warmwell.com archived FMD pages September - December 2005
December 21st 2005 ~ "APHIS officials told us funds to support work on diagnostic tools remain insufficient."
From the December report to Congressional Committees of the US Government Accountability Office on Plum Island Disease Center "DHS and USDA Are Successfully Coordinating Current Work, but Long-Term Plans Are Being Assessed" (pdf)
" ...This work is vital to rapidly identifying diseases when outbreaks occur. ... Not surprisingly, the GAO concludes that "the transfer of Plum Island from USDA to DHS highlights the challenges that the agencies face in meeting diagnostic and research needs with available resources.."
.. because the agency did not receive an expected budget increase, their plans to expand development of diagnostic tools for high-priority diseases were curtailed. ... funds remain insufficient..
.. the 2001 FMD outbreak in the United Kingdom and the emphasis on bioterrorism prompted a shift from passive foreign animal disease surveillance to a more active approach.
..... DHS officials recently noted that while APHIS will validate rapid diagnostic tools for
foreign animal diseases, DHS is coordinating the field validation of multiplexed diagnostic
assays that include domestic diseases that can be confused with FMD.."
It seems extraordinary that nearly five years after the UK was hit by FMD, the new technology does not feature in Contingency Planning. Such innovative methods are potentially very lucrative indeed. We are not alone in feeling bewilderment at the delay in validation. It is interesting that Cepheid annouced news of 3 new patents for its rapid diagnostic technology yesterday.
December 20th 2005 ~ Live Cattle Export Refunds to cease immediately
Mrs Fischer Boel said today (Finfacts) :
“There has been lot of public concern about the respect of animal welfare during the long transports of these animals to third countries. We have imposed very stringent rules and controls in order to ensure that animal welfare is fully respected. However, experience has shown that 100% compliance with these rules cannot be ensured and that we cannot enforce those rules beyond our own borders. By putting an end to these exports refunds we clearly demonstrate that the European Commission considers animal welfare to be more than just words. ....” Mrs Fischer Boel's announcement comes only two days after the EU agreement to eliminate all exports subsidies in agriculture before the end of 2013 as part of a global deal in the current World Trade Organisations talks on promoting international trade. Inbox
December 20th 2005 ~ EU raises farmer compensation in battle on bird flu
EU Farm Miisters have agreed that, starting in January, the EU will pay half the bill presented by farmers who are battling against both high and low pathogenic strains of bird flu.
This decision is described as " a slap in the face for the European Commission" who, like DEFRA, did not see the need for such a level of compensation. See also below and warmwell's bird flu pages.
December 18/19th 2005 ~ "We are not advising consumers to avoid lamb; no BSE has been found naturally in sheep, but it could be there." Sir John Krebs in 2002
Following Sunday's Observer article Cover-up charge over 'cancer-risk' milk (see below) our attention has been drawn to
a Guardian Talk online chat with Sir John Krebs in 2002. This exchange centred on the so-called theoretical risk of BSE in sheep, but other questions tried to probe Sir John's involvement in the Science Group in 2001 and the FSA stance on GM.
sodbuster: "...Do you think it is appropriate, Sir John, that so much of the taxpayers' money is being spent to counter a risk that it tenuous at best and which your own agency has admitted provides no direct risk to the public, when virtually no public money is given to research alternative theories to the cause of BSE, such as the work done by Prof. Dickinson and Mark Purdey?" The online chat can be seen at http://talk.guardian.co.uk but few of the most important and interesting questions received replies from Sir John. He apologised for lack of time. ( Warmwell's page on BSE/vCJD dissent here.)
"Our view on BSE and sheep is the following. We are not advising consumers to avoid lamb; no BSE has been found naturally in sheep, but it could be there.
Given this uncertainty, we think consumers have a right to know and make up their own minds. "
Another contributor immediately countered: "Then why instigate the National Scrapie Plan? It contradicts your last message as it will deprive people completely of the choice of eating meat from rare breeds which have tested as susceptible to scrapie. You have also failed to answer sodbuster's question concerning the appropriateness of matching funding for alternative BSE research.."
December 18/19th 2005 ~ Sir John Krebs says that Number 10 put the FSA "under pressure" over dioxins from FMD pyres
It seems, according to the Observer, that Sir John has given an interview to the Prospect magazine for next month (not yet online) in which he says he decided to tell the public that the risk from dioxins from slaughter pyres was "low, but scientists were unsure about it, and people buying milk from farms near the pyres should consider switching to supermarket milk."
'As soon as MAFF heard about this I had ministers on the phone telling me I was about to create a crisis in the dairy industry. When I didn't back down, the line became "Number 10 will be very unhappy about this" (Observer) In September 2001 the FSA concluded in an interim report that "the pyres have posed no additional risk to health through the food supply." The final report, issued in January 2002 at http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/44628repeated this reassurance, but has subsequently disappeared from the internet. The Royal Society of Edinburgh said in its report that, in view of the dioxin danger, "burial should be preferred over burning unless there are risks to the water supply".
A "crisis in the dairy industry" does not seem to have worried the government unduly in recent years. However, the Government's "unhappiness" over the public recognition of its inept handling of the crisis, in which Sir John Krebs and his circle played an important part, put paid to a public inquiry - in spite of the many eminent voices, quoted on this website, 2001- 2002, calling for one.
December 18/19th 2005 ~ "not advising against"
In the same article, the Observer reports that Sir Robert May makes similar claims to that of his associate, Sir John Krebs, about the "BSE in sheep" scare. Sir Robert "confirmed that Krebs had 'ministerial pressure put on him - in response to the worry that the rogue BSE prion had got into the country's sheep population - to say there was nothing to worry about'."
The idea that the so-called BSE prion has "got into" the sheep population of Britain has resulted in literally millions in research grants; for mathematical models, such as that of Imperial College's Neil Ferguson (which was funded by the FSA), and the widespread injecting of diseased brain material into healthy sheep in laboratories (relevant pages). Although the relationship between BSE, scrapie and variant CJD
remains, in spite of all this research, unclear and largely conjectural, dissent tends to lead to exclusion and isolation from the scientific establishment. In spite of the fiasco of the ill-fated soup of mixed brains ( 2001) the money continues to flow "Our advice to consumers remains the same. We are not advising against the consumption of lamb and sheep meat." said Sir John in September 2003
( It is interesting to see how often there are links between the names, brought to our attention in 2001, of the scientific coterie advising the government. Links to the biotech lobby and the FSA's stance on GM resulted in this impolite award from the Norfolk Genetic Information Network See also andersongroup.html)
December 18/19th 2005 ~ The Observer implies that Sir John Krebs is still the Chair of the FSA.
Deirdre Hutton, former Chair of the National Consumer Council, is now the current Chair of the UK’s Food Standards Agency as well as Vice Chair of EFSA. Sir John Krebs resigned in July 2004 and stepped down in April 2005. It was Deirdre Hutton's NCC which made very clear that vaccinated meat posed no problem and did not have to be labelled.(See email)
December 16th 2005 ~ Bovine TB "Is it not clear from other countries that Gamma Interferon and Polymerase Chain Reaction can significantly improve test results?"
James Paice put several questions to Ben Bradshaw about bovine TB including:
See also the Written Answers on Bovine TB in Hansard for 12 December
- Is it not clear from other countries that Gamma Interferon and Polymerase Chain Reaction can significantly improve test results?
- Why has the Government not published specific proposals for badger culling?
- Isn’t it clear that the low level of trapping in the triplet studies has caused massive disturbance – making badgers move into adjoining areas thus spreading the disease?
December 15th 2005 ~ "....what is the point of having this statutory instrument until we have a definition of "infected premises" on the statute book?"
The Duke of Montrose asked Lord Bach at the beginning of the debate on Monday after the Junior Minister had said that this was a mere "tidying -up exercise" to comply with EU Council Directive 2003/85/EC
Two other Statutory Instruments containing the definition of "infected premises"are still being scrutinised, it seems, by DEFRA's legal team. However, as the Duke of Montrose points out, since "the concept of infection has yet to be defined" we do not yet know what the Minister will mean by "infected premise" or "dangerous contact".
The Countess of Mar felt the amendment was making the primary legislation
"inoperable". The SI was still not making clear whether potentially infected premises will be confirmed on grounds other than clinical.
"To depend heavily for disease control upon clinical diagnosis alone in the event of further incursions of the foot and mouth disease virus would suggest that we have not learned many lessons from the 2001 epidemic.
Referring to the fact that rapid diagnostic, pen-side tests were available in 2001 she asked
"What progress has been made in field-validating these tests for use in future epidemics?" As for the "discretionary powers" in relation to laboratories, zoos, and animals kept for scientific research, she asked why, If this discretionary approach is possible,
" ..why can the Government not exercise similar powers in other areas, for example, based upon species susceptibility? "
"Similarly," she asked "if a farmer can demonstrate excellent biosecurity over a long period, is there any reason why there should not be an extension of discretionary powers to slaughter, thus enabling the Exchequer to make further savings? There really is a need for a bit more lateral thinking to target the effort, both scientifically and economically. .." Read debate in full
December 14th 2005 ~ "tests have to be validated by the OIE. We are waiting on that": Lord Bach
The Countess of Mar's frustration on Monday was evident.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, it is coming up to five years since the foot and mouth disease outbreak. If that has not been done, can the Minister say why not? I remember the late Fred Brown coming over from America and telling us that they were using the tests in America. Why has that not been done in this country in the past five years? One answer - not offered by Lord Bach - is that suggested by this website in late September. The Financial Times article headlined, "Pressure on Porton Down to commercialise Research" quotes a very senior biological defence system scientist saying that a 20kg "soldier-proof" gene detector, designed to test for anthrax and smallpox, could certainly have prevented much of the mass culling during the foot and mouth epidemic. Of course, as the Countess of Mar said in Monday's debate, such technology had already been invented by the start of the 2001 outbreak. However, the government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), claiming that its own scientists have "invented and patented instrumentation and chemistries to speed up the detection of DNA sequences using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method", are hoping its spin off company, Enigma Diagnostics Ltd (Porton Down), will reap enormous commercial rewards as a result of its own PCR Light - "a portable real-time PCR platform for ultra-rapid, in-field detection of bio-threat agents" " ..... in-the-field testing for animal diseases including foot and mouth or tuberculosis (TB) in cattle within 30 minutes rather than taking samples back to a laboratory." (Press release)
Once commercially available and making a great deal of money, these Porton/DSTL kits will presumably find their way at last into the UK Contingency Plan. This explains why the UK - even five years on from the costly FMD fiasco - would not want any other test to be validated yet. If this is indeed the reason for the delay in the use of such a useful "soldier and farmer-proof" tool, it is a disgrace. If not, the delay of five years for the existing technology to be validated for use in Europe is, as the Countess of Mar implies, utterly incomprehensible.
December 14th 2005 ~ Bovine TB: Questions in Parliament
"...in the high incidence areas of the country .... wildlife is a major source of new herd infection and in some counties it may be a more important source than cattle." Ben Bradshaw Read in full
Defra's line has always been
"...we are prepared to cull badgers to control bovine TB if evidence shows it is cost effective, practicable, sustainable and humane." In May 2004 Mr Bradshaw unwisely asserted that TB was " in decline". This is sadly not the case as Hansard shows.
A question: "at what meetings the Minister responsible for Animal Welfare discussed bovine tuberculosis in the last 12 months. ?" received the answer from Mt Bradshaw:
"I hold regular meetings with colleagues on a range of issues."
The concept of "partnership", to which much lip service is paid in the UK Government's Animal Health and Welfare Strategy, would seem to have failed dismally in the area of bovine TB. But it is in the interests of both wildlife and domesticated animals that the spread of bTB from infected badgers be contained - and the news that a small and localised vaccine trial will not start until September and will take three years to complete is worrying.(See also Inbox)
In June, the Western Morning News quoted a farmer: "It isn't about killing wildlife for the sake of it. We want to target the right ones and get rid of the disease that is why we want to do it."’
December 14th 2005 ~ Brazil's largest meat packing company, Friboi Group, is being investigated
According to Cattlenetwork.com
".... a Mato Grosso state attorney....has evidence showing Friboi purchased industrialized beef from the state of Rondonia and exported it, most likely to Russian and European markets.....Rondonia is considered free of foot-and-mouth disease with vaccine, but meat packing companies there are not allowed to export to the E.U., Brazil's largest market. ....
Rondonia is considered free of foot-and-mouth disease with vaccine. Meat that has been vaccinated does not cause any problems since, like a bee sting, the vaccine disperses immediately and cannot infect animals or humans with anything. Even so, the controversy over imports and exports of vaccinated cattle carries on for a variety of reasons - although certainly not human health or veterinary ones.
.....a diplomat from the agriculture division of the Brazilian Embassy in Brussels who wished to remain anonymous.
"This shows the difficulty Brazil has in monitoring beef transportation. Monitoring authorities should know where this meat came from and that it is not allowed to be exported to European markets," the official said.."
December 13th 2005 ~ "Better NFU has developed a five-point alternative manifesto..."
Steve Dube in the Western Mail
(See also Tim Bennett's response pdf. )
- ...legally binding supermarket code of practice with stricter terms, overseen by an independent ombudsman.
- calls on the NFU to use its £20m budget to champion quality British food
It will campaign to persuade every local authority, school, hospital and prison to buy more locally produced food.
It wants to see food security at the top of the NFU agenda
aims to calculate the costs of red tape on food production, and then lobby Government to eradicate or simplify the most expensive regulations...."
12th December 2005 ~ "From salmonella and BSE to asbestos, we have seen bogus science, compounded with ignorance, being exploited by interested parties to whip up media and political hysteria."
"Scared to Death " by Christopher Booker and Dr Richard North is described as
"the first proper analysis of what in the past two decades has become an astronomic hidden drain on the economies of the western world: the 'scare'.
