"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 May 2006
May 31 2006 ~ Prusiner challenged at last - and dismay that the "good work of others trashed by the traditional weapon of choice in scientific disputes - anonymous peer review"
The Telegraph today, in an article by Roger Highfield, reports on the Jeffrey research (see entry for March 30 below)and says "almost a decade after Prusiner's Nobel prize, findings still challenge his hypothesis so that, at best, it seems incomplete and, at worst, it may even be wrong."
".....findings once again raise the possibility that the abnormal proteins are a consequence of the disease process, rather than a cause. ....(Read article in the Telegraph - and see warmwell's TSE pages)
Prusiner's idea does not fulfil the classic criteria formulated by Robert Koch in 1884 to link an agent to a disease, says Prof Manuelidis. "Not a single one of Koch's proven postulates of infection are fulfilled by prion proteins." ....."It has also been obvious for a long time that abnormal prion protein is the consequence of infection, but not the causal agent," she says. "You might say that abnormal prion protein lacks the dynamite for weapons of mass destruction, though it certainly has a lot of rhetoric inside it. Those natural truths are not defined by popular vote or cabal."
She is also disturbed by the hostility faced by those who question the prion idea and says she has seen the good work of others trashed by the traditional weapon of choice in scientific disputes - anonymous peer review. "At issue, unfortunately, is public health."
May 31 2006 ~ Wild bird role in flu 'unclear' and "an impassioned plea for the use of vaccines to control the disease in domestic poultry."
"..International researchers are in Rome for a two-day conference to discuss the spread of avian flu.
Poultry vaccination and a greater emphasis on Africa .... called for by the delegates. ....
Dr Domenech, FAO "We have to be careful that..... all the explanations of how the virus is spreading are not placed at the swans' door. They're one part of a complicated web."
The scientists also heard an impassioned plea for the use of vaccines to control the disease in domestic poultry.
Dr Robert Webster, from St Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, said that it was absurd that vaccines were not used. "The global poultry industry is the main spreader of H5N1, but migratory birds have certainly played a role. A main issue in my mind is the use of vaccines at agricultural level to control this thing," he said. According to the chief veterinary officer of the FAO, Dr Joseph Domenech, if the disease becomes endemic on the continent, it could re-infect the rest of the world for years to come. .......
Many delegates spoke of the need for better information to help target their research. There was a growing understanding that while there was excellent research being done on the ground with wild birds, there was a lack of global perspective. "
May 30 2006 ~ RPA Latest
WMN "Farmers awaiting crucial farm subsidies are receiving cheques for as little as 1p each from the Government's Rural Payments Agency - while another farmer expecting £35,000 received one for more than £2 million. Thousands of farmers face financial crisis because of bureaucratic delays by the RPA.."
May 30 2006 ~ H5N1 is spreading more through commercial husbandry and the humans that are moving poultry around says Juan Lubroth (FAO)
"... In Nigeria, which is on so-called migratory flyways, evidence has emerged that the virus was introduced there in February through trade in infected chicks, the FAO said. "I've been stumped by this virus for the last two years," Lubroth said. "Certain things we thought would happen didn't, and then things we didn't think would happen did." It's possible, Lubroth said, that wild birds are being infected by poultry. Several countries may be wasting resources targeting the wild fowl, said Thomas of BirdLife International... " (Read in full)
May 29 2006 ~ Member states must have suitable arrangements in place for the possible use of emergency vaccination.
With foot and mouth circulating around the globe it is only a matter of time before the next outbreak in the UK. To anyone who is not sure about the latest Directive, or about the effectiveness of modern vaccines, the Intervet website www.foot-and-mouth-disease.com gives details of the development of new marker vaccines and test kits allowing for the differentiation of vaccinated and infected animals. The site is worth a good look. It makes it very clear that vaccination of animals is not causing any health risk to consumers.
May 27 2006 ~ Rapid Diagnosis no longer to be ignored - but a further wait of three years is envisaged
Any warmwell reader who listened to Farming Today on Wednesday morning might well have wondered at the apparent lack of knowledge about state of the art technology in the field of on-site rapid diagnosis. The chip being developed at the Central Science Laboratory near York, with funding from DEFRA "offers the possibility of spotting a disease outbreak in hours rather than days" The talk was all about how, at long last, the wait for lab results of several days will be able to be avoided (although a wait of a further three years, it seems, is going to be necessary). No mention was made by the interviewer of the fact that such technology has already been available for at least 5 years now.
DEFRA has announced a "pioneering" lab on a chip to test for multiple viruses - ( we note the insistence on the inevitable adjective "deadly".)
One wonders why the UK has doggedly preferred to use pre-emptive slaughter of animals merely suspected of disease, with all its resulting trauma and distress, as the UK disease control method of choice, instead of investing in the available methods of rapid detection. It is not easy to forget that confirmation of the Cellardyke swan H5N1 virus took a week.
At a time when international cooperation over disease is absolutely vital, the desire of the UK to wait for its own exclusive diagnostic tests is almost incomprehensible. The reason seems to be that any technology that has to be bought in rather than being of direct financial benefit to the UK government is not to be contemplated - and such an attitude seems more deplorable than can be easily expressed.
