MAFF official, on the previous day.
There are serious questions that now need to be addressed. Sequence of Events
March 7 - 13 ~ Why did Jim Dring's signed statement to the Inquiry never reach Iain Anderson's "Lessons Learned" Inquiry'
Jim Dring says that this statement was part of his submission to the Anderson Inquiry. DEFRA said at first. apparently, that it was not. DEFRA's later answer, according to the BBC, was that the "concern centred on putting material into the public domain before it had been dealt with in court" However, DEFRA must have been aware that the Anderson Report, published in July 2002 would not be put into the public domain until well after the Waugh trial was over (he was convicted in May 2002).
March 7 - 13 ~ Although no evidence about the origin of the outbreak has ever been seen in public, on February 5th 2004, Ben Bradshaw told Parliament that swill feeding was the source of the FMD outbreak.
The Scotsman reported
"....The Government rejected cross party calls for previously licensed swill feeders to be compensated for loss of trade after the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak. Junior environment minister Ben Bradshaw defended the ban on the trade, which was brought in after it was identified as the source of the epidemic (our italics) which swept the country. He told Tory Boris Johnson (Henley) it would be 'grossly irresponsible' to lift the ban for such a 'risky' practice."The government cannot have it both ways. If, in spite of the lack of hard evidence, they continue to assert that FMD began as a result of Bobby Waugh feeding swill to his unfortunate pigs, then they must also accept that the SVS vet's negligence was responsible for the outbreak.
Jim Dring's breast-beating statement shows that he accepts responsibility for FMD. If the statement arrived safely then why did Iain Anderson ignore this in his report and fail to include it in the published list of submissions'If it did not reach him, why didn't it'
The Parliamentary Ombudsman will announce on Monday whether she is going to investigate the swill feeders' case.
Even more important, in our view, is to investigate exactly what happened to Jim Dring's signed statement and why. A public inquiry is needed more than ever.
March 7 - 13 ~ "It may be too late, in this finickety, panicky, hysterical age, to restore the old custom of feeding leftovers to pigs.
But we could at least find some way of compensating the 62 swill users, many of whom invested in expensive equipment on the direct urgings of Maff (as was), and spent thousands on machines that could make melba toast fit for a pig. They have been treated shabbily by this Government, and all the while our landfill is piled with edible remains, and our sewers grow more clogged and more cloacal and more sinister." Read Boris Johnson in the Telegraph in January and Hansard for 5 Feb 2004
March 7 - 13 ~ "(Professor Fred) Brown was the ideal man to push forward defensive measures starting with means of rapid virus diagnosis capable of being carried out on the farm.
He helped to develop such a method and do preliminary tests of a user-friendly kit. The method had the additional advantage of distinguishing vaccinated animals from infected ones. This kit was offered by Usda to the British authorities in the 2001 outbreak and the help was declined, much to Brown's disappointment..." From the obituary of Fred Brown in the Independent
March 7 ~ The report could be describing the chaos of 2001 rather than an FMD simulation exercise based on lessons learned three years on.
The Times has published a short article about a government report of the recent simulated FMD exercise in Scotland which concludes that Scotland "..is ill-equipped to deal with another foot and mouth outbreak ... A simulated outbreak last September revealed serious shortcomings in the ability of government agencies to contain the disease. ..."
March 7 - 13 ~ DEFRA " 'It is hard to make a case for the special treatment of horses.'
We find DEFRA's position with regard to the new EU Draft Regulation extraordinary. Alun Michael - Minister for the Horse - says in this letter that maintaining our position on not exporting horses for slaughter "is not an option". It is an option. The UK government have been handed a solution. Their refusal to engage with it is a national disgrace.
See Horse Export page
on the amendment by Caroline Lucas (Green Party MEP) It reads: "Member States may on grounds of public morality prohibit the export of horses ponies and donkeys destined for slaughter to other Member States or third countries."
We believe that she is still waiting for a response from Margaret Beckett to her urgent letter " If the Commission and more importantly, the Council, were to accept my amendment the UK would be able to retain its ban on the export of horses and ponies. ... Support from the UK government for my amendment is therefore crucial if we are not to see the beginning of a trade in live horses from the UK"
TheSunday Times headline implies that the matter is beyond solution: "... The lifting of the ban could lead to tens of thousands of British horses being exported each year. James Gray, Conservative spokesman on rural affairs, said: 'The main market will be the horse abattoirs in southern Italy, which will mean these animals being on the road for days. It will be a cruel trade and I want this ban to remain in place.'
March 7 - 13 ~ GM -" the most serious threat to the Government's position is posed by the Welsh and Scottish administrations."
Independent on Sunday"...... Ministers desperately want them on board so that they can make a united announcement that, in principle, growing the maize is acceptable. Even more crucially, by law they have to have their assent before a definite go-ahead can be given to cultivating the GM crop commercially anywhere in Britain..." Read in full
March 7 - 13 ~ The Scottish Executive will defy the Blair government by rejecting genetically modified crops, which this week will get the go-ahead in England.
Rob Edwards, Environment Editor of the Sunday Herald has the exclusive story: "...'we will be proactively approaching farmers to get them to voluntarily declare a GM-free zone'........The Executive believes European law forbids it formally to declare the whole country a GM-free zone. But there is nothing to prevent it encouraging the only region in which GM maize could be grown to declare itself GM-free. That interpretation is confirmed by leaked minutes of the cabinet committee meeting which originally took the decision to approve GM maize on February 11. ...The Greens want the Executive to go further and stop the UK growing GM maize by vetoing its inclusion on the national list of seeds that farmers can grow. But others point out that Scotland can't dictate English policy. ..." (GM page) See also Geoffrey Lean's article in today's Independent on Sunday
Genetically modified strains have contaminated two-thirds of all crops in US
March 7- 13 ~ " If Mrs Beckett wants to be remembered for destroying some of the most famous stretches of England's countryside, she is going about it in the right way."
Sunday Telegraph Booker's Notebook "...the most puzzling question is whether Mrs Beckett is aware of the catastrophic consequences of what she proposes. Has she simply made an ignorant blunder, in imagining that all the Seriously Disadvantaged Area consists of rough moorland which only justifies marginal subsidies - without realising that the surrounding countryside also includes a huge acreage of good land, invaluable not only to farming but to wildlife and tourism' Or is she, as some farmers fear, deliberately setting out to destroy a quarter of our livestock industry' ..." Read in full
March 6 ~ Conservatives repeat demand for public inquiry into foot & mouth crisis
'The Conservatives have consistently demanded a public inquiry into the Foot & Mouth crisis which resulted in the slaughter of 10 million animals and cost the UK billions of pounds. 'What seems evident from this admission is that signs of the disease were evident for all to see. There is now an urgent need for an investigation into why such damning evidence was not disclosed earlier. 'Farmers across the country, whose livelihoods were ruined by this crisis, deserve to know the truth.' Read press release
See alsosome of the many other calls for a public inquiry in 2001- 2002 published on warmwell.com.
March 6 ~ ".. potential for the destabilisation of the whole livestock industry, grassland environment and rural economy..."
See CAP page
March 6 ~ "Row rumbles on over Brown's FMD diagnostic kit"
"Three years on from the world's biggest foot-and-mouth outbreak, there is still no reliable rapid on-farm diagnostic test." writes Fordyce Maxwell in Saturday's Scotsman
".. Anne Lambourn, a Brown supporter and anti-slaughter as a way of controlling any future outbreak, told The Scotsman: "Defra seem entrenched in a medieval attitude to disease control and incapable of taking advantage of new technologies." .....Pirbright scientists take a different view of Brown's claims that his Smart Cycler was "a beautiful piece of kit, simple and not costly". Three Pirbright scientists carried out an evaluation of the Cycler. Their findings in the Veterinary Record in summer 2002 were that it could not detect weakly positive samples and that further work was needed before it could be used for diagnosis in the field. .." Read Scotsman article in fullThe "three Pirbright scientists'" findings in the Veterinary Record were only partially reported.
(Warmwell comment ) The essential point - that the ability of the machine to detect viral RNA is greatly affected by the PCR reagents used for the assay ... " - has been left out.
March 6 ~ ARS RT-PCR for FMD is the new standard for on-site diagnosis of FMD
For DEFRA to imply that the paper by Hearps, Zhang and Alexandersen in 2002 gives them a good reason not to include any mention of the technology in the Contingency plan rather takes one's breath away.
As for the need for laboratory confirmation, Roger Breeze wrote (back in 2001) to the Royal Society
".....Much reference continues to be made to the relative sensitivities of cell culture and RT-PCR and to the need for spurious comparisons with lab-based PCR instruments...In our assay, RT-PCR is more sensitive than cell culture. ... the ARS RT-PCR for FMD is the new standard for on-site diagnosis of FMD."(See also Tributes to Professor Brown who did indeed die on the third anniversary of the outbreak. He never referred to the new technology as his "own" machine. He merely tried to get Professor King et al to understand it.)
March 6 ~ renewed demands for compensation from the Government and for a full public inquiry into the outbreak...."
" A flood of compensation claims against Defra, especially from the 62 pig-swill feeders who lost their businesses after a ban on the practice, is now certain." Valerie Elliott in the Times calls the Dring story "an extraordinary development" and says "Mr Dring's confession may never have been disclosed to the inquiry fuelling suspicion that the paper may have been suppressed...
The admission has renewed demands for compensation from the Government and for a full public inquiry into the outbreak...." Read in full
March 6 ~ the admission would strengthen the case for legal action
".... Mr Dring, now a DEFRA vet, wrote: "... at a time when illicit feeding practices were clearly in train and had been for some time, I inspected this (sic) premises with a view to renewing the Waughs' Article 26 licence."
"Had this inspection been more rigorous than it was, had the licence not been renewed, or renewed only subject to radical revision of the Waugh's patently deficient feeding technique, then this awful 2001 FMD epidemic would never have come about," he wrote.
Lynda Davies, national co-ordinator of the Association of Swill Users, said the admission would strengthen the case for legal action against MAFF/DEFRA... " Read in full
March 6 ~ MAFF did not ban the use of slops
Like other pig farmers using swill, the Waughs received a letter from MAFF on September 17, 1998, which warned of an "increased risk of the introduction of the strain to the EU...You will be aware that the strict controls on the processing and feeding of waste to pigs are specifically to prevent the introduction of epidemics." and yet MAFF did not ban the use of slops - the very thing, it implied, might spread the disease. See also Jason Podmore case and http://www.warmwell.com/nov25persey.html
March 6 ~ Jim Dring says "I could have prevented FMD" - implying that FMD 2001 began at Burnside.
The news articles quote Jim Dring apparently apologising for his own negligence in renewing Waugh's swill feeding licence. In addition, he is indirectly asserting that Waugh's farm was the index case for the outbreak and that Bobby Waugh was to blame for the outbreak. (However unpleasant conditions on Burnside Farm were, it was never claimed, even at the trial, that Bobby Waugh somehow introduced FMD into the UK.)
