"Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians"An article to his fellow vets in the Veterinary Times, March 2006, by Bob Michell, BVetMed BSc PhD DSc MRCVS, Former President of the RCVS
Rapid Diagnosis RT PCR - " a transforming moment"
" ...the means to eradicate and control these diseases are now available ... ..." Read in full
Warmwell.com Archive ~ Bird Flu pages Contact the site How FMD crisis was turned into a disaster - Scotsman, TimesPlease use F5 button to refresh the page RPA latest bovine TB Harriet - latest --------------------------------
Archive December 2006
December 18 2006 ~ "...maybe it is bureaucracy gone mad..."
A farmer from Banham in Norfolk wanted to bring four of his rare-breed sheep to take part in a family Nativity procession around Norwich Cathedral. The red tape in place to protect any resident sheep, cows or pigs currently inhabiting the precincts of Norwich Cathedral certainly made itself felt. Obstacles to be overcome by the public spirited farmer included the animal movement licence, (completed in quadruplicate, with one copy sent to trading standards and another to the cathedral), the "performing animal licence" (sic), obtained through the SVS, and yet another animal movement licence needed to bring the animals back home again. We are glad to report that this did not put the farmer off his kind action and, as far as we know, the procession duly took place.
The Telegraph quotes the "community learning officer" (sic) at the cathedral who opined that "I feel maybe it is bureaucracy gone mad, but I suppose in the light of foot-and-mouth and things in the past people have to be careful."
The technology exists to pinpoint disease if and when it arrives. We can only continue to hope that the UK will soon make use of the benefits of the modern world in protecting its food and farming instead of relying on the avalanche of paperwork - not much of a bulwark against the real threat of zoonoses.
17 Dec 2006 ~ Defra placed revised contingency plans for exotic animal diseases before parliament on Wednesday
http://www.rics.org "Originally subjected to parliamentary approval in 2005, the revised plans have now been divided into separate elements consisting of a Framework Response Plan (FRP) and an Overview of Emergency Preparedness (OEP). During a disease outbreak, the FRP seeks to identify and structure roles and responsibilities, while the OEP seeks to develop a coherent response to the outbreak.
Defra`s contingency plans have been developed to coordinate a response to a number of diseases, including foot and mouth disease, avian influenza and Newcastle disease."
(Many thanks to FMD News, a service provided by the FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory, University of California at Davis)
December 17 2006 ~ the stolen animals were obviously being taken to illegal slaughter houses, destined for the illegal meat trade
Almost 200 sheep are believed to have gone from farms in Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire this summer, including 70 ewes from the Welshpool area and also animals from land near Knighton and Rhayader. See Police plea on theft of sheep in the Shropshire Star.
Dr Yunes Teinaz tells us that the news article supports "intelligence I received that hundreds of sheep will be illegally slaughtered next week for the London market for Christmas." He adds that this is a matter of great concern not only affecting the health of the health of the nation but also the poor farmers and that he intends to make sure that the illegal meat will not enter Hackney at least. He will inform the FSA and also alert the Meat Hygiene Service and the local authorities.
Illegal slaughter can be barbaric and causes the animals great distress.
December 10 2006 ~ Bowland: "carpet-bombing" an innocent firm out of existence. "Could the Minister please tell the House why the Government have panicked and introduced emergency regulations that are specifically designed to put Bowland Dairies out of business? "
In October, warmwell tried to draw attention to an apparent spinelessness from the UK government that resulted in the killing of the English company Bowland. Bowland was condemned without evidence - apparently because the EU Commission, furious that the Court of First Instance had ruled that the EU officials withdraw damaging comments about Bowland products, sought another way of putting the boot in. The coup de grace for Bowland came from a "statutory instrument" - a piece of secondary legislation that can be passed without proper scrutiny. (We note from the November 29 debate in the House of Lords that "Since 1997, 365 Acts have been passed and there have been 32,000 statutory instruments..")
Today, in his Sunday Telegraph column, Christopher Booker tells us
"...Despite the FSA's solid support of Bowland and its insistence that no rules had been broken, the Department of Health bowed to the commission's diktat. On October 16 it rushed through a statutory instrument ...An honourable government would seek to give protection from bullying. For over five years, warmwell.com has catalogued stories that suggest that this laudable aim is beyond the competence of the government. Instead, those who lack powerful voices are bullied by the government itself: the Bowlands of this world, the swill feeders, the hill farmers, the large body of voiceless small farmers constantly and contemptuously hedged about with paperwork - and - most powerless of all - the animals who are so much easier to slaughter than to protect. A devalued veterinary profession, an ignorance of available technology and lack of genuine scientific competence among advisers is a tragedy for British food and farming but also for democracy itself.