This is then used to justify an absurdly disproportionate and costly regulatory response until, by the time the flaws in the original 'science' have been exposed, the damage is done. .........how the flaws in the science were eventually exposed; the shocking scale of the cost...."
9th December 2005 ~ " without recourse to vaccination." Ben Bradshaw doesn't appear to think vaccination effective.
See Avian Influenza pages for
Mr. Bradshaw's answer to PQ about ring-vaccination of poultry to combat an outbreak of avian influenza.:
"... Should there be advances in vaccination technology—particularly improving its effectiveness—then this would of course need to be taken into account." Words fail us. See below In 2002-3, 45 million birds were vaccinated in Italy during an outbreak of the H7N3 form of the virus. No vaccinated birds were found to be infected.
9th December 2005 ~ "the security of our food supply can no longer be taken for granted"
This, which encapsulates so much of what this website has been trying to say for so long, is how John Cresswell, North East Chairman of the CLA, expresses his deep disquiet at Mrs Beckett's stated view that "the best way of ensuring food security is through trading relationships, rather than self-sufficiency." He says,
"It is time we recognised that domestic food production is crucial, not a by-product of using our land as a theme park as DEFRA and many others seem to believe. We already rely on imported oil and are at the mercy of price rises and supply shortages. The same has been proven with our gas supplies with the latest unacceptable increase in gas prices by British Gas. We are still in a position to protect our food industry but we must act now, and that means taking whatever measures are necessary to keep farmers farming. " (More)
9th December 2005 ~ "What is wrong about lots and lots of small initiatives – why does big have to be best?"
Following the news that so much of the CAP goes, not to support real farmers but to big multinational "Big Food" producers of saturated fats, sugars and refined starches (Guardian - new window) we were interested to receive a report (which grew out of work funded by The Ecologist) on the UK local food crisis : SpinWatch The ‘Big Food’ Takeover of British Agriculture
The report argues that the ‘big food’ model of development, while killing off small farming, is not even what the public wants. A fair return for
farmers seemed a central theme of the Curry Commission but supermarkets have more of an armlock than ever. Yet real local farmers' markets - in spite of a lack of the expected government support - are more and more popular. The National Association of
Farmers Markets has been a lifeline for small farmers but, in spite of the Curry Report, it has been starved of Government funding and forced to merge with the Farm Retail Association, a body set up by the NFU which did not share their philosophy of limiting food miles and strictly local
food. As for the new quango, South West Food and Drink, it is
"... seen by many in the local food
movement as an unmitigated disaster, not only lavishing money on consultants fees, whilst
strangling the local food sector and not funding consumer-marketing initiatives... . ‘SWFD has
become a barrier rather than a conduit for funding- after two years you really have to ask
what it has done to help the food industry in the South West”, argues Carol Trewin..." The report suggests that the NFU is part of the problem rather than helping find a solution. John Redmond, the former county chair of Somerset NFU argues that
‘The fact that the NFU
won’t support a statutory code for the supermarkets just shows how close they are to the
supermarkets’.... The report is readable, urgent and deserves to be read in full. As it says, " As long as the NFU and its allies continue to direct funding and resources that benefit
supermarkets then British farming will die a slow painful death."
Jane Brook from Orton Farmers market. ‘We can ensure small business can
grow. What is wrong about lots and lots of small initiatives – why does big have to be best’?.."
8th December 2005 ~ "While most people still believe that Europe's agricultural subsidies have been used to protect farmers, particularly small farmers, it is now emerging that among the main beneficiaries are large multinationals.."
Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Guardian has discovered that it is the producers of saturated fats, sugars and refined starches
who are getting most of the CAP money.
"... The largest UK recipients of money include companies such as Tate & Lyle, Nestle, Cadbury, Kraft and a host of manufacturers of bulk animal fats, sugars and refined starches. Further FoI requests reveal a similar pattern of the largest individual payments going to multinationals in other European countries. France, which remains set against CAP reform, has refused to release details of its payments."
7th December 2005 ~ " ... the idea of slaughtering all animals within a wide radius of an infected farm ... increasingly being called into question.
The Scotsman reports that
".. Peter Stevenson, a lawyer and political adviser to welfare group Advocates for Animals, told the Scottish Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee greater use of vaccination should be made to prevent mass slaughter.
He said of the (Animal Health and Welfare) Bill: "It says the minister can slaughter animals whether or not they're infected, whether or not they've been in contact with an infected animal, whether or not they've been exposed to any animal if he thinks fit. That is extraordinarily broad. There would be no way you could challenge that in the courts under judicial review because you have to be able to show the minister has acted unlawfully. The Bill would provide for mandatory codes of bio-security, extend the powers of slaughter in any "exotic" disease outbreak, and give the power to inspect vehicles in any outbreak.
Mr Stevenson said that the idea of slaughtering all animals within a wide radius of an infected farm was increasingly being called into question.
...under current regulations, vaccination would only result in a three-month delay in allowing a trader to go back to work following a disease outbreak."
7th December 2005 ~ " How many physicists are fluent in virology?"
asks James Lovelock in the preface to a new book introducing the work of Mary Midgley. He says
... the knowledge science offers is like the discourses of medieval monks, so coded as to be incomprehensible even to most scientists themselves. How many physicists are fluent in virology and how many evolutionary biologists know anything about inorganic chemistry? The last two centuries have seen the development of a cultural dementia characterised by a fragmentation of thought..." . More
5th December 2005 ~" the horse and the sheep must go to their anonymous graves: just in case they infect the world..."
"... with a disease neither of them can catch....."
Private Eye's Muckpreader this week is evidently as exercised as we are about the unhappy conjunction of
".... Britain’s best-loved racehorse, the most famous survivor of the foot-and-mouth crisis and our much loved farming minister, Margaret Beckett, better known to her many admirers as Rosa Klebb, in a delightful picture of modern Britain."
1st December 2005 ~ "I really do not understand how, after weeks of investigation, an error of this kind can have occurred. DEFRA continues to amaze." Oliver Letwin
DEFRA has today admitted that there had been 2,000 additional birds at the quarantine centre in Essex in the run up to the discovery of the H5N1. The recent DEFRA report (pdf), released on the 15 November 2005, said that:
“The last batch of quarantined birds at these premises were legally released on 9 March 2005, some six months before the first consignment of birds of current interest entered the premises.”
But in answer to a PQ from Mr Letwin, it emerged that a consignment from Tanzania had arrived there in July and that around 200 of them had died (but not of avian flu.)
Oliver Letwin said:
“ This is further evidence that the quarantine system needs tightening up and that the department needs to move up a gear to ensure we do not encounter a serious outbreak in the future.”
How did DEFRA miss 2,000 birds at the quarantine centre in Essex?
1st December 2005 ~ Foot and Mouth vaccination "no carrier transmission to naïve animals "
From Vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease virus confers complete
clinical protection in 7 days and partial protection in 4 days:
Use in emergency outbreak response Vaccine 23 (2005) 5775–5782 Abstract
"... . In this report, we present data showing that a commercially available, standard dose vaccine formulation can fully protect cattle against direct challenge with the virus in as little as 7 days with no carrier transmission to naïveanimals. Cattle challenged 4 days after vaccination have reduced disease severity, no detectable virus in blood and little virus shedding from nasal secretions. These significant effects at 4 days post vaccination, confirmed in two separate trials, support the value of using currently available vaccines as a first line of defense against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreaks.
...... .." More We remember with distress how influential figures, such as Professor Mark Woolhouse and Professor David Harvey, warned MPs in 2001 that vaccination of animals against the disease in the UK would be either unworkable or a very costly option compared with slaughter.
The House of Commons Research Paper 01/35 (pdf) "Summary of Main Points" - contrary to persuasive arguments against slaughter in the body of the text - suggested that "the economic case for slaughter may be justified, even if the outbreak is expensive, because there have been no serious outbreaks in the UK since 1967" More experienced and knowledgeable voices were thus ignored, millions of animals were slaughtered unnecessarily and the trauma, as the BMJ reminds us this week, is still not over.
30 November 2005 ~ Avian Influenza - EU:"Provisions should therefore be established for both emergency and protective vaccination."
30 November 2005 ~ " how doctors and vets can learn from each other": theme issues in the BMJ and Vet Record
In May, Martin Alder (editor of the Veterinary Record) wrote in the British Medical Journal :
With increasing urbanisation we can easily forget the extent to which people depend on animals..... livestock are important economically but animals are also a source of companionship. Half of all households in the United Kingdom own a pet (www.pfma.com/public/petownership_stats.htm), and many pets are just as important as a family member or friend, sometimes more
......The theme issues, to be published in November 2005, will be a mix of papers, debate pieces, editorials, and reviews. We are particularly interested in original research relevant to both disciplines."
Links for the joint issue have been established between the BMJ website (www.bmj.com) and The Veterinary Record website (www.bvapublications.com) and all of the articles are available free of charge online. Go to http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/331/7527/0-f for more detail and news of feedback session tomorrow afternoon.
".....There is some fruitful cross fertilisation of ideas between the
two professions on the subject of eradication programmes on page
1261, ethics in clinical practice on page
1227, and the UK government's response to animal and human health
issues on page
29 November 2005 ~ DEFRA promised to return champion pet ram's ashes - but now refuses
After Triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate (see Scotsman) was prevented from being buried at
Exeter racecourse "because of government legislation" and
cremated instead, Oliver Letwin asked Margaret Beckett last week about the legislation and was told that although EC Regulation (EC) 1774/2002 bans burial as a disposal route for animal by-products, "a derogation exists within the regulation that permits the burial of pet animals..."
However, Mr Universe, the champion pet ram who had become a national favourite following the publication of
Behind Chained Gates was not only denied burial at home but even his ashes were not allowed to be returned to the author, Moira Linaker. See extract from The Cumberland News, Friday 25th November.
In 2001, Defra was rather less concerned about the safe disposal of ashes.
For example, £355,000 was the cost of cleaning two farms in
Worcestershire in 2004 because of "..inappropriate burial of material
associated with the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic" - the BBC reporting at the time that
DEFRA "breached its own regulations on the disposal of
carcasses during the foot and mouth epidemic."
From behind EC Regulation (EC) 1774/2002, DEFRA is now allowing no flexibility whatsoever -nationally loved racehorse or pet ram, it makes no difference. The Department is apparently so anxious to slam the stable door after its own idiocy was discovered, it now wants to save us from the menace of the "specified risk material" waiting to jump out at us from an urn on Moira's mantlepiece.
28 November 2005 ~"Our conclusion is that vaccination of poultry can prevent a major outbreak of highly pathogenic avian flu viruses,"
scientist Jeanet Van der Goot told Reuters.
".....Van der Goot and fellow researchers say that vaccination reduces the infectiousness of chickens with avian flu and also the susceptibility of healthy chickens to the virus.
However, they said it could take two weeks after vaccination before transmission to other birds was completely blocked.
27 November 2005 ~" Only ridiculous disease control strategists would advise vaccinating only a few animals on the farm"
A longish article on the "politically neutral" Politics.co.uk website, aiming to give an overview of the Foot and Mouth crisis and its aftermath, has been drawn to our attention. (many thanks to Mr Gardner)
Extract "... The Government and its scientists rejected vaccination, however, warning that vaccinated animals could still act as vectors for the disease." This is immediately followed by the rather more valid
"On the economic front, it was also argued that the UK's capacity to export would be severely damaged by failing to stamp out FMD as quickly as possible through slaughter. .." The Government and its scientists fail to mention that vaccination by itself cannot cause the carrier status (FMD vaccine is a "killed", safe vaccine). The issue of vaccinated animals and carrier status is discussed in several pages on this website, notably in "Notes on vaccination and transmission" Extract: "....Experiments by Terpstra and colleagues in Holland (below) were conducted to determine whether a well vaccinated animal might spread infection to a NON-vaccinate stabled in the same shed -and drinking from the same bowl. They used doses of virus which are huge compared to an expected level that might occur by a vaccinated animal meeting infection "over the fence". The results show that transmission can occur, but at low rates and were only shown to occur with NON-vaccinates. In reality, if virus infection is a risk in the area, ALL animals on a farm would be advised to be vaccinated. Only ridiculous disease control strategists would advise vaccinating only a few animals on the farm (as occur in the experiments such as Terpstra's), or mixing vaccinates and non-vaccinates when there is infection in the immediate area. ..." Read in full
24 November 2005 ~ £40 million and over can said to be owed by Defra.
The Forum of Private Businesses, aware of Lord Bach's carefully worded replies to the parliamentary questions from Lord Willoughby de Broke about unpaid invoices dating from 2001
, maintain that the sum owing, including interest that may be charged, is more than £40 million. Although Defra's answer about the amount of interest due on unpaid invoices said none was due until the outstanding sum was ordered to be paid, the FPB 's view is that this does not mean that substantial amounts of interest will not be paid.
22 November 2005 ~ "The smugglers had used false papers from Taiwan, where H5N1 has never been known."
Private Eye's Muckspreader summarises the UK 's embarrassing quarantine episode, its unnecessary alarming of Taiwan and the astonishing incompetence shown throughout by those at the top:
"..... a still more alarming measure of Defra’s incompetence came to light when the chief vet, Debby Reynolds, invited in the Tory agriculture team and the MPs on the Commons select committee for a ‘technical briefing’. All the ministry’s official top brass were present, including the permanent under-secretary and Defra’s chief scientific adviser Professor Howard Dalton. After an initial lecturette from Ms Reynolds, who clearly assumed the MPs knew little or nothing about the subject, the mood became rather more tense when the Tories’ livestock spokesman, Owen Paterson, began subjecting the ministry experts to more probing questions than they had bargained for.
....." Read in full
21 November 2005 ~ "The quarantine system, far from being watertight, now looks more like a collander"
Today's Independent shines new light on Debby Reynolds' assertion that "quarantine worked" and DEFRA's instruction to staff at Pegasus birds to "say nothing".
