Entries that include the 2nd wave of FMD outbreaks in 2007(start)
Dec 11 2007 ~ "I looked up some of the paperwork that I received in the past few months...."
Lord Willoughby de Broke, "farmer and assiduous DEFRA form-filler":
"The latest single payment scheme book runs to 100 pages; the cross-compliance handbook to 47 pages; the cross-compliance soil management handbook to 40 pages; and, in a little light reading, the set-aside update for 2007 is 9 pages. And, one I seem to have missed, the SPS handbook, is 90 pages. That is not allowing for the waste management paperwork, the ELS—the entry level scheme paperwork—or the countryside stewardship. I do not blame Defra for this paperwork; it is simply doing Brussels’ bidding. It is the implementation agency for our master in Brussels, the Commission, which is responsible for the shambles of the common agricultural policy. It is a shambles, is it not?..."( full debate)
December 10/11 2007 ~ "The plan draws on lessons learned from disease outbreaks earlier this year .."
Without waiting for any response from the Anderson Review, Defra laid its yearly Contingency Plan (147 pages) before Parliament again today. In 2005 the SAC Epidemic Diseases sub-group, in their review of that year's Foot and Mouth Disease contingency plan, made 20 recommendations. DEFRA responded to them. Warmwell commented upon them. That was 2 years ago and we'd welcome comments about whether readers think things have changed for the better since that work was done. The Summer of 2007 , as we commented in October, showed that many of the failings of six years ago were simply repeated. Poor funding led to an accident - but lack of vaccination turned it into a disaster. Because on-site rRT-PCR has been shunned in the UK, animals were subjected to repeated blood tests instead of rapid non-invasive swabs and quick results on site. Over two thousand were killed - most of which were healthy.
Merely tinkering with animal health policies - changing the odd thing here and there in the Contingency Plan - is not going to get farming out of its deep crisis. We read that the Farmers Crisis Network helplines are jammed not because of disease itself but because of the policies applied to them that seem only to make matters worse - TB, foot and mouth disease, avian flu - slaughter and inflexible standstills seem the only things DEFRA knows. Other support agencies are reporting similar increases. (At least Bluetongue can be treated only by vaccination and we look forward to the outcome of the EU meeting on January 16th)
December 10/11 2007 ~"It may be of interest that an area in Normandy Surrey near Pirbright has been taped off."
An emailer writes, " This is the site of the original outbreaks. Maybe something to do with the heavy rain we have been having? Oh by the way, very shortly after the last 'leakage' from Pirbright (see below) they started bleeding sheep in the neighbourhood. It is a wonder that some of them have any blood left.
All a bit strange because we were told that the virus hadn't leaked into the environment. I have a feeling that we are not being told everything or perhaps it's because the authorities are not really sure what is going on?"
December 10 2007 ~"Industry experts are said to believe that the public has become immune to food scare stories"
So says the Telegraph in an article today reporting increased demand for turkeys. The executive officer of the British Poultry Council, said: "In the main, everyone understands there is going to be no problem sourcing the 10 million turkeys eaten by the public this Christmas."
It rather depends how you define "problem".
Scares tend to pick on the wrong target. (See article here about the new book "Scared to Death- From BSE To Global Warming - Why Scares Are Costing Us The Earth" - Amazon link)
Those of us who buy meat should indeed be concerned, not first by the possibility of catching disease but at the way our species exploits some animals - and poultry in particular - in a way that encourages disease to thrive in the first place. In his book, Colin Tudge writes, "If modern livestock production had been designed by a crack team of pathogens, they could scarecely have done the job better....even people who can see the horrors and absurdity of the present-day food supply chain are apt to make excuses for it. Doesn't it provide us with cheap food - at least in the West? Wouldn't food be more expensive if run along more enlightened lines? In an age in which routine mendacity is merely a tactic, this is still the most pernicious of all lies."
December 8 2007 ~ "....confusing results and statements by the Commission as to whether there was or was not an epidemic of FMD in Cyprus."
The Cyprus Mail (quoted by ProMed) reports on a letter sent to the EU's President Jose Manuel Barroso by MEP Marios Matsakis. He asked Barosso to clearly state whether or not there is, or is not, an epidemic in Cyprus, could there be an epidemic with a "non-active" virus and if so was what was the purpose of taking restrictions if the virus was non infective to other animals.