From the extract reported, it appears that Mr Dring is careful not to confess to missing the disease himself at the time of his inspection of the Waugh's farm on January 24th. Even so, his admission that the licence should not have been renewed will inevitably result in demands for compensation. MAFF's failure to close down the Waugh farm resulted in the unnecessary closure, without compensation, of the 62 pig swill businesses such as that of Jason Podmore. The Times says that there will be "for renewed demands for ..a full public inquiry into the outbreak"
March 6 ~ "Well, that puts you right in it, Jim. You were here 4 weeks ago, why didn't you find it then'"
Bobby Waugh claimed that on confirmation of FMD being present on Friday 23rd February, Jim Dring went into one shed and declared that certain pigs had been infected for four weeks. This would have taken the date of infection to the time that Mr Dring had carried out his annual inspection on 24th January. Bobby Waugh told the court he'd said "Well, that puts you right in it, Jim. You were here 4 weeks ago, why didn't you find it then'" Mr Waugh alleges that Mr Dring then changed his opinion and said, "this one has had it two weeks, this one for two weeks." (In the report that has come to light, Mr Dring refers to his inspection "a mere ten days before foot and mouth virus was introduced into this pig herd" )
No evidence has been put forward in public to prove the origin of the 2001 outbreak.
Even so, Waugh is widely assumed to be the culprit because of newspaper reporting. He always vowed that he was being made a scapegoat and that the disease had been circulating well before it was found at Heddon-on-the-Wall.
March 6 ~ In spite of reports of concern about the pigs, MAFF's vets consistently ticked the "satisfactory" box on their inspection sheets and never banned the slops they warned about.
During Bobby Waugh's trial, Mr Jeremy Stuart-Smith QC asked Mr Dring to explain how he had continued to licence the premises, and to explain how he had continued to file his six-monthly reports, over a number of many years, by 'ticking' the box marked, 'Satisfactory' ...( http://www.warmwell.com/may11waugh.html) Even though MAFF had, in 1998, alerted all pig farms to "strict controls on the processing and feeding of waste to pigs are specifically to prevent the introduction of epidemics", Mr Waugh was granted a licence to remove cooked swill from a neighbouring pig farm and feed it to his own pigs.
There are records of complaints made about the burning of carcasses, pig swill overflowing, and the appalling state of the Waugh's unfortunate pigs at Burnside Farm. Yet SVS vets consistently ticked the "satisfactory" box on their inspection sheets.
The way the unlucky pigs were treated by Mr Dring (a veterinary surgeon) and others was also described during the trial."
March 6 ~ Jim Dring: "radical revision of the Waughs' patently deficient feeding technique..."
The Western Morning News (Friday)
"...In a document apparently submitted to the Anderson Inquiry into the foot and mouth crisis, the vet wrote: "Had this inspection been more rigorous than it was, had the licence not been renewed, or renewed only subject to radical revision of the Waughs' patently deficient feeding technique, then this awful 2001 foot and mouth epidemic would never have come about."Read in full
The investigation conducted by Dr Iain Anderson was criticised because interviews with officials and Ministers - including Prime Minister Tony Blair - were carried out behind closed doors.
Although the vet's statement is headed "To: The Anderson Inquiry", no mention of it was made in the inquiry's report.
Mr Dring yesterday said that he stood by what he wrote in the document, dated October 5, 2001. But he stressed that the two pages seen by the WMN were only a small part of a 27-page report.
The WMN contacted Maff's successor, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) yesterday, but was unable to obtain the full document...."
March 2 - 6 ~ Horse export - The UK govt are STILL not showing enthusiasm for including the exemption, and time is running out.
See warmwell page on the issue of live export of British horses for slaughter. The EU draft Regulation on the Protection of Animals during Transport doesn't currently include a provision to allow the UK to uphold protective legislation. The UK Government has been called upon to amend the draft EU legislation enabling Britain to outlaw the export of low-value horses, ponies and donkeys. Some concerned MEPs are actively seeking such an "opt out" for the UK. It would appear that the UK government cannot even bring itself to support this opt-out clause. Time is running out. As before, we urge readers to write to their MEP as well as to their MP if they feel that the UK should not begin a trade in horses for slaughter.
March 2 - 6 ~ "when it was pointed out that he was only bankrupt because Defra had forced him out of business, Mr Podmore was given leave for his action to proceed."
Private Eye last week ".... recently raised Defra's scandalous conduct in casually wiping out a whole industry: the 62 small companies which used to make a living gathering up hundreds of thousands of tons of food waste every year to feed to pigs. ....
...Defra's callous treatment of the swill producers is now being investigated by the parliamentary ombudsman, and one former producer, Jason Podmore, is hoping shortly to sue Defra for compensation in the High Court. Initially Defra's lawyers claimed that he was not entitled to launch an action since he was bankrupt. But when it was pointed out that he was only bankrupt because Defra had forced him out of business, Mr Podmore was given leave for his action to proceed. " Read Muckspreader in full See also Jason Podmore case
March 2 - 6 ~ Peter Ainsworth "There must be more research before GM crops go ahead...
...We would like to know from Margaret Beckett exactly where the government stands on GM" The cross party Environmental Audit Committee say there should be more field tests for GM crops before any commercial growing begins. Approval for one variety of maize looks likely to be given the go-ahead in a few days. Farming Today devoted its entire programme to this issue. The scientist Joe Perry, who disagrees with the group of MPs, does himself acknowledge (in this pdf file) that
''There is already much evidence that the increased intensity of UK farming since the 1960s is the most likely cause of the decline in abundance of several important farmland species of birds, butterflies and other taxa. Unless it can be shown incontrovertibly that the application of herbicidetolerant GM crop management will lead inevitably to a reversal of this decline in biodiversity, to recommend commercialisation in an unrestricted fashion would be to relinquish the responsibility of stewardship given us in Genesis 2. To allow the current, steady decline in biodiversity to continue is no longer acceptable, theologically, bioethically or politically. Fortunately, whatever the outcome of the Farm Scale Evaluations, agro-ecologists can devise mandatory restrictions on GM crop management that ensure a positive benefit to biodiversity, for a relatively small yield penalty. Such systems might then act as paradigms for conventional agriculture, in which the farmer is the steward of the countryside. The need to increase food production in Third World countries is clear, but GM technology does not yet conform to goals of feeding the hungry, and requires changes in delivery to ensure equitability and sustainability.' Joe Perry
March 2 - 6 ~"We are stuck in the fight against FMD. It is now time to go beyond the speeches; it is time for transparency and political will. We are all brothers in the fight against this disease and if one of us loses we all lose."
were the words of Brazil's Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Roberto Rodrigues, at the Houston FMD Conference on Wednesday. The objectives of the conference are "to develop a strategic approach to eradicate FMD from the Western Hemisphere, identifying the roles of the private and public sectors and promoting effective, independent evaluation and support for the progress towards eradication of FMD from the Western Hemisphere." See PAHO org press release
March 2 - 6 ~ "..the ultimate goal, which is to have healthy animals in a healthy continent."
Crusaders for Animal Health(Paho.org)
"....In a May 2003 meeting in Chile, COSALFA called on PANAFTOSA to begin supplying diagnostic kits for FMD surveillance... In March 2004, at the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Texas, PAHO and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will host a Hemispheric Conference on the Eradication of FMD. The meeting is intended to galvanize wide, coordinated international action for the final push to eradicate the disease. A point of emphasis will be the need to further strengthen prevention efforts based on surveillance and quarantine, along with vaccination.DEFRA's non-inclusion of RT-PCR diagnostic kits in their Contingency Plan - in spite of the fact that 80% of US State Laboratories now have the Smart-Cycler - seems extraordinary. Comment
..."With this setup, we can now look at fighting other important animal diseases such as tuberculosis, rabies, brucellosis'and really move toward the ultimate goal, which is to have healthy animals in a healthy continent."
March 2 - 6 ~ government departments could benefit most from scientific investment
Guardian "...We've seen with foot and mouth and BSE that the country has not been geared properly to doing research on those issues," said Dr Cotgreave. More scientists in government departments could help reverse the culture of scientific ignorance in many. The depth of the problem became obvious shortly after Tony Blair moved into Number 10. Between 1986, when BSE first appeared, and 1997 when the government started doing something about it, the then ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food cut its research budget by 25% and sacked around 1,800 scientists. .."
March 2 - 6 ~ "Legislation to withdraw the UK from the "disastrous" Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) cleared its first Parliamentary hurdle yesterday
after ministers opted not to block its progress. The Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill, which would take back national control of Britain's fishing grounds, passed its first stage unopposed, although it has little prospect of becoming law....Alex Salmond ... "Unless we end this madness we will have many more broken boats, broken businesses and broken communities."....
officials at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made it clear that the Government would act to block the Bill if necessary. Mr Bradshaw has consistently argued that withdrawal from the CFP is not a practical option.
But Mr Salmond said that the lack of opposition was "highly significant". " WMN
March 2 - 6 ~ "This was a television programme that will get right up the nose of Government ministers, developers, energy companies
- in fact, anyone trying to build windfarms around Britain."
The Western Morning News reports on last night's "Bee in your Bonnet" programme on the fight (see windfarms page) of Ann Metcalfe in the Yorkshire Dales.
"By the end of the programme, Ann, a 58-year-old school teacher, was giving a passionate speech to local councillors, producing leaflets any public relations firm would be proud of and addressing a media pack with botanist David Bellamy at her side. The programme did stress that not everyone in the community agreed with them but this was not about whether the Friends of Scout and Knowle Moors were right in their protest. This was about their right to protest..."H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis: concluded in the National Centre for Policy - Brief Analysis No. 467 Feb 23 2004) that "...Wind power is expensive, doesn't deliver the environmental benefits it promises and imposes substantial environmental costs. Accordingly, it does not merit continued government promotion or funding."
March 2 - 6 ~ Ministers are to spend £2m on an "inspirational" communication campaign
to sell renewable energy to the public and to planning authorities. A consultation has also been run on proposed planning changes to ease controls on windfarm development. WINDFARMS CAN WORK IF OPPOSITION 'ELIMINATED' Western Morning News "The Renewables Innovation Review, conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Carbon Trust..... notes that public opposition was "confirmed" from last year's Energy White Paper consultation."
March 2 - 6 ~ Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Owen Paterson MP, will be continuing his consultation on Bovine TB
with a visit to the North West on Thursday 4th March 2004. Following a series of visits to farms and some private meetings he will be speaking at an open public meeting at 7:30pm in the Old Mill Pub, Bardsey, Ulverston, Cumbria.
