"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 June 2006
June 30 2006 ~ Europe will soon unveil a task force for fighting bird flu
Albert Osterhaus told AFP that details of the initiative were still being worked out, but the task force would probably gather scientists, doctors and animal health experts who would assess the latest information about bird flu in order to advise policymakers. It would operate under aegis of the new European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) based in Stockholm, he said. The two-day conference on bird flu, which opened at Pasteur Institute in Paris on Thursday, focuses on the risk of a human pandemic. See AFP report
The ECDC's website has a link to the report of June 5th in which a panel of independent scientific experts answer a series of eight scientific questions concerning H5N1 avian influenza and pandemic influenza. (pdf opens in new window)
June 29 2006 ~ " vital that we work in partnership with countries outside of the EU so that our future animal health strategy .... cannot be cited as a defensive tool designed primarily to protect our borders."
From the speech given in Brussels yesterday by Markos Kyprianou, at the opening of the International Federation for Animal Health Conference, which he described as an "important event on research and innovation in the animal health sector."
( We do rather wonder who was representing UK stakeholders. We can find no-one who knew anything at all about the conference before it took place.)
Mr Kyprianou spoke warmly of "innovative spirit" of a "high degree of efficient stakeholder collaboration" and said that the conference brought together "key partners in the animal health arena (agricultural sector, governments, veterinarians and international institutions)".
"......Many of you have made very interesting and challenging proposals regarding issues such as the simplification of legislation; the prevention of animal diseases; the development of biosecurity concepts; and the sharing of costs and responsibilities.The OIE's webpage about the International Federation for Animal Health was last updated on 29/11/2005.
Many have also identified "innovation gaps" highlighting weaknesses in areas such as availability of funding; links between research and industry; the delivery of patents; medicines to treat all species and conditions (even where some of these represent only a small market sector).
..... It is also vital that we work in partnership with countries outside of the EU so that our future animal health strategy sits comfortably in a worldwide context, and cannot be cited as a defensive tool designed primarily to protect our borders.... ."
June 29 2006 ~ "The SmartCycler System is a leading real-time PCR testing platform for hospitals, university research labs and government agencies".
It is interesting that Cepheid has announced the European release of the Smart CMV(TM) (cytomegalovirus) Assay for clinical diagnostic use on the SmartCycler System. Now authorised for use on human patients and used worldwide to detect viruses, it seems quite extraordinary that in Contingency Plans for animal health control, there still appears no mention of such rapid diagnostic technology. (See also below and warmwell's page on rapid diagnostics.)
"....By automating the amplification and detection process, the SmartCycler(R) System can deliver highly accurate and consistent test results from prepared biological samples in approximately 30-40 minutes. With up to 96 independently programmable reaction sites, the SmartCycler(R) System can simultaneously run different tests with different protocols and at different times. This eliminates complex advanced scheduling on larger, more costly systems as well as the need to transport samples to central facilities for analysis...."
June 29 2006 ~ Running the market weekly will restore Stroud to its original tradition of being a true market town
Stroud's Saturday farmers' market will be held every week instead of every fortnight from the beginning of August. It attracts around 6,000 people each time it is held. Philip Booth, the spokesperson for Stroud District Green party said that a survey last year showed that is what people wanted. ".... over 130 organisations take part and these extra days will hopefully increase turnover from £900,000 to £2 million a year - all local businesses and it has a huge knock on effect in terms of trade to other businesses." According to www.glosgreenparty.org.uk the market organiser said,
"Running the market weekly will restore Stroud to its original tradition of being a true market town, and make it much easier for customers. We are hoping the new weekly market will open up space for some of the many farmers and growers who are on a waiting list to attend the market, which now has 60 stalls every week."Anything that weakens the grip of the soulless supermarkets is of vital importance for the country . More such news would be gratefully received
June 28 2006 ~ Hill Farming - The Duchy of Cornwall's new initiative will attempt to raise public awareness of the link between farming and landscape preservation
".....The Prince of Wales is to back a major new initiative to promote hill farming in the Westcountry - amid growing fears that controversial Government farm reforms could see some of the region's finest landscapes turned to scrub...." Western Morning NewsThe article emphasises that many of the uplands' most valued landscapes are the result of sustainable grazing by livestock. However, since the profitability of hill livestock production is now so low, there is a real concern that there will soon be too few cattle and sheep to maintain the integrity of the landscape. In its annual report this week the Duchy of Cornwall warns that "the Single Farm Payment Scheme in 2005 has 'decoupled' financial support from production for UK farmers".