"...The farmers of Cyprus and the Cypriot public in general are fed up with the way the apparent 'outbreak' has been handled at Commission level and at the Cyprus Ministry of Agriculture level. ..."The ProMed moderator has " questioned the interpretation of the positive serological reactions in sheep as being indicative of disease" Today he adds, "no clinical evidence for FMD could be discovered in cattle and pigs in the vicinity of positive sheep; neither could antibodies be demonstrated in these species." (See Dec 4, and Nov 27 and Nov 18 and Nov 16 on this page. Also Blog for November 8th. The attempt to impose rules on disease from afar has once again caused far more grief than the disease itself. A rethink about the EU response to FMD is surely well overdue.)
December 8 2007 ~ "epidemiological data from 2007 did not detect infection in local wild birds before infection in domestic flocks..."
said the Eurosurveillance weekly release, 2007 12(12) quoted on ProMed. Nevertheless we also read, " This is open to various interpretations, one being that EU wild bird surveillance, although extensive, has not been sufficient to trace infection in wild birds. .." and, perhaps ominously, "...ECDC's risk assessment is that those most at risk are people with small domestic and hobby flocks, rather than those working on large 'industrial' farms , although it is important that the prevention messages reach both. "
(One looks in vain for the logic here. Any informed comment welcome.)
December 8 2007 ~ £270m dairy price-fixing scandal. Supermarkets accused of “corporate greed”.
The Daily Post says, "Retailers such as Asda and Sainsbury’s and a number of major dairies yesterday agreed to pay combined fines of more than £116m after admitting fixing the price of milk, cheese and butter following a probe by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The Farmers Union of Wales believes something similar is now happening in the UK lamb market...."
As Colin Tudge writes in his book "Feeding People is Easy"
"We should question the sanctimonious argument that food must be cheap for the sake of the poor....The antidote to poverty is to give a damn and create economies with fairer shares. The answer is not to be cruel to animals, or to screw farmers into the ground, or to fell forests and pollute rivers. These are the methods of the scoundrel..."Farming is in deep crisis. If - as many politicians (and the forces of corporate darkness that inspire them) seem to want - Britain gives up the ability to feed itself and depends more and more on cheap food from abroad, disaster awaits. We cannot recommend Colin Tudge's book too highly (see also below) - except on his ignorance of the efficacy of modern FMD vaccines. He has accepted the official line that vaccination is unreliable because it "can mask latent infection", which is a great pity for a book likely to be so influential. The risk is negligable and what is more, by testing the vaccinated animals for antibodies against non-structural virus proteins (a-NSP tests) to demonstrate the absence of infection, this risk, if it exists at all, can be reduced even further.
December 7 2007 ~ "If all the UK farms that were slaughtered out in 2001 had been tested in a pooled sample from 10 animals it would have been £100,000 for test kits at most..."
Roger Breeze writes, " ...It is not necessary to differentiate between FMD serotypes on the farm since this is not a time-sensitive decision. The response in USA, EU and UK to all FMD serotypes is the same until a vaccine is deployed based on the serotype and subtype. The exact virus type can be determined by sequencing the entire virus genome within 24 hours of first identification by on-farm PCR.
By the way, USDA (and probably Pirbright) make their FMD PCR tests in house in facilities that are not FDA or USDA licensed for diagnostics production and they do not follow good manufacturing practices. USDA encourages the state labs to do the same thing and not purchase quality test kits ..." Read in full
December 7 2007 ~ Dairy-bred bull calves born on Waitrose milk suppliers’ farms are to be finished for beef and veal in the UK
As we note below, the vast majority of bull calves are either summarily shot as unwanted or, when live export is allowed, are shipped abroad to become white veal. Both the journey and the treatment in crates and abattoirs fail to take account of their status as sentient beings. Now the Farmers Guardian reports that Waitrose wants all aimals raised in its farms to be "reared within the existing fully integrated supply chain." If trials prove successful, Waitrose aims to roll out the scheme across all the 65 dairy farms that supply it.
December 7 2007 ~ Compassion in World Farming wins Derek Cooper special award 2007
The news from Waitrose will please CIWF, winners last week, warmwell is very pleased to see, of this year's Derek Cooper Special Award for Best Food Campaigner/Educator 2007
As one of our most eminent emailers remarked yesterday,
"the powerful men in grey suits (aka David King et al) are all supporters of cheap, welfare unfriendly/GM food for the burgeoning world population. They seem to have no ability to look into the future and see the unsustainable nature of their views - or the necessity to address human population growth. It looks as if the battle lines will be extensive/welfare friendly (smaller numbers/less money/sentient animals) versus intensive/factory (powerful people/lots of money/livestock as units) and I'm not at all sure that the intensive lobby will ever see reason as they are seduced by power and short term gains."This is why Compassion in World Farming and the initiatives by those such as Waitrose and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall "Chicken Out" deserve the wholehearted and practical support of those of us who think ethical production is a matter that goes far, far beyond simply being kind to animals.