March 2 - 6 ~ " The National Reference Laboratory of China will share experience and offer technical cooperation with diagnostic laboratories of ASEAN countries in terms of diagnostic technology"
"The China-ASEAN Special Meeting on HPAI Control was held in Beijing, China on 2 March 2004. The Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, the Minister of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries of Myanmar, Vice-Ministers and senior officials for agriculture and health, and experts from China and 10 ASEAN countries, as well as officials from ASEAN Secretariat, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization and World Organization forAnimal Health participated in the Meeting. Representatives from Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions of China attended the meeting as members of the Chinese delegation. ...inter-agency cooperation and partnership at both national and regional levels...."The article describes the measures decided upon for the exchange of information and experience and to strengthen "extensive cooperation and exchanges with other countries, regional and international organizations, such as WHO, FAO, OIE on HPAI prevention and control"
March 2 - 6 ~"the UK government is not in favour of retaining its ban on the export of horses and ponies
preferring instead a number of half measures that will not be sufficient to prevent horse dealers from transporting UK equines to continental markets and slaughterhouses. .." See letter from Green Party MEP, Dr Caroline Lucas to Margaret Beckett about the need for support for her amendment - and other letters warmwell horse export page
March 2 - 6 ~ Hope for £100m in FMD bills
The Journal "A court judgment ordering Defra to pay a contractor £5m for work during the foot-and-mouth epidemic should encourage contractors collectively owed more than £100m, according to a North solicitor who is pursuing a different case. .... David Hunter, a partner with North-East legal firm Blackett Hart & Pratt.. said: "The experience of JDM mirrors that of numerous other contractors, many in this region. ...Defra has steadfastly refused to pay any part of a contractor's invoice where any discrepancy had been identified, however minor. The financial position of many contractors was exacerbated by the fact that some had taken on a financial risk on behalf of Defra in employing sub-contractors to assist in carrying out operations."... " Read in full and see also warmwell page on the £50 million still owed by DEFRA
March 2 - 6 ~ RT-PCR diagnosis against FMD to be tested in Texas.
AgNews "Experimental technology to rapidly detect foot-and-mouth disease will be tested in Texas this spring as the result of an agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine. The agreement, which also will test classical swine fever, means the Texas A&M researchers will be responsible for testing cattle and hogs with new assays to determine the tests' accuracy in populations of disease-free animals. ....
Currently, foot-and-mouth testing may only be performed at the U.S. Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York, a high-security biocontainment facility. The usual method of confirming foot-and-mouth includes virus isolation ' a procedure that, while accurate, may take up to a week to obtain results plus the time required to ship samples to Plum Island. New, rapid tests that could be performed in the field would enable officials to quickly detect and stop massive spread in a disease outbreak, researchers said. ....
The new experimental testing procedures that will be evaluated use "real time" polymerase chain-reaction technology to identify genetic material specific for the viruses that cause foot-and-mouth and classical swine fever. No active foot-and-mouth virus will be used in Texas. "Such procedures can give results in less than one hour and could be modified to test livestock on location during outbreak situations," ...."
(The conference Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), gather in Houston, Texas to "give a final push towards the eradication of foot-and-mouth" tomorrow.)
March 2 ~ Wind Power: "does not merit continued government promotion or funding" concludes the National Centre for Policy Analysis
NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS - Brief Analysis - No. 467 (February 23, 2004) Download in PDF format
Concludes: "Wind power is expensive, doesn't deliver the environmental benefits it promises and imposes substantial environmental costs. Accordingly, it does not merit continued government promotion or funding."
See windfarms page
March 1 ~ Horse Passports - Discrepancies are set to cause further confusion among horse owners.
Horse and Hound "In Scotland, where legislation is on the same timetable as in England - the deadline being 30 June 2004 - owners can self-certify their horses' passports.
In England, passport silhouettes must either be filled out by a vet, an 'authorised person' or existing ID scanned from another document.
Legislation in Wales is expected to be finalised by autumn, after which owners will be granted a grace period to obtain passports. The Welsh Assembly has yet to decide on its identification policy, and concerns over the region's hill ponies means it may, like Scotland, allow self-certification. ....."
To view HHO's guide to passport-issuing authorities, click here
Exporting horses for slaughter - Warmwell urges those who have not yet written to their MEP about the EU draft Regulation on the Protection of Animals during Transport to do so in order to keep up the pressure ...find out who your local MEP is by visiting the European Parliament at www.europarl.org.uk (See also warmwell inbox for the ILPH petition)
March 1 ~ "The problem is the Common Fisheries Policy, which has devastated fishing stocks more than anything else"
WMN "...Roger Nowell, who fishes out of Newlyn, said fishermen would be angry at the idea that they were being greedy. "You can argue with ministers about this until you are blue in the face. They are completely wrong in their assessment of fish stocks, certainly in the Westcountry.
"I have been fishing for 20 years and fish stocks are very healthy indeed. Scientists have been on our boats for a while and they want to put more on, but the fishing technology they use is flawed," he said.
Another declaration that is likely to have Westcountry trawlermen seething later this week will come from Prince Charles, who on Thursday will make a speech urging consumers to stop eating Britain's traditional fish and chip meals if they contain threatened species such as cod, hake and halibut.
Roger Nowell said: "Ninety per cent of the fish people eat in this country is caught by foreign boats and then imported back to Britain. I don't think the Prince understands." Read in full
See also Booker's Notebook 23/11/2003 and Downing Street ignores a Mayday from the 'Cod Crusaders'
March 1 ~ Japan reports its third case of avian influenza
Indolink "Ten Asian countries have so far been affected by bird flu, with at least 22 people killed in Vietnam and Thailand. Japan had hoped to declare itself free of the virus, after going almost a month without any new cases, since the first outbreak in mid-January. But it has now suffered two more outbreaks, and there is a fourth suspected case .."
Bernard Vallat (OIE) has described the birdflu outbreak as an "unprecedented threat".
"Never in the past have we witnessed an avian virus circulating so quickly in such a large part of the world," he said.
(See Inbox comment)
Feb 29 ~ "Can I ask you, if people do go through our Report and if that is not an unreasonable request, why were we not told' "
Evidence heard in Public Questions 183 - 274 The Chair of the EFRA Committee to Lord Whitty on Feb 11th about the appointment - about which the EFRA committee had had no prior information - of Professor Roy Anderson to the new Science Advisory Council
"...The conclusion that we reached was, "Once again this year we have not been specifically informed by Defra in advance of any of these appointments to posts in non-departmental public bodies. We recommend, as we did last year, that the Department put in place procedures to inform us in advance of all major appointments".
I do not think that is an unreasonable request for a House of Commons Select Committee to raise and, therefore, it was with some concern that I learned, because I happen to get hold of a copy of your Department's news release dated 3 February, that first of all Defra had appointed a new Science Advisory Council and you yourself said, "The new Council is made up of people who are highly distinguished in their own fields", and you go on to talk about it, and we discover that Professor Roy Anderson has been appointed to chair that.
Now, no notice of that was given to this Committee and clearly no opportunity was afforded to us to talk to Professor Anderson. Can I ask you, if people do go through our Report and if that is not an unreasonable request, why were we not told'
.... it would be helpful to the Committee because, as you know, science underpins your Department's working and it often forms a very important basis for many of our inquiries, so perhaps you might be kind enough to write to the Committee and advise us in a little more detail on the type of work that this Council is going to be doing and perhaps give us a signpost or two as to the areas of its potential investigation. ..."
Feb 29 ~ "Mr Speaker stifles the bovine TB inquisition"
Booker's Notebook "I reported last week that the Tory MP Owen Paterson, a front-bench agriculture spokesman, was planning on Tuesday to break the record for the largest number of written questions on a single subject ever tabled to ministers on one day. The purpose of his 300 serious and carefully crafted questions was to obtain information crucial to a better understanding of the crisis that now threatens our cattle industry as a result of the epidemic of bovine TB in Britain's soaring badger population.
Following my report, which was widely picked up by the media, including the BBC Today programme, a serious row broke out behind the scenes when Mr Paterson was told that, on a ruling by the Speaker, Michael Martin, his 300 questions were not acceptable. On Wednesday, in clear breach of parliamentary convention, the questions did not appear on the Commons order paper.
This decision by the Speaker had serious constitutional implications. ...".Read in full
Feb 29 ~ Bayer CropScience has made the heads of its GM operations in Europe redundant.
Geoffery Lean in the Independent on Sunday "..MPs are poised to reject the Government's plans to approve the growing of GM crops in Britain, just as ministers are preparing to announce them.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, one of its two most powerful select committees, is putting the final touches to a report concluding that no modified crops should be cultivated commercially until more trials are carried out. This would delay their introduction until the end of the decade..." See GM page
Feb 28 ~ ".. it raises many issues about the practicalities of implementing a vaccination strategy, while retaining Draconian powers for firebreak and contiguous culling of animals that do not have the disease."
The Western Morning News on DEFRA's Contingency Plan. "....A Defra spokesman said slaughter of animals for welfare reasons would only be carried out as a "last resort". and that the Government would attempt to ease movement restrictions and broker fodder supplies where possible. But he said the principle of compensation had been rejected. "Payments to farmers under such schemes can provide a disincentive for them to take responsibility for looking after their animals and may also create a false market."
...Peter Morris, Devon-based policy director of the National Sheep Association, described the idea of slaughtering animals as "grossly unfair", adding that he was concerned about the practicalities of the plan. He added: "It seems to focus on ensuring they are all free from blame - there is not enough focus on the people at the sharp end. "Some aspects of the contents and focus worry me."
DEFRA's Foot and Mouth Contingency Plan (pdf - slow - new window)
Feb 25 ~ 80% of all state public health laboratories in the US now have and use SmartCyclers.
It is, as Fred Brown said, "a beautiful piece of kit, simple and not costly" - and making use of it three years ago, as it was used in Uruguay in the same year, would have avoided bloodshed and trauma. The RT-PCR rapid diagnosis kit now used by the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory - ( "in a matter of hours, it can determine both the presence and strain of the disease") is the Smart Cycler . We have confirmation from the journalist who wrote last Sunday's article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the "new machine" is indeed the same machine that was offered to the UK government by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of USDA in early March 2001 for field tests. It is, as we hear from the Cepheid installer, now in 80% of all US state public health laboratories.
As was noted in tactfully phrased evidence to the Royal Society Inquiry (pdf. new window)
"Unfortunately, yet understandably, Pirbright staff were too busy coping with the demands of epidemic control to explore new technology during the spring and summer of 2001 . As a result, my offer to provide the latest diagnostic technology was not taken up.The Philidephia article noted that even with the help of the older, slower Bio-rad machine: ".. the state was able to announce that it had confirmed avian influenza, that the particular strain was virulent in poultry, and that it was unrelated to the type implicated in Thailand and Vietnam. The public was reassured that there was no Asian connection. Agriculture officials knew how big a quarantine was needed, and scientists had crucial details needed to start tracing the source of the infection."
Fortunately, we were able to take the devices and test system into the field in Uruguay in November 2001, where they performed splendidly on farm in a remote area..."
The Smart Cycler, with appropriate reagent, is considerably faster.
Even now, three years on, we can find no mention of RT-PCR technology in the141 pages of the latest DEFRA Foot and Mouth Contingency Plan (pdf - slow - new window)
Feb 25 ~ the situation will get worse without a complete reorganisation of the way public research is funded in the UK.
