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ARCHIVE 2007 ~ November

November 30 2007 ~ "H5N1 infection has not been detected in wild birds nor have any incidents of high mortality been observed in the area"

    says the preliminary epidemiological report of the Norfolk outbreak. It says the Norfolk strain had a 99.8% identity to the isolates from "wild birds" in June and July 2007 in the Czech Republic. In an email today, Alan Beat quotes the FAO report which says that the Czech outbreak "started on a commercial turkey farm on 21st June holding 1800 birds. On 10th July, a single infected dead wild mute swan was found some distance away. Although the DEFRA epidemiological report mentions the single mute swan it does not mention the conclusion of the FAO investigation that the source was more likely to have been the turkey farms not to the farms via birds but the other way round:
      "the disease has spilled over from the turkey farms in the Czech Republic resulting in wild bird infections."
    Fred Landeg told journalists "At the present time wild birds, most likely migratory species from central Europe, cannot be ruled out as the source of infection" and the BBC's first obedient headline was "Flu cases 'linked to wild birds". It is both interesting and reassuring that this has now changed to "Bird flu cause probe inconclusive" Even more heartening is the campaign by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to put pressure on the poultry industry to raise its standards. Chicken Out! is being led by River Cottage locals, especially in and around Axminster, who are boycotting intensively-reared chickens and choosing free range instead. See Blog

November 29 2007 ~ DEFRA staff are being balloted on possible strike action

    Hot on the heels of the news of ultra generous retirement schemes for senior DEFRA personnel (see Blog) comes the threat of strike action. 738 vets, animal health specialists and scientists - all members of the professional union Prospect - have rejected a pay offer of 2.9%. See FWi which quotes Kim Heywood of the NBA, "We are working out protocols for farmers who are currently in the bluetongue zones and there is potentially a window between January and March to allow movement from these zones. Obviously if DEFRA staff were to strike this would make this difficult to achieve..."

November 29 2007 ~"The root of DEFRA's problems"

    - as an NFU spokesman comments in the FWi -"is the inadequate recognition from the Treasury of the important role it plays..."
    Hardly surprising that the morale of both farmers and DEFRA's own staff are at an all-time low. The consequences of this desperate state of affairs are dangerous for farming, food safety, animal welfare - and human health.

November 29 2007 ~ "overly complex, highly fragmented and confusing for participants. ..."

    Last year's independent review by David Eves CB is a formidable document. It examined how the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy is delivered in England. It made no fewer than 55 recommendations. David Eves, in spite of all diplomacy and tact, nevertheless said:
      ".... the present delivery system for animal health and welfare... is overly complex, highly fragmented and confusing for participants. It is not conducive to better regulation, and the many current uncertainties are militating against close and effective collaboration between delivery partners. ... there are risks to its performance and reputation as the UK Competent Authority. The position is not made easier by the interactions and overlaps with food safety and public health...."
    DEFRA is expected to do a complex task that is far too difficult for it. In the face of crisis after crisis, the Department papers over cracks, fails to communicate adequately with those involved, seems unable even to question its own level of competence - and its Minister, shuddering with relief, presumably - moves on as rapidly as possible.

November 29th 2007 ~ " I try to sell everything locally thus obviating the need for traceability"

    One sheep farmer writes as if he were living in a sane world - one where traceability would only matter if animals were being moved out of the local area, farmers were paid proper prices for the food they produced, trustworthy records could be kept on paper, sheep were not made to suffer the effects of double tagging and choke-inducing boluses - and tax payers, via local Councils, were not required to fund an army of officials. See email.
    Warmwell readers might like to spread the word about the website www.bigbarn.co.uk devoted to helping people to find good, safe, accountable food from local sources and to rebuild local food supply chains across the UK.

November 28 2007 ~ "The making of Sir David was his handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001"

    In his curious eulogy of Sir David King, Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News writes:
      "...The epidemic was spiralling out of control; but with the help of Lord Krebs he pushed for a policy of contiguous culling. It was politically unpopular. The vets didn't understand it and didn't want it; and ministers were loathed to see pictures of smoke from burning carcasses blotting out the Sun. But it was the right thing to do. And, despite tremendous pressure, he fought for the policy to continue. It was this call that won Sir David the confidence of not only the prime minister, but - more importantly - the public."
    The amount of misinformation packed into such a short paragraph takes one's breath away, rather as Sir David's policies took away the breath of up to eleven million doomed animals in 2001.

November 28 2007 ~ First, the FMD crisis was not "spiralling out of control" on March 29 2001

    the date when David King and John Krebs and co, a bizarre alliance of the powerful ignorant, "pushed for a policy of contiguous culling". The policy of killing en masse around suspected infected premises (many of which were not infected at all) was based on the "false statistics, bad science and wrong deductions" of Roy Anderson's team - as Magnus Linklater explained in the Times last year. As Dr Alex Donaldson's submission to the Lessons Learned Inquiry - very much worth reading in full - said, "The epidemic had been in decline by the time of the introduction of the contiguous cull policy on 29 March. (In a publication by Keeling and co-authors, it was stated that the epidemic peaked on 26 March with 54 outbreaks per day.).."
    "Politically unpopular" it may have been - although we saw little real attempt politically to change it.

November 28 2007 ~ vets and scientists who understood all too well what a tragic mistake was being made were ignored, as was Pirbright itself whose FMD experts were not even consulted

    in the drawing up of contingency plans. It will be remembered that the UK was fined £600 million by the European Commission over its disastrous handling of the crisis. The desperate grief of hundreds of people was never given media coverage for exactly the same reason as the pictures of "smoke from burning carcasses" were soon stopped; the political damage was considered far more important than the misery in the countryside.
    Pallab Ghosh says of the carnage that "it was the right thing to do" and that the confidence of the public was won. On the contrary, it was the most callous and ignorant mistake and we have never heard any member of the "public" say otherwise. It will take more than a few articles attempting to airbrush the reputation of the departing Chief Scientific Advisor to eradicate the damning effects of his refusal to admit that terrible mistakes were made, of his continuing destructive influence on animal health policies or of his powerfully influential contempt for humane practices in animal husbandry.