June 26 2006 ~ East Suffolk's experience of a thriving local food network should inspire action across the country
CHOICE IF WE WANT IT - SUPERSTORES IF WE DON'T (apologies. Link, now mended, opens on new page) is the name of a new book published by CPRE and Plunkett Foundation is based on surveys by Caroline Cranbrook over eight years monitoring a broad area of towns and villages in East Suffolk. It reveals that local foods are flourishing and growing since a planned superstore was turned down.
The latest survey found the number of local and regional food suppliers in the area had risen from 300 to 370 with a wider range of local products being sold. The overall number of shops had stayed constant at 81 - bucking the national trend of decline - and the local market towns had retained their butchers, bakers, fish shops and fresh vegetable outlets. Numbers of farm shops and farmers' markets had grown. It has happened in Suffolk: it can happen elsewhere. Six leading chefs, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, have endorsed The Real Choice: How local foods can survive the supermarket onslaught: More
June 24 2006 ~ Latest vCJD scare-fest - " this iceberg is in a very shallow pond"
(See also Magnus Linklater's article in the Scotsman June 25 2006)
Close on the heels of the recent stories about "atypical" scrapie and the dramatic headlines of the 'Silent killer vCJD is more widespread than thought' variety back in March, we now have a fresh crop of vCJD scare stories featuring slow incubation and kuru ( Six years ago, a Telegraph article which was itself entitled: "After years of inquiry no-one knows how many lives nvCJD will claim" made many of the same points.)
The New York Times, however, does at least sound a note of scepticism over the latest report in the Lancet.
As yesterday's NYT said:
"Guesses as to how many people will eventually die of mad cow disease have varied wildly. In 2001, two groups of eminent British scientists argued over whether it would kill 136,000 Britons or only a few thousand. Recently some scientists have predicted that it will die out in a decade, while others have argued that it is still incubating in many people and will be transmitted by blood transfusions.The many unanswered questions about the nature of TSEs are less newsworthy - and much harder to write about - than doom scenarios written without scientific rigour. Mark Purdey, meanwhile - who, in pursuit of the real causes behind free radical based illnesses, shows that exposures to sonic shock waves will "activate the metal micro-crystallised piezoelectic prion contaminants in mammalian brain" (see his website) He has challenged the BSE orthodoxy for years with extraordinary results. He explains, for example, the Queniborough cluster. He remains not only unfunded and unsung but sneered at. A hero nonetheless. (new window)
No one expects no more deaths, Dr. Major said, but to any suggestion that the 160 known now are merely the tip of an iceberg, he said, "I think this iceberg is in a very shallow pond."
June 23 2006 ~ Why did we have to find out about the new trials from the BBC? asked Daniel Kawczynski , MP
The MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, Daniel Kawczynski, asked
" The Conservatives, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) said, have been calling for a very long time for action on bovine tuberculosis. Yesterday, on the news, we were informed that major trials were taking place on the immunisation of badgers. Why did we have to find out about the new trials from the BBC? Why did the Minister not inform the House first?"Hansard.
Mr Bradshaw's replies to the several questions asked may appear to some readers to have been less than helpful.
June 23 2006 ~ Million pound Badger vaccine trial in Gloucestershire "could lead to more than 100 000 badgers being vaccinated nationwide"
ProMed gives detailsof this work by the Central Science Laboratory. Its trials involve catching about 250 badgers in baited traps. The moderator's comments are, as usual, well worth reading in full. Extract
"...The Randomised Badger Culling Trials demonstrated that if you do not achieve culling targets above 60 percent (and sometimes these were no more than 20 percent), you will only make matters worse -- Bovine TB was practically eradicated in the UK by 1986 by proactive badger culling along with tuberculin testing of cattle when only 84 herd breakdowns were recorded in that year. ...... as the UK Government acknowledges in their report of 2004, if the present policy of inaction continues there is no way but up!However good this news may seem, we are left once again wondering why - if the trials are successful and the vaccine found to be safe and effective - it has to "take at least 5 years before the vaccine could be administered to the general badger population outside the lab through microcapsules mixed with peanuts." Why so long when the situation is so desperate? Some may remember the reasons given by Defra against allowing vaccination against H5N1 in the UK involved the argument about "market authorisation"- even though European legislation permits "Market Authorisation" to be bypassed in exceptional, objective and verifiable circumstances.