Letters in the Guardian Commercial funds pay for our research
Feb 25 ~ "As a former member of the Biotechnology Commission set up by the government to advise on strategy for GM use in agriculture, I am dismayed by its apparently cavalier attitude to the licensing of GM herbicide-tolerant maize."
Letter from Professor Ben Mepham to the Guardian (GM page) " It was emphasised in our report, Crops on Trial, that we certainly did not consider the results of the farm-scale evaluations (FSE) were "the final piece of the jigsaw" in deciding on the whether GM crops should be grown commercially in the UK. Far more is at stake, as is patently evident from the widespread apprehensions expressed in the GM nation debate held last year.
Feb 25 ~Mr Blair thinks the army "solved" the FMD crisis.
Guardian "In a major speech on civil service reform, he called on Whitehall to learn from the army's "remorseless focus" which solved the 2001 foot and mouth crisis. .." Telegraph "He suggested that mandarins could learn some important lessons from the Army's "remorseless focus on delivering the outcome" during the foot and mouth crisis, and big business's ability to modernise in response to globalisation."
Remorseless is right - but what were the private thoughts of those involved, from Birtwhistle downwards' Sir Humphrey at least knew how to deal with politicians who, for political ends, want to cut a hundred Gordian knots instead of going softly softly in accordance with the tried and tested British Constitution.
Feb 24 ~ "It was a beautiful piece of kit, simple and not costly. This would have had a dramatic effect on the number of innocent animals killed."
Professor Fred Brown, OBE Fellow of the Royal Society, known, respected and loved by many readers of this website for his modest and gentle insistence from the beginning of the FMD crisis that the government advisers were misguided, died on February 20th. He was an advocate of both vaccination and the rapid diagnosis kit - already available and effective at the start of the epidemic. All that was lacking - now as then - was the political will. We salute his memory. (Inbox)
Feb 24 ~ Dead Cow Day
Jonathan Guthrie: Financial Times - Debts, disputes and drownings " .. All across the land on Dead Cow Day simple country folk will commemorate the passing of another year during which the government failed to honour its remaning debts to contractors who helped defeat the epidemic.. See See articles about DEFRA's non-payment of debts Comment in Inbox
Feb 24 ~ The Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Owen Paterson MP
is meeting various groups in Devon and Cornwall today to discuss the dramatic increase of Bovine TB in rural areas. He has tabled nearly 200 Parliamentary Questions on Bovine TB and will be tabling a further 300 questions today.
'The Government is proposing to spend £2 billion of taxpayers' money over the next 10 years and yet is not promising to eradicate the disease."
His 2pm meeting with contractors on DEFRA's non payment of foot and mouth contracts, in Okehampton, is a public meeting and media are invited to attend. See Shropshire Star " Tabling questions in batches of 20 or 30 at a time was having no impact, so I decided to put down this monster number in one hit. I hope it will make people sit up and realise that this is a serious problem"
Feb 24 ~ David Byrne "The European Treaties recognise animals as sentient beings"
".... The necessity to raise the standards of protection for transported animals led the Commission to adopt in July 2003 a proposal for new European legislation. .... I hope that over the next couple of months that the spirit of compromise to improve transport standards will be evident among the Member States, otherwise a golden opportunity will be lost. ...
...I should mention here the main criticism often voiced by producers and certain sections of the food industry that higher welfare standards lead to higher production and supply costs. The experience within Europe has shown that there are no significant additional costs in improving animal protection. "Indeed, if such costs are experienced, they can be more than recovered by the price differential of superior more "animal welfare friendly" products, provided that these are effectively marketed and consumers properly informed.
.....there is still a considerable way to go as regards consumers translating their opinions on welfare issues into positive food choices, and I recognise that this represents a challenge to the food industry. ... I am personally delighted that the issue of animal welfare is now attracting such specific global focus." Part of Mr Byrne's speech OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare Paris, 23 February 2004
Feb 24 ~Any horse owner, or anyone with any humanity, should oppose this legislation
The EU draft Regulation on the Protection of Animals during Transport doesn't currently include a provision to allow the UK to uphold protective legislation. Western Morning News ...a last ditch bid to stop British horses and ponies being exported abroad for slaughter.....Opinion in the Westcountry has already been registered with Government ministers, through a powerful 65,000-strong WMN petition. This called on the Government to amend the draft EU legislation enabling Britain to outlaw the export of low-value horses, ponies and donkeys.
Now the pressure is turning firmly on MEPs to back the call...
...find out who your local MEP is by visiting the European Parliament at www.europarl.org.uk (See also warmwell inbox for the ILPH petition)
Feb 24 ~" a further indictment of the UK's refusal to recognise and grasp the same opportunity three years ago"
Comment from Alan Beat about the item on the Chinese tests posted on February 14, and which applies equally to the news of the RT-PCR test at the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory :
"This technology is the very same that was offered to the UK authorities in the early stages of the 2001 FMD epidemic by their USA counterparts, and was bluntly refused on the grounds that it was "not validated" by the OIE (just before the contiguous cull, itself unvalidated, was introduced). By appropriate choice of reagent chemicals used, such tests can accurately identify and strain any viral infection, so the Chinese announcement is not in any sense a scientific advance, rather it is the practical application of well-established technology - and a further indictment of the UK's refusal to recognise and grasp the same opportunity three years ago."
Feb 21 - 28 ~ International cooperation - avian influenza
From Portfocus.co.NZ "The number of countries infected by the H5N1 virus has been stable since the beginning of February. ...
..... An international conference, organised by the OIE and the FAO, with the participation of the WHO, will be held in Bangkok on 26, 27 and 28 February, at the invitation of the government of Thailand. The conference will bring together the national chief veterinary officers, delegates to the OIE of 22 Asian countries and around 15 countries from other regions of the world.
International high level officers and experts of the OIE and the FAO will present recommendations on control and prevention programs on Avian Influenza in animals, for the entire region and for each country, including the conditions of the use of vaccination according to OIE standards.
Several international and bilateral organisations that wish to lend technical and financial assistance to the achievement and success of these programs have already accepted the invitation extended to them, and will participate actively in the discussions.... "
More information at http://www.oie.int/eng/en_index.htm
Feb 21 - 28 ~ New DNA-based test speeds diagnosis of avian influenza
Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday 22Feb
" ...a new DNA-based test, capable of confirming the disease within hours, has arrived in labs around the region at a fortuitous time. ....About a year ago, the state bought DNA-testing equipment that can identify a virus within 24 hours of collecting the sample. A newer model, with a turnaround of several hours, arrived less than two weeks ago at the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg.See also MasterAmp' Real-Time RT-PCR Kit (pdf file), an example of the sort of kit now available. We assume that DEFRA has been looking into this new technology fo many months now. We mentioned the Chinese PCR kit on February 14th
The staff have yet to be fully trained and validated on the new equipment, but they lost no time running samples from the Lancaster farm on the new machine, known as real-time RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction). Their findings, confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, identified an H2 strain of avian flu - a concern, but not nearly as bad as the type found in Delaware.
A quarantine of the farm and screening of 16 flocks within five miles appear to have contained the infection, said state veterinarian John Enck...."
Feb 21 - 28 ~ "Lord Sainsbury, was fighting for his political life last night after he was accused of breaching strict government guidelines over his business interests.
Leaked minutes obtained by The Observer reveal that the Science Minister, who has extensive business interests in the biotechnology sector, was at a key Cabinet meeting which drew up a top-level strategy to promote the fledgling industry, a policy shift from which Sainsbury could reap large dividends. At the meeting Sainsbury was tasked with asking the Prime Minister to use his influence with European leaders to promote the biotech industry. By doing so Sainsbury is accused of contravening Article Six of Cabinet Office guidelines that stipulate: 'Ministers must ensure that no conflict arises, or appears to arise, between their public duties and their private interests.' .." Read in full
Feb 21 - 27 ~ " they are proposing to spend £1 to 2 billion of taxpayers' money, to achieve nothing" Bovine TB
Booker's Notebook on bovine TB and the questions to be asked
"the Government appears paralysed. It talks of vaccination as one answer. But 10 years ago the ministry was promising an effective vaccine for cattle "within 10 years". Today, having spent £8 million on research, it predicts a vaccine may not be available for "10-15 years".See also the section from Booker's Notebook on " the blunder by Government scientists which last year closed down much of our £20-million-a-year cockle industry" and on " the latest lunacy to emerge from the bizarre deal agreed in Brussels last December by Ben Bradshaw, the fisheries minister."
The Government is so fearful of public reaction to a mass-cull of badgers that it is happy to contemplate an even greater slaughter of cattle, at a cost which should alarm even Gordon Brown. As Mr Paterson says, "they are proposing to spend £1 to 2 billion of taxpayers' money, to achieve nothing". The irony is that the Government's policy is consigning hundreds of thousands of badgers, out of sight, to a very nasty death."
Feb 21 - 27 ~The GM maize trials were doubly flawed
Michael Meacher, writing in the Independent on Sunday :"... The trials used by ministers to justify commercial planting, purport to show that it harmed the environment less than conventional (ie non-GM) maize. But the trials were doubly flawed. First, Atrazine, the chemical weedkiller used on conventional maize crops, has now been banned throughout the EU because of its toxicity. Since it will therefore never be used, the whole basis of the trial is invalidated. Second, the farmers were told to spray the GM crops only once in the trials, allowing more weeds to grow and thus reducing environmental damage. But in the real world it is unlikely that commercial GM maize growers would accept a significantly lower yield so as to enjoy more beetles and butterflies on their land.
Because of these flaws on both the GM and non-GM sides the trials cannot be cited to justify licensing GM maize cultivation. But even if that were not so, the Government cannot remotely claim that the trials - simply comparing the management of different weedkillers - constitute a proper assessment of the environmental impacts of GM crops. They included nothing about soil residues or soil bacteria, nothing about gene flow or transgenic contamination, nothing about "superweeds" or "superpests". Until these are fully investigated, the Government cannot claim it has any systematic knowledge of the most serious environmental consequences of GM pollution.
Even worse, no analysis has been done of the health impact of eating GM foods. The Government cites the absence of evidence of harm to show that GM is safe when no evidence has been sought. The biotech companies rely on the spurious principle of "substantial equivalence" whereby a new GM product is simply assumed to be safe if its toxins, allergens and nutrients are judged broadly similar to those of a non-GM counterpart. But when a new gene is inserted crudely into a plant out of a sequence that has evolved over hundreds of millions of years, it will interact with other genes in unknown ways and with unpredictable results."
Read in full. See also GM seeds may have built-in obsolescence By Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday and The Not-So-Funny Farm by Ian Bell in the Sunday Herald. "Labour is going to give us GM crops whether we want them or not ' what does that say about British democracy'"
Feb 21 - 27 ~ reports earlier this month that avian flu virus had spread to pigs turned out to be false.