December 6 2007 ~ Mass produced "free-range" poultry for Christmas
A timely article from the Daily Mail shows that even animals touted as free-range, such as the "free range" Norfolk Blacks inspected for the article, can live in conditions that would appall people who, aware of the cruelty involved in mass production, buy them for Christmas. But free-range does not always mean ranging freely - as we saw in the H5N1 outbreak at Redgrave Park Farm in Suffolk where 5000 turkeys on the same premises might be considered rather more than "low stocking rates". The Mail article is rightly relentless in its exposé
. Very few turkeys are truly free range, raised on organic, additive-free cereals, and spending their days "roaming around cherry orchards and maize fields" and "humanely slaughtered on the farm, rather than being transported to a slaughterhouse - which research shows is a hugely stressful experience".
Attitudes to poultry production are - very slowly - changing, to the dismay of the intensive producers. Readers might consider signing up to the "Chicken Out" campaign by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall of River Cottage. Every time someone signs up there is a celebration on the page.
December 6 2007 ~ "government departments too often cut long-term research investment"
The Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David King, architect of so much that has gone wrong with animal health policy in the UK, has been speaking to the Select Committee now called the "Innovation, Universities and Skills" Committee. The Times reports that he told them that though the IAH has outstanding scientific staff, they need better facilities to do their jobs. Absolutely right - but who was in the perfect position to ensure that pressure was brought to bear on the Treasury to give them and their facilities proper support?
What the Times does not report this morning is what Sir David said he considered the highest point of his time as CSA. He chose the 2001 foot and mouth crisis. He said it was demonstrating that "science could offer a solution". It had showed how complex phenomena could be computer-modelled, he said - in other words that science was at the heart of the policy in 2001 foot and mouth crisis. If Sir David, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, still believes this - one must really wonder what planet he inhabits. Certainly one where suffering, anguish and continuing trauma happen only on paper. (See Seven Pillars of Piffle, the latest Blog.)
December 5/6 2007 ~ " the time has come for the culling to begin nearer home. At least it would save us £300 million."
Private Eye's Muckspreader this week is calling the DEFRA heirarchy "goons"
"....Defra have now decided to squeeze a further £40 million out of the farmers themselves to pay either for blunders created by Defra itself or for accidents made infinitely more costly by the goons’ absurd over-response to them" he writes, ".....The latest foot-and-mouth outbreaks were entirely the responsibility of Defra itself... Bluetongue, brought in by midges from the Continent, is hardly something the farmers could have avoided. But the crazy over-reaction to it by Defra and the EU, in imposing all sorts of crippling restrictions on animal movements, is costing farmers hundreds of millions of pounds more, and there was absolutely nothing the farmers could have done to persuade Defra or Brussels otherwise. Ditto bird ‘flu...."
December 5 2007 ~ "at some point over the next two weeks the UK will be able to rejoin the international market, including live exports"
Scotsman. "... especially welcomed by dairy farmers who have for many months been prevented from exporting their surplus bull calves. ..the shipping of sheep, mostly older animals, to ethnic communities and specialist abattoirs .... That aspect of trade might not sit easy with some UK welfare organisations, but it was formerly worth many millions of pounds to UK farmers."
The implication that compromising animal welfare is acceptable if it results in large profits may also "not sit easy" with farmers with ethical standards. CIWF research shows that journeys that can take up to 20 hours and young calves travel particularly badly - and the organisation suggests alternatives to the trade with high-welfare alternatives, such as extensively-reared beef and rosé veal for sale in the UK (e.g. that reared by Helen Browning at Eastbrook Farm. It appears that Rosé veal is also popular at Buckingham Palace and, as the Independent's Mark Hix says, "the good thing is that all English veal is totally natural: the veal calves don't spend time in crates..I think it's about time we encouraged our farmers to produce more British veal.")