....... Culling, when done efficiently, i.e. when delineated areas are free of badgers for at least 12 months, has an immediate disease control benefit. In the UK there is a stark dichotomy between the demands for culling by the farming community, including wildlife veterinarians, and the extreme reluctance on the part of the government. We have yet to see what the impact of badger vaccination will be. - Mod.MHJ"
June 21 2006 ~ Intervet has developed a prototype for a new generation dual vaccine against both avian influenza and Newcastle Disease which can be mass applied by spraying
instead of injecting. It can also be used on large numbers of birds as an efficient marker vaccine to help differentiate between infected and vaccinated birds. The new vaccine will be given field trials "next year" (press release here).
One must assume that DEFRA, in its desire to reflect the current status of scientific understanding in its planning to protect against avian influenza, is aware of such developments.
All the "protection" we ever seem to hear about, however, is killing.
In its six page 34th Report of Session 2005-06, the "Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee" refers to Statutory Instrument SI 2006/1200 which allows ventilation shutdown and quotes from its "Explanatory Note" that "VSD" (sic)
" will kill birds over a period of 30-60 minutes"It will take some birds an hour to die?
"VSD" as it is eerily called, was hastily prepared and passed - because
"the Department saw the need to breach the 21-day rule because of an outbreak of avian influenza in the most densely poultry-populated part of England, which meant that VSD had to be available without delay "to enable a rapid cull if necessary"....."It strikes us as extraordinary that such a killing method can be made permissible within a day while effective state-of-the-art means to avoid mass culling can languish literally for years. As we have pointed out over and over again, both vaccination and on-site rapid diagnostic kits were available but ignored by the UK in the FMD crisis of 2001 - yet were shown to be wholly effective in Uruguay's own foot and mouth outbreak. More than five years seems a long time to wait for the emergence of a more science-based, independently reviewed and ethical set of animal health policies in Britain.
June 19 2006 ~ bTB. Mr Bradshaw's further investigation "currently under way"
When Ben Bradshaw, with no apparent understanding of the undertow of his words, proclaimed last week, in relation to the killing of badgers:
"My Department undertook a desk study of possible culling methods and identified shooting, snaring and gassing as the methods most worthy of further investigation. This research is currently under way. .."one wonders, and not for the first time, about the methods and ethics of the sort of research needed to decide on ways of mass killing. We wonder too, as we did in April, why animal health policy always seems to be driven by politics, bureaucracy and budgets instead of by science, technology and veterinary skill. No one really wants an untargetted mass cull of badgers and the Government, surely, has within its grasp a Middle Way. The tools to avoid such a politically unpopular, ethically questionable and scientifically unnecessary move are documented. The research below using UK built rapid RT-PCR diagnosis in badger setts and latrines shows which badgers are infected;
"we would prefer that culling is targeted at diseased and infectious animals"said the researchers.
Have Mr Bradshaw and "his Department" really not seen the importance of the work from Warwick University?
June 19 2006 ~ "ventilation shutdown"
No one has defended the mass suffocation of hens, euphemistically called "ventilation shutdown" in response to the request below. This authorisation to carry out mass suffocation was very quietly introduced over the May Bank Holiday. Closing the air vents in poultry sheds and shutting off the ventilation system would undoubtedly lead to a situation one can hardly bear even to contemplate. If the birds are infected the virus would, in the ensuing panic, be spread by faeces and blood that would then put the human cleaners at risk. If the birds were not infected with high pathogenicity virus (as they were not in Norfolk) then such killing is not only barbaric but unnecessary.
An early day motion ( 2314 David Taylor) was laid in parliament in early May by Conservative MPs - including party leader David Cameron and agriculture spokesman Jim Paice - demanding that the new provision for "ventilation shutdown" in poultry houses be annulled. As James Paice said, " It flies in the face of anything to do with animal welfare and is totally unacceptable."
We should be most grateful for any information about the progress of this EDM.
June 19 2006 ~ The Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) has called on the government to introduce a labelling system covering welfare measures taken for animal products.
Farmers' Weekly says, ".....Prof Reiss said he was "encouraged" that on a European and International level, labelling was moving up the political agenda and becoming more feasible. Christopher Wathes, chairman of FAWC, said: "Consumers are increasingly concerned about the welfare characteristics of the products that they purchase."
June 18 2006 ~ China "..the acceleration of national veterinary management reform"
Concerned about its hitherto weak veterinary management system, China has established a complete state-level animal disease control system. According to China's Peoples Daily, the centre, which opened on Friday, is capable of diagnosing 64 kinds of animal diseases, including foot-and-mouth.