There have been reports of H5N1 infection of domestic cats in Thailand in a single household. Yahoo News "Besides killing humans and millions of wild and farmed birds across Asia, the H5N1 strain showed earlier this week that it can jump to other species after a rare clouded leopard at a zoo near Bangkok was confirmed as dying of bird flu. But reports earlier this month that the virus had spread to pigs, with an immune system similar to humans', turned out to be false.. "
The WHO website update 28 " infection in cats is not considered likely to enhance the present risks to human health. Nor is it considered likely to influence the future evolution of the outbreak in humans in any significant way. .....Avian influenza viruses, including the specific strain implicated in the present outbreak, lack the receptors needed to infect mammals efficiently. However, the infection of humans observed in this and two previous H5N1 outbreaks demonstrates that transmission from birds to mammals can occur despite this lack of receptors. The very small number of human cases - despite abundant and widespread opportunities for exposure and subsequent infection - strongly suggests that transmission of H5N1 from birds to mammals, including cats as well as humans, is a rare event."
Feb 21 - 27 ~ Farmers tell Prime Minister GM crops would be a disaster for UK farming
FARM "... Over Foot & Mouth, the Government allowed the NFU to lead it by nose and follow the deeply unpopular culling strategy rather than use vaccination. Fortunately, the public was aware that a significant majority of the farming community had not supported this strategy and public sympathy for individual farmers remained high. It is vital that Government does not get led again down a path that suits agribusiness, but will be disastrous for the majority of family farmers." FARM's letter to Tony Blair: extract
"... we urge Government to consider the views and voices of the greater farming community beyond the NFU.Read in full
FARM is just one of those voices, others include the Family Farmers Association, the Small Farmers Association, and the Soil Association. ... a common thread uniting them all is the shared view that the commercialisation of the present generation of GM crops is not in the best interests of the majority of UK farmers or the wider public.
...FARM is not opposed to the science or application of Biotechnology per se. We recognise and welcome advances made due to biotechnology in the field of human medicines and diagnostics. There may come to be useful and acceptable applications in agriculture ' such as the use of Marker Assisted Selection to speed up and improve the accuracy of traditional plant breeding.
However, we can see no overriding public interest, environmental or agronomic reasons for pushing ahead with commercialisation of the GM herbicide tolerant oil-seed rape, sugar beet or maize crops. Nor can the majority of farmers. "
Feb 21 - 27 ~ Spinning the science
One of the letters in the Guardian
"We went to war in Iraq because a government listened to the experts. Foot and mouth devastated the countryside because they listened to the experts. The school system is in chaos because they listen to experts. Experts told us BSE couldn't jump species. Experts tell us GM crops are safe. Feeling confident'
Feb 16 - 20 ~ Mad cull disease still rages, and logic is no cure for it
Warmwell will be off-line for a few days. Meanwhile, Magnus Linklater in the Times:
"I think I can face, dry-eyed, the impending retirement of Sir Ben Gill as President of the National Farmers' Union. His term of office has been a bloodstained one. He took over in the aftermath of BSE when 4.4 million cattle were slaughtered. He presided over the elimination of seven million animals during the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2001. He has chosen to mark his retirement by getting in a dig at the Prince of Wales for promoting the humane alternative of vaccination. He signs off by calling for a mass cull of badgers to contain the spread of bovine TB. And he underlines his commitment to killing by producing a quote worthy of Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, : 'If we'd vaccinated, we'd never have proved that the disease was under control.' ......Read in full
....... The contingency plans for a future outbreak are cast in belligerent language. They speak of war and peace. Next time there will be a 'war cabinet' to ensure that the slaughter is carried out more quickly.....
.... A European directive, couched in humanitarian language, says that measures to combat animal diseases 'must not be based purely on commercial interests'. It requires member countries to 'take genuine account of ethical principles'.
.....with vaccination, farmers would have to wait only three more months for the export market to be restored than they would have had to wait under a slaughter policy.
So why the insistence on killing' My view is that too many reputations are at stake for a climbdown - yet. Sooner or later, however, the truth will out. I trust Sir Ben will accept it gracefully."
Feb 16 - 20 ~ "... the FMD experience should have made the modellers appreciate the limitations of their science and accept at least some responsibility for the misery and expense that their models initiated."
The current issue of the Veterinary Journal includes an article by RP Kitching entitled "Predictive models and FMD: the emperor's new clothes'" Science Direct.com (subscription)
".. If the predictions for the number of new variant Creutzfeld - Jacob disease (vCJD) cases in the UK made in the late 1990s had not been suffcient to undermine the credibility of the predictive modellers, surely the FMD experience should have made the modellers appreciate the limitations of their science and accept at least some responsibility for the misery and expense that their models initiated. Predictive modelling has become fashionable but, often without much evidence that it serves any useful purpose, is the science based too much on reputation'
........In the right circumstance, and in the hands of someone who knows its limitations and understands the assumptions that have been made, a predictive model does have a place in a FMD outbreak control programme. Undoubtedly predictive models are here to stay, but with no veterinary knowledge or input to avoid the pitfalls that were so apparent in 2001, models will only serve to provide weight and justification for indefensible decisions."
Feb 16 - 20 ~ "...the scientists' report urged investigation of a possible vaccination policy for TB"
"... In an echo of the current controversy involving the Prince of Wales' reported attempts to persuade government to vaccinate during the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic, the scientists' report urged investigation of a possible vaccination policy for TB in areas of high incidence."New Zealand farmers feel about possums the same anxiety that UK farmers feel about badgers. See from New Zealand's MAF site "Currently about $45 million is spent annually on poisoning and trapping possums. However, this level of expenditure is not sustainable and these methods of control are becoming less socially and politically acceptable." : "Immunology of Bovine Tuberculosis (2003-04) - Programme Leader: Dr Bryce Buddle
Institution: AgResearch CRI - "Develop and evaluate diagnostic tests and vaccines for control of bovine tuberculosis in cattle and possums. Develop vaccine delivery systems for possum biocontrol vaccines."
Feb 16 - 20 ~ Hill and tenant farmers attack Beckett's claims
Scotsman (Fordyce Maxwell) ".. Margaret Beckett's contention yesterday that common agricultural policy reform is a "time of hope" has been savaged by hill and tenant farmers in England.
... Reg Haydon, chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association, will today repeat his claim that Defra's hybrid choice had "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory" .... He is expected to tell the TFA's annual meeting that Defra's plan is "misguided, misjudged and seriously damaging to tenant farmers" ...... Audrey Porksen, a tenant hill farmer's wife near Rothbury, said: "For many tenant farmers, the capital assets of their business are their only pension fund - stock, equipment and quota. But the government has raided their pension pot and given their quota to their landlords. That's theft. Is it legally permissible' It certainly cannot be morally permissible."
Robert Forster, chief executive of the National Beef Association, ....... urged farmers not to make hasty decisions because significant changes in detail were still possible."
Feb 16 - 20 ~ CLA "crops and animals must be treated differently, which the Government's option fails to do. ..... this will be the last straw for dairy farmers already reeling from European dairy reforms"
From the CLA website
"....The CLA has long argued for a long-term rural policy and we are delighted that Government has listened. But equally, we have warned that crops and animals must be treated differently, which the Government's option fails to do.
'DEFRA has not sufficiently justified this solution, and has yet to sell it to the European Commission. Their decision may create the conditions for a chaotic market in entitlement swaps over the next two years. Entitlements are tradable without land, but the opportunity to trade will tail off rapidly under this hybrid, stimulating an early frenzy of subsidy chasing. ...the 'progressive hybrid' will unfairly share dairy farmers' compensation across all land, and this will be the last straw for dairy farmers already reeling from European dairy reforms.... will profoundly damage the ability of English dairy and beef farmers to compete fairly with their neighbours in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, France and the Netherlands." CLA article "Government delivers another blow to beef and dairy farmers in England"
Feb 16 - 20 ~ 'We have a quaint thing called democracy in the NFU'
Valerie Elliott's article in today's Times Charles tried to stop cull quotes Sir Ben Gill on the eve of his departure 'Prince Charles was behind the biggest push for vaccination.'
The article's use of language (our italics) is interesting.
The heir to the throne's active role in trying to reverse a key government policy in the run-up to a general election will shock some observers ...."
"The world's worst outbreak of the disease cost the UK £9 billion. More than six million animals were slaughtered..."
"..The Prince seems to have operated in a shadowy manner, hiding behind proxies, perhaps because of the constitutional sensitivity of the royal heir blatantly interfering in politics..."
"Sir Ben Gill, outgoing president of the National Farmers' Union, who crucially stood by Mr Blair in the face of sometimes vicious pressure to oppose the cull.
"With an election only months away, some government figures began to lose their nerve and wondered whether it would be better to vaccinate animals instead of slaughtering them....."
"The outbreak was one of the most difficult times for Sir Ben during his six-year tenure. His hair turned grey and fell out and he lost half a stone in weight......"
"He has revealed before that he was the victim of a revolt by upper-class farmers who flooded him with messages, some of them offensive, to support vaccination..... "
During his interview, Sir Ben pointed to the irony that it was the Prince who knighted him before Christmas at Windsor Castle. Asked what the Prince had said to him, Sir Ben replied with a smile: 'He asked who my successor would be. I said, 'We have a quaint thing called democracy in the NFU'....' Comment in Inbox
Feb 14 ~ China develops RT-PCR method to detect bird flu virus in 4 hours
We read in the China news site www.chinaview.cn 2004-02-14 22:43:56 xinhuanet.com -
"China has developed a method to test for the bird flu virus in four hours, much shorter than the 21 days taken by the internationally-accepted detection method recommended by the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), according to a meeting held Saturday in Beijing to approve the method. The new method of reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was jointly developed by the Beijing Administration for Entry-and-Exit Inspection and Quarantine and a company in Shenzhen, south Guangdong Province. The method has been assessed and approved by experts from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, Agricultural University of China, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences."
Feb 14 ~ Why is the 50 million still owed by DEFRA not being paid'
Interest could now be as much as 25% on the total bill.
The Defra / Late Payment issue on Today programme and Five Live's breakfast show on Friday. Kieron Hayes, Press Officer of the Forum of Private Businesses www.fpb.co.uk, writes, " the Defra / Late Payment issue made it on to both Radio 4's Today programme and Five Live's breakfast show. If you would like to hear the interview it is available via the Radio 4 website. visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/
Garry Parker, FPB Public Affairs Adviser, took part in the interview."
Extract: "DEFRA were claiming originally that a number of the contractors were being investigated for fraud. The national audit office went through this process but of the 18 that looked as though they might have committed fraud none were charged - but in the process four or more DEFRA officials were charged with fraud...There is no sensible answer from DEFRA as to why they are not paying and not giving an apology to the businesses that have not yet been paid. There have been lots of Parliamentary Questions to Ben Bradshaw and Lord Whitty. They have not been satisfactorily answered....."
(DEFRA would not talk to the Today Programme and confirmed only that they, DEFRA, would be appearing in the High Court accused of failing to pay for the work done during the crisis.)