The establishment of an International Task Force for surveillance should have been considered long ago. Disease nowadays knows no borders. International good-will and cooperation is needed to identify, control and eradicate reservoirs of disease. As an example, Cepheid announced a few days ago that it is to collaborate with the non-profit making Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics (FIND) to develop a new, rapid molecular diagnostic test for TB in developing countries. FIND is dedicated to developing affordable diagnostic tests for diseases affecting underprivileged populations. (See http://www.prnewswire.com)
May 27 2006 ~new waste management regulations came into force on May 15.
Muckspreader this week writes, " On pain of fines up to £ 20,000 for each offence, farmers must now comply with rules governing every conceivable aspect of what Brussels defines as waste, from the manure heap in the yard to clippings when they cut back their hedges; from the sprout stalks they leave to rot down in their fields to the rubble needed to repair farm tracks. All this now comes under the eagle eye of officials of the Environment Agency; and woe betide any farmer caught out not filling in all the necessary paper work and asking for all the necessary permissions. ..."
May 21 2006 ~ " the old Research Council institutes..... are withering on the vine"
In Thursday's Lords debate, the Earl of Selborne :
"If you accept my thesis that the agricultural sector, above all, has to be seen to be embracing new technology, taking on the fundamentals of environmental considerations, nutrition, linkages with other biological sciences and contributing to some of the wider objectives of the National Health Service - all of which I believe the research councils are undertaking in a co-ordinated way - you will find that the old Research Council institutes, such as Rothamsted Research, the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at Aberystwyth and North Wyke in Devon and the Institute of Animal Health, are withering on the vine - and they are withering on the vine because Defra has withdrawn support..."This is particularly worrying when one sees the (literally) millions funnelled into vCJD research. The latest wave of fear over vCJD raised by "British scientists" and Professor James Ironside in particular is being repeated in the world's press. But as Professor Hugh Pennington says, "No one really knows...." See also below and warmwell's TSE pages.
May 21 2006 ~".. they are repulsed by the prospect of further mass killing - euphemistically called culling by Defra - of healthy livestock in the event of avian flu or some other infectious disease"
Thursday's Lords debate on Agriculture. Highly readable both for Lord Vinson's opening remarks and for much else, it deserves to be read in full. Here is an extract from the always excellent Countess of Mar
".......It should be remembered that the majority of farmers have an empathy with their livestock - a fact that seems not to be readily appreciated by those sitting in Whitehall. In the aftermath of BSE and the foot and mouth epidemic, they are repulsed by the prospect of further mass killing - euphemistically called culling by Defra - of healthy livestock in the event of avian flu or some other infectious disease. They find it impossible to equate the propensity for Defra to kill healthy animals whilst diseased and sick badgers and other wildlife are allowed to continue to spread bovine TB across our countryside. ..."It was an excellent debate - and should have had more time. It is hard to pick out any one speaker because there is very much indeed of interest -the urgency expressed about the state of crisis was palpable - and warmwell readers will like the fact that many, such as Lord Marlesford, did not mince their words - but they will be encouraged too by what he had to say about the new team and his tribute to the unfairly dismissed Lord Bach.
"... Defra has been an unmitigated disaster. The Rural Payments Agency has been a scandal. It deceived its Ministers, who then misled the whole farming industry. I believe that Mrs Beckett should have resigned; instead, she has been promoted. We understand the reason: the Prime Minister wants to be his own Foreign Secretary and she will be a compliant tool to that end...... The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has heavy boots. I have respected him for years..... I believe that he will get a grip on Defra.He also said,
David Miliband is one of the best in the Government and is perhaps a future leader of his party. He will need to get some mud on his boots, which Mrs Beckett, from the shelter of her caravan with her pre-packaged Tesco food, never really did.... "
" I do not believe that we have had anyone who has really stood up for farmers since my noble friend Lord Plumb. As an article in the current issue of Arable Farming by the current NFU president Peter Kendall makes clear, the present regime prefers to lie snugly in bed with Defra officials and encourages its leader to bask like a schoolboy in a photo opportunity with the Prime Minister and Mrs Beckett on the steps of Downing Street and to express his deep appreciation to the Prime Minister for sparing him the time of day. ..." Read in fullSee also RPA latest
May 21 2006 ~ " a draught of common sense." from Lord Rooker
Lord Rooker's words were, as Lord Vinson said at the end of the debate, " a draught of commonsense." Extracts from Lord Rooker's closing speech:
"....dissecting Hansard will provide a checklist for action for Ministers in Defra and in other parts of the Government. I will make sure that it is done that way. ...I was stopped in the corridor of the other place a few days before by colleagues and they said, "Hey! What right have you got to debate rural communities? That's our turf". I said, "I don't think you're doing it well enough".Lord Vinson speaks for many when he said to Lord Rooker that "if this is the way that he has started, by God, he has set a wonderful precedent to continue."
....I apologise on behalf of the Government for the deep distress that has been caused by the constant promises given in good faith for the money that never arrived. But as people now know, a little more than 85 per cent of the money has been paid. It is already in bank accounts, not just cheques in the post. However, I again apologise for the distress that has been caused.
.... I refer to the issue of whether the vast majority of the population know where their food comes from. The degree of ignorance is enormous in that regard. We need to devote more attention to that issue in as positive a manner as possible.