".....About 645,000 epidemic observers from villages across China have registered with the CADC to provide the center with timely reports from any corner of the country...Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that the authorities in Hong Kong are stepping up customs checks to stamp out poultry smuggling. A truck driver from Mainland China (not a migratory bird) has been found to have been infected by H5N1
The spread of infectious diseases among animals, especially bird flu across the world, has exerted great pressure on China's weak veterinary management system. China's State Council issued a circular in May last year, urging the acceleration of national veterinary management reform. Officials with the Ministry of Agriculture told Xinhua that currently the central-level reform of the veterinary system is to end soon, and the next target will be local governments. By the end of last month, 19 provinces had submitted their reform plans on local veterinary systems to the central government..."
June 17 2006 ~ A consortium of veterinary virologists will share samples of the H5N1 with researchers worldwide
In early March we reported Dr Ilaria Capua's plea that researchers, in the interest of shared knowledge, no longer restrict access to data, and warmwell linked to ProMed's support for her proposal for global cooperation.
It is encouraging that Dr Ian Brown, from the VLA at Weybridge, has signed Dr Capua's letter to Science (June 16) which concludes; "We are convinced that this initiative will contribute substantially to the efforts that are being carried out worldwide, and we invite other medical and veterinary virologists to join us. " Bird Flu latest
June 16 2006 ~ "If this risk were real, we would have had reports (plural) from Europe of infected domestic cats..."
In its thread "AVIAN INFLUENZA, POULTRY VS MIGRATORY BIRDS (28)" a ProMed moderator comments on a story from San Francisco Chronicle by Bernadette Tansey which - rather in the manner of the FSA and Valerie Elliott below - draws dramatic attention to a hypothetical risk for which there is little or no evidence. In this case, the journalist has followed the somewhat wild speculation of someone from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine that cats who happened to come across H5N1 infected birds, if the virus happenend to reach America, might, if they were to eat such birds, bring it into the house.
"So far, most experts think the risk is very low that pets could pass the disease to humans. But they can't say for sure."The placing of the last sentence on its own of course gives it an added significance. So it is reassuring to see from such a respected moderator as MHJ the drily worded comment: " It is clear that the UC Davis faculty found a ready listener in Ms Tansey and it is now summertime...."
June 15 2006 ~ "Killing capacity has been progressively increased over the last two years" says Mr Bradshaw. Methods of mass extermination include the maceration of day old chicks and the euphemistically termed "ventilation shutdown"
Bill Wiggin asked "what the agreed levels of poultry culling capability are; when these levels were agreed; what methods of poultry culling have been agreed; and what the poultry culling capacity was in each month since January 2001.(Hansard) Mr Bradshaw's reply
"There are no formally agreed levels of poultry culling capability. However, there are a range of culling methods available to the state veterinary service.One can hardly believe what one is reading. We have both vaccination that works and the ability rapidly to detect where the virus is and where it is not - but modern methods are ignored and instead we are looking at preparations for mass extermination that would include methods not even recognised for disease control by the OIE guidelines..
These include maceration (for day old chicks only), lethal injection, neck dislocation, percussion killers, gassing in containers, whole house gassing and, as a last resort when no other method is practicable, ventilation shutdown.
Killing capacity has been progressively increased over the last two years through the establishment of contingency contracts with catchers and equipment suppliers. Capacity has been further increased since January 2006 through the development of a system based on the gassing of poultry in containers using a mixture of argon and carbon dioxide; the Department has commissioned 50 of these units, each capable of killing 2,000 chickens per hour. In addition, we have purchased a number of percussion killers for use on larger birds and plan to further increase our capability to gas poultry in their sheds.
However, it is not possible to state the total killing capacity per month because this figure depends on a variety of factors. These include the age and species of poultry, the housing system, the size, location, quantity and geographic spread of the affected holdings, and the availability of catchers, gas and resources.".(Hansard)
We want to hear from anyone who truly believes these "contingency contracts" are ethical and we would, without comment, publish their view.
June 15 2006 ~ "How many RPA employees does it take to change a lightbulb?"..
.. was not quite the question asked by Andrew George yesterday - but the answer sounds like a joke anyway. RPA latest
June 15 2006 ~ "Farmers yesterday accused the Food Standards Agency of threatening the future of sheep farming
by overplaying the risk to humans posed by a previously unidentified form of scrapie..." Telegraph ".... Both forms of the disease can be experimentally transmitted to mice and other sheep but there is no evidence that either disease has ever been caught by humans."