November 28 2007 ~Exit King, enter Beddington

    In January Professor John Beddington, a professor of applied population biology at Imperial College, and present Chair of the SAC committee, takes over from David King. Alick Simmons is apparently to step into the position of Chief Veterinary Officer. Hopes for a better state of affairs are hard to come by.

November 27 2007 ~ "Gordon Brown likes to cite his handling of the bluetongue and foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks as evidence of his competence."

    So says the Financial Times. There are those who would cite the handling of the foot and mouth and bluetongue crises as evidence of the UK's medieval approach to animal disease control. The inability of the UK and DEFRA to learn either from the mistakes of the past nor from the most up-to-date- disease control technologies is costing the country dear. How could it have been possible not to use vaccination in August - that vaccines produced at the Merial Pirbright laboratory are for export purposes only? How is it possible that Bluetongue vaccine still has not actually been ordered - meaning the vaccine companies are stillsitting on their hands? How is it that anxious poutry owners who want to protect their birds from the next outbreak of H5N1 are still being told that they may not do so?

26 Nov 2007 ~ "This strange event has been characterised by EU-dictated cullings and other control measures; convincing evidence for a circulating virus is still lacking."

    It looks even more than ever likely that Cyprus had no active FMD virus at all. This is of little comfort when we contemplate the miserable scenes that have taken place. Of the reported news that "There have been 2 new cases of foot and mouth disease [FMD] located in Cyprus", the ProMed moderator comments: Are these findings indicative of "outbreaks?" According to reliable sources, they are just indicative of sporadic positive serology.... Since the start of the event, all findings have been serological, affecting a small number of sheep..... Not a single suspected case has been recorded ....within 3 km of the index farm. Similarly, no suspected cases have been detected within the 10 km zone....
    This strange event has been characterised by EU-dictated cullings and other control measures; convincing evidence for a circulating virus is still lacking." Read the Moderator's commentary in full

25 Nov 2007 ~ Staff offered £40,000-a-year for life 'bribes' to quit shamed ministry Defra

    is the headline in this Evening Standard article. One insider is quoted: "They can't believe their luck. There are retirement parties all the time stretching into next spring. It seems an odd way to save money but no one is complaining. Some intend to take the money and then work in the private sector."....
      ".....the £300 million "voluntary retirement" scheme was devised as part of emergency measures to save money after Defra was fined £300 million by the EU for failing to pay farm subsidies on time. The department's budget has come under further strain as a result of foot-and-mouth disease, bird flu, the floods and a failure to meet earlier job-reduction targets. But some officials say the job-cutting scheme is so generous that Environment Secretary Hilary Benn is "throwing good money after bad.... ".
    One emailer writes this morning, "Cost sharing? £40m a year from the livestock sector. Why not, instead, take it from those responsible for the losses...?"(more) In view of the imminent publication (see Telegraph) of the report by the cross-party Better Government Initiative, this Memorandum by Sir Christopher Foster, is relevant. See also Blog

25 Nov 2007 ~"the terminal decline of the UK farming industry through the pursuit of cheap food..."

    Lords Hansard for November 14th. The Lord Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, asked whether Lord Rooker was aware that the “World at One” on Radio 4 had carried a report in which it was suggested that British farmers should be assisted in growing more food for the UK market and that a spokesperson for Defra responded by saying:
      “It is up to the market to decide food prices. The UK can source efficiently food from a wide variety of stable countries, and that enables Britain to obtain the best value for money”?
    The Bishop commented "Whatever the legal issues surrounding FMD compensation ....does not this Defra statement mean that Her Majesty’s Government continue to take food security insufficiently seriously and are prepared to see the terminal decline of the UK farming industry through the pursuit of cheap food and the concomitant exploitation of UK farmers by the retail food industry?"
    Those warmwell readers who want to support their local farmers might like to publicise www.bigbarn.co.uk - a website devoted to helping people to find good, safe, accountable food from local sources and to rebuild local food supply chains across the UK.

24 Nov 2007 ~ The NFU’s Why Beef and Sheep Farming Matters campaign

    This campaign was launched in London last week and hopes to get consumers themselves to put pressure on supermarkets so that beef and lamb prices will allow farmers to make the profit needed to keep them in business - and lambs and cows in British fields. It is supported by a range of other organisations, including the National Council for Women, the Townswomen’s Guild and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
    Politics.co.uk says, "As a result of soaring feed costs and foot and mouth and bluetongue restrictions, the supermarkets have been cashing in, with the gap between the producer price of beef and the average retail price higher in every month since March 2007 than in the equivalent month a year previously, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission."

23 Nov 2007 ~ Such a virus escape, although bizarre, was not dangerous to the outlying countryside

    when, as the Times says,
      "urgent maintenance work on faulty effluent pipes and manhole covers at Pirbright had been completed and a new facility was also in place to heat treat waste from virus production. The ground above the drains is also now a controlled area and anyone entering it has to follow strict cleansing and disinfecting regimes. Effluent from the plant also now enters a chemical treatment facility that deactivates any virus, and this equipment is monitored and tested daily."
    It appears that a faulty valve on a pipe used to separate live virus from waste product allowed virus to leak into the contained drainage system. However, Merial became aware of this at once and took immediate action. There was no question of any virus getting out of the contained drainage system and the valve was replaced without delay. It is inevitable though that such an occurrence was going to hit the headlines, and the apparent attempt by DEFRA to delay reporting the incident, to make a statement instead of answering Opposition questions in person at the time they were asked, has the effect of making it seem more sinister. Bluetongue vaccine production is being held up once more. We can only hope the revoking of the SAPO licence is a very temporary withdrawal.