....People and families who work on the farms have physical contact with those cattle every day and suffer enormous distress if the cattle become ill. I understand that and have seen it at first hand in Gloucestershire and on a farm that I visited in Staffordshire where there was a very severe outbreak.
....I do not want to preside over the demise of the small abattoirs
....... If anyone can find a regulation that we are operating that we do not need to operate, or somewhere we have gone way beyond the rules in a way that we do not need to, tell me what it is and I will get it changed.
.....I make the offer genuinely; I can take a fresh look and a fresh start.
.....We need to get gold in food production for the whole of the food chain - for the producers, the retailers and everyone working in it. They deserve the gold, not us putting gold into regulations. ..." Read in full
May 20 2006 ~ Avian Influenza. Illogical and inconsistent government reactions .
Since Thursday's Guardian news that "Government scientists found evidence of bird flu in poultry in October but did not report their concerns to the public" one is left wondering how many other suspicious cases have been kept quiet. Yesterday's FWi quotes a DEFRA spokesman: "If we publicised every case when it happened, it would be considered by some as a waste of time." It was only when the CVO report ( in which Dr Reynolds talks of the "huge achievements of the past year") was examined that it became known that 13 free-range geese had been exposed to bird flu at a sanctuary just after the "more by luck than judgement" (see Independent Nov 2005) discovery of H5N1 among mesia finches at the Quarantine facility in Essex last October. Although Debby Reynolds said at the time that the case showed that "Britain's quarantine system worked" it quite evidently was only the death of the valuable parrot that set proper testing in motion. Dr Reynolds did not even know that the parrot itself was not infected. It was yet another chapter of incompetence, cover-up, and worrying complacency.
The Guardian story of the government decision to lie low over the discovery of virus highlights the illogicality of the culling of poultry with the far milder H7N3 strain in Norfolk in early May - a case that was reported publicly. It looks very much as if the killing on the "free-range" farm (which suffered only a mild form of the flu and where no birds died from the infection) was as much to suggest that action was being taken as anything else. As a sinister bonus, it also tried out test methods of mass extermination.
It is sickening for concerned owners of birds at risk of such callous killing to remember that available and effective vaccine is denied those in the UK who want to use it. Highly efficient diagnostic tests for use on-site, the results of which can be centrally collected via the internet, have been available since 2001. But animal health funding remains low in spite of the ever escalating danger of zoonoses to human health. An unethical area of the livestock industry is being pandered to because money talks more loudly than concern about health - and the veterinary profession appear, as before, to be happy to collude in this illogical and dangerous policy.
May 19 2006 ~ "a new theory is gaining ground that the outbreak in wild birds near Qinghai Lake may be linked to fish farms around the lake"
says this Phayul.com report. It is hardly a "new" theory, however. The practice of feeding commercial fish with chicken faeces is just one of the unpublicised aspects of modern industrial food production and its use was suspected as a cause for the infection of wild birds very early on. The virologist Ruth Watkins mentioned it with concern last year and soon afterwards we read, in Grain's Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis
"......BirdLife International pointed out that Qinghai Lake has many surrounding poultry operations. They also noted that there is a fish farm in the area that the FAO helped construct, and that chicken faeces are commonly used as food and fertiliser in integrated fish farms in China. Furthermore, many trains and roads connect the Qinghai Lake area to areas of bird flu outbreaks, like Lanzhou, the source of infected poultry that caused an earlier outbreak of H5N1 in Tibet, 1,500 miles away. However, none of these alternative scenarios drew much attention from the FAO or other major international authorities. ..."The FAO itself actively promotes commercial aquaculture according to the Phayul.com report, notably around Qinghai Lake, where new cases have been found. The ProMed moderator commented yesterday
".... 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. While wild birds would feed in these ponds, I very much doubt that they roost/sleep while floating on them. By flying away to sleep, they then would carry the virus to surrounding areas and pass on the infections to separate populations of wild birds."
May 19 2006 ~ Vets should be able to charge more for their services and rely less on profits on animal drugs
The Scotsman's Vic Robertson reports that Debby Reynolds has referred in the CVO's 2005 report to " the huge achievements of the past year".
"2006 will be yet another challenging year but I am confident we are well equipped to meet these challenges effectively and efficiently."Freda Scott-Park of the British Veterinary Association (BVA) however, says the Scotsman, "expressed alarm at the continuing "atrocious treatment" of local veterinary inspectors (LVIs) - mainly from the private sector - in areas such as TB testing in cattle and scrapie elimination in sheep" and the article also quotes Sandy Clark, the Thurso-based Scottish Agricultural College veterinary surgery chief and former president of the Scottish branch of the BVA who pointed out, (as did the Marsh report of the Independent Review of Dispensing by Veterinary. Surgeons of Prescription Only Medicines published in May 2001), that vets should be able to charge more for their services and rely less on profits on animal drugs for their income.