June 14 2006 ~ "....a message of this kind will create serious difficulties for sheep farmers at a time when they least need further problems from government agencies"
It is with dismay that we see Valerie Elliot's article in today's Times on so-called "atypical" scrapie in which she is virtually telling people that avoiding
"mutton, goat and some sausages is the only way to reduce the risks from a new animal brain disease"as if the existence of such a "new animal disease" had been proven. "The advice from the Food Standards Agency," she asserts, "raises the most serious concern about the safety of the meat since the discovery of "mad cow" disease in cattle."
As in the past, the Food Standards Agency has apparently thought fit to tell consumers that it "could not rule out" a risk to human health from "the brain disease atypical scrapie, which is similar to BSE."
What sort of journalism is this? What does the FSA imagine will be the effect of their warning? As we report elsewhere, the uncertainties about "atypical scrapie" are legion, as are the uncertainties about the very nature of spongiform encephalopathies and the route of infection of vCJD - the bogey behind all the millions in research grants, mounds of regulation and wasted animal lives.
During the past five years that this website has been running we have become aware of what seems an ongoing attempt to use the threat of vCJD to make a deep impression on consumers - eagerly taken up by the press. Questions about the literally thousands of millions spent "guarding" against vCJD may perhaps be quelled by such articles - but exploiting people's ignorance and fear without giving the whole picture is a disgraceful state of affairs. vCJD is a very nasty and heartbreaking disease but it is also one in which the number of confirmed deaths in the UK - ever - is 111.
The fells are being quietly but inexorably depopulated of sheep, rare breeds are threatened and diminished, the National Scrapie Plan is turning out to be creating as many problems as its extermination clauses set out to "cure" - perhaps it would be a great deal simpler for those responsible if the population no longer want sheep either. Those such as the Prince of Wales who are trying to bring about a renaissance in mutton eating are once again stymied by preudo-scientific scaremongering by the Food Standards Agency - and the nation's sheep farmers are, once again, likely to be filled with the deepest gloom.
" Peter Ainsworth, the Conservative rural affairs spokesman, said: "We need to be cautious about any threat to human health. But there is a real danger that a message of this kind will create serious difficulties for sheep farmers at a time when they least need further problems from government agencies. It's incredibly important that the FSA behaves in a measured and appropriate manner."See Times website for the article by Valerie Elliot. See also New Zealand's concern /www.stuff.co.nz
June 13 2006 ~ " All it takes is one break in the chain and chaos ensues, with rotting carcasses lying uncollected for days"
Farmers Weekly interactive reports that both Welsh farming unions want a rethink of the current system for dealing with fallen stock, especially sheep and quotes a spokeman for the Farmers Union of Wales
" The closure has shown how fragile the current system is. All it takes is one break in the chain and chaos ensues, with rotting carcasses lying uncollected for days. Many members of the public have expressed concern about the smell, and amazement at the madness of the burial ban."Also in today's FWi, in an article by Andrew Watts, we read:
"A review of the national fallen stock scheme and the company that administers it has found huge disparities in the prices charged to farmers, a lack of competition in some areas and reluctance by collectors to invest in their business. The report, written for DEFRA by Bob Bansback, a former strategy director at the Meat and Livestock Commission, found that enforcing the burial ban is most difficult in the sheep sector....many producers simply do not accept the burial ban. For a typical English lowland sheep breeding flock, the cost of compliance is equivalent to about 64% of the enterprise net margin. ......... Most alarming is the huge disparity charged for collecting dead lambs, which is 2200% higher in the south east than in Northern Ireland.(See fallen stock page)
Measures recommended in the report include implementing best practice from other EU states."
June 13 2006 ~Complaints of scandalous and time-wasting behaviour by staff at RPA
The Western Morning News reports
".... Several staff at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) head office in Newcastle are facing disciplinary procedures over claims that they leapt naked from filing cabinets, held break-dancing competitions during work hours and vomited into cups .... .....See RPA page for more detail
The chairman of the Regional Dairy Board for Devon, John Daw, a farmer who is still waiting for up to £15,000 in farm payments from the RPA, said he was not surprised by the mischief. "With such a high turnover of staff they are bound to get the people nobody else wants and we farmers suffer as a result," he said. ..." WMN story
June 11 2006 ~ Bovine TB policy and badgers " joint and cooperative approach" needed - Letter in the Vet Record
Mr Swarbrick wrote:
"...... Like many others, Bourne and colleagues appear to be ignoring several important factors and offering no real solutions.