22 Nov 2007 ~ On non-Redgrave farms the pre-emptive culls returned negative results. When can we vaccinate?

    "On Tuesday [20 Nov 2007], it was confirmed that turkeys culled at 2 other farms because they might have been exposed to the disease, tested negative. These were Stone House, in West Harling, and Bridge Farm, in Pulham, both in Norfolk." BBC
    Dr Watkins writes today,
      "When should we vaccinate here against H5N1 in this outbreak? Should it be now - or when there is an obvious trigger; infection on an unrelated poultry farm or the infection found in wild birds in East Anglia?"
    She adds that Equine influenza in Australia has spread widely in the East and the spread can only be explained in some instances by people taking the virus on their persons (fomites) or on equipment to an uninfected premises. Australia have taken the decision to change their equine influenza status from that of a country without vaccination to one with vaccination. They have ordered millions of doses of vaccine. In the UK, Plans revealed today show that the government would vaccinate half the human population against a bird flu pandemic - but many might feel that getting to grips with the problem in the birds themselves might be thought a saner use of resources.

22 Nov 2007 ~ Jamie Oliver wants viewers to face the realities of industrial chicken production

    With excellent timing , considering news of another grossly large number of unfortunate birds being slaughtered at another of Redgrave Farm's so-called 'free range' premises, some celebrity chefs are going to try to alert the nation to the reality of mass production of birds for cheap food in the UK.
    Andrew Mackenzie, head of factual entertainment at Channel 4, says (Western Morning News )
      "Jamie's simple message, in quite an overt way, will be,
        'If you knew what happens to a chicken before arriving on your plate, would you change the way you think about chicken? Would you eat it?"'
      Our standards are not as good as some in Europe. Jamie reveals how chickens go from the farm to the fork."
    There will be three Channel 4 programmes dealing with the reality of intensive poultry production. They are: Cook-a-Long-a-Gordon LIVE, Hugh's Chicken Run and Jamie's Fowl Dinners, and they will be broadcast in January.

22 Nov 2007 ~ FMD virus escape? SAPO Licence suspended yet again

    On the possible leak at the Merial site on Monday, Pirbright, Hilary Benn's statement is on the DEFRA site, "....The inspection team judge that while it was possible that live FMD virus had entered the contained drainage system, from their discussions and the evidence gathered they are assured that live virus has not been released to the environment. The extensive layers of biosecurity that we require under the SAPO licence effectively contained the virus in the closed, re-lined drainage system before deactivation in the chemical treatment facility."
    The Times reports,"...on Monday Merial discovered a shortfall in the quantity of virus recovered from production batches last week. A faulty valve on a pipe used to separate live virus from waste product was identified as the cause of the leak. "
    One wonders how Steve Kendrew is feeling today. It will be remembered that he was hired as a project manager to oversee construction projects at IAH's sites at Pirbright and at Compton, and raised concerns with managers at IAH, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), DEFRA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). He continued his warnings via e-mails throughout 2006. Many were ignored - and it seems his career at the IAH ended somewhat abruptly. As he said at the time: " “This has cost me dearly. My career is blighted . . . but staying silent would have been a crime by omission.” (See Sunday Times Sep 30 07)
    The general feeling - as in this Guardian report - is that no virus can have actually leaked out into the environment around Pirbright.

20 Nov ~ Latest Export and Movement Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) Regulations 2007

    The full Statutory Instrument can be seen at www.defra.gov.uk (24 pages). Schedule 1 gives a list of those areas who are still under restrictions. An emailer wrote this about a recorded message sent by DEFRA to farmers today:
      "...Had lovely mechanical garbled telephone message from Defra this a.m. Unfortunately it was so long by the time they had listed all the counties and places that cannot move and all the different zones which now all have different names our ansaphone lost interest and switched off. Do hope the last bit wasn't the important bit.."
    Here is the list of those areas still under restrictions. There is no live export from anywhere in the UK yet.

November 19 2007 ~2nd H5N1 outbreak. No vaccination policy in place to prevent possible disaster

    The Guardian reports that "The site of the new infection - Hill Meadow Farm, in Knettishall..... was identified as having "dangerous contact" with the initial outbreak last week because workers for Redgrave Poultry, which operates all five sites on which culls have taken place, moved between the farms... "
    The reluctance to vaccinate birds is looking ever more serious. Unvaccinated birds, prey to the virus, coming into contact with human workers - very few of whom have been inoculated against the human flu viruses with which the bird flu strain might mingle - could so easily lead to a mutation that affects the human population. It is astonishing that such an avoidable situation has been allowed to happen.

November 19 2007 ~ "January is far too late"

    The danger of a pandemic comes when the lethal H5N1 virus can meet a human flu strain and mutate. The Sunday Telegraph reveals that very few people who work with poultry have received anti-flu injections. Free range and pedigree poultry owners who have not been allowed to vaccinate their birds have been plunged yet again into uncertainty and worry - but not even their workers have been given the anti (human) flu jabs. The Sunday Telegraph says
      "vaccinations for poultry workers will not be completed for another 2 months. .... Suffolk Primary Care Trust, which covers the infected farm, said it expected to have vaccinated the workers by January [2008]. But Dr Graeme Laver, an influenza virologist, said: "January is far too late."..."
    This reminds us of an email in March from an exasperated breeder of pedigree geese who wrote that the ban on vaccinating his animals meant in effect that
      "it is considered acceptable for us to risk contracting bird fly from our poultry, but we cannot be allowed to have normal flu at the same time because that would mean everyone else would be at risk..."
    No H5N1 vaccine for birds when vaccines have been approved by both the OIE and the EFSA. Precious little human flu vaccine for poultry workers. One wonders what is the point of a conference such as that at Verona in March if nothing has happened in the UK by the time need arises and when human as well as animal health is at stake? As for the current DEFRA dogma, it seems to us that this information from Intervet carries rather more weight:
      "Unfortunately, as with FMD, the anti-vaccination message seems to be the official line, but we are doing what we can to provide people with the other side of the argument...To my understanding, 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."