May 19 2006 ~ Apologies again for lack of updates
. ..and thank you to those who have sent messages of concern. I am hoping to be back on line properly by the beginning of June
May 16 2006 ~ Poultry vaccine manufacturers/suppliers and their vaccines
This updated FAO/EMPRES international list shows avian influenza vaccine producers from 8 countries, including France (mainly Merial), Netherlands (Intervet) and China (Harbin Institute most recently). It might be useful for those who have swallowed at face value the objections that have been made against vaccination to read about these modern vaccines. One continues to wonder why - since properly vaccinated birds do not spread virus, since those vaccinated can be differentiated from infected birds and since there exist affordable rapid on-site diagnostic tests - private owners do not have the right to protect their own birds, even if, what is now referred to as "the UK chicken industry" sees no financial advantage in doing so.
Since the beginning of 2006 at least 455 wild birds in 16 European countries have been detected with high pathogen avian influenza; it is surely only a matter of time before the UK's free range and other much valued birds are again under threat of being killed in order to protect the market. There should be a straightforward process for those who want vaccines for their birds to obtain them, as exists in the Netherlands. Reuters warns that Romania looks set to cull another million birds, now that one case has been found again on a chicken farm.
May 15 2006 ~ "strong political leadership, excellent work by government officials, and an intensive engagement of people at community level "
Food Consumer.org reports that "Dr. David Nabarro, chief pandemic flu coordinator for the United Nations was full of praise for the way Asia has handled a difficult crisis. He singled out Thailand and Vietnam for the way the governments have responded to the crisis.
"These are two countries where there has been very strong political leadership, excellent work by government officials, and an intensive engagement of people at community level," he said. "They show that with the right level of engagement, we can reduce the threats posed by bird flu, and I'd like to see the same energy carried through to fruition in other countries as well."
......Dr Nabarro pointed out that the two countries had adopted different ways to fight the disease. In Vietnam, vaccination of the poultry was undertaken on a massive scale and all its 220 million chickens were vaccinated last summer. Thailand with its large poultry export industry could not afford a vaccination program since it would have led to a widespread ban on its exports."
May 15 2006 ~"far more attention needs to be given to monitoring and controlling the transport of poultry and other live birds and bird products"
says Ward Hagemeijer of Wetlands International. Spring migration of waterbirds from Africa has not brought H5N1 to Europe. Scientists from Wetlands International tested 5,000 wild birds in countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Senegal, Malawi and Kenya, but have not found the virus. Their website says,
"While there is a need to stay alert on the situation in wild birds, far more attention needs to be given to monitoring and controlling the transport of poultry and other live birds and bird products."
May 13 2006 ~ Thunderstorm puts paid to warmwell.com
The Warmwell laptop has weathered many storms recently - but last night's lightning has crashed the computer's operating system and ADSL link - perhaps fatally. Apologies for much reduced ability to update at present - no broadband link and old machine.
May 13 2006 ~ Emailers solve mystery of the missing link (Ben Bradshaw...see below)
Grateful thanks to Bob, who wrote,
"http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/control/avianquarantine/independentreview/index.htmAnd to John of the interesting new blog Loonmusings who tells us,
Found this page by searching the defra website. It has a link to pdf file of independent review. "
"The correct link to their response should read http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/control/avianquarantine/gov-strategy/index.htm In other words someone managed to change a "g" to a "p"!Yes it is. Many thanks to both.
Their response is at http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/pdf/avianquarantine-govnresponse.pdf Hope this is helpful"
May 12 2006 ~ Ben Bradshaw's non-answer includes a link that doesn't work
In reply to a question by Bill Wiggin about which recommendations from the report of the Independent Review of Avian Quarantine have been implemented, Mr Bradshaw was less than helpful.
"The Government and the Devolved Administrations published their response to the Independent Review of UK Avian Quarantine on 19 April. This is available on the Defra website:Alas, it is anything but "available on the Defra website" - since the link leads to an error message. Mr Wiggin will be unable to find out even now which "29 of the 32 recommendations" the Government and the Devolved Administrations "either accept, or accept in principle" nor which "recommendation regarding pet birds" has been rejected. One is left wondering why a Government Minister cannot give his colleagues a link that works - and whether anyone can forward to us the link that does. See also bovine TB page latest and a timely PQ about the Plain English Campaign (RPA page)
http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/control/avianquarantine/pov-strategy/index.htm . .."
May 12 2006 ~ The Tate Welcomes Britain's Farmers
A Cultural Strategy for Rural England is the name of a Rural Cultural Summit to take place at the Clore Auditorium, Tate Britain, London, Tuesday May 23rd 2006. It is supported by the Arts Council and the National Lottery and shares the same quotation - Give us the Tools and we will finish the Job' (Winston Churchill, 1941) - as that in Roger Breeze's talk at Manchester when he said that " The most important outcome of the 2001 FMD outbreak would be for members of the public who are not farmers to take up the cause of eliminating these diseases that are so important to pastoral and small farmers all over the world ...."
"This is a unique event, where for the first time the leaders of the main rural and farming cultural communities, speaking as partner members of the coalition -The Rural Cultural Forum - will come together with the lead stake holders for the urban arts and culture sector to discuss the aims and objectives, proposed funding, implementation mechanisms and outputs for a rural cultural strategy."One of the speakers in the afternoon will be Michael Hart, Small Family Farms Alliance on " a proposed European network and partnership for Rural and Farming Culture"
If you would like to attend the Rural Cultural Summit - and warmwell readers would be warmly welcomed - please register your name, address, and contact number to email@example.com no later than next Wednesday, May 18th. Entry (including lunch) is free.