Over 25 years there does not appear to have been any concerted national action to control, let alone eradicate, the relentless spread of bovine TB. We have an EU obligation to eradicate bovine TB. Given that there are no vaccines, prophylaxis or therapy for bovine TB, we can only adopt the long-established medical and veterinary principles for infectious disease control by removing all infected, and more especially diseased, individuals from any contact with healthy populations.............
We need a veterinary consensus as to what to do and how to do it, and veterinarians must also find consensus with the ecologists, who have an important contribution. ...... We also need to persuade the pro-badger lobby that some of their comments are incorrect. Time is not on our side and veterinarians, farmers and the UK as a whole cannot allow the perceived difficulties to be an excuse for inaction.
Will the ISG please now put forward its strategy and protocols for the eradication of bovine TB from the UK and also for preventing diseased badgers from infecting cattle, badgers and all the other animals, bearing in mind that there is a potentially important human dimension." Read in full
June 9 2006 ~ A disease being termed "atypical BSE" is being found in older cattle in both USA and Europe
At an international conference on what are described as "prion diseases" in domestic livestock, French and Italian scientists have described how a TSE has been found in a small number of cattle ranging from 5 to 15 years old. One French researcher has revealed that the BSE cases in Texas last year 2005 and Alabama last spring 2006 were identical to "atypical" cases of BSE found in France. We read on ProMed's quoting of Farmers Weekly that "Marion Simmons of the Veterinary Laboratory Agency at Weybridge urged caution, saying there are not yet sufficient supporting data to suggest that the disease is a new strain of BSE."
A moderator comments, "It has long been debated whether this atypical form is sporadic or whether the sporadic appearance was an atypical form. There does not seem to be a good explanation, which simply highlights the need for more research and understanding of this disease. "
We have tried for some years to highlight the uncertainties. Although scientific reputations, massive regulation and huge amounts of money depend on certainties - those challenging the received wisdom seem to be considered contemptible by the establishment - there are indeed many more questions than answers about so-called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies. See also previous ProMed posting
June 9 2006 ~ Bovine TB "as the vets have now comprehensively exposed, the Krebs trials were only a pseudo-scientific charade, never designed to work."
Muckspreader in Private Eye last week. "Even Defra admits that the percentage of badgers culled was sometimes as low as 20 percent. Prof.Bourne has admitted in the Veterinary Record that his staff were not allowed into a third of the land chosen for study. Meanwhile the tragedy rolls on: for farmers, for cattle, for taxpayers, and for all those sick badgers, condemned to a lingering death, only because humans became so blinded by sentimentality that they allowed badger numbers to explode to a level nature could no longer tolerate.."
June 8 2006 ~"Unless the vaccination lobby prevails.... then consumers may lose the option of choosing more ethical and humane outdoor-reared poultry products"
"Multiple cracks are beginning to show in the supposed scientific consensus on the origins of avian flu..." If anyone missed the article by Joanna Blythe in yesterday's Guardian, it opens on the Guardian website, here. Extract:
"... ..... The Washington Post has reported that as recently as the late 90s, in an unsuccessful attempt to keep the lid on less virulent strains of bird flu, intensive poultry farms in China were using, with the full approval of their government, an anti-viral drug called Amantadine. This drug is intended for humans and its use to treat birds would be a violation of international poultry regulations. Such misuse could have caused the avian flu virus to evolve into the drug-resistant H5N1 strain.ProMed's thread "Avian Influenza, poultry v. migratory birds" now has 27 entries. See the latest entry which quotes the Financial Express: Industry caused the flu; why blame wild birds? It would seem that the voices of Bird International and Grain (see warmwell's H5N1 pages) are beginning to be heard and amplified.
.... In Britain, this February, the day after the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) minister Ben Bradshaw assured the public that the British poultry industry was "very well prepared" for avian flu and had "extremely high levels of biosecurity", the animal welfare organisation Animal Aid photographed tonnes of poultry-shed waste containing body parts and feathers that had been dumped on farm land in West Yorkshire. ....
When H5N1 turned up in a remote village in eastern Turkey in January, this was initially blamed on migratory birds. Then when villagers gave their side of the story, it emerged that their diseased birds were intimately connected with a large factory farm nearby. ....
Worldwide, intensive poultry production has exploded and this growth seems to be mirrored by an increase in avian flu. In the south-east Asian countries where most of the H5N1 outbreaks are concentrated - Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam - production has jumped eightfold in just three decades as cheap chicken meat has become an international commodity. Conversely, certain other countries in Asia, such as Laos, have experienced relatively few bird flu outbreaks. In Laos, H5N1 has been restricted mainly to the country's few factory farms.
.... Despite all the evidence now emerging that wild birds may not be the prime carrier of H5N1, governments are panicking.....