Feb 7 - 13 ~ Decoupling - Subsidies are to be detached from food production and linked entirely to land ownership
The Guardian: "Good farmers have always considered themselves custodians of a national asset. Now - or at least by 2012, when the new system is fully implemented - all farmers will, like it or not, become managers of the nation's land. There will be noisy protests about the urbanisation of the countryside, dismayed cries against "theme-park Britain" ..."
"soaring rents and escalating land prices" says Tenant Farmers' Association
Subsidies are to be detached from food production and linked entirely to land ownership. Beef and dairy farmers will be worse off. Margaret Beckett calls it 'a decisive irreversible and forward-looking shift ....' The flat-rate per hectare payment system will be phased in from 2005 so that by 2013 all payments will be based on how much land a farmer owns, not the volume of crops or livestock produced.
Robert Uhlig in the Telegraph notes that the ". decision has divided farmers, landowners, tenants and environmentalists."
The papers comment
Feb 7 - 13 ~ "We seem to get everything wrong"
DEFRA has admitted that inaccuracies in its Cattle Tracing System will lead to more than £60m in EU fines and extra staffing costs. It made the admission at a meeting of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on 4 February 2004. The meeting took place after the publication of a National Audit Office's report, Identifying and Tracking Livestock in England.
Kablenet.com "Jon Trickett MP called for more electronic applications to reduce mistakes, which would help Defra avoid further EC fines and cut the number of extra staff required to correct errors.The uncorrected oral evidence from the meeting is not yet available on the parliament website for the Public Accounts committee.
......Bender said his department was also addressing the problem of out of date cattle movement information, where the NAO reported that 1m cattle was unaccounted for. This figure has already decreased since the report was published, said Bender.
Alan Williams MP highlighted the section of the NAO report on the high cost of ear tags, and the UK's record of registering births more slowly and expensively than its European neighbours. "We seem to get everything wrong," he said. Evans said that many other European countries already had systems in place before the UK, but admitted that things definitely needed to improve. Williams responded that "astonishing improvements are required to get with the rest" ..."
Feb 7 - 13 ~ What Mr Bradshaw said. (Pig Swill)
Readers will have shared warmwell's surprise that - since the EU Report (paragraph 5) stated "The source of the epidemic has not been definitely identified " - the government now appears to know for certain the origin of the 2001 FMD outbreak in the UK.
Hansard for February 5th 2004: Mr Boris Johnson asked "Given that feeding scraps to pigs is perfectly safe, environmentally friendly and has been going on ever since man domesticated animals; given that the 62 licensed swill feeders were encouraged by DEFRA to invest thousands of pounds in new equipment before the ban; and given that since the ban an extra 1.7 million tonnes of biodegradable stuff is being sent to landfill or washed down the sewers, is it not the Minister's duty, in all logic, to compensate those 62 licensed swill feeders or to lift that ridiculous and hysterical ban'Asked whether he had ever considered whether ". the dangers of food poisoning, which are undoubtedly real, derive less from the farm-level producers, such as licensed swill dealers, than from the activities of international big business, such as the great pharmaceutical companies and, to take a recent example, the development of mass production of farmed salmon'" Mr Bradshaw replied, "No."
Mr Bradshaw answered "the cause of the £8 billion foot and mouth epidemic in this country related to exactly the practice that the hon. Gentleman is so keen to support. ...There is an enormous risk involved in the practice, which is why it has been banned not just in this country but across the whole of the European Union. ....."
Feb 7 - 13 ~" If the virus was only detected in the pigs' noses, then they could have picked it up as a contamination rather than as an infection,"
Nasal swabs taken from Vietnamese pigs in Hanoi have revealed the presence of the avian flu virus
".. Alan Hay, a flu scientist from the World Health Organisation's laboratory at the National Institute for Medical Research in north London, said further tests would have to be done to determine whether the pigs were truly infected. "At the moment we have conflicting reports. If the virus was only detected in the pigs' noses, then they could have picked it up as a contamination rather than as an infection," Dr Hay said. But if blood tests show the pigs are infected, the swine could act as "mixing vessels", allowing avian and human flu viruses to mingle and integrate, creating a hybrid with the deadliness of bird flu and the infectiousness of the human illness. Dr Hay said: "If pigs were truly infected it would increase the risk of this, but it is not clear at the moment of the degree. It is important this particular issue is resolved." He added that scientists had already carried out extensive blood tests on scores of pigs in the Far East, but failed to find any evidence of avian flu having jumped the species barrier into swine...." Independent
Feb 3 - 6 ~ Ben Bradshaw tells Parliament that swill feeding was the source of the FMD outbreak
"...The Government rejected cross party calls for previously licensed swill feeders to be compensated for loss of trade after the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak. Junior environment minister Ben Bradshaw defended the ban on the trade, which was brought in after it was identified as the source of the epidemic (our italics) which swept the country. He told Tory Boris Johnson (Henley) it would be 'grossly irresponsible' to lift the ban for such a 'risky' practice. http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm'id=2496543
Feb 3 - 6 ~ Breeding for TSE resistant animals may give a false sense of security ..
..is the conclusion of the writers from the European Livestock Alliance of this letter in reply to Mr James Scudamore's assertion in last week's Farmers Weekly that "there is scientific basis for scrapie plan"
The letter contains several "points to consider" and suggests that there is a scientific basis for re-evaluating the scrapie plan - and finding consensus.
They quote research carried out in the UK by Fiona Houston et al. which was the subject of an article in The Scientist last May entitled Resistant sheep get BSE
".."The susceptibility of ARR/ARR sheep to intracerebral injection with BSE indicates that these animals cannot be regarded as having absolute genetic resistance to TSE infection... Although the relevance of this finding to sheep exposed to natural infection remains to be determined, it may have important implications for disease-eradication strategies," conclude the authors."F. Houston, et al., "BSE in sheep bred for resistance to infection," Nature, 423:498, May 29, 2003. http://www.nature.com/nature (See technical/scientific papers)
Feb 3 - 6 ~ "None of the delay is due to ineptness, it is due to the Government -- Defra in particular -- safeguarding the public purse. .."
Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty's Government: What action they will take to settle the £100 million in outstanding payments to contractors who worked during the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic. .....My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer. However, is not the fraudulent case rather a red herring as only 1 per cent of the contractors involved in the foot and mouth epidemic are being investigated for fraud'......
....The Countess of Mar: My Lords, how much compensation has the United Kingdom Government received from the European Union' How much was expected by the United Kingdom Government originally'
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I cannot answer that, because we are still in discussion with the Commission. It is certainly the case that our original expectations in relation to the amount that the EU would pay are not likely to be met. However, we are not at the point where those negotiations have been completed. ...
... The only compensation money that might -- and will in part -- be met by the European Union is direct compensation for loss of animals. The money we are discussing is money that falls entirely to the Exchequer and is money for contractors for clean-up, disinfection, and so on, not money paid in compensation to farmers. So we are discussing two large but different amounts. None of the delay is due to ineptness, it is due to the Government -- Defra in particular -- safeguarding the public purse." Read in full (Hansard)
Feb 3 - 6 ~ ".they wouldn't listen to local people. They were running round like headless chickens and we are all paying the price"
Western Morning News " ... More than £8.5 million of public money has now been spent on the pit - a figure that is over 20 per cent higher than the £7 million estimate of the final cost that the Government gave to the National Audit Office two years ago.
"It is a massive waste of public money and it all stems from the fact that they didn't do any surveys and they wouldn't listen to local people. They were running round like headless chickens and we are all paying the price." (John Burnett, Lib-Dem MP for Torridge and West Devon)
".. Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw revealed numerous other costs on top of the £300,000 for acquiring the site and £5.7 million construction cost.The Government has spent £610,000 on security for the site. Around £170,000 has now been spent on legal bills and more than £800,000 on "consultancy fees" The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has now spent £965,000 on the start of work to restore the site. Most observers now expect the final bill to top £10 million. No one at Defra was available for comment on the pit costs. "
Feb 3 - 6 ~ US - plans to counter "agricultural terrorism"- foot and mouth "pharmaceuticals" to be stockpiled
Guardian "..An executive order released Tuesday involved the departments of agriculture, health and human services and homeland security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, in the response to potentially calamitous agricultural terrorism. "It's from farm to fork,"said Jeremy Stump, USDA's director The plan calls on the Agriculture Department to develop a National Veterinary Stockpile that would hold enough animal pharmaceuticals "to appropriately respond to the most damaging animal diseases'' within 24 hours of an outbreak. This would include such diseases as foot and mouth, which can spread rapidly and make herds unsalable, and anthrax, which can kill people as well as animals, Stump said. ..."
Feb 3 - 6 ~ "confirmation that large sums of money are to be withheld will spark fresh calls for a public inquiry"
Western Morning News "..Brussels sources say the Commission is deeply concerned about the way costs spiralled out of control in the crisis. The Commission is also said to be unhappy about the controversial contiguous cull policy, under which millions of healthy animals were slaughtered.
Defra has previously insisted that it was pressing for payment of the claim in full. But Lord Whitty has now acknowledged that compensation from Europe will fall short of the Government's claim....confirmation that large sums of money are to be withheld will spark fresh calls for a public inquiry into the disaster..." Read in full
Feb 3 - 6~ James Lovelock has told the Western Morning News that he now regrets his endorsement of windfarms in the Westcountry
James Lovelock, revered by many for his Gaia theory as well as for being an independent scientist of great stature and a genuine and delightful man -
"believes we face devastating consequences from climate change and that putting up a few wind turbines will not address the problem. ..... Dr Lovelock cannot emphasise enough how anxious he feels that time is running out to address the issue of climate change. "Windfarms won't cut it at all," he said..."Read in full
Feb 3 - 6 ~ Lord Whitty said the new council was made up of people who could improve the quality and direction of DEFRA's science.
Roy Anderson is to chair the 12-strong Science Advisory Council who will be advising DEFRA on science policy and strategy. According to the FWi report, ". DEFRA spends more than £300million a year on science and research for environmental protection, farming and food, animal and plant health, and sustainable energy." For information previously on warmwell about Roy Anderson, click here. For articles about the millions still owed by DEFRA to those who tried to help sort out the FMD crisis click here. Also appointed is Sir John Marsh. See Monsanto website.
Feb 3 - 6 ~ Franz Fischler to be the key note speaker at Friday's Farming Summit at Portcullis House
The Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, John Whittingdale MP, will be hosting a Farming Summit on Friday 6th February from 9:30am - 12:00am in the Attlee Suite, Portcullis House. European Commissioner Franz Fischler, who is responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries will be the key note speaker. Topics to be discussed include:
Sugar Regime Review
EU Budget and implications for agricultural spending in the future
Rural Development issues
Animal Welfare standards
Attendees include: National Farmers Union, Country Land & Business Association, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Tennant Farmers Association and the Countryside Alliance.