May 12 2006 ~ Risks negligible....
The BBC reports that the Welsh anthrax farm (comment) expects the all-clear on friday. " The risk to users of the local river was described as "negligible," while the danger to walkers and their paths after restrictions were lifted would be "minimal". ..."
An expert ProMed moderator said on April 29th that "While it is not reported one might presume that the herd has been vaccinated." With anthrax, the reality of the risks is examined by the same ProMed moderator who says,
"the number of verified cases of human anthrax from direct access to contaminated soil can be counted on the fingers of one hand, clenched." but that "surface-soil contamination would remain a risk for between 3 months and 3 years, which is why it is a good idea to annually vaccinate such exposed herds for 2-3 years after an outbreak.."Read in fullIt might be thought illogical that minimal and negligible risks associated with anthrax can be set aside so easily while those virtually zero risks associated with so-called vaccinated "carriers" of FMD virus have resulted in EU regulations of such complexity and impracticality that there are few at DEFRA who understand them. ( See below for a scientific examination of the "risks" of FMD vaccinates) Most of the stakeholders ever consulted by DEFRA are still quietly opposing vaccination - perhaps in the erroneous belief that such measures are necessary to save them from a two-tier system so should not be challenged. What we have learned, over the past five long years, is that policy is determined by those with political and financial clout, not as a result of sound scientific reasoning.
May 12 2006 ~ FMD is raging across Vietnam
"The government has supplied provinces and cities with 640,000 doses of vaccines. The deputy prime minister also held a ministerial meeting Thursday and decided to extend financial assistance to farmers whose (infected) animals are culled. ..".thanhniennews.com
May 11th 2006 ~ "Despite Predictions, Migrating Birds Didn't Carry Deadly Flu" says the New York Times
NYT "International health officials had feared that the disease was likely to spread to Africa during the southward migration and return to Europe with a vengeance during the reverse migration this spring. That has not happened - a significant finding for Europe, because it is far easier to monitor a virus that exists domestically on farms but not in the wild..."
May 10th 2006 ~ "botched reshuffle last night threatened to overshadow a rare sliver of good news emerging from the RPA"
See RPA latest. It appears that Baroness Ashton has declined the poisoned chalice offered to her last Friday because she doesn't want to combine her existing job at the Department of Constitutional Affairs with the DEFRA role. Now Lord Rooker will instead have DEFRA responsibility in the House of Lords - in spite of already having to handle Northern Ireland matters there. The government seems to think the job is so unimportant that it can be a part-time commitment.
May 10th 2006 ~ Botswana FMD outbreak ".. The local everyday consumer is hardest hit just to appease the beef industry that exports to the EU markets"
Following up on the story below, we read in today's mmegi.bw about the socio-economic impact of FMD in Botswana if the government opts to cull livestock.
"... The government is expected to come up with a clear position today, if the animals living in the red zone will be culled or vaccinated against the contagious FMD. .."Once again, the people most affected have to wait and see what is going to be decided over their heads. Meanwhile, Viet Nam plans to import 2 million doses of vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease from China next month. See Xinhua
May 10th 2006 ~ "the moment when the limits of the New Labour synthesis were exposed"
Jonathan Freedland in today's Guardian is discussing the bind that British politics has fallen into. It is still using a mindset only appropriate for quite a different sort of society.
"For at least seven years, Labour has sunk huge amounts of cash into the state. It has tried scheme after scheme to make it more efficient: setting targets, issuing directives, oiling, buffing and shining its creaky and rusted machinery. And yet it still isn't working properly. ... Today's citizens are used to fast, efficient, wireless services that give them a high degree of personal choice; the lumbering bureaucracy of the state cannot catch up. ......the next stage in the journey will be nothing less than a refashioning of the state - replacing the top-down, centralised behemoth of today with a looser, more diffuse, even "organic" (Taylor's word) network of services that fit the people who use them. Citizens won't be passive recipients, but direct participants..... "And nowhere is this as true as in the area of animal health policies. The current mindset still astonishingly insists that slaughter is the best method of treating animals that might get sick, and that centralised bureaucratic control - even when the infrastructure is so inefficient and the knowledge base so lacking - must be imposed on all forms of farming. Only those with financial clout are consulted. But policies nowadays are simply not going to work without true "stakeholder participation". People are tired of a mindset so petty, so controlling and so patently out of date. Administrators must wake up to the current situation.
Meanwhile it is shocking how much misery and frustration is caused by the arrogant belief that the policies in place can work in the end, as long as ordinary people who have no voice are coerced into doing what they are told. It is worth - especially five years on - reading again the testimony in Fields of Fire.
May 9th 2006 ~ In some parts of the country, sheep no longer "valuable enough" to merit treatment by a vet.
icWales reports on a speech given by Dr Freda Scott-Park, president of the BVA. She spoke of the "vicious circle" where hard-up farmers no longer call out vets to treat their animals and vets consequently concentrate on pets.
".....welfare can easily become compromised," said Dr Freda Scott-Park.
