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ARCHIVE 2007 ~ October

Wednesday October 31 2007 ~ Test results for quarantined sheep in Cyprus expected this afternoon

    Pirbright is testing samples from the Cypriot sheep for FMD, Reuters says that " a foot and mouth outbreak would have a devastating effect on Cyprus's animal husbandry industry with up to 115,000 animals facing a cull."
    So no vaccination policy there either and for the same unethical but lucrative reasons. At least these animals on Cyprus have been quarantined rather than killed first and questions asked afterwards. No such precaution on the 24 holdings in Surrey this year affected by the 8 IPs. It is proving very difficult to discover from each of the epidemiological reports on the DEFRA site and the 10 separate epidemiological reports submitted by Debby Reynolds to the OIE (see links here) exactly how many animals were in fact infected and what were the various justifications given (if any) for the killing of so many healthy ones. As Dr Ruth Watkins commented yesterday,
      "I only wish that IAH would do the same for FMD; to give out the information on its screening by RT-PCR and their work on the sequencing of the FMD virus from every infected premise so that the timeline of infection is confirmed. It might also rule out intervening infections ie in deer between IP1 and IP2 and IP 5..."
    Unfortunately, Pirbright is unable to do so when DEFRA - for reasons one can only guess at - will not permit such clarity and sharing of information to be made available.
    UPDATE NO FMD in Cyprus. Test results received by Cyprus today, See www.eubusiness.com (registration required)

Wednesday October 31 2007 ~ "the real winners from the subsidy culture are the already-rich landowners and agri-businesses, not the small family farmers..."

    ..says an article in the Western Mail
    That interesting phrase used by DEFRA, "core stakeholders", does not refer to people running small family farms but to those who wield some power and whose greatest interest is in protecting trade and profits. Rather than fight to change the arcane EU rules that are also mainly about protectionism, it is unfortunate that so many agri-businessmen fight vaccination at every turn. Small farmers are having to face a bleak future but they are still largely regarded as fat cat whingers by an ignorant public. It is these farmers who want to protect their animals but they are being destroyed by losses incurred in the wake of animal disease.
    A return to sanity would involve dealing head on with animal disease itself - getting in first, putting modern vaccination strategies in place and making sure that surveillance and testing is state of the art. It is heartbreakingly obvious. Veterinary skill informed by the best science and technology prefers to start with the welfare of the animal and its primary aim is keeping disease at bay.
    Unfortunately- as very few would deny - our present policies for dealing with disease are governed by money and politics. The perpetrators, who allow no spotlight of criticism to illuminate their decisions to slaughter - are sublimely unconcerned by the demise of the small farmer and of his animals.

Tuesday October 30 2007 ~ Comments about the outbreak and its handling are invited by 16 November 2007

    As we mentioned below, Dr Iain Anderson is once again going to chair a review of the Government's reaction to the 2007 Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak. He has been asked to review lessons drawn from the 2001 outbreak and identify any others arising from the current outbreak. Comments have to be received by 16th November. See also www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk
    The decision not to use emergency vaccination was astonishing. The handling by DEFRA illustrates the woeful lack of understanding within the Department of viral disease. All the conditions for immediate success had been met. We knew the source. We knew the strain. We had the laboratory within arms length and we knew the timescale. The virus could have been stopped in its tracks within days by ring vaccination from the outside in.
    2000 animals in Surrey would not have had to be slaughtered and nor would the obscenely termed "welfare culls" of half a million healthy hill lambs have been needed. It seems highly likely that the EU would have been sympathetic to such emergency action and would have looked with favour on regionalisation of the immediate area so that the absurd situation of a general country-wide shut down need never have arisen. It could well have led to the outdated regulations receiving critical re-evaluation.
    Because rapid on-site testing was not done except for antibodies, only a handful of the 2000 animals killed turned out to have been infected. If people do not make these points there will be no barriers at all against yet another anodyne report being written and self-congratulation all round.

Monday October 29 2007 ~ A farmer's story: 'It's all about control of food production'

    We see from Geoffrey Leans article in the Independent today that the government has been using taxpayers' "tens of millions of pounds a year to boost research into modified crops and foods" Constant claims of impartiality on GM technology and repeated promises to promote environmentally friendly, "sustainable" farming now seem hollow. Internal documents obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act reveal that DEFRA allowed the biotech giant BASF to plant 450,000 modified potatoes in British fields and officials
      "repeatedly went to remarkable lengths to make sure the trial conditions, supposed to protect the environment and farmers, were "agreeable" to BASF"
    Meanwhile in France, President Sarkozy says no GMO crops will be planted in France until the government had received the results of an evaluation by a new authority on GMOs set to be launched later this year. The BBSRC, however, says its funding for the research on GM crops would continue even if there was "a Europe-wide ban" on growing them commercially.
    It is hard not to speculate on possible reasons why the UK government envisages the end of livestock farming with apparent lack of concern. ( See also warmwell's GM page for report on latest research in Newcastle on organic food advantages and GMO concerns in Europe - which show no sign of abating.)

Monday October 29 2007 ~ The escape of virus results in at least half a million wasted, incinerated sheep ... and "it will not just be the sheep that disappear"...

    One of the results of the government's decision that it was not worth taking seriously the often expressed worries about biosafety and funding at Pirbright is - as the Guardian tells us this morning - that
      "250,000 healthy Welsh hill lambs will be culled and incinerated in the next few weeks to avoid a welfare disaster. The move follows restrictions imposed during the latest foot and mouth disease outbreak and a similar cull of up to 250,000 lambs now taking place in Scotland."
    That this lamb meat is simply being thrown away would be almost unbelievable to outsiders but although giving the meat to pensioners free for Christmas or canning it, or sending it to Malawi or just freezing it had been considered, the Guardian quotes Louise Welsh, a spokeswoman for Scottish Quality Meats:
      "all the options were illegal or would have distorted the market"
    And the knock-on effects for Great Britain? As Dan Buglass says in the Scotsman this morning, ".. if hill farmers do not receive a fair price for their lambs and wool, then there will be a second Highland Clearance, and it will not just be the sheep that disappear. If the sheep go then the entire rural infrastructure is hugely at risk." And this, of course, applies not just to Scotland but the hills of Wales, to Cumbria and other areas where the uplands, cropped and beautiful, are such a well loved part of the landscape.

Sunday October 28 ~ DEFRA spent £1 billion on management consultants - while the Pirbright site repairs were urgently needed and flood defences were cut

    The Sunday Telegraph says that DEFRA more than doubled its spending on information technology specialists, management consultants and temporary staff while cutting £15 million from its flood defence budget.
      "Written parliamentary answers show that as spending on consultants spiralled into the hundreds of millions of pounds in 2006 and 2007, officials dragged their heels over vital repair work to effluent pipes at a research centre that would eventually cause the foot and mouth outbreak."
    Employing management consultants may perhaps assuage the Department's hidden anxieties - but meanwhile nothing much is done and things fall apart. When local responsibility and expertise is taken away in order for a centralised government department lacking even basic manangement skills to assume control, people on the ground, the experts who knew what to do in the past, have been disempowered. Their hands are tied by oppressive regulations. People who are feeling frustrated and helpless are looking in vain for informed leadership from central government. As Peter Ainsworth says: "While consultants are getting rich on taxpayers' money, Defra is failing farmers and rural communities."

Friday Oct 26 2007 ~ More clarity on the 'tainted lamb' issue

    It was breeding sheep purchased from Kirby Stephen auction mart which ended up in the abattoir. Such animals carry veterinary treatments such as treatment for scab. Auctions are ultra careful to ensure that breeding sales are kept apart from slaughter sales. Usually these are held on different days. Animals destined for slaughter don't require these treatments -which should not be allowed into the food chain. The Dectomax injection is the one which has caused concern as it has shown some effects on laboratory animals.We hear that
      " A sharp-nosed Trading Standards Official at the abattoir noticed the "dip smell" and investigated further. Some animals had been processed and the intestines had been transported away to make sausages for a supermarket.( Morrisons) So a lot of stock had to be removed from the shelves for very good reasons."
    "Sharp-nosed"? As one emailer says,
      " It must have been a hell of a sharp nose to detect the smell of an injection!"
    and yet another emailer points out that
      "Something definitely stinks here, the vet supposedly smelt sheep dip, but Dectomax injection was found to be the problem. DECTOMAX DOESN'T SMELL!"
    The nasty truth seems to be that because breeding stock prices are at rock bottom, some unscrupulous people see a chance to make money by buying store sheep and selling them as slaughter stock.

Thursday Oct 25 2007 ~ Comment from Cumbria

    One of the most serious criticisms many of us have about DEFRA and the armchair science that so wrongly informs policy is that very few in London seem to have any idea at all of the tragic impact of what they are doing. Here is Nick in Cumbria, who felt that a warmwell comment about the situation in Wales and Scotland gave a falsely positive idea of the grim situation in England.
      "I live in a rural area where hill farming is on its knees and I live in a valley where, not that long ago, there were 60 dairy farms. There is now ONE! Most of the traditional farms I know of will cease production with this generation of farmers when the current shepherds are too old to carry on. Their children have all long since fled the nest in search of affordable housing and a decently paid job. Who will now run these farms?
      The wonderful Herdwick, exclusively bred here for hundreds of years is on the verge of extinction.
      The whole fabric of the traditional rural community in Cumbria is close to melt down! This is England, and the situation is as dire here as anywhere, probably worse."
    Agreed. Sincere apologies if it seemed that warmwell was not fighting for the future of farmers and livestock in all areas of Great Britain.

Thursday Oct 25 2007 ~"we will do everything in our power to help them" Gordon Brown yesterday

    It was pointed out that Secretary of State's best guess at losses incurred was £100 million,
      " but that differs sharply from the figure that emerged from a meeting in my constituency last night, which suggested that the sheep industry alone would lose £520 million. The outbreak is fundamentally different from previous outbreaks. The Government are responsible for this outbreak because they licensed the premises... "
    But Roger Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, was not allowed to finish. (Hansard) All the same, just because the government is tired of hearing that the FMD crisis was caused by an escape of virus from Pirbright does not mean that this rather fundamental fact should be irritably brushed aside. The Prime Minister evidently thinks that all will be well - "We have set aside additional money to help farmers. We have also reduced the amount of regulation that farmers have to undertake. We have also slowed down the demands from the Inland Revenue for taxation from farmers. We have done what we can, in consultation with the National Farmers Union, to help farmers. I realise that this is a difficult time, especially for sheep farmers and hill farmers, but we will do everything in our power to help them."

Thursday Oct 25 2007 ~ the vet, the 'sheep dip' and DEFRA's insistence on insecticide

    Another update via email: "I heard this week (before this story broke) that a lorry load of sheep for slaughter had been impounded at an abattoir in the North, due to 'taint' . This turned out to be the use of strong anti - midge disinfectant, sprayed all over the lorry in accordance with Defra guidelines - of course - before it could travel with slaughter stock to an abattoir outside the bluetongue zones.
    The smell had been picked up in their fleece from the lorry. Don't know if this could be the basis for this bit of mischief as well?"