Feb 3 - 6~ EU rejects request to grow GM oilseed rape
Robert Uhlig in the Telegraph
"..An application by Bayer CropScience, a German firm, to grow GM oilseed rape throughout the EU was refused by the Belgian government, the licensing authority responsible for the crop in Europe.See GM page for the Guardian report on this by John Vidal - "Greens hail an environmental victory for biodiversity as Belgium rejects Bayer application and urges all member states to follow suit. "
It decided there was too high a risk of the GM rapeseed cross-pollinating with conventional crops, creating problems for farmers wishing to avoid GM organisms.
Freya van den Bossche, the Belgian minister responsible for the decision, said the GM rape would have an adverse effect on weeds and insects, and therefore on wildlife. But she approved Bayer's request to import and process the product, agreeing to forward that request to other governments for European-wide approval. The Belgian health ministry said the imported oilseed rape would be used for fuel."
Feb 3 ~ Avian Influenza: the total number of cases is 14, of whom 11 have died
Pro Med yesterday "To date, human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) virus infection have been reported only in Thailand and Viet Nam. Both countries have widespread outbreaks of the disease in poultry. The new case in Thailand brings the total number of cases in these 2 countries to 14, of whom 11 have died." No cases of human H5N1 infection have been reported in China to date.
The Pro-Med posting includes another interesting comment about age related immunity to the H1N1 strain of flu from Mr Norman Noah: "I tried to get the vaccine manufacturers interested in this, with my thesis being that natural infection with (H1N1), and possibly other subtypes, provided a solid immunity, but they didn't take it up."
Feb 2 ~ Defra's pesticide team is funded by the fees it levies on innovative businesses
In an article in today's Telegraph about the Chancellor's claim that " that 650 unnecessary regulations have been lined up for the chop and says 240 have already been dealt with since the initiative began in February 2002" we read that
".. small technology companies, many of them university spin-offs, that had hoped to produce alternatives to standard synthetic pesticides but had been hindered by the cost of complying with regulations laid down by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). "A market that should be encouraged was basically not developing because of the nature of the regulatory regime," said Mr Dickinson. Defra's pesticide team - which is funded by the fees it levies on these innovative businesses - was encouraged to set up a pilot scheme, where certain new products were assessed at half the normal fee.See also warmwell pesticide page
Feb 2 ~ .. the time has been right for a long time for people to understand the real cost of cheap food"
The Western Morning News, quoting Ian Johnson, spokesman for the National Farmers' Union in the South West: "..most farmers still want to go on farming. There is a great will to turn things round, but in the end they must be able to make a profit and that means getting a fair deal for their produce."
In another article about Thai chicken imports, the WMN quotes Devon organic poultry farmer Andrew Gunther, who lost 3,000 chickens in a contiguous cull during the foot and mouth crisis three years ago.
"I feel that the time has been right for a long time for people to understand the real cost of cheap food.... The Government has to give its full support to UK production and take food away from just being a profit-driven commodity. At the moment one action nurtures and nourishes and another action destroys." Thailand exported nearly 40,000 tonnes of chicken in the first ten months of last year, with Thai and Brazilian products covering 40 per cent of the British poultry market. .... Paul Cooper, regional NFU poultry specialist "..The imports not only pose risks to public health, given poor hygiene standards which cannot compare with ours, but also cut our market with cheap prices."
Feb 2 ~ "At present, no evidence indicates that efficient human-to-human transmission is occurring" WHO
Pro Med quotes the WHO update 14 on avian influenza
ProMED-mail "Laboratory tests have confirmed an additional 2 cases of human infection with avian influenza A (H5N1) virus in Viet Nam. Both have died.... At present, no evidence indicates that efficient human-to-human transmission is occurring in Viet Nam or elsewhere. WHO and health authorities in Viet Nam and globally are continuing to assess the outbreak in terms of its epidemiological evolution. Human cases are being investigated to identify the source of infection, and evidence to date is reassuring. WHO teams are supporting national investigations in Viet Nam and Thailand, and will arrive soon in other countries that have requested such support."
The Pro-Med moderator comments, "These 2 additional laboratory-confirmed cases in Viet Nam bring the total of confirmed human cases in East Asia to 13, 10 of whom have died. In Thailand the number of cases remains 3, which includes 2 deaths. The family cluster is the first report of human-to-human transmission during the course of the avian influenza A (H5N1) virus outbreak in East Asia. At present WHO is adopting a cautious interpretation in the absence of information on the source of infection."
Feb 1 ~ "Defra's officials ... would have been happy to see him forced to sell his home, to pay a fine 10 times greater than the value of the fish they did not permit him to catch."
Booker's Notebook in today's Sunday Telegraph underlines the utter absurdity of the new EU restrictions on catching cod in the Irish Sea, bravely defied by an elderly fisherman who can neither make a living nor retire. Inevitably taken to court by DEFRA he explained the situation to the judge and jury.
"..The judge told the jury they had little option other than to find him guilty, but made clear that he was highly sympathetic to Mr Jones's plight. When Simon Medland, prosecuting for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asked the court to impose a maximum fine of £50,000 on Mr Jones, the judge gave a tart reminder that it was his responsibility to decide the level of fines in his court and gave Mr Jones a discharge, conditional on not breaking the quota rules again for two years."Read in full
Jan 31 ~ Three cases of scrapie have been detected in "scrapie-resistant" ewes
OIE Alert Messages ".. Genotyping of the animals for the gene coding for the prion protein has shown that these animals are homozygous for the allele ARR, associated with the highest resistance to the development of clinical signs of scrapie."
Mr Jim Scudamore wrote this week in the Farmers Weekly, ".the incidence of scrapie in sheep with the more resistant genotypes is extremely rare...."
Equally worrying, it has been shown by individual breed societies that scrapie resistance can exist without the approved genotype being present (Swaledales), and in some breeds there are so few sheep (Herdwick, British Milksheep and North Ronaldsay) with the approved genotype that the breed could become extinct if the National Scrapie Policy is pursued. Once the scheme becomes compulsory (and we note that Mr Scudamore says "we do not currently require the culling of rams in NSP rare breed flocks") it will be the right of any "inspector" to enter premises where they believe there are, or may have been, TSE susceptible animals in order to examine, take samples, seize or slaughter any such animals. (Section 4 Transmissable Spongiform Encephalopathy (England) Regulations 2002 SI 843)
In May 2002 the Minister said,
"People who knock this SI are totally misguided. They run the risk of dismantling long-standing, evidence-based BSE controls of paramount importance for public and animal health"
The Countess of Mar commented, "In my opinion, that statement is, to say the very least, disingenuous" - while Lord Livesey said, "In the case of scrapie, "susceptible" may mean only that the sheep carries a certain gene. There is an argument about destroying animals with a suspect gene. The concern of many sheep breeders is such that they believe that other desirable characteristics of the gene that may be worth preserving may be lost for ever." The debate is more than ever relevant.
Jan 26 -30 ~ 1st official case of avian influenza confirmed in the Peoples's Republic of China
"..The Chinese Government confirmed on 27 Jan 2004 that the death of ducks in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region was caused by avian influenza virus. The national avian influenza reference laboratory confirmed -- after testing on samples sent in by the local government -- that the death was caused by the H5N1 strain of avian influenza... "According to the New Scientist ".. the outbreak began as early as the first half of 2003, probably in China ..... A combination of official cover-up and questionable farming practices allowed it to turn into the epidemic now under way."
The New York Times
"..Environmentalists here warned against trying to cull wild birds or eliminate their habitats, saying that it would not be possible to cull enough wild birds to stamp out the disease, but that a cull could endanger populations of rare species.Another Pro-Med posting quotes Dr Danuta Skowronski, of the BC Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, who suggests a hypothesis to explain why it is children or young people in Asia have been most affected with severe illness due to avian influenza A (H5N1) virus ".. It may be that younger persons have not had the benefit of cumulative opportunities for antigenic exposure and resulting cross-protection. This could have implications for protective/preventive approaches."
The big mystery remains where the migratory birds became infected....... 6 of the 14 countries bordering China or just off its shores have reported bird flu. Farmers in Thailand and Vietnam have described seeing the first cases in late October and in November, consistent with the arrival of migratory birds....."
Jan 26-30 ~ "any GM production alongside organic crops will be very damaging"
WMN Jan 29 "..EU governments have been given 90 days to decide on lifting their five-year moratorium on GM foods. If they do not act by then, the European Commission will be able to make the decision for them....Last night, North Cornwall Liberal Democrat MP Paul Tyler said: "I have a particular interest in organic farming...It would be extremely difficult to maintain the integrity of organic crops. I subscribe to the precautionary principle, that until we are absolutely certain that there are no risks at all, we have to be careful......"...
...The Commission fears that failure to approve products that have cleared the EU's own scientific hurdles is likely to damage the European position at the WTO....
...Clare Oxborrow, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth, .... "The European Commission has basically caved into pressure from the US and the big biotech companies. UK consumer opinion, especially in the South West, shows the public are against this. If these GM crops are imported, it will make it difficult for companies to keep supplying just GM-free food. "We want the UK Government to vote against approving this application - we urge them to listen to what people want."
See GM page
Jan 26 - 30 ~ ". they're going to start to work together now"
Reuters report of the Bangkok summit on avian influenza
"The Bangkok statement promised a regional animal survey system to be plugged into the health network to make it easier to tackle diseases such as bird flu and SARS which leap the species barrier. "Containment requires closer cooperation among governments, communities and businesses," it said...Pro-Med is taking the situation very seriously. After quoting the OIE's article, FAO/WHO/OIE call for international assistance ("..FAO, OIE and WHO appealed to donors to address the global threat from avian flu and to provide funds and technical assistance to countries to help eliminate this threat..
...Small farmers dependent on poultry are getting increasingly agitated, especially in Thailand and Indonesia...
A contrite Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had to admit to "mistakes and human errors"."
...This time, we face something we can possibly control before it reaches global proportions if we work cooperatively and share needed resources. We must begin this hard, costly work now.") the Pro-Med Moderator comments: "I have never heard words more true. I just hope, for the sake of all of us, the appropriate people listen. - Mod. PC"
Jan 26 - 30 ~ "Bradshaw's cost-benefit analysis is no more than the most cynical window dressing"
"...the only mystery is why Mr Bradshaw should choose to throw away so much taxpayers' money on trying to pretend that he has any choice in the matter."read in full
Muckspreader in Private Eye ".....apart from the fact that Mr Bradshaw's ignorance of all matters pertaining to his brief have made him a laughing stock, the idea that it might be necessary to spend taxpayers' money to establish the most cost-effective way to tackle a foot-and-mouth epidemic will produce a hollow laugh all the way from John O'Groats to Cornwall. All Mr Bradshaw need do is call for the cuttings on what happened in 2001, when his officials opted for their favourite method of coping with all animal diseases (i.e. to kill as many animals as possible), get out an envelope and write down the following figures. "Animals killed in 2001: say 9 million. Cost to economy of government's FMD policy: say £9 billion. Cost of slaughter policy per animal, £1000"
.......his officials believe that vaccination is so distrusted by the farming community that there might be wholesale resistance if it was introduced. They have therefore told Bradshaw that it would be wise to carry out this charade of a 'cost-benefit analysis' to demonstrate to farmers that it would be more sensible to vaccinate. The tragedy is that, with the exception of Ben Gill and the discredited NFU, the farmers already know this, so the whole exercise is totally unnecessary. But at least Risk Solution Ltd will be happy to co-operate in coming to such a predictable conclusion."