November 18 2007 ~ DEFRA faces making £300m in emergency cuts

    says the Observer in an article about the decision by Hilary Benn to press ahead with the plan to make farmers pay towards the policies in which they have so precious little say. Once again, we see in this article the failure of so many journalists to make a distinction between people who farm the land in order to produce decent food for the country and those agri-profiteers who cannot be termed farmers at all. Those of us who do make such a distinction and think that it matters, will object to such a paragraph as this:
      "....there will also be anger among some farmers over a levy, because the foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey last summer came from material which escaped from a government research laboratory in Pirbright.Some disease outbreaks, however, have been caused by clear lapses in biosecurity on farms. The bird flu found at a Bernard Matthews plant last year was traced back to its plant in Hungary".
    This is so wrong and so misses the point. The Holton outbreak had nothing to do with farmers and everything to do with the dangerous industrialisation of food production; of treating sentient beings as mere parcels of edible, cheap protoplasm in order to make a great deal of money. And it is not merely the Pirbright fiasco that has made farmers so angry at the proposed levy. It is taxation without representation at an almost undreamed of level. Unless they are part of the tiny so-called "core" stakeholder group, farmers have no way to exert any pressure on DEFRA at all.
    By means of a legal sleight of hand, animal health policy now so successfully separates people from their ability to take responsibility that it has stolen from owners the freedom to protect the health of their animals. They must submit to the killing of their stock and to the shutting down of movements across swathes of the country. Failure to comply results in criminal charges. Now, with a savage twist of the knife, the worse than bankrupt Ministry is telling them that they themselves must pay for what threatens to put them out of business.

November 18 2007 ~ Doubts deepen as to the existence of active FMD in Cyprus

    On the basis solely of individual serological (NSP) FMD tests in a few animals in Cyprus, over 2000 animals have been killed. Yet there is a terrible illogicality here. It is claimed in the EU that the tests are not specific enough for individual animals. This, it is claimed, is why they are accepted only on a herd basis. Yet in Cyprus we are seeing individual NSP tests being treated as a valid enough reason to assume the presence of active disease. The positive 3ABC tests, detecting Non Structural Proteins (NSP) might indicate merely the past application of poorly inactivated FMD vaccines and not active virus at all.
    Vaccination with modern, potent vaccines tried and tested across the globe is even more effective on islands where borders are not shared. It has not been considered by Cypriot officialdom who wring their hands and blame Brussels. It seems, however, that unofficial, poor vaccines may be behind the present misery One goat farmer, also quoted in the Cyprus Mail, says
      "And if anyone did buy faulty vaccinations from the north, no one will admit it."
    The ProMed Moderator seizes upon this:
      "Subscribers's attention is drawn to the sentence above. The possibility that vaccination has taken place in the past within Cyprus territory(ies), or that vaccinated animals found their way into local flocks, deserves thorough investigation. Its outcome may be significant in explaining the detection of several seropositive adult sheep within a population of susceptible, predominantly seronegative population of sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs"

November 18 2007 ~ ".. How can you kill 2000 animals for one case of FMD?"

    The report in the Cyprus Mail brings home the fearsome reality of a bureaucratic killing machine in the community and will remind those in the UK of the sight we never want to see again - and fear we shall.
      "Veterinary Service officials dressed from head to toe in all-white are everywhere as if on the set of a futuristic disaster movie. They move around farms in white cars, spraying, decontaminating, setting up check-points, testing animals, and when the order comes in, culling and burying them"
    The policy is stamping on the small farmers:
      "...... They suffer more because they look after their sheep day and night. Rain or snow, they are there for them when they are pregnant, help them to give birth, milk their young. For them it is very hard, they can't look..."
    And this is what our concern about DEFRA, about the EU and about the patent absurdity of current animal health policy is all about: this callous obsession for central control leaves ordinary people in a nightmare from which they cannot escape. All responsibility has been wrested from them The Cyprus Mail reports one Cypriot: "..when we say let us bring in private experts to check for FMD, they say 'No'..."
    There are also rumours that the killing off of the animals is highly lucrative for those on the make: "land prices have shot up in this little village..."
    How to get one's hands on cheap land in the country is of abiding interest to many - and not only in Cyprus, of course.

November 16 2007 ~ Worries that the intensive poultry industry wants to force regulation on free range and organic bird keepers

    Several emailers have expressed concern that Valerie Elliott's Times article today concludes:
      "Poultry farmers are incensed by what they perceive as lax biosecurity at the farm which allowed turkeys, geese and ducks to mingle with wild birds near an ornamental lake. Many are now demanding new rules for free-range and organic birds and for the Government to regulate rather than offer guidance about the need to keep outdoor farmed birds away from places where wild birds congregate."
    Such comment from "poultry farmers" - which means those whose unfortunate birds are, in their cramped conditions, kept well away from any natural surroundings - presupposes that the H5N1 came from wild birds. This is looking less and less likely.

November 16 ~ What tends to be forgotten by consumers who would really rather not know where their cheap meat comes from are facts such as these

    from Alan Beat's article in Country Smallholding (which should be read in full)
      "...During 2006, some 3.9 million broiler chicks were exported while 2.3 million were imported, 1.6 million turkey poults (hatched birds) were exported while 1 million were imported, and 233,000 tonnes of poultry meat were exported while 451,000 tonnes were imported. There is similar two-way traffic in other categories of live birds, hatching eggs, feedstuffs and waste products (3). Around 75% of this trade is conducted within Europe, but significant amounts of poultry meat are imported from countries such as Thailand and Brazil."
    What is needed is regulation of the intensive systems and - for all who care about the birds - a vaccination policy.
    DEFRA, it seems, is still trying to evade this, giving as its reason that "Currently available vaccines have disadvantages in that although they are able to reduce mortality, it is possible that some vaccinated birds would still be capable of transmitting the disease if they became infected whilst not displaying symptoms. This would increase the time taken to detect and eradicate the virus."
    This is almost unbelievable and has been used over and over again by DEFRA to give a sort of spurious justification to its refusal to get to grips with vaccination for any notifiable disease. Dr Ruth Watkins - with a great deal more tact and forbearance than many of us have left - comments on this latest DEFRA statement.

16 November 2007 ~ "Brussels made it crystal clear that there was no choice than to proceed with the immediate culling of livestock or risk serious consequences..."