Thursday Oct 25 2007 ~ "there are plenty of lambs available for meat without moving into the breeding stock.."

    Also on the subject of the FSA scare, Michael adds another angle:
      "In the north of England over the last two weeks there have been sales of breeding stock. As part of the conditions of sale they have to be dipped for scab and possibly drenched for worms. As the price was so low for all the stock Welsh Country Foods, with an abattoir in north Wales, purchased a number of ewe lambs. It would seem that they ignored the withdrawal periods needed for the drugs concerned and slaughtered the lambs and supplied ASDA with them
      The annoying thing is that there are plenty of lambs available for meat without moving into the breeding stock; but the breeding stock looked a better deal, selling for about £28 rather then £35 for butchers lamb."
    We agree. This sort of greedy and cynical behaviour is dangerous as well as shameful. See also Anthony Gibson';s comments, quoted in the Western Morning News.

Thursday Oct 25 2007 ~ "I too would find it completely outrageous if sheep treated with a dangerous chemical had been sent for slaughter within the minimum withdrawal period."

    Sheep expert, Lawrence Wright, comments on the FSA story below
      "But the reports I have heard make little sense. The BBC reports say that the offending substance was doramectin, used as a treatment for sheep scab. If so, the report that the abattoir vet thought he could smell sheep dip must be nonsense. The only doramectin treatment for sheep listed on the NOAH compendium is an injection with a withdrawal period of 70 days (an organic farmer using it would be required to double this period to 140 days). There is a "pour-on" listed for use on cattle - but not for use on sheep - so if the vet could smell it, it had been misused: and if the vet had cause for suspicion that the lambs had been treated illegally, why would the carcasses have got far enough through the system to require recall of the meat and announcements on the national news?
    That our disquiet about this story is shared by others is interesting- and worrying.

Wednesday Oct 24 2007 ~ "I am keen to make progress on savings in animal health..."

    So said Hilary Benn to the EFRA Committee.
    Almost unbelievable.
    The WMN reports this and we will put up a link to what was actually said at the EFRA Committee as soon as it becomes available.

Wednesday Oct 24 2007 ~And now for another FSA food scare: " the meat might contain traces of drugs"

    The Food Standards Agency has chosen, in spite of very dubious evidence indeed, to create another lamb scare . As in the past, idiotic warnings about BSE from lamb have caused problem after problem for producers (until finally in February this year Ben Bradshaw admitted, " the prevalence of BSE in the UK sheep population is most likely zero")
    The message that will come across loud and clear from the FSA's latest "food alert" is likely to be that humans and babies could be at risk if they eat lamb.
    What will not register is the fact that the drug has never been shown to cause harm to humans, the risk of contamination is negligible and that any meat that could even possibly have been suspect was removed on Friday.
    An abattoir "vet" apparently thought he could smell sheep dip on one carcase - but even then there had not been enough time for any drug to have passed into the meat. The BBC article and that of the Telegraph this morning create more confusion than they clear up. Cynical onlookers may well be watching with satisfaction. See below
    UPDATE An emailed comment takes warmwell to task - and may well be right to do so, Chris writes
      "Credit to the vigilant officers I say - the public deserve protection from these chemicals; the villains of the piece are the abattoir buyers; this may have been a careless oversight, although I doubt it. Needless to say, the timing is dreadful!"

Wednesday Oct 24 2007 ~ " The UK parties are upset because Alex Salmond and the SNP are standing up for Scottish interests"

    To see how far the battle waged by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond on behalf of Scottish farmers is being re-interpreted by Westminster opponents as a political and separatist battle , read www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uk

Wednesday Oct 24 2007 ~ An apology? Hardly

    Hilary Benn has told the Commons EFSA committee (link as soon as possible) that the FMD virus infected the Surrey farms because of a "weakness in the system" that he greatly regretted.
    The BBC reports this as an apology "to farmers".
    It is becoming more and more difficult to believe that the government is not watching the demise of farming with complacency and even satisfaction - apparently supremely unaware that the end of traditional livestock farming means the end of UK self sufficiency, the end of the much loved rural landscape, the end for many dependent wildlife species who need livestock farming and the end of unique skills and family traditions that will change for ever the heart of Britain.
    And this at a time of increasing tensions in the fields of energy, finance and politics that could mean an end to the imports on which we would then have to depend.
    The crisis in farming, particularly in Wales and Scotland is of enormous importance to Britain as a whole and will never be put into reverse once it reaches a critical point.
    The fact that the opposition parties appear ignorant of these vital matters too is yet another indication of the depths to which the parliamentary system has sunk - a 'weakness in the system' that threatens even greater danger to us all than an escape of virus.

Wednesday Oct 24 2007 ~ "they estimated the cost of the outbreak to the UK over the autumn was £520m, and up to £150m for the sheep industry in Wales alone..."

    The BBC reports on last night's meeting in Builth Wells in which hundreds of farmers met to "raise awareness of the difficulties facing the industry". In an earlier edition of the article under the headline Farmers meeting over 'crisis' the BBC's decision was to use inverted commas around the word "crisis" - a practice that absolves media from the charge that it necessarily agrees with the word so placed. Interesting that the headline now reads simply "Farmers meet over disease costs"
    In its coverage of the meeting /icwales.icnetwork.co.ukcommenting on the Northern Rock rescue package, says, "Government is apparently prepared to do what it takes for the producers of money in the City, while leaving the producers of food to fend for themselves."

Tuesday Oct 23 2007 ~ "we want to show support for her in her fight to get compensation for us"

    Welsh farmers seem to have great respect for their own Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones. Angry Welsh farmers are discussing what direct action can be taken to express their deep dissatisfaction with the Westminster government's lack of concern at the crisis in sheep farming. NFU Cymru director Malcolm Thomas said farmers were feeling angry and militant. He said the NFU had started legal proceedings to obtain redress. “But we should not have had to. The Government has caused the mess and they have a moral duty to put it right.” More at icwales.icnetwork.co.uk
    And in Scotland:
      "The Scottish Government will not stand idly by and watch our livestock industry go into meltdown, ....It is hugely disappointing that the UK government continues to ignore the united calls from Scotland and accept they are legally responsible to fund schemes implemented as a direct result of the FMD outbreak, which was, ironically, created at one of its own laboratories."
    The Scotsman quotes Richard Lochhead, Scottish cabinet secretary for rural affairs.

Tuesday Oct 23 2007 ~ "feeling beings with physical, psychological and emotional needs.”

    "We want our competition to draw attention to the fact that these are sentient creatures and that intensive modern farming systems cause them sometimes great suffering," Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World farming has been speaking about a photography competition which "aims to find farmed animals as they really are - feeling beings with physical, psychological and emotional needs.”
    Members of the public who watched the latest in the series "The Nature Of Britain" with Alan Titchmarsh may have seen the footage of cows leaping and dancing like young calves on their way back to pastures after the long winter behind closed doors. One would have had to have been as insensitive as a defra adder not to perceive in their faces a genuine delight.
    The beef barons, the multi-billion euro Beef Producers, those whose lucrative business empires have been built on the exploitation of animals as commodities would have been discontented in the EU Parliament last Wednesday to have heard Lily Jacobs, of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, chairing the session called "Towards a durable Animal Health Policy in a Global World"
      "Animals must no longer be considered mere products"
    she said. For those of us who agree, who see no excuse for the animals who provide our food to be made to suffer stress and pain, to hear such a statement made in such a place gives grounds for optimism.

Monday Oct 22 2007 ~ Is farming being left to die because DEFRA and its masters thinks all the meat needed to feed the UK can be imported?

    Record-high oil prices and financial market turbulence emphasises desperate need for home grown food. The Financial Times is warning that "a rise in inflation would trigger global interest rate increases, and this in turn could mark the beginning of a severe global recession"
    A persistent rise in the prices of oil (See oil page) and food (wheat prices have doubled) means that imported goods will cost much more and be much more expensive to transport. James Lovelock's words again:
      "our nation is now so urbanised....we are dependent on the trading world for sustenance; ...we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can."
    The revelation that a top Defra adviser had spoken witheringly to a farmer about how the UK is now in a "post agricultural era" might well explain the catastrophic ignorance among those directing policy of the dangers involved in allowing British livestock farming to die a slow death.

Monday Oct 22 2007 ~ The various zones - DEFRA's map

    The very slightly more detailed original can be seen on this DEFRA pdf file. It shows the zones as of yesterday and is a bleak reminder of just how widespread these zones are.

Monday Oct 22 2007 ~ Marks & Spencers' Lamb Pledge

    Marks and Spencers say they are trying to stimulate further demand for home-grown British lamb in their stores
      "Following a trial in Wales earlier this year, M&S is extending its 'Lamb Pledge' to dedicated M&S farmers in England, Scotland and Ireland, who are part of the M&S select breeding programme. As part of the pledge, M&S will pay its farmers £2.40 per kg. The price is guaranteed for the whole UK season..... also giving its lamb producers an opportunity to earn up to an additional 35p per kg by recognising individuals performance on animal welfare and protecting the environment..."
    More at www.meatinfo.co.uk

Monday Oct 22 2007 ~ Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Leicestershire and all areas of Great Britain to the north and west will be able to export meat and livestock again.

    Following SCoFCAH's vote (see below) any abattoir now or any meat processing facility outside of Surrey can process for export. Pre-slaughter standstill required for animals will be reduced from 30 days to 21 days but many are hoping that this will be further reduced.
    But the resumption of live exports - particularly the live export of very young veal calves - is being watched with concern by CIWF and many others. There are also increasingly authoratitive voices who consider that live movements are an important factor in the spreading of disease - quite apart from the stress and discomfort it can cause the animals themselves. Eric Martlew, the Labour chairman of the all-party parliamentary animal welfare group, is quoted in the Independent: "There is a danger that we will have more demonstrations and I can understand that. They are exporting cruelty."

Oct 21 2007 ~ "why should those who are wholly unconnected with farming care about its future?"

    asks today's Sunday Herald. (Warmwell gratefully acknowledges FMD news for alerting us to this link) Its answer is important and boils down to this: Few of the 60 million people living in the UK today come into direct contact with farming or farmers. However, several times a day, 365 days of the year, every year of our lives, we all come into contact with what farming produces in this country. Importing what we need from the other side of the world is absurd for all kinds of urgent reasons of which governments seem to be ignorant. It is important that the general public begins to appreciate the importance of eradicating zoonotic disease without eradicating farming in the process.

Oct 20 2007 ~ multiple pick-ups will be allowed and the pre-slaughter residency is reduced from 30 days to 21 days

    The EU Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, SCFCAH, has agreed to reduce the size of the restriction zone surrounding the outbreak area in south-east England and to allow livestock to be transported through and slaughtered in the restriction zone. They also agreed to prolong the now reduced restriction measures until Dec 15.