..... Unless the vaccination lobby prevails - and going on Britain's track record with foot and mouth disease, the odds are not promising - then consumers may lose the option of choosing more ethical and humane outdoor-reared poultry products...."
June 8 2006 ~ Charoen Pokphand "source of a bird flu outbreak" - the protein-rich chicken feathers were recycled to make chicken feed; the innards of the chickens were recycled into fish feed.. company dominates the feed industry."
According to the Financial Express article quoted in the latest ProMed report on "Avian Influenza, poultry v. migratory birds" we read
"...In September 2004, Cambodian authorities noted that the source of a bird flu outbreak was chicks supplied by the Thai company, Charoen Pokphand. This company dominates the feed industry and is the biggest supplier of chicks to China, Indonesia, Viet Nam and Turkey, which have witnessed bird flu outbreaks. Ukraine, where bird flu occurred, imported 12 million live birds in 2004."The ProMed moderator (see ProMed website) notes that "Vertical integration was highly developed at Charoen Pokphand; reportedly, nothing went to waste at the group companies. For instance, the protein-rich chicken feathers were recycled to make chicken feed; the innards of the chickens were recycled into fish feed; and the carcasses of chickens were fed to crocodiles on the group's crocodile farms"
The moderator gives a link to a profile of the company, adding " For a profile of Charoen Pokphand (India) that claims that their flocks are healthy, go to: http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2002/12/19/stories/2002121900900300.htm and http://icmr.icfai.org/casestudies/catalogue/Business%20Strategy2/Charoen%20Pokphand.htm "
June 6 2006 ~ "dumping manure and carcasses into ponds and having them eaten by fish possibly results in ponds that can be reservoirs for flu virus .."
Dr Martin Williams' letter to ProMed receives informed comment by two moderators:
"[Martin William's website is worth visiting for his photographs of floating poultry carcasses in a family fish pond in Indonesia. These photographs better illustrate the risk than our 3 reports on the same topic. - Mod.MHJ]The letter from Simon M. Shane FRCVS, PhD. MBL. dip ACPV who is apparently: ".. concerned that ProMED is being "used" by the ornithological fraternity to absolve their feathered constituency of any involvement in dissemination of H5N1 HPAI. ..." is also published but without moderator comment.
[Scholtissek & Naylor indicated in 1988: "Global developments in aquaculture -- the so-called 'Blue Revolution' -- will mean increased colocation of people, ducks and pigs". (Fish farming and influenza pandemics; Nature 331, 215).
See also "Chicken dung used to feed fish may help spread bird flu" in 20051228.3697, as well as Mod. MHJ's commentary in 20060518.1396: "...depositing poultry faeces into the pond water would put any wildfowl swimming in those waters at a real risk of becoming infected...Birds faeces repeatedly trucked in for fish food would act in the same way as a constant risk to birds flying into and out of the fish pond areas".
Situations resembling the one described in Indonesia may prevail in other countries as well. Aquaculture's potential hazard in HPAI epidemiology deserves serious consideration and attention, not red herringing the role of migratory birds in spreading the virus to longer distances. - Mod.AS]
June 5 2006 ~ "severe funding shortfalls in fight against bird flu". Agencies "are being run ragged" . No coordinated effort to mobilize grant support
The Canadian Press reports today that the WHO and FAO are facing a dire funding shortfall, with little in the way of flexible money that can be used to respond to unpredictable outbreaks. Dr. David Nabarro, senior UN system co-ordinator for avian and human influenza is quoted:
"It's not just WHO and FAO . . . the whole (UN) family needs a bit of cash "They really have done poorly on the money but FAO hasn't got much. either...The system is currently not designed to easily open the hoppers. And what folks tend to say is: 'Well, WHO ought to shift money from other programs. But that's easier said than done, because none of the other programs are well funded. . . Somebody squeals, wherever you find money from..."and Dr. Joseph Domenech, head of the FAO's animal health service, is reported as saying:
"The demands since last September have increased tremendously when the disease came into the Caucuses, Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Africa Every week it's a different pattern.... most of the time we will have a country which is suddenly facing the outbreaks and there is nothing that is pledged."Manwhile, a Reuters article by Lesley Wroughton and Maggie Fox today reveals that a World Bank report prepared for the meeting in Vienna on June 7th shows that of the nearly $1.9 billion pledged last January by nations and organizations that said they wanted to make a "massive effort" against the virus, just $286 million has actually been spent to fight bird flu.