    ProMed quotes this from the Cyprus Mail today - but the Moderator then comments, "....The decision to apply stamping out in the flocks found "infected" on ground of several positive serological tests in adult animals -- while virus/antigen remaining undetected -- is assumed to be the outcome of EU policy. Additional commentary, in particular explaining the decision -- or correcting the said assumption -- will be welcomed." (our italics)
    It will be remembered that Paul Sutmoller was quoted with gratitude by the same moderator for his comments, which included the following:
      "..one wonders if immediate vaccination of the susceptible livestock population of the island has been considered to bring the outbreak quickly under control.
      There are no scientific reasons to believe that under the prevailing conditions of Cyprus stamping-out may be more effective than vaccination in controlling the disease. Is that not exactly why the EU promotes vaccination if FMD occurs in the European part of Turkey?..."
    Hundreds of animals are being culled. There is as yet no definite evidence that active FMD virus is present in Cyprus at all.

16 November 2007 ~ " What foot and mouth zones really mean?"

    The Farmers Weekly's Stephen Carr explains "what they are really about" in an article which can hardly be termed tongue in cheek since the fury of it blazes from the page. It reflects the growing realisation that what we are witnessing in the realm of so-called animal health has nothing at all to do with the health of animals.
    (If it had, the relevant authorities would have embraced vaccination and state of the art diagnostics for Foot and Mouth and for Avian Influenza instead of the continuing nonsense about vaccination masking disease. The bluetongue tendering for vaccine comes because all Member States affected agree that it is our only weapon - but DEFRA's present plan - astonishingly - ignores the EU commitment to pay for all vaccines and half the cost of implementation for the first year. DEFRA is asking farmers to pay and is suggesting voluntary vaccination - an option that has little hope of success. In place of the increasingly closed "Core" stakeholder meetings there would be genuine consultation with those who, together with their unfortunate animals, have up until now been forced to pay the price of these outdated and compassionless policies. )

13 November 2007 ~ "Euro Coop supports vaccination as an alternative to mass slaughtering on prevention grounds of healthy livestock, which is intolerable..

    .. both from a societal and an animal welfare perspective. Vaccination is also beneficial insofar as it prevents suffering and can help avoid the use of chemicals..."
    It is very cheering indeed to see such an unambiguous statement. Euro Coop is the European community of consumer cooperatives.
    Its Secretariat is based in Brussels. Its members are the national organisations of consumer cooperatives in 16 european countries. Created in 1957, Euro Coop today represents over 3,200 local and regional cooperatives, the members of which amount to more than 22 million consumers across Europe. Here is its full position paper on vaccination.

13 November 2007 ~ "We are determined to throw the kitchen sink at this to ensure that farmers are properly compensated."

    Peter Kendall. Listen Again to Farming Today. The action is being brought to both Merial and IAH at Pirbright..."for them to apportion blame among themselves". Nearly 1000 NFU members are joining the class action.

13 November 2007 ~ Bird Flu in Norfolk. More slaughter

    5,000 birds - turkeys, geese and ducks - are to be slaughtered.
    Preliminary tests showed the turkeys had the H5 strain of bird flu, but it is not yet known whether it is the highly pathogenic H5N1 form of the disease. The RSPB, quoted in the Guardian, warns against the assumption that the disease had spread to poultry from wild birds. , No wild birds have been found with avian flu in Europe since late August and the autumn migration is now largely over. See warmwell's Bird Flu page The outbreak is in a "free range" farm. See also the warmwell chronology of the Bernard Matthews case - still very much a mystery. UPDATE In a television interview, Fred Landeg said that it's closely related to this summer's strain in the Czech Republic and Germany. (BBC)

Monday 12 November 2007 ~ Anderson FMD Review: 2007

    Readers may agree with us that it is important to put in writing, however brief, one's views about
    • whether relevant points from the Lessons to be Learned Report and Royal Society Inquiry on the 2001 outbreak were implemented;
    • whether new lessons might be drawn from the handling of the 2007 outbreak
    Iain Anderson will make recommendations "by the end of 2007 to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the future handling of foot and mouth disease outbreaks". Our letters and emailed comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD(send them here) must reach the Cabinet Office by 16th November, Friday this week. See today's Blog

Sunday 11 November 2007 ~ "The worldwide rise in food prices is, in part, the result of using maize for fuel rather than for food."

    It is now being widely accepted that the end of cheap oil has arrived. The importance to Britain of its own food has increased - yet the government shows little understanding of or sympathy for the crisis in farming. Indeed there are many who suspect the present government would like to see an end to UK livestock farming altogether. But the knock-on effects of dwindling oil will soon be felt by everyone - and not just at the petrol pumps. Independent on Sunday:
      "It also changes the sense of power: Russia and the Middle East have become more important; Western Europe and the US less so..... .... If China is to go on using all the additional oil that is available, or more, the rest of the world will have to get by with less. This makes the present surge in the oil price different from all previous oil shocks: it is caused by rising demand rather than restricted supply..."
    Warmwell has been watching the supply and price of oil since April 2004. (Oil depletion page) Our world will not be fueled by oil and fossil fuels for much longer. This could - in quite a short time - drastically reshape the way food is produced, bought and sold. Supermarket shelves that are filled by cheap imports may soon be emptying. And if the expertise of our farmers has disappeared along with the farms it will be far too late to rue the social unrest of a hungry population.

Sunday 11 November 2007 ~ "encourage the writing of clear and reader-friendly English."

    Our attention has been drawn to a timely guide (pdf) "....... the overriding aim in both parts of the Guide is to facilitate and encourage the writing of clear and reader-friendly English. Writing in clear language can be difficult at the Commission..." It is an interesting document of which DEFRA might take note

Saturday 10 November 2007 ~ The 150 km "high risk" area demonstrates "regionalisation"

    How ironic it is to see regionalisation used at this point in November when the UK could have asked that the vaccination regulations be allowed to apply to Surrey alone This could have been done right from the start. Consequently very much smaller zone be put in place while the rest of the UK carried on as normal. But, without either vaccination nor on-site rapid diagnosis (requiring non-invasive swabs) the outbreak was allowed to drag on until September 30th and hundreds of animals have been bled over and over again in a relentless attempt to show freedom from disease.
    Although farms within this new zone, (chosen by the UK itself rather than Brussels, it seems), are miles away from any likelihood of FMD infection, they are to be treated as a region in which no movements may take place. See what Daniel Hannan, MEP for the South East, had to say on the subject, while Peter Kendall was even more outspoken. The amendment to Commission Decision 2007/554/EC unanimously agreed by SCoFCAH on Tuesday now does allow the rest of Great Britain apart from the FMD "region" to revert to normality in the matter of meat, milk and their products - but this 150 kilomentre zone is to pay the price. The decision will not be formally adopted until 16 November at the earliest. It could possibly be 19 November. As for live exports, the three month rule must still be seen to apply. (We would love to hear from anyone who does not find this Pdf file almost wholly incomprehensible. Link mended. Apologies. It is a badly scanned EU document.)