Oct 20 2007 ~ "It seems odd that, despite the drains having been repaired, the licence is now suspended."

    James Paice points out in an early part of the debate on Wednesday that DEFRA had been told several times and at least as early as 2002, that the drains were in a terrible state. Yet nothing was done and after the December 2006 "inspection"by DEFRA the licence was renewed. That licence renewal allowed a disaster to happen.
    For the £220,000 and six weeks' work it has taken to renew the drains, the outbreak - with its losses in millions of pounds, human anxiety, frustration and grief - could have been averted. Repair work is now complete. The licence, however, has been taken away.
    Meanwhile, unless work on Bluetongue vaccine - work that Professor Spratt himself says entails no risk - starts before the end of October there will be no vaccine available at the time of greatest need and urgency in 2008.

Oct 20 2007 ~ James Paice asks, "What farmers need to know is, who is going to pay the price?"

    "When will somebody in DEFRA be accountable for this latest fiasco? ....we know that, as always with this Government, it will never be their fault. It is never their responsibility....The can, of course, is being carried - by the poor farmers up and down the country who cannot sell their stock, buy new stock, pay their bills or see a positive future..."
    Even James Paice does not insist hard enough on the point: Work on virus has been halted at Merial by DEFRA edict (not, incidentally, at IAH or Stabilitech).
    Is this not intended as a clear signal implying to the world the unfair and unproven suspicion that it was Merial that wasn't safe and Merial that is therefore financially responsible? It is hard to come to any other conclusion. (James Paice's speech in the debate)

Oct 20 ~ "Source of infection * Unknown or inconclusive"

    Although Debby Reynolds seems to have disappeared from view, her extremely brief follow-up report number 11, received by the OIE yesterday, can be seen on the WAHID site. As always, we read that the source of infection is unknown or inconclusive - which seems a trifle bizarre, while under "Measures already applied", we note yet again that the reality of the UK situation cannot be conveyed by such phrases as : "Vaccination permitted.....No treatment of affected animals" and so on. What there is can be found at the WAHID interface - but it is hardly a "report".
    In contrast, the latest Bluetongue report, although only up to date as far as October 12, names premises, gives numbers, specifies the affected species and does contain information that is of interest and use.

Oct 20 ~ Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? accounting and accountability - do they still count?

    Bill Wiggin had this to say in Wednesday's debate:
      ".... it is worth reminding the House that the Bill for foot and mouth so far is £250 million. The single farm payment fine was £305 million. Bovine tuberculosis has cost £100 million. So far, that is £650 million of incompetence. ... The Department has failed to offer protection in the areas for which it is responsible. DEFRA has failed the people who trusted it and it has failed the test of competence."
    But what follows such failure? In any other walk of life there would have to be a reckoning. Taking responsibility for failure no longer happens in government because there is no one to make it happen. Until there can be an expert and independent means of evaluating and holding to account those who direct policy and ask for compliance, the downward spiral of lack of trust and frustration is going to reach rock bottom. Many decent farmers of livestock, unable to see anything good on the horizon, are giving up in despair. If the government thinks that cheap imports of doubtful provenance will feed the country for long they are surely in a for a rude awakening - but what of the countryside? Do they really not comprehend the delicate balance between livestock and the cultural heritage of the landscape?
    (Warmwell has produced Wednesday's debate as a searchable pdf file.)

Oct 20 ~ "DEFRA not only inspected safety arrangements but approved spending at the plant. There could not be a more clear conflict of interest."

    Chris Huhne in the debate. Diagnostic and research laboratories that help support veterinary medicine should - in order to be safe and effective - be full of "can do" scientists recruited for their excellence, state of the art equipment, safe facilities and high morale at the knowledge of a job well done and their expert advice both sought and respected. Such a description can hardly be said to fit Pirbright at present. The maintenance of excellence and the safety of the bio-containment facilities needs, of course, to be audited for everyone's sake. But it must be done - as a matter of course, not as a result of an avoidable accident - by such an independent set of experts, unencumbered by political considerations, as we eventually saw there. The results must matter and recommendations be acted upon.

Oct 20 ~ "A total of 2,160 animals have been compulsorily culled as a result of the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease"

    Peter Ainsworth's Parliamentary Questions were answered by Jonathan Shaw - who told the House of Commons that of these 2,160 cows, calves, sheep, pigs and goats killed on the 24 individual locations "at least one animal tested positive for foot and mouth disease at all eight of the infected premises"
    He did not explain why a further sixteen premises to those 8 were designated so dangerous that their animals - uninfected as they turned out to be - had to be killed. It seems incredible that the killing of healthy animals - at such emotional cost to the farmers and owners involved - carried out as a draconian belt and braces precaution without waiting for test results - is still allowed to pass without further comment when such figures are given in parliamentary answers. What follow-up ever follows? Yet such damning figures should indeed be questioned. The suspected animals were all in a zone where no animal could move to pass contagion beyond the farm. The sophisticated testing and surveillance methods of a 21st century developed country should have been considered adequate safeguards against spread.
    But the Opposition parties too - when the vaccines are so advanced, proven and safe - show a woeful lack of both of courage and of understanding not to shame the government by working towards ending the penalisation enshrined in the EU Directive which is, of course, the true reason behind the UK failure to use FMD vaccination.

Oct 20 ~ "A new comprehensive system for searching for information on WTO member governments' sanitary and phytosanitary measures"

    - food safety and animal and plant health and safety - has been launched ..... the system allows searches to be based on a variety of criteria such as geographic groupings, product codes, comment periods, keywords, etc. A brief exploration suggests to us that more work is required urgently if this system is to be of use to the "interested people" hoping to "find SPS information according to their specific needs" - but comments would be welcome.

Oct 20 ~ "Acceptable risk" says official FMD Expert Group

    From the FMD Expert Group's (composition unknown - information gratefully received) report on risk (VRA RD6) "......it is estimated that around 2 million FMD susceptible animals have been inspected nationwide within the last 6 weeks and that there have been no grounds for concern arising from these inspections..."Given the surveillance already completed in the PZ, the risk of spread beyond a standard 10km surveillance zone is therefore very low....There is a low risk of undetected disease in the current surveillance areas or any new additional surveillance area.....no direct or indirect evidence of illegal movements since surveillance commenced....It has been agreed with the Commission that further work will be done in a radius of 20km from Pirbright to demonstrate that there is no undisclosed disease as a result of the original release of the FMD virus from the Pirbright site. ....The risk that live virus remains in fomites in sufficient quantity to give rise to infection is negligible.....given the risk mitigating measures in place or proposed, the risk of returning the area of GB outside that reduced RZ to the baseline levels of biosecurity and the movement standstill regime applicable before 3 August 2007 is acceptable."

Oct 16 ~ ".. there are very good scientific and economic reasons why we do not vaccinate routinely. The most pertinent of these is 'which strain of FMD should we vaccinate against'?”

    The gloom with which one reads the article on the icwales site this morning, Looking back over 40 years of foot-and-mouth, can only be heightened by such comment as this by Dai Davies the NFU president in Wales.
      " While vaccination may appear attractive to the lay man .... there are very good scientific and economic reasons why we do not vaccinate routinely. The most pertinent of these is 'which strain of FMD should we vaccinate against'?”
    The argument with which he attempts to patronise the "layman" hardly holds water. Anyone who was awake on August 4th and appalled by the escape of virus from Pirbright was at least able - prematurely - to heave a sigh of relief thinking:
    • At least we know the strain
    • At least we have appropriate vaccine almost within yards
    • At least this time the false scientific arguments against vaccination are long since exploded.
    But no. Without benefit of on-site testing the extended culling began, as in 2001, with the weirdest slaughter designations and a multiplicity of terms emerging that no one seems able to define: SOS? DC? firebreak?
    As for the justification for killing around IP8 what was it? Airborne spread? fomites? Virus carried in by the fairies? No one was telling - either before or after the tests came back negative.
    The decision not to vaccinate but to revert to stamping out or the equally unpleasant bearing down on disease led, as it did in 2001, to widespread anxiety, emotional trauma, the loss of many healthy animals and a standstill for farmers as far away as Shetland.
    The rules have to be changed. But DEFRA's preference for messy and unjustifiable killing instead of the informed use of modern technology has made us a byword for cruel idiocy on the other side of the Channel and will do nothing but send the message to Brussels that its mad, bad regulations are acceptable to Member States.

Oct 15 2007 ~ The East Sussex case may be Bluetongue

    But what seems to be emerging is that it is not Foot and Mouth. The clinical symptoms are of course similar and, as has been said on this website several times, tests at the moment should always be carried out for both.

Oct 15 2007 ~Another FMD case or another false alarm?

    The new Temporary Zone is centred on Beckley and Peasmarsh in Sussex. DEFRA pdf "The new zone "comprises that part of England contained within a circle with a radius of 3 kilometre centred on grid reference TQ 8648624988. In its inimitable language, DEFRA commands that " The keeper of a susceptible animal in the Zone shall take all such steps as are necessary to prevent it from straying from the premises on which it is kept..." See map of new temporary zone here.
    The BBC - which seems to get information long before anyone else, says that the "3km foot-and-mouth temporary control zone has been put in place around premises in East Sussex. It follows a veterinary assessment of suspected signs of the disease in sheep. Tests are in progress on livestock at the site near Rye. The government had planned to lift the movement ban in low-risk foot-and-mouth areas on 17 October. The plan also to lift the Surrey foot-and-mouth protection zone was dependent on no further outbreaks." This news - if it proves to be a positive case - could not have come at a crueller time.

Oct 15 2007 ~ Many farmers .. now convinced there is “a hidden agenda” inside the Government

    DEFRA wants the UK to stop drinking fresh milk. It says methane emissions from dairy cattle should be reduced by 60 per cent within 15 to 20 years:
      "Officials at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have made a serious proposal that consumers switch to UHT (Ultra-High Temperature or Ultra-Heat Treated) milk to reduce greenhouse gas emissions"
    explains Valerie Elliott in the Times this morning. Michael Greaves, who alerted us to this, comments that it is yet another "example of the Kafkaesque world inhabited by DEFRA". The Times quotes Ionwen Lewis, President of the Women's Food and Farming Union: “We are very privileged in this country to be drinking fresh pasteurised milk.....” - and this is very true. In France, for example, fresh milk tended only on to be on sale where there were enough British immigrants to make it worthwhile but many of the French are now buying it too. The dairy adviser at the NFU says the DEFRA target could be achieved only by destroying half the national dairy herd. The Chairman of the NFU's dairy board, Gwyn Jones' comment:
      " I believe there are people inside the Government who are trying to destroy our industry. Here we are in the middle of fighting two diseases and this pops up from Defra. You have to wonder what is going on if our own people are plotting against us."
    Conspiracy? Or an insensitivity and incompetence of such breadth and depth that it amounts to the same thing.