When Lord Willoughby de Broke recounted this chilling story last week, eloquently supported by others, including Lord Greaves, a Lib Dem who lives near Mr Wright's plant, peers were visibly horrified. The only defence that Lord Warner, as junior health minister, could muster (apart from seriously misrepresenting the terms of Vesterdorf's judgment) was to plead that failure to implement the commission's decision "would constitute a serious breach of the UK's obligations under the EC Treaty". For truth, justice, the rule of law and Britain it was a black day."
(See also the Lords Hansard here)
December 9 2006 ~ ".. the aim of seeking greater flexibility and a more common sense approach"
Under new EU "hygiene" regulations animals can only be slaughtered on the farm and still enter the food chain if they have suffered an "accident". Animals suffering from ailments or congenital defects - if slaughtered on the farm - are not permitted to enter the food chain and the farmer can claim no salvage value. The Herald (Thursday 7th Dec)
"The bureaucracy of Brussels is causing problems for livestock farmers whose animals may be subject to conditions which prevent them being transported to an abattoir for slaughter. NFU Scotland will be discussing a range of issues on Monday when it meets with the Food Standards Agency, which administers the rules, with the aim of seeking greater flexibility and a more common sense approach. ....... NFUS conducted a survey ... principal findings were that more than 95% of vets recognised the new regulations were causing some difficulties for their clients.The problem with this is that there are so few large animal vets now - and the numbers are decreasing. With the majority of the 12,000 practising vets in the UK choosing the more lucrative small animal work there is an overall shortage of vets to take proper care of animals on farms and costs are so high that many farmers think twice before calling out vets. See also Royal Society Infectious Disease in Livestock Inquiry Follow-Up Review
More than 90% of respondents said the responsibility for determining whether cattle should be slaughtered on farm should lie with the veterinary profession and, by implication, not with the rules as currently operated by the FSA. The vets believe that a more pragmatic approach is necessary. ..."
December 7 2006 ~ Bird Flu measures "politically opportune" but "socially unjustifiable"
An online FAO report, HPAI Risk, Bio-Security and Smallholder Adversity makes some very important points about the widespread assumption that smallholder backyard flocks are inherently more risky than other types of poultry operations. This assumption was tested using published data from the 2004 HPAI epidemic and concurrent active surveillance programme in Thailand.
"....Given the much stronger political influence of commercial interests vis-à-vis smallholder producers there is a clear danger that regulators will opt for 'easy' solutions "....The confinement of large numbers of birds (as many as 50,000 in modern broiler houses in the US and Thailand), at very high densities, poses significant challenges to ensuring bio-security. ..ample evidence for the potential of pathogens to move in and out of standard, reputedly bio-secure, commercial poultry facilities, even in developed settings.It is reassuring that the FAO has a Pro Poor livestock policy initiative (PPLPI) in progress and is stressing that "The imposition of measures which do not significantly reduce the risk of pathogen introduction and spread but place severe economic burdens on society or groups thereof may be politically opportune but is socially unjustifiable." Read report
.... imposing measures to make subsistence poultry production 'safer', eg forced housing or confinement of poultry... will impose very high costs, particularly upon a marginal group of entrepreneurs and household producers and may lead to an overall reduction of HPAI outbreaks, but more as a result of the loss of household production flocks than as a result of enhanced bio-security....
...Appropriate social investments to reduce health risk locally and nationally....can have the very significant dividend of improving smallholder commercial viability.... ."
December 7 2006 ~ EUFMD Calendar
See EUFMD website
Seventy-fourth Session of the Executive Committee of the European Commission for the Control of FMD. Rome: FAO HQ, 11 and 12 January 2007.
37th Session of the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease. Rome: FAO HQ, 18-20 April 2007.
Reports of all sessions held since the beginning of 1999 are available via this page of the EUFMD website.
December 6/7 2006 ~ The farming industry in Wales may have to meet the cost of future outbreaks of animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth, without any government compensation.