A severe shortage of farm animal vets also compromises the country's ability to cope in a crisis - as we have known since the Drummond Report warned about the shortage of vets in January 1999. Among the key conclusions about the 2001 Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, the PAC committee, said that since the Department had commissioned the Drummond report, which was of "vital importance affecting animal health" they should implement its recommendations and not procrastinate.
It seems astounding that - in spite of the Drummond Report's prescience about what could (and did) go disastrously wrong, many of the same worries have gone on being expressed for over seven years now.
May 8th 2006 ~ Will David Miliband be interested in the new armoury against global diseases?
The very extensive foot and mouth epidemic in Uruguay in 2001 proved two things.
As Dr Roger Breeze said on Farming Today in 2004: "....it is really preposterous for people to say that in some way this is some sort of theoretical device which has yet to be tested. The Department of Defense is using this every day in Afghanistan and Iraq - all over the world. There are thousands of these machines in use all the time. And so, you know, the people who think this is theoretical really ought to get out there in the world and see what is really going on."
- In the same year as the most shameful incident in the UK's veterinary history was taking place, ordinary Uruguayan farmers successfully vaccinated their cattle (10.4 million) against the same strain of FMD. There was no further slaughter on infected farms after the first ten days of a rigorous culling policy which failed to stop the disease spreading. Vaccination worked. There were no documented cases of so-called vaccinated carriers.
- The portable rapid PCR diagnostic machine, offered to the UK at the start of our outbreak and ignored, was field tested in Uruguay and was found to work extremely well.
Warmwell's Science and Technical pages have links to papers and inquiries looking back over the past five years.
As for avian influenza, 200 million birds worldwide have now been slaughtered. The available technologies are still being ignored and the most appalling killing methods used - and contemplated here too. Although the mistakes of 2001 are now widely understood (as a result of the courage of individuals) we remain fearful that DEFRA will continue to make them. Many of the same people are in post and listened to with apparent deference. The same wretched assertions are being made and accepted. Enlightened leadership is needed as never before.
May 8 2006 ~ "Under Margaret Beckett, farmers have been the victims of incompetence to match anything at the Home Office"
Madeleine Bunting in today's Guardian
"......bad enough for a hill farmer at the best of times..... Graham has just got the thick pile of application forms for this year; they are late, and he has just over two weeks to fill in the 30-odd pages, although it is his busiest time of year. At his feet, one of the orphan lambs he's feeding is curled in a cat basket beside the Aga. That's modern farming for you: a nasty mix of paperwork and the sheer sweat of 70-plus hours a week for an annual income that won't edge beyond £15,000 on Graham's kind of moorland tenant farm..More on RPA page
The fiasco at the RPA has attracted a fraction of the attention it warrants.
.....The intriguing thing is how the politicians have got off so lightly. Beckett gets promoted to foreign secretary, leaving all the mess behind..... she was able to bury her bad news beneath the travails of Charles Clarke and Patricia Hewitt; and she benefited from the pervasive lack of sympathy and interest in urban England for farmers... "
May 7 2006 ~ H5N1
- see Bird Flu Page for news and archive. RPA latest on reaction to the departure of Margaret Beckett and the demotion of Lord Bach, Elliott Morley and Alun Michael. Etc.
May 5 2006 ~ Ben Bradshaw repeats his mantra - " we do not see any role for vaccination"
Ben Bradshaw yesterday: Hansard
"The vaccination of poultry offers potential benefits in disease control, but currently available vaccines are too limited to provide a general solution. Crucially, although these vaccines protect against disease, they will not prevent birds from becoming infected and shedding virus, hiding the symptoms of disease. ...... we do not see any role for vaccination."Whoever is advising the government is ignorant of the facts (see headline below)- or else is cynically using a false but scientific-sounding argument in order to hide the merely economic one. (In 2001 such false economy led to losses of at least #8 billion) If birds are vaccinated properly they will not become infected and any (highly unlikely) shedding of virus will not be enough to infect others (Read Q and A section ) It is to be hoped that vaccination of birds will soon be recognised as a human health issue as much as an animal welfare one. Gassing trials and plans to suffocate birds (see below) are as unnecessary as they are repugnant.
May 5 2006 ~ Intervet says its inactivated vaccine "..confers protection on poultry... allows differentiation between infected and vaccinated birds..In Hong Kong vaccinated birds no longer transmitted the virus and did not turn into carriers...."
On the 9th March, Ben Bradshaw told the House of Commons in answer to a question by James Paice that Sir David King was "grossly misrepresented.... about his view of vaccination." and Mr Bradshaw read out a "statement" by Professor David King:
"that the disadvantage of using currently available vaccine significantly outweighs any potential benefits."In response to a query about this, the DTI has now clarified David King's comments:
"My advice to Government remains that the disadvantages of using currently available vaccine significantly outweigh any potential benefits. Although the current vaccine does reduce bird mortality from the disease, it will not prevent birds from becoming infected and spreading the virus. The symptoms would be masked, making detection and eradication considerably more difficult."Such a statement is both extraordinary and misleading. With an approved vaccine, as Intervet told us in March
"..... there are no 'silent carriers'. When our vaccine is used as recommended (2 doses 4-6 weeks apart) it prevents transmission of the disease, even with the high challenges used experimentally" In an article in Poultry World, "Lines Drawn in Vaccine Debate", Intervet's Jim Hungerford makes it clear that " use of the H5N2 inactivated vaccine confers protection on poultry but also allows differentiation between infected and vaccinated birds." (Read Q and A section )
May 5 2006 ~ Where is any evidence that "symptoms would be masked, making detection and eradication considerably more difficult"?