Friday November 9 2007 ~ Latest FMD report - and farewell to D. Reynolds

    For the first time on the 6th November the follow-up report 13 for FMD received by the OIE from Dr Debby Reynolds reported that the "source of infection " was "Laboratory escape". Today's report (no 14) finds us back to the older refrain: "source of infection - Unknown or inconclusive".
    What is unlikely to dither is Dr Reynolds decision to take early retirement.
    You may - if you so choose - read on this DEFRA page entitled "Chief vet leaves with plaudits after four years service" how Dr Reynolds seems convinced that this Summer she "built a disease control strategy which is the best in the world"

Friday November 9 2007 ~ The 1968 Northumberland Report advised vaccination and testing to check for disease before slaughter

    An email just received reminds us that it is not just the recommendations of the reports following the 2001 disaster that have been largely ignored. Four decades ago the Northumberland Report quoted the Gowers Committee whose members showed that they understood the "....mental anguish it may cause to those who suffer its consequences, and the shattering disaster, not computable in terms of money, that it may bring to a farmer who has to see the work of a lifetime destroyed in a day.”
    What is even more significant is - from Part Two - paragraph 36 "...Diagnostic techniques are now available which can show the presence of virus before clinical signs appear and we therefore recommended that material (including samples taken by probing) from all suspected in contact animals that have been traced should be tested in the laboratory for the presence of virus." Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD

Friday November 9 2007 ~The Zones explained

    Concise, easy to understand advice from the Farmers Guardian. Both FMD and Bluetongue. What the rules are. What you can and cannot do. In English. (Plus a good map).

Friday November 9 2007 ~ "I tried to respond to your blog but I fell foul of the Google log in..."

    What Dr Ruth Watkins wanted to say was this:
      " Surely Cyprus has the option of vaccination against FMD? What did the EU visitors advise? Even if it turns out to be Bluetongue that gave those sheep symptoms (and some serotypes and strains of Bluetongue are very mild) no harm is done by FMD vaccination- but slaughtering the cypriot farmers flocks - some as precautionary measures- is appalling. One must find evidence of new seroconversions or above all the virus in animals acutely infected to be sure there is an outbreak. The farmers may have bought sheep from an area where FMD infection has occurred, such as Turkey; the animals could have been infected a year ago or more. If animals are slaughtered without taking proper specimens, they will will not solve the question of whether they have FMD or and Bluetongue. What a shame Roger Breeze cannot go out there with his kit and do PCR for both viruses on some of the ill sheep."
    We couldn't agree more. Where are those with clout? Why is Cyprus not being told to vaccinate? Can anyone advise those in authority there?

Friday November 9 2007 ~ "The focus of our inquiry was to find a better way of handling this dreadful disease in future, in the firm belief that what happened in 2001 was unacceptable..."

    So said Gavin McCrone, Vice-Chairman, Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease, on the 18 August 2002 It is a grim exercise to look again at the recommendations of all the Inquiries as one prepares a submission to the latest Anderson Review. How many of the points, so carefully arrived at by these earnest reports, were put into practice in 2007? Here is a summary of the recommendations. Accountability matters. Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD

November 9th ~ At least in 2001 no one pretended that the panicky mass cull was allowed by law.

    In 2007, on a minimum of 33 locations, all animals were summarily killed. It is hoped that readers will be able to take the time to remind Iain Anderson that his first recommendation "to revise powers under the Animal Health Act to ensure laws for slaughter were clarified" allowed - in 2007 - the killing of hundreds of healthy animals to be legally carried out. Only a handful of animals on the 8 premises designated IPs were actually infected. Was that what the Anderson Inquiry intended?
    The decision not to vaccinate ignored his second recommendation: "Vaccination must form part of future control of a disease outbreak". If a "senatorial" group, recommended by his Inquiry, was set up then one has to ask what were the qualifications for inclusion and how far DEFRA listened to such a group. There is a lack of expert input; the failure to provide adequate research funding could be said to have led to the disaster itself. Their recommendations of the reports seem to have been so forgotten that one wonders what all the time and expense - and expertise - in producing them was for. Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD

November 9th ~ Funding to provide for a diagnostic on-farm test, recommended by the Royal Society, was not forthcoming.

    Only now are we in sight (but it is still some way off) of a test that Pirbright helped develop It was not able to be used during that August/September crisis and is not ready now. Yet cheap, portable on-site diagnostic kits, for which training takes precisely five minutes (I have been so trained) are now routinely used in the former Soviet Bloc countries to test for animal pathogens including FMD. And, the most heartbreaking irony of all is that a prototype machine was offered to the UK in 2001. The action of Sir David King and others in rejecting it is a decision long overdue for proper appraisal.

Thursday November 8 2007 ~"If the veterinary service does not show me in writing whose animals actually have this disease, no one will enter my farm to kill my animals,”

    Farmers in Cyprus are tearful, angry and disbelieving at the nightmare into which they have been plunged. New blog

Thursday November 8 2007 ~ "Even farmers who have no export trade now find themselves hampered by restrictions on their domestic activities; and all to pacify the rest of the EU."

    Like so many of us, Daniel Hannan, MEP for the South East, says the EU restrictions on livestock exports are for commercial rather than scientific reasons.
      "Pause, for a moment, and think of what these men and women have been through in recent years: two foot and mouth outbreaks, one inflicted on them by their own government; the decline in world prices; bluetongue; late subsidy payments; floods.
      English farmers must feel as though they are living through a series of Biblical murrains..." Read his Blog here
    As for the CAP, he favours replacing it "with an acreage-based grant determined by land quality" or "we could adopt the Country Landowners' Association scheme for a transferable agricultural bond". Under either option, he says, farmers would get 90 per cent of the money contributed rather than, as happens under the CAP, 40 per cent.