The BBC reports
",,,,, Farming leaders said they were worried about the implications. "We're very, very concerned because the process is snowballing somewhat," said Gareth Vaughan, president of the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW). "Initially we were talking about the cost of dealing with exotic disease only. But by today Defra are talking about the cost of dealing with animal health issues in total - and that the industry should pay for the lot....we cannot afford it without having some measure of control..."One wonders what is the "partnership" in a situation where farmers have fewer and fewer chances to call the tune and yet are to be expected to pay the piper in full - particularly when things beyond their control go very wrong. If some payments were excessive in 2001 they had the effect of quelling protest at what was seen to be excessive, illegal and unnecessary mass slaughter. Now that the Animal Health Act has been changed to legalise entry and enforced slaughter at the Minister's decree - even making reasonable protest an offence, such payments will not be seen again. The Breeze paper Industry Cost Sharing suggests the common sense solution. The farming industry has no powers to prevent accidental or deliberate introduction of exotic diseases. If it is to pay for animal health then Performance Benchmarks should be agreed for both sides of the "partnership". Extract:
" With all Performance Benchmarks met, by government and industry, the goal is to snuff out an outbreak in two weeks after diagnosis by active commitment ....When a disease outbreak occurs during a period in which the government is not meeting its Performance Benchmarks ..... the industry shall not have to pay its share of disease control and compensation costs stemming from failure on the government's part.... " Read in full
December 5 2006 ~ a rapid, sensitive test for bird flu and its variants that occur in dogs and cats.
Following the distressing news that South Korea is forcing hundreds of people to give up their pets for slaughter for fear that these companion animals may transmit the virus to humans we read in http://biz.yahoo.com/ about the court case in the US in which CYNTEGRA,
"the developer of a revolutionary molecular pathogen diagnostic system capable of the simultaneous detection of dozens of serious disease agents in pets"has moved for an injunction against IDEXX's practices of "exclusive dealing". CYNTEGRA maintains that IDEXX has gone so far as to prevent new products, such as the cutting-edge veterinary diagnostics developed by CYNTEGRA, from entering the market.
".... the CYNTEGRA molecular diagnostic panel includes a rapid, sensitive test for bird flu and its variants that occur in dogs and cats. ... CYNTEGRA is concerned that without a fast, cost-effective method of detection available to veterinarians, a potential bird flu pandemic in companion pets in the USA could result in the US government taking actions similar to the South Korean government, and forcing the euthanasia of millions of pets..."
December 3 2006 ~ "the scientific community has to reestablish trust. People want to trust science; they want science to be trustworthy."
Hamish McRae in the Independent on Sunday regrets the lack of scientists among politicians and the lack of knowledge in the population at large. We all need to understand risk assessment and be able to judge the wisdom of what is done when scares are rife. As Mr McRae implies here, the billions spent on BSE were not to control the disease but to control the scare about a theoretical link between BSE and vCJD.
"... Of course scientists sometimes do not help their own cause: the BSE scare, which cost several billions to control, has led to between five and 30 deaths a year from new variant CJD and much human misery. But it does not seem conceivable that it will lead to the more than 100,000 deaths once projected. So what seems to me to be needed is not just more people studying science at university but greater numeracy in the population at large and better understanding of risk - another point made by Lord Rees. ..."( Lord Rees is president of the Royal Society, the Astronomer Royal.)
What Mr McRae fails to make clear about vCJD is that the numbers have been declining steadily. See also below from June this year and the statistics published on ProMed. "The peak number of deaths was 28 in the year 2000, followed by 20 in 2001, 17 in 2002, 18 in 2003, and 9 in 2004, 5 in 2005..." It is to be hoped that those advising government Ministers responsible for TSE legislation are themselves fully aware of the uncertainties behind the swathes of regulations that followed in the wake of the scares.
December 1 2006 ~ Harriet
The Gloucester Citizen is running a campaign and petition for Harriet which is also backed by LBC radio. More detail on Harriet page
Current Front Page
Advanced SEARCH warmwell
ARCHIVE of FRONT PAGES
General Archive Page (new window)
Archive December 2006
Archive November 2006
Archive October 2006
Archive September 2006
Archive August 2006
Archive July 2006
Archive June 2006
Archive May 2006
Archive April 2006
Archive March 2006
Archive February 2006
Archive January 2006
See also warmwell pages on concern about wind turbines, on oil depletion, on BSE/vCJD, on rapid diagnosis, on GM
Towards a new, sane, animal disease policy, warmwell goes " from failure to failure with great enthusiasm" (Winston Churchill's definition of "success")