Oct 14 2007 ~ It is only the financial interest of a small number of livestock farmers - who would, for a time, be prevented from exporting their animals - that prevents vaccines from being used.

    Clive Aslet, writing in the Sunday Telegraph echoes what warmwell has always maintained, that in those far-off days of August, it appeared that the Brown government had learnt the lessons of 2001. "Vaccination was talked of sympathetically. Since then, Defra has reverted to type.....when a vaccine for Bluetongue is ready, there is no doubt that it will be used" and then...
      "This ought to pave the way for foot and mouth vaccine to be used as a matter of course throughout Europe.
      Probably Europe would welcome it. We were the ones who pressed for Europe to be treated as a foot and mouth free zone in the first place. The policy suited us. As an island nation, we thought we could keep foot and mouth out. Clearly, we can't. But we go on as though - with just one more bout of obscene slaughter - we might be able to. Time to stop deluding ourselves. If we did, winter - as far as our ethical position towards farm animals is concerned - might give way to spring."
    Clive Aslet, Editor at Large of Country Life, reminds readers that "We don't need this obscene slaughter" and it is cheering to find that there are commentators talking about the ethical treatment of animals. ".. For the meat won't be sold in supermarkets (we consumers are said to be too finicky to buy it). It will be incinerated. Won't the Third World goggle at us in appalled disbelief?"

Oct 13 2007 ~"I have no knowledge of your allegations, nor does my office, and I do not accept them." Peter Hain

    icWales quotes the Shadow Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, who last night accused Peter Hain of dismissing her concerns about compensation payments. She says that Mr Hain ".. is quick to exonerate himself from any blame on this issue." Mr Hain had replied to a letter from Ms Gillan by saying,
      “I have no knowledge of your allegations, nor does my office, and I do not accept them. Our Government and the Welsh Assembly Government recognise the huge damage caused by foot-and-mouth and will continue to support those farmers affected. “As Secretary of State for Wales I will continue to ensure that the interests of Welsh farmers are properly represented.”
    And that was all. It left her wondering whether he had even bothered to discuss the matter with DEFRA and the Treasury. Peter Hain, who has been Secretary of State for Wales before, from 2002 to 2005, was given two jobs by Gordon Brown:Secretary of State for Wales again but in addition, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Oct 13 2007 ~ "Mr Benn was generous with platitudes..."

    The FWi reports that poor Hilary Benn, when confronted by some very anxious and angry farmers at Skipton Auction Mart, could do no more, than try to defend himself with the usual political Spinspeak. But with people who speak actual English, such phrases as "we are working closely with supermarkets" and "we want to increase the promotion of British meat" cut no ice. As the FWi says, they "served only to expose the minister's failure to grasp what is really at stake here..."
      " But, then, this is a man who in the midst of a serious crisis gripping agriculture, chose to make a statement at his party's annual conference about the banning of energy-sapping light bulbs by 2012..."
    So not much illumination from that quarter. We are reaping a very dark harvest. The centralisation of agriculture into the hands of DEFRA and its increasing dependence on the Brussels "one size fits all" mentality has led only to mistrust, confusion and the erosion of common sense.

Oct 13 2007 ~ IAH's "rapid diagnosis and detective work" still fails to find active pre-clinical virus quickly enough

    IAH BBSRC's Statement14 claims of rapid diagnosis do not make clear that the pen-side tests being used do not - as the state-of-the-art machines used elsewhere do - indicate the presence of pre-clinical desease
      "...tests for the presence of virus on infected premises 6 and 7 were done in the evening/night time and daytime, respectively. On both occasions Test 1 (using a lateral flow device, rather like a pregnancy test gave a positive result within an hour. Interestingly, this test was actually performed on the farm (“pen-side”) in the case of infected premises 7"
    Perhaps so, but the positive result the test found was for antigen. What we have needed all along was the rapid on-site RT-PCR tests that can find disease in animals before they show any clinical signs at all. It doesn't matter how quickly the penside lateral flow device is used at the lab or on the farm - it is designed to detect antigen and this can only be detected from lesions The animals must have developed lesions, hence the instruction to look for lesions twice a day, before the penside test can be used at all.
    It is so obviously better to pick up infection before it reaches the stage when a number of animals can be seen to be clinically infected.
    So although IAH's statement claims that "A positive result in the very rapid Test 1 is of itself sufficient to show that FMD virus is present. Consequently IAH was able to tell Defra within an hour of the test being started that a premises did indeed have FMD virus, enabling Defra to take action" the "action" was always going to be along the lines of stable door slamming after the horse was already far away.

Oct 12 2007 ~ We can only hope that there will be no more cases discovered.

    Nearly all restrictions that were put in place after the Pirbright FMD outbreak will be lifted next Wednesday - except for the at risk zones.
    Farms that fall inside the "foot-and-mouth risk area" i.e. most of south-east England and the Home Counties and inside the bluetongue control areas - Suffolk, parts of Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire - are not going to be able to benefit from the lifting of the EU meat imports ban.
    And the fallout continues. The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Erin Jones, has said that a tender process is under way for the "light lamb welfare disposal scheme" which will be introduced when the European Commission have given their clearance. "we are finalising operational details for collection, slaughter, transport and disposal," she says - and these words do not convey the waste and sadness of seeing so many small lambs across the country being "disposed of".

Oct 12 2007 ~ it has been a costly and bloody gamble not to vaccinate - and madness not to use state-of -the -art diagnosis

    Since IP6, IP7 and IP8 had fresh disease present (FMD lesions discovered were only between 1 and 4 days old) one cannot be certain of anything and it has been a costly and bloody gamble not to vaccinate; ( one can't help remembering that DEFRA announced that the virus had been contained after IP2 only to have it reappear on September 12).
    The whole affair has highlighted yet again the fact that foot and mouth is a political and economic disease.
    This strain of the virus, 01 BFS1860, has produced such mild symptoms that many animals recovered before the slow UK tests showed they had had the disease. That has not prevented the killing of about 2000 animals, mostly negative post mortem. What is so hard to bear - quite apart from the vaccination question - is the fact that for six years the UK has ignored available rapid diagnostic on-site tests that can diagnose pre clinical disease. These portable, simple kits would have saved the healthy animals, including the pet lambs of the lady culled out near IP8, and saved so much of the misery we'd hoped after 2001 never to see again.

Oct 11 2007 ~ "The land is suffering"

    Hardship coupled with emotional stress can turn people into poets. Here, reported in the Herald, is a Scots farmer watching not only his own livelihood slip away but the future too.
      "....However bad things were in the past, I could always see some way of working our way out of it....but there is no grass left. As it was, I was keeping some of them (the lambs) indoors because there was nothing for them outside. The land is suffering.....I don't care whether support comes from Edinburgh or London, but if the politicians don't act there won't be hill farms here any more. If that happens, I simply don't know what I would do, nor does my son."
    London support? The wooden hearts and heads at Westminster are embarrassed to find that a particularly cynical decision has come to light. The draft copy of Hilary Benn's Ministerial Statement (the one with which Mr Benn seemed strangely unfamiliar - see here) said "I have agreed with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that Scotland should receive £8.1million and Wales £6.5m to assist them in countering the impacts of foot and mouth on their livestock farmers...." But once a decision had been reached not to call an election, this changed to
      "I am announcing today a package of assistance for the English livestock sector, amounting to £12.5m. The devolved administrations are proposing to introduce their own schemes."
    Those eight millions have evaporated. Scotland's SNP "Alas, poor country! Almost afraid to know itself" - here is demanding an explanation. Wales in is the same miserable boat.
    UPDATE Wales is asking questions. Where are our millions? See dailypost.co.uk

Oct 11 2007 ~ Rules bending with the wind

    An email from Alan Beat points out the curious case of the bending rules. Although EU rules state very firmly that exports may resume only when - in the case of non-vaccination - three months have elapsed since the last case - rules that are agreed internationally by the OIE - we see Brazil (using vaccination) facing a 2 month ban only, for the FMD affected region only; while the UK (using slaughter) can start trading again from unaffected regions just a few days after the latest case on October 12 (And there is of course no certainty that it will prove to be the last case , the bloody firebreak killing that went on around IP8 notwithstanding).
    So Alan Beat asks why, if the rules can be broken to regionalise the affected and vaccinated area and restart trading everywhere else, this cannot happen in the UK too and vaccination be adopted instead of merely considered. "Or am I missing something?" he asks.

Oct 11 2007 ~ Dispatches from the front line

    2007 October
      " I regret that we are finding DEFRA absolutely unbending on almost every issue. We are having the threat of closure waved at us almost every day by jumped up little officials behaving like Nazi prison guards. Somehow they think we can control what clothes farmers wear to come ..... We understand the need for waterproofs but short of having a gate guard who examines each farmer, I am not sure what we can do.
      Most of us feel that the continued imposition of the 20 day rule is unnecessary especially since we could not really be further from the source of the (DEFRA cock-up) outbreak but no, they will not budge...."
    2001 November (Westmorland Gazette)
      "....Come on ministers, surprise me and tell us the way forward for British Agriculture. You say you want a strong, vibrant agriculture, well you could have fooled me; so come on show me how wrong I have been.
      You may remember I told you about the government taking powers to seize one's cattle and sheep with no right of appeal.
      If that would not mean we were living in a police state, well you could have fooled me.
      I also said that what Elliott Morley (minister) would be better doing, was adopting the test for foot-and-mouth disease perfected by Professor Fred Brown of the United States Research Centre at Plum Island....."
    Six years on. The same arrogant, jack-booted mentality that "knew best" in 2001 is still goose-stepping over the efforts and advice of those who want to help keep Britain farming. And what was written by the same farming commentator, six years ago in October 2001, on the subject of emergency ring vaccination, makes DEFRA's lack of progress seem even more unbelievable.

Oct 10 ~ " ...vaccination was rejected then, and it appears that vaccination has been rejected once more. Will the Secretary of State tell me why it has been rejected and under what circumstances we will use vaccine in the future?"

    In Monday's debate, Carlisle's MP, Eric Martlew, tried to highlight the extraordinary doublethink that has been going on in the past weeks. Those who oppose vaccination for FMD on economic grounds tie themselves in knots ( Hilary Benn's attempt to answer Mr Martlew takes some wading through) trying to suggest that vaccination for bluetongue is somehow 'better'. We note with great dismay that certain MEPs - the very people who could help change the outmoded rules that penalise vaccination - have been writing to constituents such objections to FMD vaccination as "it does not cure the disease" and "vaccinated animals are often still culled" or that vaccination is only really of use in a "massive outbreak"
    One thin ray of light however came from the Animal Health and Welfare Adviser of the NFU who wrote to Jon Dobson (after his complaint at the misleading information warmwell highlighted last week)
      "We will amend the NFU vaccination Q&A to clarify the issue of safety around an FMD vaccine and thank you for pointing out the potential confusion that could have been caused by our original text.
    If the NFU is taking seriously " its obligations and commitments to present accurate and balanced information" it is managing better than it did in 2001 and better than those making such a miserable hash of FMD in 2007

Oct 9 ~ "We have absolutely no faith in Defra.."