Thursday November 8 2007 ~ Report FMD SCOFCAH


    Page 5 shows the chronology of the infected IPs, page 6 shows holding where animals were killed dated October 15th, page 8 is entitled "additional culling" but gives no details of numbers or species.
    Read in full (Defra pdf file)
    Reports of the "enhanced surveillance" can give no real idea of the amount of bleeding that has been done on the hundreds of animals in the area. One NFU spokesman said that 'nearly every animal in the South East had been nearly bled to death with so many tests being done to show we are clear of FMD - but that hadn't been enought to satisfy the EU'.
    It has been described by a local vet as "out of all proportion to the risk."

Wednesday November 7 2007 ~“I told them to wait for the final results. Then they started making me offers...”

    The misery of Cyprus continues (see latest Blog) One farmer, Demetris Dirris, fought back tears during the House Agriculture Committee hearing on Monday. He said his livestock were like his children:
      “They offered me £150 for every adult sheep… and £20 for every lamb [to be culled]. I said to them, ‘I wouldn’t even accept £1,150.’ “Then we sat down and looked at another price estimate. I told them to get up and leave and not to come back. The next day they returned, and this time they didn’t even bother to talk to me or ask me to sign anything. They just went ahead and executed the animals,” Dirris said.
    See also www.cyprus-mail.com

Wednesday November 7 2007 ~" the EU appears to be extending the agony for hundreds of farmers for no worthwhile benefit in terms of controlling the disease."

    Peter Kendall, quoted in www.farminguk.com speaks for many when he expresses the bafflement and anger felt by farmers finding themselves caught under yet more new restrictions - "on hundreds of farms miles away from the centre of the outbreak". He calls the new controls "perverse and unreasonable" .
      "How can farmers be expected to understand a situation in which they can move animals across a boundary line this week, but will be banned from doing so next week, when there is not a scrap of evidence to suggest that the disease is still around? Up to now, we have been prepared to accept the decisions of the veterinary authorities here and in Brussels as a necessary price to be paid for stamping out foot and mouth disease..."
    It is perhaps to be regretted that the NFU in August did not direct its powerful voice in favour of regionalisation and vaccination. It is evident to most people now that vaccination works well and it is only the continuing unfair regulations that make the humane control policy such a poor relation. If it is not enough that "extensive surveillance" shows that the virus has gone, one wonders what the EU requires.
    UPDATE For many, confusion still reigns. DEFRA announced yesterday that the new FMD restricted Zone would now include the old Surveillance Zone, that movement restrictions would remain in place and the BBC reported .
    The SCOFCAH decision, likely to take effect from 14 November, has split the UK into three FMD areas. The "high risk" area immediately around the IPs are allowed no meat exports. From the so-called "moderate risk" zone, covering a 150km area around it, meat and meat products can be exported if they have the paperwork to prove a 21 day standstill and residency period (7 day standstill in the case of pigs) The new rule, stipulates that animals cannot be moved out of the "moderate risk" zone.
    No live export is allowed from anywhere at present.

Wednesday November 7 2007 ~ Superbug ESBL E. coli has been found on 32 UK farms since 2004

    ESBLs are proteins that give their host organism ­- in this particular case, _E. coli_ -­ the ability to resist a wide range of antibiotics like penicillin. The papers may well give the impression that humans are at risk from farm animals - but no one yet knows very much about the situation. ProMed reports on this. A Moderator writes:
      "The first isolation of an ESBL in _Escherichia coli_ (_E. coli_) in Great Britain in food producing animals was made by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) in autumn 2004. ... The prevalence of cattle testing positive for CTX-M-14 containing _E. coli_, among the herd, has continued to rise at each sampling visit, despite the measures taken since the initial finding in 2004. The source of the infection was not determined..." Read in full
    . According to the BBC the Soil Association wants a review into some antibiotics used in dairy farming which it believes helps the spread of the strain.

Tuesday November 6 2007 ~SCoFCAH decision

    The new DEFRA page today reports that the Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health unanimously agreed further to relax the export restrictions currently in place on fresh meat and hides. "The changes will also affect the import of susceptible live animals. We are still awaiting details of when the Commission expect the new measures to come into force."
    All this suggests that the EU FMD regulations are not set quite as permanently in stone as many believe. If the rules forbidding trade until after three months can be changed when SCoFCAH feels it appropriate, would it really be so difficult to appeal for changes to be made in the out of date and scientifically unjustified rules on vaccination for FMD? The answer to this depends on how far the rules were put there for veterinary and safety reasons - and how far they are mere protectionism, having less to do with animal health than with protecting the meat trade.

Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ New publication might speed up validation of individual-based NSP tests?

    There has never been a case of a vaccinated animal spreading FMD - but the concern about vaccinated "carriers" persists and seems to many to be able to justify continuing trade restrictions against animals vaccinated against foot and mouth. A new publication "Modelling studies to estimate the prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease carriers after reactive vaccination" Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Oct 30, by M. E. Arnold1, D. J. Paton , E. Ryan , S. J. Cox and J. W. Wilesmith is now available on the internet. ( We are grateful to FMD News for alerting us to this).
    Extract:
      " sensitivity for carrier detection can be optimized by adopting an individual-based testing regime in which all animals in all vaccinated herds are tested and positive animals rather than herds are culled."
    This may give strength to the view that individual tests should be used in preference to whole herd testing in which one positive assumes many false negatives and would result in whole herd killing. " It would be better simply to test all individuals and cull only those that are positive. Removing the need to cull entire herds whenever a single carrier is identified would allow the use of a test system in which more emphasis can be placed on sensitivity rather than specificity", say the authors.

Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ FMD restricted zone still in place over Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.