"it was only the fortuitous death of a parrot from other causes that led to the truth being uncovered.
Ben Bradshaw, the Animal Welfare minister, Margaret Beckett, the Secretary of State for the Environment, and Debby Reynolds, the chief veterinary officer, have all failed to explain how close Britain came to having bird flu within its borders without officials knowing it.
Read in full
...If the parrot had not died on the same day as the 53rd mesia, it is almost certain that this last finch to die of bird flu would never have been tested and Britain would never have known about the outbreak of the deadly H5N1 virus.
..."It now seems clear that the discovery of birds infected with avian flu was more a matter of luck than judgement," said Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on the environment.
"Had it not been for the coincidence of a dead parrot, infected birds may well have been allowed out of
. The quarantine system, far from being watertight, now looks more like a collander. Ministers have some serious explaining to do," Mr Baker said...".
November 19th 2005 ~ "a choice of vaccines that can be applied"
In the OIE's
press release, following the conference in Saoul, Dr Bernard Vallat's words are reported:
"I believe that there is still a window of opportunity for substantially reducing the risk of a human pandemic by minimising the virus load in animals world-wide. ..."
He explained that the OIE has through its world-wide network of Reference Laboratories and experts, provided Member Countries with standards on AI surveillance and safe trade in poultry and poultry products, a choice of vaccines that can be applied and a joint OIE/FAO forum for the exchange of scientific information and virus strains..""The other technical item discussed ...(BSE). Formally considered as a European disease, BSE has now spread to other regions resulting in major trade disruptions and serious loss of consumer confidence.
This is unfortunately sometimes the result of speculation, which is not based on science ..
November 18th 2005 ~ "invoices to the value of £5.1 million remain disputed and unpaid" but Lord Bach says "no outstanding amounts owed to contractors"
Lord Willoughby de Broke's questions about unpaid FMD invoices were answered this week.
Lord Bach's mystifying and careful assertion that "On the basis of the quantum, accounting, technical and legal advice received, there are no outstanding amounts owed to contractors engaged by the Government during the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak" was followed by
"....invoices to the value of £5.1 million remain disputed and unpaid."
Five contractors only have been " taken to court". The JDM Accord case in January 2004 went against DEFRA, as did that of Ruttle Plant Hire in which the judge very pointedly rejected allegations of deliberate and systematic overcharging. The public cost of these cases was in the region of £6.6 million.
If the £5.1 million is involved in legal dispute proceedings involving the only other three, then it would appear that Lord Bach is saying that no other invoices remain unpaid. The All Party Parliamentary Small Business Group (APPSBG) has committed itself to look closely at the matter on November 25.
16th November 2005 ~ "....power can be exercised whether or not the poultry is affected with avian influenza or suspected of being so affected."
Parliamentary questions in the past couple of days confirm that the government has taken upon itself powers to slaughter healthy animals and birds. It prepared to do this, after the illegal culling of 2001, by amending the Animal Health Act to cover itself legally in future. Ben Bradshaw quoted EU regulations to justify such powers: ( " under EU obligations that poultry on an infected premises must be slaughtered." ) However, EU regulations do not demand the sort of firebreak culling that is envisaged by DEFRA. With China about to carry out a mass vaccination of 14 billion chickens (it has already vaccinated 320 million poultry, it is producing 100m shots per day at a cost of a few pence per shot See Guardian) , Spain stockpiling vaccines for birds, and many sane and humane voices such as the
Soil Association saying:
"... vaccination in the form of a ring-fence is a proven, effective tool that should be used ahead of any moves to bring organic and free-range poultry indoors throughout the country and to prevent the mass-slaughter of UK poultry...." we find the UK government mind-set as extraordinary today as we found it in 2001
Meanwhile, Taiwan today "strongly questions the report cited by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs" which, it says, "has created international misunderstanding".
16th November 2005 ~ China plans to vaccinate all its poultry in the country: Defra says "vaccination is not expected to be part of the current GB avian influenza control strategy"
The reaasons for not vaccinating in the DEFRA email evidently do not apply in China where 14 billion chickens are to be vaccinated. China would appear to be heeding what was said at last week's Geneva conference - and what was echoed by the Indonesian expert below. On Channel 4 News, Ben Bradshaw echoed Debby Reynolds' constant mantra that "it is very difficult to vaccinate birds" - but it would seem that it is "very difficult" only in the UK.
16th November 2005 ~
No apologies, no explanations
The epidemiology report on Essex birds that died in quarantine was published yesterday
DEFRA 's website. DEFRA says that the main findings of the report are:
There is no mention of, explanation of, nor apology for
- Within the species documented as coming from Taiwan only the Mesias were infected with H5N1 and 53 out of 101 birds had died.
- Infection with H5N1 was transmitted between the Mesias, but there is no evidence of transmission to other species in the facility including the sentinel birds.
- the pooling of samples of different origins ("experts admitted that they could not be definitive about the source of the virus because tissue from the parrot and a sick mesia were mixed for testing...." Times )
- why the vet involved with Pegasus has not yet been interviewed. Times
- the fact that the quarantine facility was licensed by DEFRA in spite of concerns and complaints
- the " apparently false statement claiming that all staff at the centre who came into contact with the birds which were being held for the convicted tax fraudster Brett Hammond, had received preventative medication. An inquiry has now been launched to discover how emergency plans were ignored..." Telegraph
- Oliver Letwin's worry that "In light of recent reports which suggest some birds from the same infected batch in Essex had been released from quarantine early, the Government must act to trace where these birds are now....."
- why Mrs Beckett continued to maintain that the the H5N1 strain of bird flu,which, she declared as fact, had "killed two parrots in UK quarantine", had originated from Taiwan (See BBC)
On the contrary, the tone of DEFRA's news release, described to us as beng "as superior, detached and unapologetic as ever", concludes:
".... the responsibility of Essex County Council to conduct any subsequent legal investigation into the events in the quarantine facility. Defra’s responsibility is to ensure a full epidemiological investigation, which has now been provided."It will be interesting to see what recommendations have been made by Professor Dimmock in his Avian Quarantine review.
16th November 2005 ~
" The review will....... cover the work of Defra and its agencies, HM Customs and Revenue and the role of local authorities....."
"....Professor Nigel Dimmock, Emeritus Professor of Virology at Warwick University will examine avian quarantine arrangements and procedures for captive birds and make recommendations on any changes needed to policies or procedures in order to ensure that they are as secure as possible. The review will....... cover the work of Defra and its agencies, HM Customs and Revenue and the role of local authorities....." DEFRA
15th November 2005 ~
"China is in the process of vaccinating all the poultry in the country,"
said Jia Youling, the Agriculture Ministry's chief veterinary officer.
He said the government will pay all fees involved, but he did not provide additional details during an online question-and-answer session.
China has more than 14 billion farm poultry, accounting for nearly 21 percent of the world's total. ..." CBS News
14th/15th November 2005 ~"There are legal steps that can be taken to ensure the removal of animals."
Ominous words from DEFRA conclude this article from the BBC highlighting the decision of one farmer not to allow officials to kill cows that have tested positive for TB and who is writing to Defra's chief veterinary officer calling on policies to be changed.
"...She said a skin test was not accurate enough as two years ago four pregnant cows which tested positive and were killed turned out to be healthy.
Defra said the test was up to 95% accurate in finding the infection, and guidelines said animals must be killed...." The often misplaced killing of healthy cows following testing has made farmers distrustful of DEFRA. Many feel that the government's attitude to bovine TB is driven by political fears rather than guided by modern scientific advances. In February this year, the National Beef Association made 18 recommendations, including "the obvious potential of a portable PCR cycler machine."
14th November 2005 ~ "We should not buy the vaccine first for humans but for poultry.....we must find the root and the source of the problem. We must prioritize the animals."
The former member of the Veterinary Public Commission of the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture, Mangku Sitepoe, is both a physician and vet and is an expert in bird flu issues. The Jakarta Post interview with him today is about the need for animal and human agencies to work together, about vaccination versus culling, about educating and compensating the farmers and about why, up until now, the influential WTO has always seemed to discourage vaccination:
"......When bird flu of sub type H5N1 spread in Hong Kong and killed six people local authorities culled about two million chickens. But in 1999 and in 2003 the disease returned. That was why when I was with the commission we recommended not to cull poultry...Read in full
... the Directorate General of Husbandry has taken four measures: Vaccination, selective culling, bio-security and surveillance. It has shown a declining trend.....This disease is not only the concern of the Indonesian people but people all over the world."
12th November 2005 ~ the following key points in the global action plan on bird flu, agreed upon at the Geneva conference:
Improving veterinary services, emergency preparedness plans and control campaigns, including vaccination of poultry, rapid culling and containment of affected flocks and compensation for farmers whose birds are destroyed; boosting early detection and rapid-response systems for animal and human influenza as swift knowledge of outbreaks gains precious time to save lives and limit economic damage; and expanding the network of laboratories, especially in poor countries, to analyze samples..." Noticias.info
12th November 2005 ~ FMD 2001 "...what is the estimated interest accrued to date on unpaid invoices
for services provided by contractors during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic.." Questions are to be asked of DEFRA about the unpaid invoices from 2001. The answers will be interesting. We shall see if any of the contractors were actually ever taken to court by DEFRA, what percentage of the total amount of contractors’ invoices has been involved in legal dispute proceedings and whether unpaid contractors will be entitled to claim interest under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998.
It may be remembered that in January 2004, Lord Whitty said
" there are queries about many invoices...some of which appear to represent serious overcharging of one form or another -- whether or not they amount to criminal fraud... " and " Legal costs covering the whole matter, which includes some of the cases in dispute, amount to about £20 million" and
"None of the delay is due to ineptness, it is due to the Government -- Defra in particular -- safeguarding the public purse."
11th November 2005 ~ Bird Flu
"Experimental and field studies have shown that properly used vaccines will accomplish several goals:
From the ProMed page quoting the review by David Swayne of USDA of the available avian influenza vaccines for birds
1) protect against clinical signs and death, Read in full, the page gives an overview of the vaccines presently available
2) reduced shedding of field virus if vaccinated poultry become infected,
3) prevent contact transmission of the field virus,
4) provide at least 20 weeks protection following a single vaccination for chickens (this may require 2 or more injections in turkeys or longer-lived chickens),
5) protect against challenges by low to high doses of field virus,
6) protect against a changing virus and
7) increase a bird's resistance to avian influenza virus infection (Swayne, 2003; Capua et al., 2004).
10th November 2005 ~
"the farmers won’t be given any extra say in how a future epidemic is tackled..."
This week's Muckspreader ( Private Eye) comments on the reassurance of the Public Accounts Committee chairman, Edward Leigh that, since the 2001 FMD fiasco, Defra has made ‘good progress’ in learning from those mistakes.
"....One point on which the MPs were agreed was that, if ever there were a repeat of the 2001 epidemic, the taxpayers must never again be asked to foot the bill (estimated at £3 billion). In future, as recommended by Defra, farmers must stump up all the costs themselves. Their job will simply be to pay for whatever the government decides must be done. And in 2001, of course, the reason why the bill was so astronomic was that the government made such an unholy shambles of its response.. In contrast, Roger Breeze's paper Disease control: Ideas for cost sharing between industry and government describes the advantages of a real partnership between the government and farming.
...It was not the farmers who ordered that 9 million healthy animals must be destroyed in the so-called ‘pre-emptive cull’. It was the government, knowingly breaking the law which laid down that animals could only be destroyed when they had been exposed to infection.
... Had the government heeded instead the advice from the world’s leading FMD experts... and introduced an emergency vaccination programme to contain the disease, that bill to the taxpayers might have been cut by 90 percent. .."Read in full.
10th November 2005 ~ "between 9 and 18 days after vaccination mortality was low and after this period no more deaths occurred. "
The British Free Range Egg Producers Association, under a headline, "Vaccination or mass slaughter?" says
The Soil Association has declared that while it accepts infected flocks will need to be slaughtered it then wants to see vaccine used as a tool to ring-fence affected farms or areas. Poultry vaccines already exist for the virus and are being widely used in Russia , China and Indonesia .
Researchers have already reported the effect of vaccine used in Hong Kong in an H5N1 outbreak in December 2002. .... between 9 and 18 days after vaccination mortality was low and after this period no more deaths occurred.
....... experts agreed that the mass culling of infected and at-risk livestock is no longer acceptable as the main method of control “for ethical, ecological and economic reasons”. Additionally, they recognise that this approach is not effective in the case of bird flu, since a reservoir of the virus persists in the wild bird population and the virus cannot be eradicated by slaughtering domestic birds. " Read in full
8th/9th November 2005 ~ Bird Flu: "immediate and fair compensation mechanisms for livestock producers.....the option of vaccination should be considered as a back-up policy..."
At the Geneva Meeting experts agreed that controlling the spread of avian flu in birds must be the priority: "We are not in a pandemic situation. It is still an animal disease," said Margaret Chan, the top WHO pandemic official. See Reuters
"......The OIE and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have set up a network of laboratories and expertise specialised in avian influenza, known as OFFLU, but it needs more funding.
The OIE also said for the early detection and culling policy to work, it was fundamental that there should be "immediate and fair compensation mechanisms for livestock producers."
In those countries unable to mobilize enough resources to stamp out an outbreak by mass culling, the option of vaccination should be considered as a back-up policy, Vallat said...."
8th/9th November 2005 ~ FMD 2001 £15 billion claims may be made if the Parliamentary Ombudsman identifies maladministration
"The Government has consistently refused all appeals for a full public inquiry, where witnesses can be questioned under oath.." The Western Mail on Tuesday:
"......Instead those affected by an epidemic that devastated the farming industry, closed vast tracts of the countryside and involved the possibly illegal slaughter of perfectly healthy animals, have to digest and respond to piecemeal recommendations like those of the Public Accounts Committee.Read in full and see the letter to warmwell from Robert Persey
The Western Mail backed the call for a full public inquiry at the time and remains convinced that it is the best way to make sure that we know what went wrong and can take the necessary steps to ensure it never happens again.