    "...which must own up to its legal and moral responsibility to compensate farmers for its clear shortcomings. If we do not receive some better news [on livestock movements] there is every prospect that we will be out on the streets before the end of this week, and that has not happened for a very long time." Jim McLaren, president of NFU Scotland is quoted this morning in the Scotsman in an article that centres on the ever-deepening frustration in Scotland as a £1 billion loss for the UK as a whole is estimated.
    In theory, exports of beef and lamb to Europe are now permitted, "but the strictures on livestock movements make it all but impossible" Dan Buglass describes the "fractious nature of the communications" between farming unions and DEFRA. Jim McLaren's warning of angry demonstrations looks set to be realised - perhaps one more step towards a breakaway from England.

Oct 9 ~ "We've got the export market back but the lambs are now inedible.."

    "..and even if we could sell them there would be a backlog of months because we normally sell 10,000 per week and we have hundreds of thousands..." The Times, under its headline "Healthy lambs will be slaughtered and burnt" reports on the
      "intense political row between ministers at Holyrood and Westminster...Defra had a moral duty to pay for the Scottish welfare cull..."
    But another moral duty is that of the livestock producer towards animals. Once taken for granted, the unspoken but correct contract was that the safety and welfare of the animal, in return for its meat, hide or wool would be guarded by the good farmer up to the day it died to fulfil its side of the bargain. And there are still farmers who feel that to be true. There is an unsentimental sadness, not just for the waste and the loss of being stuck in such a position against their will - but also for the starving lambs themselves now facing as unpleasant a mass slaughter as can be imagined. DEFRA's disease policy has wrested responsibility out of the hands of the farmers. Any such sentiment as compassion for the animals is likely to be met with embarrassment, a sneer or simple incomprehension. But a society that cannot recognise when callousness is masquerading as pragmatism is indeed in trouble.

Oct 9 ~ DEFRA's "professionalism, dedication and commitment" is praised by the Minister

    In a Parliamentary statement, Hilary Benn admits somewhat unnecessarily "It cannot be said with complete certainty exactly how the virus escaped from the Pirbright site..."
    The media has already prophecied that the new Anderson review would criticise and blame DEFRA " for failing to fund improvements to the site, which was described as "shabby" and "unsatisfactory" by parliamentary committees earlier this year..." (Telegraph) and Hilary Benn is in a very uncomfortable position.
    "....we are determined that it does not happen again," asserts poor Mr Benn, "I have accepted all of the recommendations in the reports from the HSE and Professor Spratt." But DEFRA's record in accepting and acting upon the recommendations of various reports has hardly been professional, dedicated or committed in the recent past and Mr Benn may well be finding himself completely out of his depth.

Oct 8 2007 ~ Hilary Benn today announced a package of support, worth £12.5 million, for farmers in England affected by the current movement restrictions

    • £8.5m in the form of a one off payment for hill farmers;
    • £1m to raise the level of subsidy for the National Fallen Stock Scheme for farmers in the FMD Risk Area from 10% to 100%. This will be available to all livestock keepers in the FMD Risk Area;
    • A contribution of up to £1m to the Arthur Rank Centre for disbursement to farming charities, which provide advice and practical and emotional support to farming families; and
    • £2m for promotion and marketing of lamb, beef and pork both domestically and in export markets.
    The National Fallen Stock scheme has been almost as much of a fiasco as the RPA. Comments about the other payments would be welcome. The opinion of David Fursdon, president of the CLA is that DEFRA is evidently "feeling some responsibility for this sorry mess" Quoted at www.cla.org.uk
      ".... When you consider the combined impact of these disease outbreaks it is clear this financial package is but a drop in the ocean and will only meet a small fraction of the economic damage to businesses, especially for those indirectly affected. This package includes ring-fenced funds for a number of issues that have been highlighted to Ministers over the past few weeks...the full impact may not be known for some time. The ban on exports alone resulted in the loss of at least £2 million per day which shows the true cost of these outbreaks."

Oct 8 2007 ~ Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and West Sussex may be freed from the high risk zone

    There were hopes this week that Defra would announce relaxations to foot-and-mouth restrictions and remove a number of counties from the high risk zone. Farmers Guardian
      .......a case for the removal of counties like Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and West Sussex from the zone. ......unlikely however that counties like Hampshire and Berkshire will be released yet because of their proximity to the outbreaks in Surrey."
    This is, according to the Farmers Guardian's always reliable Alistair Driver, because Friday's epidemiological report from DEFRA said it was very unlikely that foot-and-mouth had spread out of the localised area in Surrey. However, the section on page 17 asking if FMD virus could be outside the PZ and SZ zones uses movement patterns from 2006 to gauge risk while on page 5, the report says that the new cases "raise concern that others may arise" and paragraph 31 expresses evident irritation at the "intractable" behaviour of some of the cattle making surveillance difficult as the cows evidently resent being approached. (They have perhaps heard of DEFRA's preference for "depopulation" rather than for vaccination and veterinary care.)

Oct 8 2007 ~Waitrose today announced that it is to increase the prices it pays its beef and lamb producers.

    See www.meatinfo.co.uk "It said the market busting moves are designed to protect beef and lamb farmers from volatility in the market and offer them some financial protection in the wake of Blue Tongue and Foot and Mouth Disease. The supermarket chain raised its payments to beef farmers by 10p a kilo today, giving farmers a minimum base price of at least £2.25 per kilo. The retailer has also introduced a series of structured payment increases over the next 18 months with the aim of reaching base level payments of £2.50. The new long term pricing structure is designed to give farmers some protection and allow them to plan ahead."

Oct 8 2007 ~ John Beddington and "the job from hell"

    As noted below, 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 - (now, as is the nature of these things, "Sir" David King.)
    An article in the Guardian today by Tim Radford sounds a warning note:
      "For a hint of what is to come, simply contemplate the procession of horrors, heartaches and howlers that have mugged the world's scientific advisers during the last three decades.."
    ~ but Mr Radford's assumption that because Prof Beddington comes from Imperial College and has been a scientific adviser to DEFRA he must therefore "... already know a bit about foot and mouth, bluetongue virus" etc does not, unfortunately, follow. We have the example of David King, alas, to prove that this is not so.

Oct 8 2007 ~ While Professor King may be an international expert in many, many things it is a tragedy for the UK that he has been directing policy on Foot and Mouth

    about which he has displayed such distressing ignorance. He has continued to defend both the contiguous cull and the failure to use vaccination in 2001. He even went so far as to say that the on-site rapid portable diagnostic kit turned down in 2001- (it performed extremely well in Uruguay in 2001, similar devices are now used in many countries, and a prototype of a "next generation" device intended for point of need PCR testing across all of animal and plant agriculture and the food industry will be demonstrated in Brussels next week) was "not capable of being validated" (Radio 4 transcript) This small selection of the many warmwell files on the subject of Prof King's bizarre pronouncements from the past 6 years includes a quotation from Jason Groves, London editor of the WMN from 24 January 2005
      "....Government's plans for tackling a future outbreak of foot and mouth disease have been thrown into disarray after the government's Chief Scientist suggested that vaccination was still not a practical option for controlling the disease. .... His comments will fuel fears that the Government has done little more than pay lip service to vaccination... appear to directly contradict the official policy of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which suggests that it would give early consideration to using vaccination in any future outbreak.."
    The NFU's Anthony Gibson said that Sir David appeared to have no understanding of farming or what was suffered by farmers who were forced to watch the destruction of entire pedigree herds in their farmyards.
      "To him it appears to be a dry statistical exercise, whereas to those involved it was flesh, blood, tears, sweat and heartbreak."
    We can only hope that, in contrast, Professor Beddington can prove himself to be capable of what Tim Radford describes: a "smart scientist with profound knowledge of everything." It is a tall order.

Monday Oct 8 2007 ~"...powerless to stop it, while pointlessly disrupting the habits and interests of livestock owners by bringing commercial transactions to a standstill"

    It has been said many times that the policy now imposed within the EU against Foot and Mouth turns an outbreak into a national catastrophe - but it is, as Abigail Woods so clearly explained, a manufactured catastrophe following a manufactured plague. Instead of taking full advantage of the miracles of modern veterinary expertise, the understanding of 21st century virology in the creation of excellent vaccines, and state of the art technical ability to give - actually on-site - an almost immediate diagnosis, the EU policy gives preference to the "stamping out"of life - a process that is eradicating decent small livestock farmers too.
    One man sums it up:
      "In rural areas where foot and mouth disease holds sway, nothing, at least up to the present day, has been able to halt its progress. Suffice it to say that, among the regulatory sanitary measures applicable to contagious diseases in general, none apart from the obligation to declare the presence of the disease to the authorities, could reasonably be applied to this disease: no matter how benign the measure, it would undoubtedly be excessive, or would be powerless to stop it, while pointlessly disrupting the habits and interests of livestock owners by bringing commercial transactions to a standstill” (Translated from the french Reynal J. Traite´ de police sanitaire des animaux domestiques. Paris: Asselin; 1873. p. 1012.)
    130 years on and the dinosaur mentality at the top of DEFRA ensures that nothing has changed.

Oct 7 2007 ~" this contempt for agriculture will produce a crisis beside which everything seen so far will pale into insignificance"

    Christopher Booker's column in the Sunday Telegraph today concerns the plight of the sheep farmers who are about to see "huge quantities of perfectly safe meat, from animals in Scotland, Wales and parts of England.... incinerated, at further cost to farmers, who will see most of their year's income go up in smoke." The article illustrates Mr Booker's ability to see not only the plight of the UK trees under the shadow of the EU wood - but also to project that vision into the bleak future.
      "With this latest foot and mouth disaster, bluetongue, the farm payments fiasco (which has cost Britain £400 million in lost EU subsidies), the bovine TB epidemic estimated to cost taxpayers £2 billion by 2014, and much else, there seems no end to the crises our farmers must endure.
      Most have been caused, or made far worse, by our Government's own limitless incompetence.
      A large part of the problem is that farming and the need to provide the nation with food could scarcely have been pushed further down this urban Government's agenda."
    Each of these issues is of concern to warmwell. The RPA page's latest entry almost defies belief, the bluetongue page illustrates the UK's deafness to the experience that has been so hard won in Europe. The TB page deplores the UK intransigence over rapid diagnosis and its preference for killing cows than seeking solutions The "need to provide the nation with food" will be more and more urgently needed - as we suggest below.And the contemptuous fiddling at DEFRA can only bring closer the burning problems of the future.
    Escape is possible from the mad, bad destructive regulations over which we have so little control. There are now so many voices crying in the wilderness that the combined roar must surely soon wake the sleepwalking nation from its nightmare slide towards ruin - but time is short.