    (See BBC) Yesterday, the FMD Surveillance Zone was lifted and became part of the Restricted Zone. Fred Landeg has said that there has been "extensive surveillance work" in the old surveillance zone but only negative results have been returned. DEFRA says "Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission regarding further changes to allow the easing of export restrictions".

Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ "I’m responsible for saying that it’s their responsibility"

    The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, has told the annual autumn conference of NFU Cymru that the UK Government is morally responsible for the leak, and she would continue to press for compensation under the “polluter pays” principle, adding, "..I’m responsible for saying that it’s their responsibility and that farmers have been hit through no fault of their own.”
    See icwales.icnetwork.co.uk "Ms Jones was responding to NFU Clwyd chairman Ken Bellis who asked, “Why is it that the UK Government has set aside £13bn for consequential losses for people who invest in companies and lose their share money and hands out £30m to save Northern Rock but in Wales we get £6m and only £3m of that goes to farmers?"

Monday November 5 2007 ~ The Emerson's continuing sense of bereavement

    Portable on-site diagnostic tests that can detect virus before clinical signs appear - such as those used now so successfully in the former Soviet Bloc countries - have been rejected by the UK for seven years - presumably while the UK races to help produce its own commercial version.
    On Your Farm this week showed what it is like to be on the sharp end of the 'killing without testing' policy. It may be remembered that the animal welfare friendly farmers at Hunts Hill Farm thought their sacrifice (none of their free range animals proved after death to have been infected) was going to mean that theirs was the last farm where killing would need to take place. But a minimum of 33 holdings were killed out in the end. The Emersons are too much affected by the death of the animals they had cared for to continue to keep breeding cows. In spite of her stoicism, going into the deserted pig barn proved too much for Mrs Emerson. The UK policy depends on the kindly decency of such farmers - but it lets them down. Those of us who know how and why these scenes could have been avoided may feel that we have a duty to express our concerns to the Anderson Review.

Monday November 5 2007 ~ Killing without first testing to check for infection. We actually had killing taking place on a minimum of 33 holdings.

    A couple of weeks ago, (Hansard 24 October) Peter Ainsworth asked "at how many premises during the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease culling was undertaken before the receipt of test results." The answer was chilling.
      "With the exception of the first infected premises (IP1) where provisional positive laboratory results were available, authorisation to cull the remaining premises was made under the slaughter on suspicion or dangerous contact policies. Some of the subsequent premises may have been subject to earlier surveillance visits and blood testing, but culling was initiated at all the remaining 16 premises prior to the final laboratory test results being received."

Monday November 5 2007 ~For those who are going to write to Iain Anderson's Review

    Literally hundreds of animals killed were free of disease. 2,160 animals were compulsorily killed. There were 24 individual locations where killing took place as a result of the 8 "IP"s For the 7 so-called 'Dangerous Contacts' and 2 even more chillingly termed "Slaughter on Suspicion" there was also a minimum of 9 holdings Thus killing took place on 24 holdings plus at least 9 more, and even more than that if any of the SOS and DCs were made up of multiple holdings.
    So, from the escape of virus from Pirbright that could, with swift use of ring vaccination, have been cleared up within days, we actually had killing taking place on a minimum of 33 holdings.
    "At least one animal tested positive for foot and mouth disease at all eight of the infected premises" (which is why they are allowed to be termed "Infected Premises" ) but "no animals at the two remaining 'slaughter on suspicion' and seven 'dangerous contact' premises tested positive for foot and mouth disease" It will be remembered that a "premises" could comprise several separate holdings. Readers may like to consider this sort of thing when expressing their view of the handling of the Surrey outbreak. ( useful information from Parliamentary Questions.)
    The Anderson Review is mentioned below and on this DEFRA page.

November 4 2007 ~ "angry farmers blocked the entrance to the two farms"

    Cyprus wanted to kill "up to 300 goats and sheep" today before tests are returned tomorrow but the scheduled cull did not go ahead after angry farmers blocked the entrance to the two farms. Reuters "Authorities said they were also extending a quarantine zone around two suspect farms in the southern district of Larnaca."
    How depressing that Cyprus too is clinging to the trading advantage of "FMD free without vaccination" instead of pushing for these outdated rules to be changed. It is perverse that animals cannot be protected with the boon of the available modern potent vaccines and the technology of on-site diagnosis.
    UPDATE On the basis of "some clinical signs" the killing has gone ahead today. It seems that lab tests have even now not been received but 2 EU veterinary experts are in Larnaca. See Bloomberg

November 4 2007 ~ Cyprus on FMD high alert again.

    The 1500 animals in danger of being culled last Wednesday and that were reprieved by a negative result from Pirbright a few days ago are back in the firing line since Cyprus too, it seems, would prefer to kill than protect. See www.int.iol.co.za
    We find it quite extraordinary that - in spite of the potency and success of FMD vaccines, the idea is still being repeated in all parts of the Western World as "fact", that there are "no readily available vaccines that would eliminate the need to depopulate animals" The untruths continue. The bottom line is the trade protectionism advantages that "FMD free without vaccination" status confers on the states that eschew modern techniques of vaccination and diagnosis.

November 2 2007 ~ Surveillance Zone to go at last

    DEFRA says it will be lifted on Monday 5 November "subject to there being no change in the disease situation and the completion of the necessary surveillance testing." See DEFRA page which also says, "Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission regarding further changes to allow the easing of export restrictions"

November 2 2007 ~ a moral and financial responsibility to compensate

    The Farmers Guardian reports on the £25million bill sent by Scotland to the British Government. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead said he expected the bill to be paid and accused Gordon Brown of 'bottling it', leaving Scotland's farmers and crofters in financial meltdown:
      “Despite the fact that this summer's foot-and-mouth outbreaks occurred hundreds of miles away in the south of England, the impact shattered many of our farmers and crofters here in Scotland, particularly in the sheep sector, both economically and emotionally... in 2007, the UK Government has the moral, and financial responsibility to compensate Scotland and they should get on with it."

November 1 2007 ~ "we should use the word killing" not the euphemism. "culling" is far too soft a word to describe what goes on, says local vet.

    Please see today's blog. ( It is sometimes hard to contain one's anger but this information based website is not perhaps the best place for it.)


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