There may be more revelations yet to come. But meanwhile, a great deal rests on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's report, whenever that might appear... if a like adjudication is made in the Waugh case, the Government can expect compensation claims totalling £15bn from across the UK and the European Union."
8th November 2005 ~ Dutch FMD Contingency Plan "Vaccination as control instrument has the great advantage that fewer healthy animals need to be slaughtered and destroyed "
part of the Dutch contingency plan that has so far been translated into English is, significantly enough, the Vaccination Strategy. Very many thanks to Anne Lambourn for her determination in obtaining it.
As the Dutch say, the only real disadvantage to emergency vaccination is a trade rule one - "that the restrictions placed on Dutch products by other countries during an outbreak are likely to be longer if vaccination has taken place."
Extract: ".VI. Vaccination is preventative vaccination for life (protective vaccination). Vaccinated animals will not be destroyed. Vaccination as control instrument has the great advantage that fewer healthy animals need to be slaughtered and destroyed during an outbreak. If it is decided to destroy vaccinated animals (suppressive vaccination) then this advantage is lost. The large-scale slaughter of animals has given rise to public outcry. The public desire to protect the lives of healthy animals was fundamental in the proposal to carry out protective vaccination. "Read in full
8th November 2005 ~" Authorities in Beijing are seizing and killing chickens and ducks being raised in private homes"
says MeatingPlace.com reporting on the 6 million fowl killed and the closure of all 168 live poultry markets in Beijing.
As for the possibility of this H5N1 strain of bird flu taking hold in the UK, proper surveillance in conjunction with rapid on-site diagnosis and the determined use of ring vaccination in the UK would make such violent solutions far less likely, but as we have seen, DEFRA still plans for a mass cull.
If anyone has been given convincing reasons why the UK cannot - like Spain - be stockpiling vaccines for the birds we should be interested to hear them. At a time of increasing fear of zoonoses the refusal to use the tools that work against them, excused merely by bureaucratic or trade protection rules, seems even more incomprehensible today than it did in 2001.
(The seizing of privately owned livestock continues to affect many of those who were aware of the huge numbers of animals and their young seized and killed in 2001. In the case of foot and mouth in the UK in 2001, the vast majority of animals seized were not dangerous contacts, not within reach of the virus and not infected.)
5th November 2005 ~ DEFRA's accounts reveal secret plans for possible compensation to the Swillfeeders
See Western Morning News
"Ministers are bracing themselves for a possible £18 million payout .......Ministers have always insisted there is no case for compensation, despite the fact that some of those affected suffered major losses as a result of the ban. But the latest move suggests the Government fears it may be criticised by the Parliamentary Ombudsman ..." Read in full
5th November 2005 ~ More than 400 animal and human health experts, senior policy makers, economists and industry representatives will meet in Geneva
to work towards a global consensus to control the bird flu virus. The meeting will first consider how to contain the H5N1 virus in birds. "There is still a window of opportunity for substantially reducing the risk of a human pandemic evolving from H5N1 by controlling the virus at its source, in animals," says Joseph Domenech, FAO Chief Veterinary Officer. (See webwire.com)
Twenty-one months ago in Bangkok the FAO/OIE Emergency Regional Meeting on Avian Influenza Control in Animals in Asia (pdf) took place. Extracts:
"p33 Rapid compensation to the farmer is critical for encouraging early reporting and for participation in a stamping-out program The Guardian reported on October 26 that
p39 Strategic Vaccination A discussion of the use or non use of vaccine followed a presentation on the advantages and disadvantages of vaccines for avian influenza"... The generally acceptable summary of that discussion is that: .. Vaccine is a valuable tool in the control and elimination of avian influenza
.. Vaccine alone is unlikely to lead to a successful eradication; however vaccination combined with stamping out and adequate surveillance will likely lead to eradication in less time. .. Strategic vaccination in birds, if accompanied by appropriate surveillance will reduce the amount of virus excreted and lead to less viral exposure for humans. .. Vaccines, if used, must be produced in accordance with OIE guidelines."
"Paul van Aarle, from the pharmaceutical firm Intervet, which produces the Nobilis Influenza H5 vaccine said it was an alternative to mass culling. In Hong Kong it was used in an avian influenza control programme and there have been no new bird or human outbreaks since, he said...... "
5th November 2005 ~ Consultation Responses
5th November 2005 ~ FMD and camelids: International relevance of current research
DEFRA said that, owing to the "requirements of the Directive" it was unable to respond to the request that camelids should not be classed as FMD susceptible animals. If, however, the Directive changed, "we will amend the legislation accordingly."
Appendix 40 of the report of the
2004 Session of the Research Group of the Standing Technical Committee of the European Commission for the control of Foot-and-Mouth disease
at Chania, Crete, Greece - 12-15 October 2004 FMD and camelids: International relevance of current research (pdf) is very clear on the why camelids should not be classed as FMD susceptible animals:
"Camelids belong to the suborder Tylopoda; they are not ruminants. Camelids possess a low flow
susceptibility to FMD, and do not appear to be long-term carriers of the FMDV. These are the main two
reasons to remove them from the OIE chapter as possessing the same degree of susceptibility as cattle,
sheep and goats."
3/4th November 2005 ~ "vaccination is not expected to be part of the current GB avian influenza control strategy " Defra says.
Email from DEFRA received by a warmwell reader:
"There is provision in the Diseases of Poultry (England) Order 2003 for the imposition of a compulsory vaccination zone. However, in view of the limitations, summarised below, vaccination is not expected to be part of the current GB avian influenza control strategy....." Read in full The emailer comments laconically, Deja vu. Ring vaccination, used in conjunction with rapid on-site diagnosis, will create a firebreak around any infection and will preclude the logistical difficulties referred to in the email. It is hard, after four long years during which attitudes to vaccination for FMD (against which the same arguments were used) have gradually changed, to understand the reluctance and ignorance of those who can so blithely envisage the mass culling of our birds. As for the argument about "market authorisation" see below. When it was a question of Powderject's smallpox vaccine, no such considerations were taken into account.
3rd November 2005 ~ " a turning point in the battle for sympathy between the farmers and retailers?"
asks Charles Clover in this Telegraph article
"Grazing animals made the British landscape, and now the absence of them is unmaking it, or at least reducing its nature conservation value. Hardly any offspring of farmers are turning to the land. The fields grow rank, as they did in Henry V when the men were away at war.
Yet Tesco's profits are counted in billions ...."Read in full
2nd November 2005 ~ "their decisions on licensing the premises were characterised by a lack of direction, inaction, inconsistency and an extravagant use of resources to no useful purpose"
Government News Network for Tuesday 27 May 1997 The Parliamentary Ombudsman
" MAFF undertook to make improvements in the licensing system ..... A group of residents complained that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) failed to act properly to control the activities of a waste food processing plant. MAFF inspectors' reports of 154 visits made by them to the plant over four years recorded many contraventions of MAFF's licence conditions eg: skips of unprocessed offal lying uncovered, infestation of rats, pigs in pens flooded with waste contaminated water. The Ombudsman found that MAFF persistently mishandled the complaints about conditions at the plant and that their decisions on licensing the premises were characterised by a lack of direction, inaction, inconsistency and an extravagant use of resources to no useful purpose. The license of the plant was finally revoked and MAFF undertook to make improvements in the licensing system and produced revised guidance.(C.851/92)" It would be interesting to know what improvements were made
Ist November 2005 ~ Re Foot and Mouth 2001. Andrew George calls for an independent review of what happened in terms of Defra's responsibility
The Western Morning News today:
In written evidence to the Commons public accounts committee the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it had been aware that Bobby Waugh had brought unprocessed catering waste on to his Northumberland pig farm just weeks before the disaster began, in clear breach of the regulations at the time.....
The new evidence will reopen concerns about the role of government inspectors who renewed the farmer's licence to feed swill just weeks before the outbreak began in February 2001, despite signs that his farm was breaching regulations. The department's evidence claims that inspectors did not allow Mr Waugh to "store" unprocessed swill on his farm, but concedes that "some unprocessed catering waste was held temporarily".
...."Read in full. Whether or not FMD really started at Burnside Farm (and many, looking at the evidence, do not believe that it did) government inspection was woeful and the way the swill feeders subsequently had their livelihoods destroyed gives cause for great concern. The parallels between Defra's inspection failures at Burnside Farm and those at the Pegasus Birds quarantine centre where the H5N1 virus infected one or more imported wild birds last month seem inescapable.
Ist November 2005 ~ The Swill Feeders' faith in the Ombudsman
Robert Persey writes, "....The Parliamentary Ombudsman is aware of the Jim Dring confession. She is aware that MAFF officials knew that unprocessed swill was being stored at Burnside Farm, contrary to the 1999 ABPO. She has seen the video depicting the appalling conditions at Burnside Farm sanctioned by the MAFF. She is aware that MAFF ignored numerous complaints about Burnside Farm including complaints by Chris Mullins M.P, the RSPCA and various neighbours including two doctors.
It has just been revealed that a previous Parliamentary Ombudsman identified serious maladministration by MAFF in the mid 1990's when they renewed a swill feeding licence on a farm, where the conditions should have prevented the renewal of the licence. (Case no.C 851/92). The circumstances of that investigation are identical to the present investigation..." Read in full
31st October 2005 ~"If the stories that other birds went through the quarantine centre at the same time are untrue, then the government should say so."
The Conservative Party, who say they will support the Government in taking action to prevent avian influenza from becoming established in the UK, today held a Press Conference. Jim Paice, said
“.....Any consignment of birds legally entering the UK must have been accompanied by paperwork so HM Revenue and Customs should be able to identify any consignments which were sent for quarantine to Pegasus Birds in the last three months ..shared the premises whilst the parrots and the birds from Taiwan were present. If they did, what efforts are being made to trace them?.....Has DEFRA considered offering amnesty if necessary to encourage anyone to report buying or selling these birds?
. .”Read in full See also BBC
31st October 2005 ~ European legislation permits "Market Authorisation" to be bypassed in exceptional, objective and verifiable circumstances
"Market Authorisation" is a licence to market a medicine, granted in the UK by the Licensing Authority
or in Europe by the European Medicines Evaluation Agency.
On 23 March 2004
Owen Paterson asked Ben Bradshaw whether it is possible "to use vaccines without their undergoing the full market authorisation process. "
Mr. Bradshaw replied at length but it emerged that
"....European legislation permits provisional marketing authorisations to be granted, in exceptional, objective and verifiable circumstances, without the need for a full data dossier. Such authorisations are only granted where safety has been established and are subject to specific conditions, such as the carrying out of further studies for efficacy." (Hansard) What is even more interesting,
this 2002-2003 NAO report on page 9 of 54, point 18, says that although vaccines routinely administered in UK are required to have Market Authorisation the Government had allowed the smallpox vaccine to be administered without market authorisation. In the case of the PowderJect affair, an indemnity against any damages to the value of £30 million had been taken out by the government.
31st October 2005 ~ Spain's stockpile of bird flu vaccine will be 10 million doses . Quarantine to be set up around any suspected outbreaks
We find it quite extraordinary that CVO Debby Reynolds' given excuse for the government's decision to ignore the available vaccines is that such vaccines do not have "marketing authorisations" - as if such authorisation somehow was needed for the vaccines to work. Political will is what is needed in the UK. Spain says its own stockpile of bird flu vaccine for chickens would be doubled to 10 million doses and, if necessary, quarantine would be set up around any suspected bird flu outbreaks, with poultry in nearby areas receiving vaccinations. (Breitbart.com)
31st October 2005 ~ Where is the leadership?
The decision by the government not to compensate for diseased birds (DEFRA factsheet page) will mean that sickness among poultry is very likely to go unreported. As in 2001, there is an unease and growing dismay among producers and owners, but very little genuine, informed advice is being circulated from Government or even, it seems, from so-called key stakeholders who do have contact with DEFRA. This is not just the little people for whom no register exists.
The Wernlas Collection of rare breeds and poultry, at Ludlow in Shropshire, for example, - quite apart from its innate worth - is just one of the centres needed by producers of poultry in order to cross breed. It is quite impossible for such places to house their birds entirely under cover. Rare breeds cannot be mixed up together. By yesterday, no advice had been received at Wernlas from DEFRA.
Owen Paterson MP has an impressive list of questions for Mrs Beckett.
31st October 2005 ~ Lessons not learned
The BBC's Countryfile yesterday spoke of the shortage of vets - then repeated the advice that owners of sick birds should "alert their vets". Problems connected with Notifiable Disease Preparedness within the State Veterinary Service were very fully addressed by the Drummond Report (slow pdf in new window) six years ago (January 1999). If its recommendations about such things as Contingency Planning, Training, IT preparedness, humane slaughter methods, staffing and management and so on had been followed then much of the panic and misery of Foot and Mouth would simply not have happened. If we do start to see mass killing of birds in this country instead of timely vaccination and humane care, it will prove that leadership has again failed most miserably. Today's parallels with foot and mouth are really astounding.
30th October 2005 ~ "Defra's experts went out of their way to ignore him."
Booker's Notebook in the Sunday Telegraph is scathing about the apparent ignorance of those in charge of the avian influenza policy when asked questions by Owen Paterson:
"...... Defra had now admitted that not one but two parrots had died. But, since their samples had been muddled up, it was not clear whether both had been infected, or only one - and if so, which? ......Read in full
Mr Paterson tried to ask the vital question:
which "clade", or sub-type of the H5N1 family of viruses, had been found in the parrots? This was crucial, because only three clades have so far been linked to human deaths (all in east Asia, but not Taiwan). Mr Paterson tried to put his question three times, but Defra's experts went out of their way to ignore him. They were unfamiliar with the scientific term clade, and had not the slightest idea which had been found in the parrots.