Oct 7 2007 ~ Migration - or at least refurbishment

    Thanks to the Umbrella Blog network, warmwell is now available in its "Lite" form as a blog. (Click on picture above) The existing website will continue as it is for a while but the posts that might usefully reach a wider audience (easier to read, more pictures and all in glorious technicolour) will go on the www.warmwell.blogspot.com pages.

Oct 7 2007 ~ Counting the cost

    With IP6, IP7 and IP8 indicating disease newly caught, it is perhaps a little surprising to hear such bland assurances from the Landeg camp that all is now probably over. They may be right. We all hope so. According to the NFU's Anthony Gibson, since August,
      "...we think the total cost to the farming industry is around 250 million pounds in terms of lost exports and lower meat prices."

    Quite apart from all the scurrying work of SVS (Animal Health) vets and surveillance, the vaccinating teams have been kept on a fruitless standby in order to fulfil the terms of the government's own requirement in the Animal Health Act to be seen to be "considering vaccination".
    As for the wasted animals; the official total in slaughtered animals - pedigree cattle, calves, sheep, pigs and one lone goat - is now over 1800. These figures include over 800 pigs - all of which tested negative. The cost in human stress and anxiety can hardly be measured - but some small indication comes from the account written by Rachel Archer from her farm near Maidenhead and published in Farmers Weekly. At one point she says
      "Word is that the cattle that were culled on Friday (i.e.Sept 21) were given the all clear by DEFRA just two days previously. Also, because this is a laboratory strain of the virus, they say it is not behaving like the 2001 outbreak"
    One of the features of this 1967 virus is the very mildness of its symptoms. Not unnaturally is it hard to detect. It affects the animals only slightly. They recover fast and from then on the miracle of the immune system, shared by all mammals, ensures that they cannot get reinfected by that strain. It is these animals, recovered and invulnerable, that have to be tracked down and slaughtered, along with their healthy fellows and any so-called "dangerous contacts" so that the UK may retain its coveted "FMD free" status. The other victims, never mentioned, are the several thousand animals, many of them exported for breeding, that were trapped in transit on the occasions in August and in September that FMD was discovered. They too were summarily killed.

Oct 7 2007 ~ "information on the DEFRA web site is no good to those of us farming within the control zones"

    Mrs Archer's account ( Farmers Weekly) mentions a fact that will resonate in the memories of all who suffered in 2001 where she has to
      ".. speak to another friend within the Protection Zone. This is the only way to find out what is really going on, the information on the DEFRA web site is no good to those of us farming within the control zones."
    Perhaps the saddest of all is the realisation at the end of her account that while her own farm seems miraculously to be safe, that of her friends Nigel and Sally was to be sacrificed:
      "Their youngstock on two units are being culled as a firebreak. Even though they have all been tested this week and are clean. As we end the call my eyes are full of tears. Why didn't DEFRA stamp on this outbreak two weeks ago?"
    Or, as we would say, why was the escape not contained 60 days ago when we had knowledge of the strain, the supply of appropriate vaccine and the ability to stop the spread. The phrase "Protection Zone" would then have had some meaning.

Oct 6 2007 ~ "When epidemiologists are wheeled out of IAH and refuse to acknowledge the usefulness of vaccination against FMD I am still surprised, though I should not be.."

    Ruth Watkins, the virologist who, like so many of us, has been watching the progress of the foot and mouth outbreak with such pain, says in this email today that a very useful web site contains a slide showing the timeline of the first 7 IPs, (slide number 12)
      " If an epidemiologist looked at it, it should strike him that if we had vaccinated immediately upon finding the IP 3 at Egham (having the vaccinators on standby and some 300,000 doses of vaccine ready) infection at IP 7 and IP 8 could have been prevented."
    She adds that it seems as though the effect of DEFRA's policy on farming has been disproportionate even if tourism has not been quite as badly hit as in 2001. She feels that "DEFRA employees haven't read the reports following the 2001 outbreak and still think of "costs" as being those that DEFRA would shell out to put vaccinator teams on standby and doses of vaccine at the ready - ie internal costs." Since FMD is not endemic in Western Europe, routine vaccination is not therefore necessary - which is why there are the banks of vaccine to all serotypes of FMD kept at the ready to use for emergency vaccination to control an incursion, or escape from a laboratory.

Oct 6 2007 ~" the option remains for imports from Latin-America to offset declines in local production"

    The Herald (Scotland) reports that "the Northern Ireland Red Meat Industry Task Force, established to develop a five-to-10-year strategy for the beef and sheepmeat industry, has concluded that suckler-origin beef and hill sheep have no future," adding that "Such conclusions are just as relevant to Scottish producers and will set alarm bells ringing in an industry already in crisis from the foot-and-mouth and blue tongue outbreaks."
    The notion that food imports from South America will fill the vacuum left by the demise of livestock farming forgets that accelerating global problems call into question all the old certainties about cheap transport and movements of food.
    The revelation in 2005 that a top Defra adviser had spoken witheringly of Britain's being in a "post agricultural era" (certainly, current animal disease policies would seem to reflect this view) led warmwell to quote the wise words of James Lovelock:
      "our nation is now so urbanised....we are dependent on the trading world for sustenance; ...we could grow enough to feed ourselves on the diet of the Second World War, but the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous."
    In his "The Revenge of Gaia" Lovelock quietly argues that "We have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act, and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can."

Oct 5 2007 ~DEFRA " is acting against the interests of the British people"

    DEFRA is working against the national interest and needs to go, argues FW columnist David Richardson in the 5 Oct issue of the Farmers Weekly magazine "Isn't it time for DEFRA to be humanely slaughtered and incinerated to stop it spreading yet more catastrophe's across UK agriculture?" he asked in his blog. "Virtually everything it has touched since it came into being five years ago it has messed up...." Reader reactions may be posted up beneath his "Final Solution" blog.
    Latest news from DEFRA is that you can get the latest news from DEFRA by simply dialling 0844 884 4600 Calls cost 5p a minute. It is "a recorded information line for the farming community to use in disease outbreaks..."

Oct 5 2007 ~ NFU's vaccination Q and A still quoting David King..

    Among the fallacies on NFU's vaccination statement we read :
    • "FMD vaccines are live- so there is always a risk of a vaccine actually causing disease." No! The modern approved FMD vaccines do not contain "live" virus and most certainly cannot cause disease.
    • "There are many different strains of FMD virus, and a specific vaccine is required for each strain" - ideally yes, but even DEFRA (pdf) says "... the new strain of FMDV that had been discovered in Egypt....showed that despite the poor predicted match between this A strain and the new Egypt virus, the A vaccine could provide useful cross-protection provided that a very potent vaccine was used.. The new strain of serotype A ....seemed to be controlled by use of an A22 Iraq vaccine." However, in Surrey we knew the exact strain and had access to an exact match - hardly surprisingly...
    • "FMD can be controlled and eradicated relatively quickly by culling and bio-security measures alone" Hardly. In this outbreak we knew the source, the strain and the area of immediate spread - but here we are two months later with apparently new live disease infection at IP8 at least thirty miles away.
    • "FMD... cannot live for long periods outside a host. It is relatively easy to kill the virus and its spread can be prevented or reduced by strict bio-security". The frantic farmers near Egham are discovering that it is even more "relatively easy" to kill their livestock on mere suspicion.
    • The NFU does not oppose vaccination for FMD: we agree that it should be available as part of the control strategy and would support its use, if this is what veterinary and scientific advice recommended Alas then, that the veterinary and scientific advice that has been recommending its use all along has been sidelined by such as Fred Landeg, Debby Reynolds and the ever watchful Chief Scientific Advisor.
    • We opposed vaccination in the very widespread 2001 outbreak because no one could demonstrate that vaccination would bring the disease under control more quickly or that fewer animals would be culled as a result (this view was subsequently endorsed by the Government Chief Scientist). On the contrary, there was the perfect example of Uruguay and the expert advice of international experts in the field.
    Unfortunately, Sir David King, a chemist, is not allowing his own serious lack of FMD expertise to hinder him from using his very powerful position to dominate the decision making process for the worse in 2007 just as he did in 2001.

October 5th ~ Sauce for both goose and gander

    The statement on the NFU's vaccination statement that " It takes longer to remove trade restrictions in live animals from a country or zone that has used vaccination against FMD. In the case of BTV the vaccine that is being developed would allow you to distinguish between an animal that had been vaccinated and one exposed to the virus." is curiously back to front and the vital phrase in the case of BTV vaccine is "being developed". The NFU wants vaccine for Bluetongue because culling doesn't help and meat exports are not normally restricted. They do not want vaccine for FMD - not unnaturally - because trade suffers an extra three month ban - (a ban that is irrational and ought to be changed). The problem here for the NFU is that differentiating NSP tests for FMD vaccine are firmly established ( Uruguay used one of them (the Panaftosa test) to demonstrate freedom of FMD infection with vaccination which was internationally accepted in 2001) while DIVA for bluetongue is not - it is still being developed.
    Paul van Aarle of Intervet International wrote about the FMD test,"the main characteristics of Chekit-FMD-3ABC:
    • The test is serotype aspecific.
    • Antibodies against 3ABC will be demonstrated as from 10-14 days after infection.
    • The test does not contain any infectious material and can be run in every laboratory, which is equipped for ELISA.
    • The test provides results within hours.

Oct 5 2007 ~ Two long months ago Chris Huhne MP said:

    "The Government deserves congratulation for learning the lessons of its shambolic response to the devastating 2001 crisis by stopping all animal movements and preparing for vaccination of surrounding herds as soon as the virus is identified.
    A clear lesson of the last outbreak was the need for speedy vaccination, so the isolation of the virus and a potential matching with banks of vaccine will be key.
    The other priority has to be to keep rural communities informed as this is a time of high anxiety not just among farmers but also for those involved in rural tourism who were hard hit by an entirely unjustified wave of cancellations last time." Source
    Has much been heard from Opposition parties since?

Oct 5 2007 ~ "Gordon Brown is anxious that the electorate should think that FMD is an issue approaching history."

    The Scotsman today points out that lambs are now starving in the fields. The relaxation of restrictions on October 12 will come too late and not go far enough. ".... few farmers will be able to meet the strict criteria on movements which threaten to lock up their businesses. The public perception and reality down on the farm are miles apart."
    Dan Buglass says a proposal, to be discussed in Brussels later today, may allow for compensation following the killing and disposal of the now excess sheep, "but the cost will have to be picked up by the UK government."
    He adds, "The hint of an impending general election is in the air, but the Prime Minister is keen to avoid a repeat of the scenario of 2001..." The public at large does not fully comprehend that small unwanted lambs are dying and bull calves are being born and then shot - all because of a disaster not of the farmers' making. The animal loving public would be horrified - but as we have seen there is a deafening silence in most of the press about the handling of foot and mouth - and yet another anodyne "Review" is about to take place.