Jan 26 - 30 ~ "..the response from other farmers, consumers and people passing by was wholly positive... it is so nice to see these happy cattle.."
To lighten this week of gloom and inhumanity, we hear about Sabine Zentis, a farmer in Germany, who appeared on German television this week telling the nation that consumers' attitudes needed to change.
"...Farmers keeping the intensive breeds are going out of business and the people with the "exotic beasts" are expanding. Should give them some food for thought....See email and photo
Then they were asking for statements on the future of agriculture and I just started to talk about how disgusting the attitude of consumers is - only looking for cheap food without taking into account the hard work of farmers and their animals. I asked them to imagine what hard work a cow has to do to produce one litre of milk and that the culture of bargaining feels like a personal offence to me. Looks as if it went down very well..
..I just started to tell them about the way I feel about farming - and interestingly the response from other farmers, consumers and people passing by was positive.
"Oh, we saw you on TV the other day; it is so nice to see these happy cattle..."
Jan 26 - 30 ~ "we don't need more strategies"
The Western Morning News, in their article "WE DON'T UNDERSTAND RURAL PROBLEMS, ADMITS LABOUR" describes the Review of the Government's three-year-old Rural White Paper ( progress on which, it seems,was a matter of some complacency for Alun Michael last week.)
"Mrs Beckett said that a "refreshed" rural strategy would be published in the spring.The government has now, according to FWi announced a " study which aims to clarify the costs associated with dealing with another outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease ....the year-long cost benefit analysis will provide information on the costs, to the wider economy as well as farmers, of eradicating the disease.
".. Anthony Steen, Conservative MP for Totnes, said he had little confidence that the new strategy would be more effective than the existing one. He said: "There is a pattern with this Government when they don't know what to do. They set up an inquiry, which costs money and takes forever; then they take more time responding to its recommendations; then they announce that they have the solutions; and then a little while later it gets reviewed and the whole process starts again....."
........ Junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw said: "The CBA will help inform decisions on which disease control option to use in which circumstances. "It will also help plan resources for an outbreak; refine the Decision Tree; build consensus on when to use emergency vaccination and more generally improve the evidence on the costs of different disease control policies." The CBA, which went out to competitive tender, will be undertaken in conjunction with all four UK rural affairs departments." See also Fordyce Maxwell in The Scotsman (new window)
Jan 26 - 30 ~ "The human dimension of any FMD outbreak must be dealt with sufficiently in any contingency plan."
The Dutch Farmers' Union 'Land- en Tuinbouworganisatie Nederland' in their paper "What lessons have we learnt for the future'": ".. LTO Nederland proposes the use of protective emergency vaccinations as an effective method to combat foot-and-mouth-disease in the future. This includes the use of internationally recognised diagnostic tests and vaccines that cause the build-up of sufficient immunity within a few days. This will eradicate the virus within weeks and allow the vaccinated animals to complete their working lives and the marketing of their products in specially designed regions or compartments within the EU. The idea ends the current slaughter-only policy in the E.U."
"..Amid all the words on science, economics and animal welfare, a few words must be said on the human aspect here. In 2001, hundreds of European farmers and their families had to stay on-farm for weeks on end, while anxiously waiting for what might come next. A number of them saw their livestock taken away from them. When the veterinary slaughter force finally moved on, all disinfecting and paperwork done, the farmer family stayed behind, dismayed, trying to come to grips with what actually happened. . "
This paper from a professional, democratic and concerned farmers' union, very much deserves to be read in full
Jan 26 - 30 ~ International Cooperation
The plea that "Common, co-ordinated epidemiological studies leading to a common control policy should be sought and supported by the international community" was quoted from the new article from Israel on this website last week. Similarly, an international conference last week in Brussels boded well for future international cooperation on policy and research into foot and mouth and similar diseases.
In April the INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE CONTROL OF ANIMAL INFECTIOUS DISEASES BY VACCINATION will take place in Buenos Aires (Argentina)
The first three objectives of the Conference are to examine
- Experience gained in the control and eradication of foot and mouth disease and other animal and zoonotic diseases through the use of vaccination when appropriate.
- Current methods of vaccination
- New and future trends in the control of diseases by vaccination
while sessions are devoted to " Available technologies to complement vaccination practices", "Vaccination to live" and "Antigen and vaccine banks as a safety measure for insuring control of disease spread"
There does seem to be an international will to avoid the terrible errors of judgement made in our own country in 2001.
Jan 26 ~ Avian flu :"infected countries must kill all poultry"
Thailand plans to hold an emergency summit in Bangkok on Wednesday to discuss the crisis with its Asian neighbours. Officials from the EU, the WHO and the UN food agency are also invited." BBC
The WHO, "other United Nations agencies, and health groups are emphasizing that infected Asian countries must kill all poultry, a standard measure to stop avian influenza from becoming endemic....Before Cambodia was added to the list, A(H5N1) had been officially reported in birds from 5 countries: Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The WHO suspects that the virus is also present in other Asian countries." New York Times via the Pro-Med website
"..Researchers eyeing the outbreak of avian influenza in Asia are stepping up efforts to prepare a (human) vaccine -- but the process could take months, they warn. ... WHO collaborators are preparing a new vaccine strain from the 2004 virus using a technique called reverse genetics. They aim to genetically engineer a milder form of the virus. ....scientists are keenly awaiting word on the genetic sequence of the H5N1 virus taken from patients and birds in Asia. Initial results from Vietnamese samples show that the H5N1 virus has mutated since 2003, says a WHO statement..."
Jan 26 ~ Wild boar in England:
A review of the wild boar issue has been commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Independent "....some people think it's not all problems, and free-living wild boars in Britain have their advocates. Some farmers in southern England are already allowing organised boar hunting on their land, but perhaps the most notable enthusiast is Martin Goulding, a former Defra zoologist who has not only intensively studied wild boar in Britain and written a book about them, but set up a website devoted to them. (www.britishwildboar.org.uk).
On the website Dr Goulding, now an independent consultant, has created an opinion poll, where after reading the arguments for and against keeping wild boar in the British countryside, you can have your say about their return.....The final opinion on the page:"It is immoral to wipe out a species because it can transmit disease - all wild animals carry one form of disease or another. Look at the trouble with the Krebs trial over badgers and TB. The domestic pig industry needs to get its own house in order before wiping out any wildlife."
Most of all, he said it wanted them to be fairly judged, and for there to be no knee-jerk reactions. .."
Jan 25 ~ "the widespread slaughter of chickens, including burying them alive in Thailand, had failed to stop the bird flu from spreading through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.."
Independent on Sunday
"..UN officials said yesterday that the deadly avian virus was continuing its advance. "There's no denying the disease is spreading," said Anton Rychener, Vietnam representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. As the Thai media launched into scathing criticism of what it called a week of dithering and denials, the country's Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, was put on the defensive.....
....However, far more worrying than the demise of the chicken industry is whether, under the right conditions, a mutant strain of airborne influenza is developing that jumps species and can be transmitted to, and between, humans. That could put the world at risk of a deadly epidemic that would dwarf the impact of Sars. ....
...... livestock officials in protective gear have not been given the time to carry out a humane slaughter. Instead, they buried the chickens alive, shoving them into plastic sacks that were thrown into deep holes.....
....They have blamed senior politicians for playing down the risks and showing little concern for the well-being of poultry workers and the rural population....
.....Opposition politicians are calling for a vote of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.
...."The government's efforts to sweep the problem under the carpet have exploded in its face
....A government spokesman has admitted that the outbreak was concealed for "a few weeks" to avoid alarm."
Jan 25 ~ " ... the court ruling that Defra behaved illegally in paying its debt to JDM Accord gives hope..."
Booker's Notebook "Last week I reported on a court case which has exposed the astonishing scandal of the refusal by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to pay millions of pounds still owing for work carried out at Defra's instructions during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis. After a 12-week hearing, Defra was ordered to pay £5 million owed to JDM Accord for constructing the notorious Ash Moor burial pit in Devon, which was never used.
The Forum of Private Business, a organisation which has taken on many of the contractors' claims, estimates that the sum still owed to 350 firms amounts to over £100 million. Since 2002 Defra has used any excuse not to pay what it owes, in a futile bid to appease the European Commission from which it still hopes to claim £1 billion - the loss of which might cause even Gordon Brown to blench.
The largest creditor, it emerges, is Cumbria Waste Management Ltd. (CWM)..... In CWM's case, it is notable that one taxpayer-funded body is having to bear the cost of refusal to pay its debts by another. But the court ruling that Defra behaved illegally in paying its debt to JDM Accord gives hope to Mr Bareham and hundreds of others that this scandal may at last be brought to an end - even if it means Gordon Brown having to forego that £1 billion."
Jan 25 2004~ Wind farms 'make people sick who live up to a mile away'
Sunday Telegraph "Onshore wind farms are a health hazard to people living near them because of the low- frequency noise that they emit, according to new medical studies. Doctors say that the turbines - some of which are taller than Big Ben - can cause headaches and depression among residents living up to a mile away.
One survey found that all but one of 14 people living near the Bears Down wind farm at Padstow, Cornwall, where 16 turbines were put up two years ago, had experienced increased numbers of headaches, and 10 said that they had problems sleeping and suffered from anxiety.
...... "There is a public perception that wind power is 'green' and has no detrimental effect on the environment," said Dr Osborne. "However, these turbines make low-frequency noises that can be as damaging as high-frequency noises.
......... In Denmark, where wind turbines were introduced as long as 30 years ago, the government has responded to public demand and stopped erecting onshore turbines because of the noise hazard. ..." See warmwell windfarms page
Jan 24 ~"... there is an inevitability about each new panic."
Guardian Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs correspondent, makes some interesting points about the Thai chicken situation:
".. part of a pattern that has gone along with industrialisation and mass transportation of livestock. Animal disease now travels far and fast in types of farming and food distribution that make it very hard to control. ..... ...The British poultry industry has struggled to compete with prices from south-east Asia and Brazil where labour costs are much lower. Many UK producers meanwhile are barely able to cover the cost of production, as prices have fallen in supermarkets.
..... Poultry is raised in intensive factory farms with units of 30,000 to 50,000 birds being common. Once a virus gets into a flock it is virtually impossible to control except by mass culling. ... in Europe.. about half of chicken meat is contaminated with campylobacter, which is also carried in faeces, the chances of catching the flu from meat are said to be negligible.
The ban on Thai meat appears to be more of a warning to the Thais to get their house in order than a response to risk to consumers.
Britain has so far escaped avian flu, groups campaigning against intensive factory farming say there is an inevitability about each new panic."
"Front Page" Archive 2001 - 2004 - part 2