The free range sector's anxious voice remains unheard. Unsupported pronouncements are drowning them out. In Germany, despite anguished protests by farmers and smallholders at the continuing lock up of free range hens, Horst Seehofer remains adamant. Madness.
Warmwell recommends that concerned readers cut and paste the paragraph above to their MP, ( page opens in new window) urgently requesting that evidence that "symptoms would be masked, making detection and eradication considerably more difficult" be produced.
As we say below, the evidence provided by Freedom of Information was highly unsatisfactory. That the paper describing the Hong Kong experience was cited is absurd since both that paper and the new Chinese papers show that vaccination is effective.
( The matter is urgent. It normally takes months to produce new stocks of vaccine. The suitable antigen must be in stock before producing a batch and then quality control testing must be carried out according to European Regulations on antigen and final product. Even if production is speeded up as fast as possible it will still take several weeks to get a batch produced ready for tests. Even so, if the UK authorities can be persuaded to order vaccine now, testing of the final product could (partially) be waived.)
May 4 2006 ~ Foot and Mouth - Because of EU market restrictions, Botswana must decide between culling - which it does not want to do - and vaccinating - which it does.
If Zimbabwe were able to vaccinate its cattle, the cross border incursions into Botswana of diseased and illegally obtained cattle would be less disastrous. If Botswana, rather than vaccinating, chooses now to kill the cows in the south east of the country, ( a major beef producing area with an estimated 100 000 cattle), it will not be because of any lack of veterinary means to eliminate the disease; it will be done to protect access to the EU market. An area that chooses to vaccinate cattle will not be allowed to sell to the EU unless it has "completely eradicated the disease". But, as the paper below explains, the EU prejudice against vaccinated animals and products is not based on sound reasoning. Farmers and smallholders find they have no voice to raise against the powerful interests that doom their animals to death.
Botswana's agriculture minister ( see Mmegi.bw) says,
" We will decide whether we kill those affected now or take some other action that will be determined by the experts."As we have said before, vaccination and the use of rapid diagnosis could consign the so-called "firebreak" or "pre-emptive" culling to the dustbin of history. Instead, political and trade considerations - masquerading as sound science - remain all powerful.
May 4 2006 ~ "ventilation shutdown" means suffocation and birds could take up to a day to die
"Emergency legislation" quietly introduced during the Bank Holiday, and which has amended the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 to authority for mass culling by suffocation, is a move described by Peter Ainsworth as "barbaric".
"Issuing emergency powers on a Bank Holiday weekend is not the way to go about business and we would not support a policy of deliberate suffering that is inhumane."Understandably, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) and the RSPCA are protesting that such powers would be in breach of OIE standards and are demanding to know under what exceptional circumstances the method could be used.
Peter Bradnock, the chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said that the industry had not been consulted on the powers.
The Times says that it has learnt, however, that
"approving death by suffocation during an epidemic may be an attempt to win approval for the gassing of entire chicken houses during a virulent avian flu outbreak. "and reveals that the gassing of the birds in Norfolk last week (when the strain of flu was particularly mild) was a "gassing trial" organised by the Scottish Executive (sic)
May 4 2006 ~ "Bird flu has been in Norfolk since mid-March
but was undetected for almost six weeks, a government report revealed yesterday." Experts have been unable to establish a link between the outbreaks at the three farms affected. It should not be forgotten that H7N3 is a mild strain of bird flu.
EDP24 reports that a study released by Defra found that the H7N3 virus took hold on a free-range farm at North Tuddenham, near Dereham, on March 20 and appeared on a second farm 11 days later. That the vet at the free-range farm had put deaths down to a power failure is significant. Although very large farms can be technically described as free-range, such a description that can sometimes be misleading.
"Deaths were at double and triple the normal rate among the 15,500 chickens at the Norwich Road and Mowles Manor farms..... there was evidence of cannibalism and low egg production. .....symptoms continued and were not reported to Defra until April 27, a day after the outbreak at Whitford Lodge Farm, North Tuddenham, was confirmed."Why the Scottish Executive was then involved in the swift organisation of a gassing trial is something we should be interested to have explained.
May 2 2006 ~ The RPA has been paying the wrong people
See RPA latest. Although only 45,000 farmers rely wholly on farming as their main source of income, these are the very people who have not been paid. As a letter in the Guardian from the reverend Elizabeth Clark in Yorkshire says,
"As a rural minister, I and my colleagues see the results...Farmers and their families are facing rising levels of financial hardship and stress.... The silence on this matter in most of the media only increases the sense of isolation and frustration felt by farmers..."There is now the highest ever on-farm debt - exceeding #10 billion - as farmers try to borrow in order cover the shortfall of what they are owed. England is the only EU country that has not yet paid its farmers and Mrs Beckett's request for an extension is looking ever more cynical. More
May 2 2006 ~ Free -range birds blamed for the virus that " has been present in Britain for at least a month" - but the virus involved here is a low pathogenicity virus and not the highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 nor the H7N7 strain that so badly affected the Netherlands in 2003.