Oct 5 2007 ~ "Dr Iain Anderson has been asked by the Government to chair a review of the Government's reaction to the 2007 Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak" DEFRA

    In 2002, in our own interview by the Anderson inquiry, we found that concerns about emergency vaccination and rapid on-farm tests were somewhat impatiently swept aside. Nor did Dr Anderson wish to hear of Dr David Shannon's opinion of the "scientific group" brought in by Professor David King. Other participants in Dr Anderson's in camera proceedings, in particular, the National Foot and Mouth Group
      " felt completely disillusioned and let down by the Lessons Learned Inquiry and its modus operandi." (more)
    How far the recommendations of the various post 2001 inquiries have been met can be considered here. ( If one thinks "Good heavens...precious few", other more profound questions may occur.)
    Now, Dr Anderson (not to be confused with the Roy Anderson of 2001 who has since moved dizzyingly onwards and upwards) is to perform his service again and "comments about the outbreak and its handling are invited by 16 November 2007." Since the most recent infected premises, IP8, shows that virus is still very much on the loose as active disease able to infect animals now, a retrospective at this stage might be thought a trifle premature.

Oct 5 2007 ~ "Relatively small special-interest groups (parts of the meat-producing farming sector and the food trade) seem to have had an undue influence over decisions"

    The Temporary Committee of the EU, while it may have been set up as a damage limitation exercise in 2001, soon found itself caught up in human experience that defied being airbrushed out. The MEPs under the guidance of Caroline Lucas which enabled them to sidestep official arrangements for them to meet only approved "small special-interest groups", were sometimes moved to tears by the accounts told with such sadness and dignity as here at Knowstone. Their conclusion? "Emergency vaccination with the aim of allowing animals to live for normal further use should no longer be regarded only as a last resort for controlling FMD but must be considered as a first-choice option from the outset when an outbreak occurs."
    Of particular relevance today is paragraph 34 of that EU Committee's final report into the 2001 outbreak
      "..... some farmers' opposition to vaccinations was evidently due to the mistaken belief that there was no EU compensation available for the possible loss of value of vaccinated animals. Relatively small special-interest groups (parts of the meat-producing farming sector and the food trade) seem to have had an undue influence over decisions ...."

Oct 4 2007 ~ The need for an independent Expert Group

    Once again we must return to this. If - as the EU Directive decrees -there were an advisory Expert Group composed of epidemiologists, veterinary scientists and virologists " in a balanced way, to maintain expertise in order to assist the competent authority in ensuring preparedness against an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease" it is unlikely that we should have reached this grim position. Yet, although we are told there is such a group, we cannot track down its membership - nor subsequently whether those members are really independent of DEFRA. Can anyone help here?
    UPDATE We are grateful to the kind reader who sent this link. See also below

Oct 4 2007 ~ IP8 - 95 cattle, 16 sheep and 1 goat - and four more herds killed too

    IP8 had 95 cattle, 16 sheep and 1 goat. We learned that FMD was detected in four animals (although now it looks as though it was only one) but the lesions were considered to be only 2 days old. There were no signs of old antibodies or active virus in the corpses of the others nor in those premises killed as so-called "dangerous contacts".
    UPDATE From www.oie.int/wahid-prod "Holding comprising four premises - only one animal at one premises was affected according to preliminary laboratory results, animals at all four premises were stamped out for disease control purposes." ie 135cows and 16 sheep The goat is not mentioned by Dr Reynolds.
    Knowledge that the lesions tested in IP8 proved to be the result of fresh infection must raise very serious questions about spread.
    In the continuing absence of ring vaccination we can gloomily forecast further panicky killing without benefit of testing first.
    All who have studied the question know that
    • the technology to test accurately and rapidly on-site exists and works see here
    • modern potent vaccines give solid protection after one injection for emergency vaccination (see here)
    • No field work has EVER shown spread from vaccinated animals
    As for vaccine "masking disease" this fallacy needs to be urgently and publicly investigated - not reported in the press as fact. Animals are vaccinated in herds and from the outside inwards. Even if vaccination came too late to prevent infection in the cases nearest the epicentre, there would be no subsequent spread. To hear ignorance among those directing the killing policy is heartbreaking in the extreme and one cannot but wonder what on earth is going on. Some have even suggested deliberate land clearance. The alternative seems to be dithering ignorance and incompetence on a tragic scale.

Oct 4 2007 ~ "the chief vet believes it to be the case and he has a responsibility to report her views"

    Jonathan Miller's blog today quotes Charles Clover of the Telegraph, who - as Jonathan Miller says - "has been gracious enough to reply to my rant in his general direction as follows. He deserves credit for doing so as I have been highly provocative."
    The bone of contention was the continuing assertion that "FMD vaccine masks disease" - a view expressed, it now seems, by the Chief Vet, Debby Reynolds. Mr Clover says that "You may choose to ignore the chief vet's opinion. I as a reporter can't." Readers with field experience or those who have read widely on the subject, may like to comment in the feed-back section below Mr Miller's latest piece and to suggest tactfully whether or not they think Dr Reynolds may be mistaken in her view. ( It is true that Mr Clover has demonstrated balance. On September 15th he wrote an OpEd, "If there is another case of the disease, it is time to think of vaccinating in a ring around the outbreak" - That was three weeks ago - and now we have evidence of new disease at IP8)

Oct 3 2007 ~ "The decision would be adopted formally from October 12 but would enter into force only if there were no more outbreaks outside the affected area, the Commission said..." (Reuters)

    "The proposal to amend the foot and mouth restrictions for certain parts of Great Britain will be finally adopted only if there are no further outbreaks outside a 200km area around the surveillance zone in Surrey, and under strict conditions"
    Unfortunately "no more outbreaks outside the affected area" is looking a little unlikely since, without the confidence that ring vaccination would have brought, killing animals is the only way to attempt to kill the virus. The lesions on the cattle at "Infected Premises number 8" at Ankerdyke Farm, Wraysbury were only three-days old - putting paid to any idea that traces of the virus around Egham are the dying embers of disease that somehow got there from Pirbright. 3 day old lesions indicate active virus, not antibodies.
    This virus is still very much on the move.
    The pressure on DEFRA must be intense now to slaughter anything even remotely suspicious - and to do so fast and without bothering too much about test results - and this will be adding to the dread in the so ironically named "Protection" zone. An example of such dread comes from today's emails
      "If my beautiful pedigree Jersey herd is taken out because of the incompetence, ignorance and sheer bloody mindedness of DEFRA, the EU and that ridiculous Dr.Reynolds then they had better beware..."
    As a ProMed moderator said on Oct 1st "Clearly, this outbreak is threatening to spread, and it is difficult to be confident that it will not spread extensively."

Oct 3 2007 ~ "No, we can do better than that"

    Virologist Dr Colin Fink replies to the paragraph below about today's edition of Farming Today. Extract from email:
      "The epidemiologist's views about vaccine do not accord with my own. If you ring vaccinate, of course new animals could not be moved into the ring unless also vaccinated, for safety reasons concerning vaccination being complete. There would have to be a pause whilst the vaccine took effect and was completed ....newer vaccines would create an unsusceptible population and the infection would simply melt away. ..... I do not share the concern about 'accidents with vaccine' and the contention that some of the vaccine is actually live virus, surely can be discounted.....
      The question of 'expense' has several interpretations: How do you put a price on a family's generations of work in breeding stock or the loss for marginal farmers and the burden for all of us of their lives ruined..."
    Dr Fink concludes with a reference to what he feels is "the medieval approach from DEFRA " and says, "No, we can do better than that."
    On the Farming Today website itself, it is good to see Lawrence Wright's comment about ring vaccination and the "ridiculous and outdated trade penalty on the use of vaccination" He says "...It would also allow movement rules for animals outside the area of the infection to be relaxed with confidence. The NFU should be joining the voices asking for a change.."

Oct 3 2007 ~ Changes to meat and meat products export rules have been agreed in Brussels today

    The EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health have today agreed a regionalised approach which frees up trade from some parts of Great Britain. This applies to meat and meat products from FMD susceptible species to other EU Member States. DEFRA says "changes are expected to come into effect on 12th October, subject to there being no change to the current disease situation."
    Reuters says, "......EU veterinary experts backed a decision that "the whole of Great Britain would remain a high-risk area with regard to the movement restrictions for susceptible animals and untreated products"... The decision would be adopted formally from October 12 but would enter into force only if there were no more outbreaks outside the affected area, the Commission said..."

Oct 3 2007 ~ Haywards Heath negative

Oct 3 2007 ~ A case of Chinese Whispers?

    One of the reactions to Paul Sutmoller's letter in yesterday's Telegraph brought to warmwell's attention was a message containing the extraordinary idea that since Dr Sutmoller had told the Royal Society that "vaccinated meat could not be eaten" had he now changed his mind?
    Hardly surprisingly, this suggestion totally baffled Dr Sutmoller until he recalled one slide of a presentation (a html version is on warmwell ) that gave examples of the flawed arguments used by the anti-vaccinators and the final one - considered utterly ridiculous - was "One cannot eat meat from vaccinated animal" All the other Powerpoint slides made his own view crystal clear - but that one sentence was cherry-picked by someone who was clearly not paying attention to the commentary. It would be as funny as "Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance" if it were not so serious and, five years later, still proving so destructive.

October 3 2007 ~ One of the most monstrous pieces of misinformation about vaccination

    As Dr Sutmoller and the virologists have always said, and as warmwell has been pointing out on the vaccination pages
    • One of the most monstrous pieces of misinformation about vaccination - still going unchallenged and perhaps even encouraged - is that eating vaccinated meat somehow involves 'chemicals'. The truth is that vaccinated meat has not one trace of "vaccine" in it.
    • The immune system, having responded to the jab, destroys the natural viral protein by biodegrading it - it can be likened to a wasp sting - the substance injected is biodegradable, indeed it is biodegraded by the very cells that form the immune (antibody) response
    • We spend all our lives being exposed to proteins and infections and carry many, even in our clean modern world, all our lives - but we can protect ourselves from many pathogens that would otherwise lead to painful illness and death. Vaccination for us is one of the blessings of being in the civilised world. Would we deny vaccination to our children and pets?
    The logical conclusion of rejection of vaccination is the assumption that FMD infection is preferable. Ignorance about vaccination and the safety of vaccinated meat for human consumption is precisely the sort of thing that allows the EU trade rules to persist. It was very cheering to find Anthony Gibson saying that the only argument against emergency vaccination now is indeed that the period before which export trade can be resumed is twice as long if vaccination is used. We wholly agree. It is this that Dr Sutmoller and others are working so hard to get changed in Europe. Even warmwell will be in Brussels this month. Support from the vets, scientists and unions is always going to be very much appreciated.