So, the people who are supposed to be in charge of a situation that is spiralling into a health scare of historic proportions couldn't tell which bird had been infected. Their statement that it might have come from Taiwan was pure guesswork (and is to be the basis of a strong complaint from the Taiwanese government). And, when it came to the most crucial evidence of all - identifying the clade - it seemed they could not even grasp why this was relevant.
30th October 2005 ~ It needed only Roy Anderson
the architect of the 2001 culling policy, and his boast that Britain's plans to cope with an outbreak of both bird flu in poultry and a human strain are "as good as, if not better" than other leading countries (See BBC) to show that history really does seem to be in the process of repeating itself. Still a talking head on infectious diseases as well as Scientific Adviser at the Ministry of Defence, the professor of extermination's words rock no boats, challenge no fossilised mindsets nor question political expediency. He is certainly an expert in certain areas. It seems that only the Soil Association is pointing out that the plans for mass culling are unethical and unnecessary.
Yet there are effective vaccines for the birds. Simple on-site diagnosis is a fact of modern medical and veterinary life so there is no need for firebreak culls. . USDA has plans to use both rapid diagnosis and vaccination. We do not.
The Associated Press photograph on the BBC page shows one of the nightmare scenes of killing chickens en mass that Professor Anderson, Debby Reynolds and Bob McCracken and all seem to find acceptable, politically expedient and preferable to the technical advances that allow humane, veterinary solutions.
October 29th 2005 ~ "Vaccinate" urges Soil Association. "Culling and good biosecurity" says Debby Reynolds
Heart sinking listening on Farming Today This Week (Listen Again );
the Soil Association's letter to the PM about ring vaccination is discussed and the question of validation rears its head yet again - this despite the fact that Intervet's Nobilis Influenza H5 vaccine has been so successful in Hong Kong and, as Dr Paul von Aarle says below "is an alternative to mass culling." (and of course prevents having to bring free-range birds indoors. Chief Veterinary Officer, Debby Reynolds, asked why vaccination isn't a "much higher priority", while at least admitting it was now the "first choice" for FMD, said,
"for bird flu we do not have a marketing authorisation...isn't available for poultry generally across Europe"What she means is that it doesn't have political approval. This is not the same as not being available. Effective vaccines are available - just as they were in 2001. After four long years of daily updates and the urging of lessons to be learned, we watch what is happening in the UK with a sickening feeling of deja vu. Once again, for want of political will to validate the effective, modern tools of disease control, killing en masse with all its distress and waste is likely to be used again.
October 29 -~ Farming This Week made it clear that the UK did indeed oppose an EU ban on the importation of wild birds seven months ago.
We also hear about the difficulties of producing a register of poultry owners, the virtual impossibility of putting netting above free-range birds, anger at the idea that bird auctions should be banned and the likelihood that bans will send sales underground, criticisms at over-reaction from a government trying to cover its back after FMD, and welfare considerations about keeping birds indoors. Bob McCracken - another vet - giving loud reassuring advice about battery chickens, and discussion of what happens to reporting if farmers are not compensated for diseased birds. (Debby Reynolds opining that since it is in "everyone's best interests", then somehow reporting will happen anyway..) Listen to the programme and weep.
October 28th 2005 ~ The Soil Association "vaccination in the form of a ring-fence is a proven, effective tool that should be used ahead of any moves to bring organic and free-range poultry indoors"
The Soil Association's Press Release says,
use of vaccination in the form of a ring-fence is a proven, effective tool that should be used ahead of any moves to bring organic and free-range poultry indoors throughout the country and to prevent the mass-slaughter of UK poultry.
Read in full
The EU position is that vaccination can be used and is also the method of control endorsed by both the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Despite this official support, Defra does not currently ‘expect’ vaccination to be part of the UK avian influenza control strategy and unlike other EU countries, such as Spain, the UK has no stockpiles of appropriate vaccine.
Following a review of evidence from around the world, the Soil Association has produced a detailed briefing that has been sent to the Prime Minister requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the adoption of ring-vaccination as a key control strategy. The briefing is also being made available to poultry producers and the public. Urgent action is needed, given the potential for an imminent outbreak and the fact that it will take at least three months to produce sufficient stocks of vaccine and to train people to administer it to birds effectively and humanely. ...
October 27th/28th 2005 ~ "unbelievable that Defra can't understand the detail of the EU regulation..."
From the Independent article "Revealed: how a Government blunder over quarantine fuelled bird flu crisis"
....Cristiana Senni of the World Parrot Trust, a charity that has tried to ban the trade in wild birds.....
"It's unbelievable that Defra can't understand the detail of the EU regulation on quarantines, which clearly states that each quarantine unit should hold only birds of the same consignment," Ms Senni said.
"This, of course, is an obvious requirement, otherwise the whole principle of quarantine would be useless, as this latest incident showed...." " And we still do not know whether an earlier consignment were subclinically infected and have been dispersed, following quarantine, into the UK.
October 27th 2005 ~ Bird owners might start asking DEFRA now to make preparations for avian flu vaccination
Dr Paul van Aarle and Intervet International may be being officially approached. Let us hope that they are. Paul van Aarle's submission to the Royal Society Inquiry into Infectious Diseases about the effficacy of vaccination can be seen here (new window) . It is thought that it was his clear explanation of the efficiency, rapid use and validation of the Chekit-FMD3 ABC marker test that persuaded the Royal Society of the validity of vaccination and differential testing for FMD.
For H5N1 infection in birds too, the vaccines are already there. (Not to be confused with treatments such as Tamilflu for human beings) As Dr Paul von Aarle says below "Nobilis Influenza H5 vaccine is an alternative to mass culling." It worked in Hong Kong. After its use there were no more cases. It could certainly work here. Contact DEFRA.
October 27th 2005 ~ USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) developed a rapid diagnostic test for avian influenza two years ago and used it in Texas.
Key extracts from an article entitled USDA response to Avian Flu (USDA = United States Department of Agriculture)
show that USDA is trying to work in genuine partnership, giving advice, having rapid diagnosis at the ready and maintaining vaccine supplies for birds.
To encourage producers to report sick birds, APHIS conducts an outreach campaign called "Biosecurity for the Birds." It provides poultry producers with the latest information on biosecurity, in several languages, to prevent the spread of this disease on the farm. Additional surveillance efforts specifically target the live bird markets. USDA works closely with the industry to randomly test commercial flocks as well as testing birds that show signs of illness...... Read in full particularly for the advice given to producers and poultry owners.
In 2002, the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) developed a rapid diagnostic test for avian influenza. ARS continually improves the sensitivity of the test. This test diagnoses avian influenza within three hours, compared with up to two weeks required for previous tests. The rapid diagnostic test was used in the eradication of avian influenza in Texas in 2004.......
APHIS also maintains an AI vaccine supply for poultry that can be used to create a buffer around an identified area, in the event of a large outbreak among poultry, to contain the disease while it is in the process of being eradicated ..."
October 27th 2005 ~ Brett Hammond made £7.7million by smuggling exotic birds.
It seems that in spite of his trade in illegal wildlife, the owner of the Brentwood quarantine centre was only ever charged for a £650,000 VAT evasion and jailed for a year. DEFRA's spokesman claimed defensively and rather oddly, given the sweeping powers it has abrogated to itself lately, "We don't have the right, duty or obligation to check someone's criminal record."
DEFRA then, without making checks, used the centre for the quarantine of imported birds during a global scare, and a "government veterinarian" - who must have been aware of the mix-up of tissue samples and "conflicting reports", told the Telegraph that there was " no evidence so-far to suggest Britain's quarantine system had failed". (See Lycos report) The news that an earlier consignment of birds may have been subclinically infected has not yet been explained. (See below) Now the UK government, ignoring the modern and effective use of vaccine and rapid diagnosis, (see below), appears to be preparing for yet another mass slaughter.
October 27th 2005 ~
DEFRA demands cooperation from all livestock producers. How much competent management and reciprocal help is offered?
Roger Breeze's paper Disease control: Ideas for cost sharing between industry and government is more relevant than ever. The quarantine centre fiasco suggests that DEFRA is not even beginning to fulfil its side of the much vaunted "partnership".
The Daily Mirror said yesterday of Brett Hammond,
" ....he kept his prices low by ignoring regulations at a makeshift quarantine centre he built in the back garden of his rundown bungalow...Birds were dropped off in the dead of night for sale the next day, despite the fact all captive birds imported into the UK were required to undergo 35 days' quarantine..." We understand that the RSPCA has been aware of the centre, as has Animal Aid. DEFRA, on the other hand would seem to be turning a blind eye to a highly lucrative trade.
Oliver Letwin has asked Mrs Beckett why six months ago Britain should actually have blocked a European ban on importing live birds.
An emailer writes,
"One does rather wonder what DEFRA is for. Its answer to animal health problems to kill en masse - for trade reasons - both sick and healthy animals. Beyond imposing regulations that cause utter frustration what good do they do to safeguard the health of man or beast? Yet are they not supposed to be public servants? Then we read that DEFRA told the Essex centre "not to say anything". (see below) These echoes of the secrecy and cover-ups of foot and mouth are very frightening."
October 26th 2005 ~ The OIE launched a procedure for validation and certification for diagnostic tests in September 2005
There are however no pages on the OIE website to clarify the situation.
The HPAI situation is one that cries out for rapid on-site diagnosis (and for vaccination. See below). Given that rapid on-site PCR testing is widespread elsewhere, the apparent absence even now for such testing to be routinely used in the UK seems incomprehensible - unless there are darker financial considerations at work.
We very much fear that the UK mindset for mass slaughter, the assumption by such as Mr Ruttles that the logistics of mass slaughter of birds " are much easier because they are smaller animals" and the strange complexity of OIE regulations will lead to more unbearable and unnecessary carnage.
(In the US, Cepheid today has launched the "only molecular platform that
integrates microfluidic sample preparation with the sensitivity of real-time
polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based molecular detection resulting in the
first easy-to-use system in this rapidly growing field." GeneExpert)
October 26th 2005 ~ An earlier batch of birds that could have been carrying a subclinical avian flu infection were kept at Brentwood before the Surinam parrots arrived.
DEFRA, it seems, has been checking a consignment of birds that arrived "some time ago" as part of its efforts to trace the origin of the infection. We know that on Sept 16, 148 parrots and softbills arrived at the quarantine centre after being imported from Surinam. Ten days later, 216 birds arrived from Taiwan and were taken to the same compound. On Oct 19, two of the Surinam parrots died. But it seems likely that an earlier batch of birds could have been carrying a subclinical avian flu infection. Because of the stress involved for birds captured and kept in conditions so graphically described by Animal Aid's paper "From Jungle to Jumble" (pdf new window) the subclinically infected birds could have excreted the virus without appearing infected themselves. And birds have not been subject to routine testing in spite of this disease being known about for 3 years. (Australia has today announced strengthened quarantine arrangements for all countries exporting birds to Australia. )
If this batch of wild caught birds were indeed capable of spreading H5N1, where are they now?
We now read in the Guardian that
"A mass cull of poultry in the UK is being prepared by Defra officials in meetings with some of the main agricultural firms involved in the clean up and disposal of hundreds of thousands of cattle, pig and sheep carcasses during the foot and mouth epidemic." Read in full
Oct 26 2005 ~ DEFRA mindset is still for mass slaughter. Robin Maynard calls this "medieval". Intervet says Hong Kong free of all outbreaks since using vaccine instead of killing.
The Guardian reports that DEFRA are asking contractors such as Ruttles (who might well be wary this time round) to prepare for a possible mass cull of poultry. There are around 182 million laying hens and unfortunate broiler chickens and a further 5 million turkeys that might be killed in the UK
Mr Ruttle is reported as saying ".... the logistics are much easier because they are smaller animals."
At least Robin Maynard, from the Soil Association, has condemned any planned cull, saying Defra should be considering stockpiling a vaccine which has been used in Hong Kong rather than considering "medieval" practices like mass slaughter.
The Guardian reports that
"Paul van Aarle, from the pharmaceutical firm Intervet, which produces the Nobilis Influenza H5 vaccine said it was an alternative to mass culling. In Hong Kong it was used in an avian influenza control programme and there have been no new bird or human outbreaks since, he said.....
European Union vets rubber stamped a month-long ban on the importation of wild birds into Europe yesterday.
October 26th 2005 ~ Pegasus Birds Ltd. says, "We have been told by Defra not to say anything."
A convicted VAT fraudster owns the company running the quarantine centre in Essex where the H5N1 parrot died. A bizarre connection between this and foot and mouth disease is that the quarantine centre owned by Pegasus Birds Ltd, one of the UK's biggest wild bird importers and retailers, is actually next door to Cheale Meats. Brett Hammond, its owner, was jailed for not paying £650,000 of VAT. The firm was named by the Sun newspaper and DEFRA was at first unwilling to confirm that this was indeed the quarantine centre involved. This firm has been watched by the RSPCA for several years. According to the Telegraph yesterday, "a spokesman at the bird dealership said: "We don't want to say anything about the parrot that died. We have been told by Defra not to say anything." (Lycos news yesterday)
October 24th 2005 ~ "A reservoir for cross contamination" Why did Debby Reynolds say that the UK quarantine rules were working?
It has emerged that the parrot caught the disease by being kept with birds from Taiwan.
Listen Again to the BBC World at One- There is scathing criticism from a rather distressed-sounding leading bird vet, Alan Jones - and not very convincing reassurance from Debby Reynolds.
Once again, Defra and the government's CVO seem to have been unaware of what has been going on. ( Read part of the transcript) .
There was no mention on the programme of the mix-up of tissue samples.
The presenter's last question to Dr Reynolds made it clear that if Europe did not agree to a ban on live bird imports, Britain would not be legally permitted to take action alone.
October 24th 2005 ~ The parrot: "It is unlikely that it came to the UK infected.."