According to Valerie Elliott in the Times,
".... latest theory is that a free-range egg company, which kept 15,300 chickens outdoors on two farms, is now the likely source of the infection, probably after some contact with an infected wild bird..."It is a "theory" and "likely" but there is no evidence given - and the media are not making much of a distinction between the Bird Flu false alarm in Scotland and this low risk strain with its accompanying slaughter. The Scotsman's headline today, for example, is 15,000 chickens culled to stem bird flu as if the strain were dangerous. As ProMed points out, the strain in Norfolk is very different from the " highly pathogenic avian influenza virus, A/H7N7, that affected chickens in the Netherlands, Belgium and a small part of Germany in 2003 .." If a small, unfunded website can understand the difference it seems unfortunate that the mainstream news sources imply that Norfolk is dealing with a dangerous virus.
May 2 2006 ~ No surveillance in the UK picked up what blood samples now show - that the birds were exposed to the H7N3 virus as long as four weeks ago.
50,000 birds have now been killed in Norfolk because of this low pathogenic virus - even though
"Birds on the free range unit suffered only a mild form of the flu and none died from the infection."On intensive commercial units however, as Valerie Elliott points out in the Times, "where there are large numbers of birds who live indoors at close quarters" it was understandable that 400 chickens died of the virus.
The excuse given for the wholesale killing of the largely unaffected free range birds is that even H7N3 is "notifiable". However, we also read that officials at DEFRA
" are determined to ensure that the country's #600 million-a-year chicken export trade is maintained."This leaves the free range producers out in the cold, unable to protect their flocks with vaccination and with no independent, rapid means for carrying out their own testing.
May 2 2006 ~ "The policy of restrictions on export trade when part of the livestock population is vaccinated for controlling outbreaks should be reconsidered"
The Scotsman, a propos avian influenza and without comment, reports
"Germany, the biggest importer of Dutch poultry, refuses to buy meat and eggs from vaccinated animals as consumers fear possible health risks..."To read such an unchallenged statement in a newspaper, five years after all the battles about vaccination against FMD, is deeply depressing. It is now perfectly well known that animals vaccinated with permitted vaccines hold no risks for human health, need no special labelling and are constantly consumed without any risk at all.
As for the notion of vaccinated "carriers", this has resulted in EU foot and mouth disease regulations of such complexity that meat producers at DEFRA stakeholders' meetings continue to feel that vaccination, while it can of course be "considered", would still create a two-tier system and be a disaster for them. Yet the "vaccinated carrier" risk, as we see below, is negligible - and it is this false perception that creates a two-tier system.
A scientific acknowledgment of this would expose as unnecessary the EU regulations on animals, meat and products vaccinated against FMD. As Appendix 63 of the FAO conference on FMD in Greece (2004) says, it is real "levels of risk - not perceived risks" that
"must be considered when developing regulations and guidelines for the international movement and trade in animals and animal products. It must also be the most important consideration when deciding on the various options to deal with an outbreak.."It is disturbing that it is the regulations themselves that are regarded as sufficiently set in stone to preclude any challenge. As far as we know, the scientific basis of these regulations is still not being re-evaluated.
In the paper's recommendations:
"Considering that the risk posed by vaccinated carriers is extremely low and considering the levels of risks that Europe of illegally and illegally imported meat has accepted, the policy of restrictions on export trade when part of the livestock population is vaccinated for controlling outbreaks should be reconsidered..." Read full extract
May 1 2006 ~ Bovine TB "Perhaps it is time for the SVS to take a long hard look at the wider picture"
A letter in this week's Veterinary Times entitled Badgers, TB and Modern Farming Practice makes a number of new and important points about testing regimes, and the decrease in the numbers of those experienced in TB testing and the interpretation of TB tests. The letter focuses particularly on changes in the cutting of forage crops - which now means that all kinds of debris are collected by the harvester including the faeces, dried urine and saliva of any mammal that might be infected. He mentions too the stress involved in the push for ever higher yields, and " the ever increasing use of chemicals in all forms of crops, with their residues affecting the immune system."
"Perhaps it is time for the SVS to take a long hard look at the wider picture and not to be dictated to by Government advisers and committing themselves to yet another disastrous policy as in the Foot & Mouth contiguous cull..." says the letter.See bTB page latest.
May 1 2006 ~ Bird Flu restrictions are lifted in Scotland and the Netherlands
See the Guardian and The Scotsman reports: "10km Wild Bird Surveillance Zone, which required the housing of poultry and a ban on live bird movements, was lifted after midnight. The wider Wild Bird Risk Area was lifted at the same time..."
Free range poultry can therefore now be allowed out in Scotland.
The Norfolk strain is, unlike the Cellardyke H5N1 scare, a low pathogenic H7 strain, a risk to humans described as "extremely low". Even so, the birds - including two free -range flocks - are being killed and restrictions are now in operation for the 1km area around the affected sites in Norfolk. For details see BBC.
The Netherlands also lifted its order shielding domestic poultry from contact with wild birds today.
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