"... The money is supposed be used to upgrade veterinary systems, launch vaccination drives and help educate people about hygienic ways to raise animals...... The European Commission is the largest single donor, with $178 million pledged but none yet disbursed. ..."
June 4 2006 ~ "governments worldwide and in some states are recommending restrictions or closure of backyard and free-range poultry production"
"As food citizens," writes Jennifer Wilkins, Food and Society Policy Fellow at Cornell University, in the Albany Times Union,"we must think critically about what is at stake when regulators restrict how poultry can be raised. We can use purchasing power to support all farmers and keep production systems that are good for the environment and us. We need to resist losing our heads and jumping on the blame-the-wild-bird-and-roaming- chicken bandwagon.
It is vital that global and domestic regulation does not thwart backyard and pastured poultry production. Not only have these systems shown a resilience against disease, they enhance biodiversity, provide environmental and health benefits, increase food security and keep farm families on the land."
June 2 2006 ~ Rome conference - "H5N1 virus in eight African countries appeared to be poultry-related and chiefly based on trade... including illegal trade"
In spite of the headline from the FAO newsroom, scientists at the 2 day FAO/OIE bird flu conference in Rome have admitted they are unable to resolve the question of one of the key issues at the conference, which was the role of wild birds in the spread of HPAI to more than 50 countries on three continents, and whether wild birds should now be considered a permanent reservoir of the virus.
"..... If they are such a reservoir, there is a strong likelihood they will carry the virus with them in subsequent migrations. Alternately H5N1 may subside naturally as infected animals die off, or it may mutate to a less aggressive form.
... The conference noted that the current outbreaks of H5N1 virus in eight African countries appeared to be poultry-related and chiefly based on trade in poultry for human consumption, including illegal trade. However, it called for further analysis for a more complete understanding of how the virus was introduced. ............... It called for the establishment of a global tracking and monitoring facility involving all relevant institutions across the world, including scientific centres and farmers' organizations, hunters, bird watchers, and wetland and wildlife conservation societies.
The participants rejected any suggestion of trying to stop the spread of HPAI by killing wild birds. "Destruction of wild bird habitats or indiscriminate hunting of wildlife is scientifically and ethically unjustified as a response," one of the conference recommendations said."
June 2 2006 ~ "we will inevitably see land abandonment in upland areas of Wales"
The decision to cut payments to upland farmers in Wales is the subject of an article by Steve Dube in the Western Mail. In Wales, almost 80% of the land is designated Less Favoured - and has been eligible for Tir Mynydd payments.
"Llangurig sheep farmer Derek Morgan, who chairs the FUW's Hill Farming and Marginal Land Committee, pointed out that the cuts were announced just days after publication of a study into English upland farms which highlighted the damage that cutting such payments would cause to the financial viability of hill farms.......the Minister had also announced plans to scrap Element Two of the scheme, which delivers on environmental conditions such as stocking density, and on animal welfare.
North Wales Conservative AM Brynle Williams said, "The Minister has dealt yet another blow to the agricultural industry. This move may prove to be the final straw for upland and hill farming in Wales. "Tir Mynydd is both a social and economic subsidy, without which we will inevitably see land abandonment in upland areas of Wales, as it becomes financially unviable to farm in these isolated areas." ."
June 1 2006 ~ "ventilation shutdown" is not one of the methods recognised for disease control by the OIE guidelines.
We were pleased to see this press release by Compassion in World Farming, one of the few organisations to declare unequivocally that mistreating farm animals is unacceptable. In a civilised society, animal disease should be treated according to ethically acceptable methods based on independent and scientifically validated knowledge - not, as in the foot and mouth tragedy, on agro-economic or political considerations.
CIWF says"... This method appears to breach these internationally agreed guidelines, by failing to ensure induction of unconsciousness is immediate: it also fails to avoid anxiety, pain, distress and suffering. Philip Lymbery CIWF's Chief Executive said: "Compassion in World Farming believes that death through ventilation shutdown is likely to be protracted and cause terrible suffering. 3It is possible that many birds will die in shocking circumstances, and we could be faced with scenes in which piles of dead birds culled in this fashion become a common sight - comparable to the shocking scenes at the height of the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis. " We believe that this method is potentially so inhumane that it should not be used even as a last resort."It was encouraging too to hear the voice of French veterinarians on the You and Yours (Thursday), explaining how the precautionary principle taken to extremes is counter-productive and that hens indoors show distress (if they have space to do so) and will fight each other in desperation. Even Bob McCracken seemed to be seeing the need to allow vaccination for free range hens.
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