Although, as we say below, the human risk from avian influenza may have been hyped by journalists and politicians, there is a real risk to birds in the UK. Chickens and other poultry are highly susceptible to H5N1. A ProMED expert moderator said yesterday that the parrot that died in the UK is unlikely to have been infected in Surinam since
"the incubation of
avian influenza is considered to be not longer than 7 days. It is
thus unlikely that it came to the UK infected. " If it contracted H5N1 while in the UK this raises urgent questions and it is not surprising that ProMED is looking forward
to the outcome of the UK investigation into the origin of infection
in this case One wonders if they are aware of the mix-up of tissue samples
Even the multi-billion legal global trade in pet birds, where veterinary inspection is "a complex, laborious and
expensive task" constitutes a significant disease risk. The illegal trade
Interpol to be worth USD 6 to 10 billion annually (2nd only to the
illegal drug trade), threatens the health of humans and may lead to
the extinction of many species of animals.
He says that the black market in illegal animal products, estimated by
Interpol to be worth USD 6 to 10 billion annually (2nd only to the
illegal drug trade), threatens the health of humans and may lead to
the extinction of many species of animals." ProMED website
October 23/24th 2005 ~ Panic and the cuckoo's nest
Those of us who observed with deepening horror and disbelief the panicky and messy bureaucratic slaughter of millions (sic) of healthy animals and their young in 2001, now watch the growing bird flu hysteria with a certain despairing fatalism. As we reported here on October 20th, the Stockholm-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says
"The risk for citizens to have this virus is minimal. This virus is not yet adapted to humans, it is not capable of human-to-human transmission and until that happens this will not be a pandemic strain" (Reuters) Christopher Booker, in today's Sunday Telegraph, raises questions that should be being loudly asked by those able properly to quiz the scientists
"...Millions of birds in Britain have been exposed to the "H5 strain". Even the more precise term "H5N1" does not name a distinct virus but a group of linked sub-types, only one of which has so far proved lethal to humans - and that has never been identified outside Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam. ...
Read in full - and listen to our CVO, Debby Reynolds on Saturday's Today Programme whose evasive answers hardly inspired confidence that she was on top of her subject. Keepers of free-range hens, knowing that the government is seeking powers to kill all poultry, untested, in a wide radius of any unfortunate bird testing positive for what they consider to be a threat, may be remembering 2001 with dread.
contrary to popular misconception, the tendency of viruses is not to become more virulent but the opposite (for the sound evolutionary reason that it hardly promotes survival to kill off your host)....
The initial hysteria, whipped up by gullible politicians and journalists, produces a deluge of headlines. By the time it emerges that this was based on a complete misreading of the scientific evidence, no one is interested. And by then the damage has been done."
October 21 2005 ~ DEFRA spent nearly 9 million pounds on 3 outside law firms in 2002-2004
Yesterday, Owen Paterson, in deploring the cuts made by DEFRA that threaten, among others, the British beekeepers, mentioned the figure of £8,959,406.49 spent on only three outside law firms between 2002 and September 2004. As Owen Paterson put it, "DEFRA's astonishing annual travel budget of £2,224,000" may also raise eyebrows when one considers the Department's record - But was the figure of nearly £9 million spent on trying to avoid paying the contractors' outstanding invoices from Foot and Mouth - to whom it still owes more than £40 million? (See FPB campaign)
October 21 2005 ~ a single poultry register - "We know where you live"
Poultry farmers will be required to register Britain's entire flock of 150 million chickens and turkeys under new contingency plans announced last night to prepare for the arrival of avian flu. See Independent
Stung by Oliver Letwin last night into admitting there was as yet no requirement to register a poultry business, Mr Ben Bradshaw told him that the government
"wouldn't necessarily know all of them existed. It was their own responsibility to find out what they should be doing. The information was readily available and they should be asking their vets what to do." Oliver Letwin had told Ben Bradshaw that his staff had contacted 25 commercial poultry dealers over the last 48 hours
"... we discovered that 16 of the 25 have never received any communication from DEFRA and could not give positive answers to the question Has DEFRA offered any positive assistance in identifying any possible signs of outbreak? or to the question Has DEFRA offered any advice on protective clothing? Why is the Minister's Department not taking the action now that could be taken now to diminish the chances of a problem later?" (cries of hear hear)
It might be considered, with the foot and mouth fiasco such a raw memory for livestock owners, unbelieveable crassness that the government now hopes to impose a poultry register (a good thing in a true and trusting partnership) with no understanding of the deep distrust of rural livestock owners and the resentment and suspicion that such a move is already engendering. As usual, the government seems to assume that its top-down diktats will be adhered to. Par for the course is its very misplaced assumption that there is no need for any reciprocal offers of advantage for those who accept the onerous conditions of partnership in animal disease control. The Minister would find excellent advice in Roger Breeze's paper Disease control: Ideas for cost sharing between industry and government which has been warmly discussed on the EU funded Coordination Action website
October 15 - 21 2005 ~ Illegal imports. Deliberate spread?
Alertnet.org reports: "Taiwan has found birds infected with the H5N1 flu lethal to humans in a container smuggled from China..."
With the UK's record on illegal imports and testing, one wonders how likely it would be that a container with smuggled birds would be found before being offloaded at a UK port. Even if it were, would the birds be tested for H5N1?
On 5 March 2005 warmwell reported
"..... part of Farming Today This Week in which we heard that bird feathers from China can carry the bird flu virus. Although, because of avian influenza, poultry meat has been banned, duck, chicken and turkey feathers were still being imported. Professor Hugh Pennington says the virus can survive in faecal material on the feathers and cleaning cannot insure against this "very nasty business" and that we should not rely on luck in the face of a "very great risk" for indigenous birds or potential to kill people. He says he is "unhappy about the importation of feathers". DEFRA issues no guidelines for any but the most cursory visual testing. No lab testing for pathogens is done at all. They are only interested in "certification". Inspectors are, sadly, not infallible. Has anything changed? We should be very interested to know. (email)
See also BBC report at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4321059.stm
October 15 - 21 2005 ~ "no chance of an imminent bird flu pandemic" says ECDC
Reuters ".......Stockholm-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) European Union sought to calm fears.
"For the time being there is no reason to panic in Europe," Zsuzsanna Jakab, head of the center, told a news conference. "The risk for citizens to have this virus is minimal. This virus is not yet adapted to humans, it is not capable of human-to-human transmission and until that happens this will not be a pandemic strain," Jakab said.
October 15 - 21 2005 ~ All fowl to be vaccinated in Vietnam - Avian Influenza - latest information
Via ProMed mail - extracts
".....From Mon 17 Oct 2005: The Commission is made aware of AI suspicion in a
turkey on the island of Innusis (Chios nomos), Greece.
See updates regularly on ProMed mail.org.
Tue 18 Oct 2005: UK Presidency request AI is considered as part of an
Extraordinary General Affairs Council (GAERC) meeting, Luxembourg. Europa.eu.int
"Viet NamThe Vietnamese government has recently decided to spend 700 billion
Vietnamese dong (VND) (USD 44.3 million) on vaccinating fowl. Viet
Nam is importing more bird flu vaccines from China so as to complete
the 1st batch of vaccination by late next month [November 2005].
All fowl will have been vaccinated by late March 2007....
....Viet Nam has detected 22 bird flu outbreaks in 10 provinces since
April 2005, which have killed and led to the forced culling of nearly
14 400 fowl, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
To deal with possible bird flu outbreaks among humans in the coming
time, the government will upgrade hospitals and ensure sufficient
reserves of anti-virus drugs with an estimated cost of some 6870
billion VND (nearly USD 434.8 million), according to delegates to an
anti-bird flu meeting hosted by the Government Office on Monday "Xinhuanet.com
Bangkok"....In an alarming development, amid frenzied attempts by
the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) to control the spread
of the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza, laboratory tests have
revealed the virus has already spread to such migratory birds as
sparrows, pigeons and mynas.." NationMedia.com
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ Farmers and vets are the front line. Essential for any disease control or eradication
program: ".. properly equipped and well-manned veterinary
services, independent of political pressures and backed by
the necessary diagnostic capabilities...." together with cooperation from farmers able to trust in the authorities.
In Asia, the H5N1 bird flu virus
has thrived since late 2003 despite the slaughter of literally
millions of birds. ProMed reports the Reuters news article of Oct 11th, quoting Dr Alejandro
Thiermann, president of the International Animal Health Code Commision
"....There is much talk about humans but not about birds. 10 per cent of the money spent on drug
research could have a big impact on fighting bird flu at the
farm level..If we do it, we may never see the pandemic, and
we may never need those vaccines"..."Thiermann feared farmers would not report cases if they
got little or no compensation for their culled flocks.
"These people have a lot to lose. If nobody is going to
compensate them, why should they report?," he said.
Uncertainty about the presence of Avian influenza in Europe prompts this expert moderator comment on ProMed:
yesterday's ProMed avian influenza entry
" [Dr Thiermann has indeed hit a right, critical spot related
to avian influenza control efforts; the cooperation of
farmers is essential for any disease control or eradication
program. Without their confidence in secured, realistic
compensations, timely payable if flocks are to be stamped
out, information on suspected disease cases will be
withheld. This simple truth has been demonstrated in the
past in developed as well as in developing countries; it is apparent also in
the current news items from Romania and Turkey.
with efficient, properly equipped and well-manned veterinary
services, independent of political pressures and backed by
the necessary diagnostic capabilities, success might be
expected. - Mod.AS] See ProMed mail
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "... public concern that new technological advances in vaccine production, diagnostic testing and epidemiology have not been significantly employed."
"a new EU animal health strategy is being developed aiming to strengthen the policy of disease prevention, make emergency vaccination a more viable option, simplify the legislation and finance new actions."
"At the initiative of the EU Commission, an animal health "Technology Platform" is being set up, which bring together companies, research institutions, the financial world and the regulatory authorities at the European level to define a common research agenda which should mobilise a critical mass of national and European public and private resources. This project will be industry driven to develop and deliver the most up-to-date tools (e.g. new vaccines or tests) to control animal diseases of major importance to Europe and to the rest of the world."
The final version (August 2005) can be seen here (pdf file in new window)
In Europe, control of diseases such as FMD, CSF and Avian Influenza has involved mass slaughter of animals infected with the disease and the precautionary slaughter of those assessed to have been in contact and potentially infected with the same virus. The emergence of these diseases in Europe and Asia has led to the slaughter of millions of animals at high economic cost. This has given rise to public concern that new technological advances in vaccine production, diagnostic testing and epidemiology have not been significantly employed. For ethical, ecological, environmental, social and eco-nomic reasons there is a need for alternative solutions to be found for the control and eradication of epidemic diseases...(1.3) . (read in full)
....The potential of new advances in vaccine development cannot be fully exploited if there is no public acceptance of the technologies involved. Safety and ethical concerns have to be taken seriously and attempts need to be made to inform and educate the public on the benefits and risks of new technologies. (2.4)"
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "loss of trust in authority and systems of control"
The report from Lancaster University
Psychosocial effects of the 2001 UK foot and mouth disease epidemic in a rural population: qualitative diary based study ( Read the report as a web page )
"The epidemic was a human tragedy, not just an animal one. Longitudinal ethnographic study shows the profound psychosocial effects of the disaster among a wide range of rural workers and residents that would not be revealed by more traditional biomedical or health research methods...
The study shows that continuing feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster, concern about the undermining of the value of local knowledge, long after the end of the epidemic, still cause distress. It reflects the personal feelings of trauma owing to "chaos, to loss of personal security, and a feeling of powerlessness in the face of conflicting advice".
...We argue for more flexibility in disaster planning and organisational emergency plans (such as less tightly prescribed steps and invariant sequences in planning)..."
From the point of view of animal disease control, the "loss of trust in authority and systems of control" expressed by the respondents is perhaps one of the most worrying aspects of the study. An email received on Friday makes a valid point
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "...her most harrowing piece of research"
Yorkshire Post today, reporting on the Lancaster University report The Health and Social Consequences of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic (pdf - new window):
Fifty-four people, including farmers, vicars, district nurses and vets, were independently selected for the research carried out by Lancaster University, and funded by £259,000 from the Department of Health.
Read in full
During 18 months from December 2001, participants wrote more than 3,200 weekly diaries and also gave in-depth interviews and participated in group discussions. An agricultural worker's diary entry said: "Normally you go out on a farm and have a laugh and a joke, you value the stock for them and you do your job professionally.
"This was different – this was trying to keep the farmers upright, trying to stop them from bursting into tears, or to control it if they did burst into tears. I had times when I had farmers in tears, vets in tears, and slaughtermen in tears, and that's bloody hard to know what to do."...
"The sheer scale of the disaster is greater and wider and involved more people than has previously been understood.
"People remain extremely worried that foot and mouth may reappear, and if it does how it will be dealt with."
October 7 - 14 2005 ~ "The study shows that life after the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic has been accompanied by distress, feelings of bereavement, fear of a new disaster, loss of trust in authority and system of control and by the undermining of the value of local knowledge"
A report by Lancaster University, The Health and Social Consequences of the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease Epidemic (pdf - new window) , published in the British Medical Journal, gets important coverage by the BBC
"People affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001 suffered symptoms close to post-traumatic stress disorder for months afterwards...
Flashbacks, nightmares, and conflict in communities were among problems found...Read in full ( The article also acknowledges that the number of animals killed was greater than the official 6 million.)
....Uncontrollable emotions and increased social isolation were also identified by the Lancaster University Institute for Health Research.
There was evidence in the longer term of anxieties about emissions from disposal sites where animal bodies were burned and buried, as well as confusion, bitterness and increased fear of unemployment. .."
October 1 - 7 2005 ~ Defra still has to settle bills worth £20 million in Devon.