Oct 3 2007 ~ "best to wait and see"? No. It is not - but compliant interviewer allows this to pass unchallenged

    The view of Nick Taylor from Reading University, given on Farming Today without the balance of other views, was that ring vaccination - in, for example, a 10km ring - would still require movement restrictions and "surveillance and culling where disease was found". The gain would be that there would be no more outbreaks: but "we might not get any more outbreaks anyway and the ring might not necessarily work"
    It is really rather scandalous that the BBC cannot find the experts whose experience and understanding would make things clearer and more accurate for the farmers who listen to this programme.
    Lawrence Wright, whose emails are clear and far sighted, comments, "...assumptions and interpretations were not challenged. For example, would it really be more expensive to vaccinate all stock in a 10km ring than to kill so many uninfected animals on contiguous farms? The conclusion (given later in the programme) that changing the timescale for the resumption of trading after eradication of FMD by vaccination would mean permanent use of vaccination throughout the EU seemed perverse in the extreme - but the compliant interviewer did nothing to pick this up." Read email

Oct 3 2007 ~ "At last, the UK government has woken up to the haulage problems we've been facing."

    Andy Robertson, chief executive of the Scottish National Farmers Union is quoted in the Scotsman about the news that the rules on drivers' hours have been relaxed.
      "It really shouldn't have taken this long for the Department for Transport to address this issue. The problems in August were bad, but the re-emergence of disease has hit the industry at the worst possible time. With sales now being organised over a much shorter period, there was a real danger that animals were going to be stranded all over the country, with huge welfare implications. This move doesn't mean that the haulage capacity problems will disappear completely, but at least drivers can now operate with some much needed flexibility."

Oct 2 2007 ~ Jamie Oliver has called on shoppers to buy British lamb

    www.thisisnorthscotland.co.uksays, "... The celebrity chef urged consumers to use their spending power to back British farmers. "Now is the time for a call to action to help our British farmers. It's been a tough year for them and for many it's just getting worse," he said. "I'd like to encourage everyone to buy more British lamb, at least for the next few weeks."

Oct 2 2007 ~ Suspected case outside the "Protection Zone"

    The erroneously named "protection" zone has been expanding to fit the measures of kill first and check afterwards - but there is today a new suspected case on the Sussex border near Haywards Heath If this is confirmed we are looking at a whole new phase of DEFRA's present policy. An emailer calls it "a kind of murderous and bloody Blind Man's Buff played with live cattle " - and it is hard, after two months, to disagree with such a description.

Oct 2 2007 ~ Dr Sutmoller puts right some misconceptions

    A letter in today's Telegraph from Paul Sutmoller whose field experience with foot and mouth vaccines is probably second to none, addresses some wrong thinking about emergency vaccination. Extract:
      "Sir - Richard Lutwyche, Secretary of the British Saddleback Breeders' Club, when questioning foot and mouth vaccination (Letters, September 15), wrote: "The need to vaccinate every foot and mouth vaccination (Letters, September 15), wrote: "The need to vaccinate every 16 weeks would be arduous and questionable in terms of animal welfare." His worry is understandable, but unfounded.
      There is a proven, potent FMD vaccine available, and one vaccination will provide enough protection to halt an FMD epidemic.....About a week after the vaccination of animals at risk, the outbreak should come to a halt ....the countdown to regain the FMD-free status and the gradual lifting of animal movement restrictions can start." Read in full
    Dr Sutmoller is one of those toiling against the odds towards getting the prejudice against vaccination at EU level changed. We are getting ever more troubled to read, as here, "... pro-vaccination campaigners, while having a very robust scientific case, are simply ignoring the non-scientific. political effects of their arguments." No. Precisely because the non-scientific, political effects of the present policy are so patently destructive to the livelihoods of the very farmers they support, those who, like Dr Sutmoller, are fighting DEFRA's wait and kill policy, are fighting to change the rules for the future. The meat exporters are worried but many still fail to point out there is already a derogation for vaccinated meat for the home market. The psychosocial distress of two months of prolonged, panicky killing affects whole rural communities - and, as the ProMed moderator said yesterday, perhaps even the whole nation.

October 2 2007 ~ ProMed "...One wonders whether standing down the vaccination teams might be a bit premature.."

    "......it appears as if large areas of the Essex, Kent and other areas in the eastern part of the country will be removed from the FMD Risk Area. While progress is always appreciated, the decision described in the news release appears to indicate that this decision is based on last week's epidemiology report and assessment of risk. However, we have had a temporary Control Zone announced today [1 Oct 2007] and a new infected premise -- the 8th location -- reported yesterday. One wonders whether standing down the vaccination teams might be a bit premature, and the 5 day time gap, if vaccination were adopted, would be costly. Clearly, this outbreak is threatening to spread, and it is difficult to be confident that it will not spread extensively. On the other hand, there may be few or no more infected premises; only time will tell. - Mod.PC] See ProMed mail

October 2 2007 ~ What the public is not being told

    The public at large, who may share some of the deep unease about DEFRA's handling of foot and mouth in spite of the blandness of media reporting, are not being told
    • Whether the animals being killed in their hundreds were recovered animals, doomed by the antibodies that had made them well - or
    • victims of active disease - in which case the assurances given of low risk look absurd
    • On what grounds contiguous premises THREE kilometres away are being taken out. Live virus detected? Old lesions? The direction of the wind? A feeling in Fred Landeg's water?
    • Why the Protection zone is ballooning ever outwards. Is it in order for discovered disease to remain "in the Protection Zone"?
    • What the "tests" have actually shown and whether any kind of appropriate, professional testing at all is happening outside the PZ
    • on what scientific grounds the vaccination teams are constantly being told to stand up, sit down, keep moving and stand by.
    There is little comfort in knowing that some pretty forensic questions are soon going to be asked. In the meantime, we soldier on, sick at heart, all too aware that those who resent any questioning of their actions have no adequate answers to give.

October 2 2007 ~ " it's no use having clever biosecurity precautions, if desperate folks facing ruin are going to break the rules"

    "Defra and EU foot and mouth controls do seem to waste a lot of healthy animals and edible meat...." remarks Michael Meredith drily. The vet and commentator from pighealth.com sends us some succinct words of advice for DEFRA. (Emails page) " National movement bans must be absolutely kept to a minimum and the economic health of the industry supported....I can see the point in imposing a widespread movement ban for the first 48 hours after a FMD outbreak, but after that control measures surely need to be much more focussed i.e. based on tracings and risk assessments - unless of course the virus is clearly going wildly out of control..." read in full.

October 1 2007 ~ Relaxation of restrictions for some - and vaccination teams stood down yet again

    DEFRA has announced that Kent, Essex, East Sussex, Southend, Thurrock, Medway, Brighton and Hove will be removed from the foot and mouth disease (FMD) risk area. From midnight on Monday (1 October) these counties will fall within the FMD Low Risk Area and be subject to the movement controls that apply in this area. See Farmers Weekly The same report says that because the latest epidemiology report published last week "concludes that the risk of disease spread outside of the Surrey Protection and Surveillance Zones is very low" and "based on the overall assessment of risk", DEFRA is today standing down vaccination teams from their current level of alert. "Teams could be remobilised again in five days, if needed."

Oct 1 2007 ~ Refreshing to hear Anthony Gibson - remembered as one of the only honest voices to be heard from the NFU in 2001 - explain to Mark Holdstock..

    .. on Farming Today that the real reason why the NFU opposes use of vaccination to control FMD is indeed that the period before which export trade can be resumed is twice as long if vaccination is used.
    Mark Holdstock invited listeners to give their views on whether or not vaccination should be used for both FMD and Bluetongue. Listeners can listen again to the programme and give their views. Please, please do. There is some distressing ignorance out there.

Oct 1 2007 ~ A loud and shameful Silence

    An excellent letter in the emails section asks, "Why are UK vets so reluctant to mention FMD and why is the outbreak almost ignored in the veterinary press? Their counterparts on the continent (here) seem very ready to have EU legislation changed ...Our once proud nation will soon be the 'laughing stock' of the civilised world..."
    In 2001 there was a real fear among vets that the government could make things very difficult for the Veterinary authorities. Are others finally waking up to the facts so well outlined by Bob Michell, former President of the RCVS, in the Veterinary Times last year?
      Extract: ".......Whatever the political motivation, this was enacted in the name of veterinary disease control. It was, therefore, done inescapably, in my name and, if you graduated before 2001, in yours. Do you feel proud of that among the cocktails, in the pub, on the dinner party circuit, over coffee cups at a scientific gathering? Or do you feel relieved that at least, in the interim, our governing body has done ... well, what exactly, about it? I seem to remember that we “Promise above all that ... my constant endeavour will be to ensure the welfare of the animals committed to my care.“ The italics, as well as the quotation, come from the RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct, on the first page about the responsibilities of a veterinary surgeon..." Read in full
    While the vets and the RSPCA and all the other bodies we once thought were able to rise above politics remain enmeshed in it, the public as a whole, although vaguely perturbed, are not going to raise an outcry at the unnecessary horrors being enacted in Surrey.

Monday 1st October ~ As UK farmers face ruin, the Palace requests no special treatment

    The Times, however, says
      " a number of local veterinary surgeons believe that the Queen should now take a stance and insist on the use of vaccination."
    It is getting almost too painful to continue warmwell. Charting the progress of a national scandal and catastrophe when so many remain silent is a thankless task. The unions bemoan the loss of export markets while the many, many farmers who do not engage in live exports, watch the danger of FMD creep ever closer (see new map) and dread the message from the Ministry they call DEATHRA that they are coming to inspect. They are not allowed by law to protect their animals and - while facing ruin imposed by a mad, bad system - take comfort only in the misinformation they have been fed for years; that vaccination somehow would be worse.
    When, as it must be, vaccination for FMD is both encouraged and favoured in the EU we are suddenly going to find an abrupt change of opinion among the powerful. They are going to announce that high potency vaccines give solid protection and that the NSP tests, differentiating vaccinated from infected animals, work - a Damascus Road moment.

Monday 1st October ~ It was wrong to say no lessons were learned: two lessons were indeed learned by DEFRA since the last carnage.

    The law was changed retrospectively to legalise the illegal culls of 2001 - and those irritating protests were made a criminal offence. In spite of a most gallant effort in the House of Lords, the Bill was eventually passed.
    1. The 2002 Animal Health Act now makes it legal for the government to slaughter in the name of "animal health" any animal it chooses
    2. and that law also makes it illegal for anyone to protest
    However, we'd remind Mr Benn, Dr Reynolds and Mr Landeg of these words:
      "Any decision to use the wider powers of slaughter would be taken in the light of an overall assessment of the risks, costs and benefits in a given situation. This could include not only risks of transmission but also social and economic risks that would arise if effective and timely action were not taken."
    This comes from a page that no longer loads from DEFRA's website - but is cached here. It contains some inconvenient provisos about the policy we are now witnessing.


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