The Western Morning News reports on the Ruttles case and quotes Nick Goulding of the FPB "..... "As a result of the precedent set by this court judgment, we will be encouraging several other contractors we have been supporting to pursue Defra for payment, and claim interest at a rate of over 12 per cent for late payment as their statutory right.
This will mean Defra having to pay out up to another £40 million plus interest nationally."
The FPB alleges the Government department could be forced to hand over millions of pounds to a long queue of other contractors still waiting to be paid for the disposal of millions of livestock in Britain's foot and mouth epidemic in 2001..." Read in full
October 1 - 7 2005 ~Vaccinated steak and chips, please
An article in today's Times by Magnus Linklater
".... ...There was a time, after the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, when the National Farmers’ Union uttered dire warnings about the problems caused by buying meat from countries that vaccinated their herds. Ben Gill, who was then the President of the NFU, gave warning that vaccinated animals might be potential carriers of the disease .....
It was this implacable objection to immunisation as the alternative to mass slaughter that convinced Tony Blair, when he took over the campaign to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), that it was pointless to explore the option of vaccinating sheep and cattle rather than killing them. No evidence was produced to show that vaccinated animals carried the disease, yet some six million animals were culled, at massive cost to the farming industry and British tourism.
The final bill has never been fully quantified, not least because the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has tried to conceal the full total of the sums paid out...
Meanwhile, Brazil and Argentina, where animals have traditionally and routinely been vaccinated, have stepped up their exports to Europe. Far from being commercially blighted, their beef industries are thriving....Defra insists that meat is fully inspected at the port of entry, and only imported from FMD-free zones. Controls, however, are only as good as the country that first imported the meat. ...
....We might perhaps be told about the wholesale destruction of the Amazonian rainforest, which is the price being paid so that Brazil can extend its grasslands and cater for the world’s appetite for cheap meat.......
.read in full
October 1 - 7 2005 ~ "Six million"? - "We will never know exactly how many were culled but it was many more than the official figure"
Although "six million" now seems the official figure usually quoted in newspaper articles of the number of animals slaughtered in the FMD crisis, Jane Connor, chief economist of the Meat and Livestock Commission, told Craig Robertson of the Sunday Post on 20th January 2002 that
".. a conservative estimate of 1.2 offspring per breeding sheep culled would mean four million lambs were killed but not accounted for.
Read in full
Lambs "at foot" of sheep marked for slaughter were also killed but the official tally would only record one animal. The same procedure operated for culled cattle.
Similarly, there were 595,000 cattle culled but the official figures don't include the 100,000 calves killed with them or the 50,000 calves close to birth.
The Welfare Disposal Scheme - set up to cull animals that could not be moved because of restrictions accounted for another 1.6 million sheep and lambs, 169,000 cattle and 288,000 pigs. Another half million light lambs were culled because there was no longer a market for them. None of these is included in the Government's total.
Jane Connor says, "We will never know exactly how many were culled but it was many more than the official figure"
A spokesman for DEFRA initially insisted the number of sheep and livestock culled included offspring killed- with them However, after being told that MLC said otherwise, they -checked their figures.
The press officer returned to admit, "I stand corrected on that one. It- -seems it is standard practice - to count ewes and offspring as one animal. Your information is correct."
The final toll was at least -10,849,000 animals killed.
October 1 - 7 2005 ~ "..in reality the disease, as well as the infection, was effectively eliminated by the strategic application of oil-adjuvanted vaccines."
"Since 2001 the countries of the Southern Cone have re-instated the systematic vaccination of the cattle population with oil-adjuvanted FMD vaccines. Consequently, there have been several years without FMD or virus circulation in one of the biggest livestock regions of the world..."
The contribution by Raúl Casas -Former Director of the Panaftosa Panamerican FMD Centre to the discussion on the CA website (new window) is very important. There seems no doubt that had vaccination been used in the UK, as it was so successfully used in Uruguay at the same time and for a very similar outbreak, literally billions of pounds could have been saved, literally millions of healthy animals, including pets, could have lived out their lives peacefully, and the rural trauma of 2001 would have been very much diminished. The reasons why pleas for vaccination in the UK were so swiftly and effectively quashed have never been properly investigated.
In July 2001, Dr Richard North wrote of Professor Roy Anderson,
"what is even more curious is his stance on vaccination. His view, articulated by The Daily Telegraph, was that: 'Immunisation would not help much because it allows the disease to spread from an infected farm, given the inevitable delay that would occur between confirmation and vaccination'.
This was from a man who was one of the prime advocates of routine vaccination, a man who works for major pharmaceutical companies which produce most of the world's vaccines. Is there any connection between Anderson and the vaccine trial on Foot and Mouth? Did something go wrong? Is this why he was so quick off the mark and so keen to have a slice of the action? I think we should be told." There was no effective Inquiry into what everyone knows was a bloody fiasco, critics were effectively silenced and the perpetrators were rewarded. Professor Anderson is now on a two-year secondment to the Ministry of Defence as Chief Scientific Adviser. As Christopher Booker wrote in 2004 , "Quite how the ability to simulate Aids epidemics on a computer, or to mastermind the slaughter of millions of healthy animals, will qualify Prof Anderson to advise the Ministry of Defence on weapons of mass destruction is not immediately clear."
September 26- 30 2005 ~ Necessary Regulation or Big Brother?
Concern about the EIG has been seen on internet forums used by smallholders. The mention of "inadequate information" noticed in paragraph 35 of the July meeting Minutes, for example, has led to worry that the England Implementation Group, in its wish to be seen to be "implementing", may rush in to impose regulation seen as important only by those who want to centralise all control of food production. The group itself, which met again this month, admitted to
"gaps in the Group’s own collective knowledge." These were identified as
However benign the intentions of members of the group, (and to admit lack of knowledge is laudable), these gaps are significant.
- fish farming;
- pharmaceutical; and,
- extensive livestock production.
September 26- 30 2005 ~ USDA's Mandatory Property and Animal Surveillance Program - necessary or another Big Brother imposition?
Among smallholders in the US there is now also considerable concern about the USDA's Mandatory Property and Animal Surveillance Program
for those who keep animals on a small scale. See this proposal
by Mary Zanoni, Ph.D. (Cornell), J.D. (Yale), Executive Director of Farm for LifeTM "Poultry fanciers and keepers of small flocks are facing a grave threat from a proposed government intrusion into their innocent choice of pastimes and way of life...."
"......In other words, if you call a vet to your property to treat your horse, cow, or any other animal, and the vet finds any animal without the mandatory 15-digit computer-readable ID, the vet may be required to report you.
And we have seen that where the US leads, the UK tends to follow as inevitably as Mary's lamb.
If you do not comply, the USDA will exercise “enforcement” against you. (St., p. 7; Plan, p. 17.) The USDA has not yet specified the nature of “enforcement,” but presumably it will include imposing fines and/or seizing your animals.
There are no exceptions -- under the USDA plan, you will be forced to register and report even if you raise animals only for your own food or keep horses for draft or for transportation.
.........People with just a few meat animals or 40-cow dairies are already living on the edge financially. The USDA plan will force many of them to give up farming....."
Read in full
September 26- 30 2005 ~ " understandable definitions of welfare and health crucial...".
Most people will never have heard of the EIG or "England Implementation Group". However, such a group has been formed under the chairmanship of Helen Browning and the minutes of the first meeting are now on the internet. As usual, for in meetings couched in political English, comments from "stakeholders" tended to bring the discussions back to earth. Several stakeholders felt that
"... animal health seemed to be undervalued. Often the intrinsic value of health is overlooked as it is not seen as a priority and in reality it should be a driving force in its own right. ... good health does not necessarily lead to good welfare but that the reverse does apply and not necessarily at extra cost. ...As for discussion of "partnership", the excellent and highly readable paper by Roger Breeze, Industry Cost Sharing could usefully be studied and discussed.
A lively debate followed on the difference between health and welfare and which came first in priority, but with no definitive outcome.
The need for a clear baseline was recognised with understandable definitions of welfare and health being crucial....
....Best practice around the country and abroad needs to be
captured and disseminated. ..... There are some excellent examples abroad, for example,
Holland where disease is being handled from the ground upwards rather than
through contracts imposed by Government...." Read in full
September 26- 30 2005 ~ £237 million spent. "we need to find indicators to help measure success"
"The AHWS defines what success would look like in its vision ..." . A large pdf file from DEFRA entitled "Background to the Animal Health and
Welfare Strategy for Great Britain.
England Implementation Group -
First meeting – 6 July 2005" presents long lists of aspects of health and welfare "strategy" that DEFRA assumes are being or hopes are to be carried out. How success in improving animal health and welfare can be measured is seen as something of a challenge, it seems.. Expenditure is more easily estimated. £237 million has been spent in 2004/5
The DEFRA pdf file is 4.7 megabytes. This HTML version is 9180 bytes only. can be seen here.
- Animal Welfare £63 million
- BSE (and other TSEs) £41 million
- Disease prevention £42 million
- Endemic disease & zoonoses (including bovine TB) £41 million
- National Scrapie Plan £24 million ( It will be seen in the minutes of the EIG meeting above that Dick Sibley asked why the Government is spending £24m on Scrapie which is
"of little consequence in the overall picture".)
September 26- 30 2005 ~ "... a commercial diagnostic kit in direct competition to our own ..."
On May 5th 2004 the Financial Times ran an article headlined, "Pressure on Porton Down to commercialise Research" in which a very senior biological defence system scientist was quoted as saying that a 20kg "soldier-proof" gene detector, designed to test for anthrax and smallpox, could have prevented much of the mass culling during the foot and mouth epidemic. Of course, such technology had already been invented by the start of the 2001 outbreak.
Evidence submitted to the Royal Society Inquiry of Edinburgh by the Director Patent and Licensing Affairs United Biomedical Inc. quotes a letter to UBI from Pirbright on 5 November 1997:
"we have ultimately decided it is not in our interests to collaborate with a company which intends to develop a commercial diagnostic kit in direct competition to our own intentions."
September 26-30 2005 ~ Commercialisation of Rapid Diagnosis PCR
The apparently senseless refusal of the UK to hasten the use of existing technology for rapid diagnosis may be readily explained.
The government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), claiming that its own scientists have "invented and patented instrumentation and chemistries to speed up the detection of DNA sequences using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) method", are hoping its spin off company, Enigma Diagnostics Ltd (Porton Down), will reap enormous financial rewards as a result of its PCR Light - "a portable real-time PCR platform for ultra-rapid, in-field detection of bio-threat agents" " ..... in-the-field testing for animal diseases including foot and mouth or tuberculosis (TB) in cattle within 30 minutes rather than taking samples back to a laboratory." (Press release)
"portable, single-shot diagnostic kits that can be used by non-specialists outside the normal laboratory setting"Once commercially available and making money, one wonders if these home-grown kits will find their way at last into the UK Contingency Plan. The total costs arising from the 2001 outbreak have been put at no less than £9 billion but the result of ignoring the available diagnostic technology in March 2001 cost the nation far more than money; the social trauma and sheer human misery that accompanied the slaughter cannot be calculated in terms of money at all.
" .... Already tested and deployed in the military field, Dstl has invested seed capital to take this technology to breadboard stage for civilian use "..(sic)
September 25 2005 ~ Research Paper 01/35
House of Commons Research Paper 01/35 (opens in new window)
contains so many of the most persuasive reasons against the slaughter policy from Abigail Woods, Professor Midmore, Peter Kindersley and the Elm Farm Research Centre, and organic farmer, Mark Houghton Brown, that it is hard to believe that when it was circulated on 27 March 2001 it did not halt the slaughter policy in its tracks. Yet the "Summary of Main Points" - all that most would bother to read - persuaded against vaccination and even ludicrously suggested that "the economic case for slaughter may be justified, even if the outbreak is expensive,
because there have been no serious outbreaks in the UK since 1967"
Much weight was given to the arguments of Professor David Harvey who was, as Campbell and Lee pointed out in their paper "Carnage by Computer"(pdf) " preoccupied with mathematical manipulation of the wholly questionable data" Four years on, a look at this research paper is heartbreaking. One wonders however how far politicians and decision makers have yet learned how utterly wrong were its conclusions.
September 23 2005 ~ If decision makers are influenced too much by Defra's Cost Benefit Analysis, then the rational use of FMD vaccines will be even more jeopardized says Raúl A. Casas
Permission has been received from Raúl A. Casas, the former Director of the Panamerican FMD Center (PANAFTOSA) to copy to warmwell his comments on the CA website FMD forum about the questionable nature of
DEFRA's cost benefit analysis on FMD vaccination. (The posting in its entirety follows contributions by Paul Sutmoller and Martin Hugh Jones.)
" I want to emphasize the important difference between the results of computer simulation CBA models and the epidemiological behavior of FMD when potent vaccines are applied with speed and precision, in addition to the immobilization of livestock and temporary suspension of livestock trade. According to the computational models, the effect of vaccines is rather mediocre while in reality the disease, as well as the infection, has been effectively eliminated during the latest epidemic FMD episodes in the countries in South America ... Read in full here or on the CA website (new window)
..... The CBA computer simulation is an important tool, but the results do not fit or reflect extensive field observations."
Raúl A. Casas concludes, "The International Animal Health Code of the OIE continues to discriminate the application of FMD vaccines by requiring longer waiting periods after vaccination with regard to the use of stamping-out to regain the status of “Free of FMD”. If decision makers are influenced too much by the results of the CBA, then the rational use of FMD vaccines to eliminate the infection would even be more jeopardized."
September 22 2005 ~ " The diagnostic approach has to focus on the presence of
virus and no longer on the presence of antibodies"
A perceived (not veterinary) problem during the FMD crisis was that recovered animals - a great many of them who had thrown off FMD with no ill effects - had to be slaughtered together with wholly unaffected fellows because of old trade rules demanding seronegative animals.
Common sense revolts - or should do. Antibodies protect against disease.
With regard to Classical Swine Fever, Martin Beer, Bernd Hoffmann and Klaus
Depner of the FLI, Island of Riems, Germany, call for a "paradgm shift" in disease control policy. They suggest in the paper DOES REAL-TIME RT-PCR FOR CSF MARK THE BEGINNING OF A PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE CONTROL OF CSF?
that direct detection of actual virus - the presence of CSFV nucleic acid - rather than testing for antibodies could avoid mass culls of uninfected animals.
"Culling of healthy pigs has become an ethical and animal welfare issue and is not tolerated any more..... significant advances in diagnosis and modern vaccines have been made (real-time RT-PCR, DIVA strategy). The foundations for new concepts to control CSF based on novel diagnostic tools and vaccines have been laid..."
can be seen and discussed on the Coordination Action website (new window) Please add your voice to the debate if you can. After four years of perplexity at the refusal of UK authorities to include rapid diagnosis in Contingency Planning, it is good to see such a paper with such credentials.
September 19/20 2005~ Lord Whitty hinted at criminal fraud and called Defra's prevarication "safeguarding the public purse"; DEFRA now faces a £40 million late payment bill over foot and mouth
www.fpb.org press release:
DEFRA will have to pay Ruttles over £1 million for the cost of the lengthy court hearing in London. This case was only the tip of the iceberg..... More than 1,200 contractors were used by Defra during the 2001 crisis.(See warmwell page on the claims)
"As a result of the precedent set by this court judgement, we will be encouraging several other contractors we have been supporting to pursue DEFRA for payment , and claim interest at a rate of over 12% for late payment as their statutory right. This will mean DEFRA having to pay out up to another £40 million plus interest."
In January 2004, Lord Whitty, trying to put a bold face on the situation, said
" there are queries about many invoices...some of which appear to represent serious overcharging of one form or another -- whether or not they amount to criminal fraud... " In the same exchange he had to admit that " Legal costs covering the whole matter, which includes some of the cases in dispute, amount to about £20 million" but he stoutly proclaimed that
"None of the delay is due to ineptness, it is due to the Government -- Defra in particular -- safeguarding the public purse."
September 18 2005 ~ DEFRA "officials had repeatedly lied about what happened in 2001; that their own systems and paperwork were chaotic or non-existent.....": Mr Justice Thornton
Christopher Booker's Notebook today in the Sunday Telegraph once again turns the spotlight on DEFRA's "dishonesty and incompetence" For those of us who fear DEFRA's methods but also fear the connivance of others who would prefer the Department's gross negligence to remain a secret, the High Court ruling on the Ruttles claim a year ago has only now - a whole year later -come to light.
".... For Defra it was a shattering defeat. Yet all the parties involved were ordered to keep silent about the case until the judgment was posted on the Lord Chancellor's website. Although this remains unposted, permission has now been given by Court Services to report it.
Read in full
As the Ruttles case confirms, Defra officials - presumably on ministerial instructions - used every possible ruse to avoid paying the contractors, accusing them of fraud, questioning every invoice, even for as little as 35p, and enmeshing them in thousands of hours of paperwork.
Mr Justice Thornton's judgment in the Ruttles case - as when he had previously found in favour of another firm, JDM Accord - was excoriating. He dismissed Defra's allegations of fraud out of hand. He found that its officials had repeatedly lied about what happened in 2001; that their own systems and paperwork were chaotic or non-existent; and that their claims to have investigated the case internally were largely fraudulent. On 26 points he found that Defra was in breach of contract ..."
September 12 2005 ~ "The policy was not, as stated at the time, "the only option for controlling the current British epidemic"...."
A letter this week in the New Scientist refutes an editorial which stated that "lack of foresight left the government with only one option, the dreadful slaughter of 6 million animals".
".....The "one option" to which you refer was the product of mathematical modelling during the epidemic, and this was indeed an untested and "ad hoc" approach. It is ironic that it was this very process that resulted in much of the extensive slaughter by instigating the automatic pre-emptive culling of all susceptible livestock on contiguous premises (farms neighbouring infected farms).
The letter's authors, an impressive list, can be assumed to know what they are talking about.
Subsequent published analyses of data from the epidemic have shown that this policy was not, as stated at the time, "the only option for controlling the current British epidemic". Indeed, these analyses have vindicated the traditional policies and also demonstrated that the peak of the epidemic had passed before the extensive contiguous culling policies could have taken effect....." Read in full
( It is interesting that the arbitrary number of "six million" is still bandied about when the number of unfortunate animals who were slaughtered in 2001, as pointed out by the Telegraph in January 2002, certainly exceeds 10 million.
September 11 2005 ~ "the 1st vaccine arrived in the region after the
disease had already broken out."
ProMed reports on FMD in Russia, where on friday a " total of 33 new cases of foot and mouth disease [FMD] have been
registered in the Russian Far East in the past 24 hours." The news report from Tass says,
".......lawmakers said "the slow reaction of corresponding federal
structures and complete ignorance of the alarming signs from the region by
certain officials in the center had serious consequences".
The ProMed moderator "AS" remarks,
"Since the 3rd week of August, FMD -- caused by serotype Asia 1 -- spread
into 2 previously unaffected regions along the Chinese border, namely the
Khabarovsk and Primorsk regions. Contrary to the requirements of the
International Animal Health Code, no notification of these outbreaks has
been forthcoming from the Russian authorities. Their last follow-up report
was sent on 30 Jun 2005; it related to a previous outbreak, in the Amur
region, more than 1000 km northwest of the current outbreaks."
The main problem was the delayed delivery of the vaccine against FMD.
During the June 2005 outbreak of the disease in neighboring Amur region,
Primorye authorities requested the Agriculture ministry to supply the
necessary vaccine. However, the 1st vaccine arrived in the region when the
disease had already broken out.."
September 9 2005 ~ £154,678 spent on Cost Benefit Analysis - but we are no nearer a disease control policy that inspires confidence.
In January 2004, James Irvine at Land Care org.uk said, , "DEFRA itself should be familiar with the costs of different strategies.... Is it really an appropriate use of public money?"
A glance at DEFRA's Science and Research Projects
shows that the sum was £154,678.00. The report did not propose any single strategy for dealing with a future outbreak.
Private Eye's Muckspreader suggested that the exercise could easily be worked out on the back of an envelope.
Meanwhile, as the Animal Health Resources response to the Consultation made clear, there have been "many separate, uncoordinated consultation meetings ...".
The expensive CBA seems to have muddied the waters still further for DEFRA rather than clarified the situation with common sense conclusions. There is no independent Expert group to give genuinely informed advice as required by the Directive.
The Minister is to have a legal "duty" to slaughter animals on premises labelled "infected" - but we do not know if they are to be so labelled by the notorious 2001 method of mere clinical examination rather than proper diagnosis. DEFRA continues to ignore the latest in rapid on-site diagnostics or even mention it in contingency plans.
We do not yet have any definition of "dangerous contacts."
Hardly surprising then that trust in the Department and its contingency plans, for which this expensive CBA was to have been such a valuable resource, is depressingly low.
September 8 2005 ~ dysfunctional government agencies
An editorial in Nature today on the fallout from Katrina, speaks of " the habitual creation of dysfunctional government agencies by congressional fiat; and the failure of scientists to successfully convey their concerns to policy-makers.....
... the disaster should lead to an immediate re-examination of how the federal government is organized, and how it responds to scientific advice...
.....Knowledge of the risk of a storm-induced flood in New Orleans has been widespread in the scientific community for years, and researchers have sought to improve our understanding of it. Much of this work has taken into account stubborn facts such as the propensity of the poor, the elderly and the sick to ignore evacuation orders.
There seems to be a disconnect, however, between the process that identifies such risks and the people who make the decisions that might manage them ..." (More)
September 4 2005 ~ "..other objectives should never override the welfare of livestock, which are sentient beings, not just cheap lawnmowers. "
An article written by an Oxfordshire sheep farmer about the effects of the ESA on animal welfare:
Extracts:The farmer's clear explanation of how the ESA has "spectacularly failed" in its apparent objectives echoes what seems to us to be happening also in the field of animal disease control. In both, the people "pulling the strings" seem strangely removed from the reality of living, breathing farm animals, from the land itself, and from the people whose skill cares for both.
"British Agriculture seems to be entering an increasingly unnatural regime. As financial support from the public purse has more strings attached, the people pulling the strings are further removed from agriculture. ...
.......... It quickly emerged that this regime would not satisfy the nutritional requirements of a modern ewe with lambs.
.........The greatest difficulty in arable reversion was to promote biodiversity without encouraging thistles, ragwort or other undesirables. The ESA failed spectacularly.....
the increased costs of combining conservation with farming stretches resources to the limit.
.........Sheep have created much of the landscape people love and the optimum level of grazing is the only way to preserve the landscape but other objectives should never override the welfare of livestock......The management of sheep must remain the domain of shepherds, not academics, bureaucrats or the pantheon of non-farming experts taking an interest in the countryside."Read in full
September 2 2005 ~ "... disease control should be a cooperative effort between government and the livestock sector... major efforts are needed to enhance communication and increase trust. ."
Comments from Animal Health Resources Ltd to Defra’s Consultation on the Transposition of the FMD Directive. For clear reasons set out in their response they ask for an extension to the deadline for responses
" . ..there appears to be many separate, uncoordinated consultation meetings ....
Defra appears to place most weight on consultations with “key stakeholders” (Defra’s terminology). While this sector is certainly important, there is some danger in excluding from the consultation process other sectors, including small and family farms, that play a role in disease control but have no coordinated, funded means of communicating with government...." Read in full
September 2 2005 ~ " we need confidence that the best tools will be used to identify and confirm the disease,....and the best strategy will be implemented, based on the advice of the permanently operational, balanced, Expert Group...."
The response paper above includes the following points - but it deserves to be read in full.
We believe that the consultation process has been inadequate, and that if the proposals are changed to take account of the points raised, we would all be better prepared for the next animal disease threat."
- None of the new proposals contain anything which would increase our capability to protect from and respond to the introduction of FMD or any serious animal disease...
- still no recognition of the role, or acceptance of, new diagnostic tools which can provide rapid identification of disease on site.
- still no mention of enhanced surveillance at entry points
- diagnostic tools such as RRT-PCR (real-time RT-PCR) which can identify infection in less than 3 hours....should be written into the contingency plans, practiced in emergency exercises and implemented.
- The current government approach to cost sharing with regard to disease control and other farming regulations does not encourage local production of food.
- we need confidence that (a) the best tools will be used to identify and confirm the disease, and to inform the control measures (including movement restrictions and vaccination strategies) that will be taken and (b) the best strategy will be implemented, based on the advice of the permanently operational, balanced, Expert Group....
- Infected Premises: How will Defra decide which premises are infected - by proximity? proof by PCR? culture at Pirbright?
- “Dangerous contact”: How is a “dangerous contact” defined?
- Decision to slaughter / decision to vaccinate: What animals would be slaughtered / vaccinated? On what basis would these decisions be taken? ...
- ... proposed changes have been rapidly and quietly instituted ...
September 1 2005 ~ EU gives 4.5 million euros to FAO to fight FMD
The European Commission will give euro 4.5 million to the FAO European Commission for the Control of FMD (EUFMD). An agreement between the EC and FAO was signed today. Keith Sumption is quoted in the press release
"The EC funding will enable us to improve FMD surveillance and control activities in countries that continue to pose a risk to Europe, mainly by strengthening their veterinary services. The lack of transparency and reliable information on the occurrence and scale of epidemics in some high-risk areas and the lack of reporting to international agencies like FAO and the World Animal Health Organization is still often of major concern.
The EUFMD has 33 member countries. Its budget amounted to around euro 2 million in 2004. Read in full
In case of an FMD emergency, a rapid response is crucial for the success of any control measures. With the new EC funds, FAO will now be able to send FMD experts to affected countries within 24 hours to analyse the situation to provide technical support and assist in mobilising additional emergency resources.
"...battling against over-whelming odds.
Hilary Peters, writes to warmwell this morning:
ARCHIVE of FRONT PAGES
".... I went from one organic and/or animal friendly farm to the next and met good people struggling hard to make the world a better place. They are still there, but seen from here, I realise they are battling against over-whelming odds.
The food writer, TV chef and countryman Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has said that
The VAST majority( ie of large-scale farmers) are in it for a quick profit, have no idea that they are destroying the planet, have no feeling for animals or the land, no notion that they are controlled ....
And I have absolutely no idea how to say this in a way that people will take in."
".. the Government’s appalling and callous handling of the Foot and Mouth crisis undermined all the fundamentals of good farming and good husbandry....a warning, nationally and even globally... man’s chilling disassociation from the species that feed him....”
Dr Colin Fink, writing in the Spring of 2001 about the UK's policy, in a letter that is just one of the many important documents about the disastrous handling of FMD in the UK:
".... a catastrophic loss of opportunity to gain basic knowledge and is entirely consistent with their retained medieval approach to the whole problem." Dr Fink mentions his colleague, Professor Fred Brown, who said sadly at the time," it is an unacceptable loss of animals without justification"..."
Over the course of the next few months, a selection of the most important scientific, veterinary, political and witness statements from the huge warmwell archives will be gathered together. This is something of a mammoth task and therefore the updating of this page of the website may not be able to continue for the time being. The archives in full (see also below) will, of course, remain on the internet and can continue to be easily searched using the Google Advanced Search engine for warmwell.com - or similar.
FMD Front Page Oct 2004 - August 2005
General Front Page (includes other and related items)
Front Page Autumn 2004
Front Page Summer - October 2004
Warmwell front pages Spring 2004
Warmwell front pages Oct 03 - Jan 04
Warmwell front pages Sept 2002
Warmwell front pages August 2002
Warmwell front pages June / July 2002
Warmwell front pages - May / June 2002
Warmwell front pages - April / May 2002
Warmwell front pages - March / April 2002
Warmwell front pages - the earliest pages in 2001 - March 2002
General Archive Page (new window)