December 5 2007 ~ Lack of information about FMD vaccines - in the US
A recent paper predicts a "devastating economic impact" should foot-and-mouth disease come to Kansas - but no mention at all is made of the effective vaccines that are available. Instead, "researchers predicted that 1.7 million head of livestock would have to be destroyed and that an outbreak would last nearly three months." Our attention was drawn to one article about the Kansas paper that even told its readers,
"And there’s no vaccine, no way to stop such an attack."One wonders if the foot-and-mouth disease summit to be held on Wednesday, Dec. 12 in Montana (which representatives of at least ten states will be attending) will make any mention of the technology that can effectively and rapidly both diagnose and combat the disease.
December 5 2007 ~ US farmers have until December 14 voluntarily to register for NAIS
The Wikipedia entry for NAIS links to several newspaper articles, five sites in support and thirty five sites that are against it. It says "The National Animal Identification System, otherwise known as NAIS, is a government-run program in the United States intended to permit improved animal health surveillance by identifying and tracking specific animals." but adds, " The NAIS is the result of extensive lobbying from large factory farms "agribusiness" to protect themselves against possible liability when an epidemic occurs." The USDA site explains what they want from the NAIS. The US Government Accountability Office (pdf) identifies several key problems that "hinder USDA’s ability to implement NAIS effectively.....Without a reliable cost-benefit analysis, stakeholders are unlikely to participate in NAIS due to their uncertainty about whether program benefits outweigh the costs."
December 4 2007 ~ " I am astounded and baffled as to why the government is allowed to continue to practise obsolete veterinary medicine that is clearly contrary to the welfare of animals"
One does rather wonder how many of the people whose stock response to any mention of the rapid diagnostic tests that perform RT-PCR in the field is "Ah, but they are not validated" actually realise that they do not have to be validated in order to be used. A country can use any means it wishes to control foot and mouth disease whether or not OIE approves. Can anyone challenge this ? And it not, why on earth is the resistance to using such technology still allowed to carry such weight?
What do have to be "validated" are the tests used to resume international trade in animals and animal products. As Roger Breeze wrote in September, " As a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons of almost 40 years, I am astounded and baffled as to why the government is allowed to continue to practise obsolete veterinary medicine that is clearly contrary to the welfare of animals that the government has decided shall be solely in its care. There can be no other branch of veterinary medicine where modern science is totally ignored yet veterinary surgeons retain their licences to practise. ..."
December 4 2007 ~ " The new Rapid Test evaluated in this study achieves relatively high diagnostic sensitivity and provides results within about 30 minutes.."
Warmwell readers may well share a certain frustration at seeing the rapid diagnostic test for chlamydia so praised as a breakthrough (See yesterday's www.staffnurse.com) when similar technology to detect animal pathogens on-site and within the hour are consistently ignored with the mantra "not validated". DEFRA seems entirely uninterested by the fact that these "non validated" machines, far more lightweight and easy to operate than the machines assessed by the Pirbright team (pdf), are being successfully used in former Soviet countries such as Uzbechistan and Azerbyjan. The Chlamydia Rapid Test developed in Cambridge is so welcome because results are available within 30 minutes, which would allow all patients testing positive to be offered treatment while still at the clinic. But this is precisely what the rapid RT-PCR diagnostic machine (the size of a toaster) in the former Soviet Bloc countries mentioned above is already doing with both human patients, (tested, for example, for papillovirus in a mobile clinic), and the screening of animals in the field for pathogens. How extraordinary that the EU, which considers itself so sophisticated, should be so far lagging behind in life-saving technology, leaving people at risk from zoonoses and farmers a prey to the viruses and bacteria - the policies against which, as well as the pathogens themselves - threaten their livestock and their livelihoods.
December 4 2007 ~ EU lifts foot-and-mouth disease restrictions on Cyprus pork - leaving questions about the Cyprus "outbreak" unanswered
Cyprus is now allowed to resume exports of unprocessed pork - and the statement in the Cyprus Financial Mirror that this is because pigs are " considered to be less susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease" is a very odd statement. The ProMed Moderator says that the lifting of the export ban from nearly the whole island, "means -- de facto -- that the EU recognizes Cyprus as a territory free of circulating FMD virus." In other words, as we have noted below, the positive serological reactions in sheep were not necessarily indicative of disease. The moderator continues:
" in view of the unconvincing clinical description, absence of circulating virus, and negative serological reactions in susceptible cattle and pigs in the vicinity of the "affected" flocks, combined with the absence of any disease signs in these susceptible species.... past vaccinations could have been the cause of positive sheep serology. To sum-up and clear this unusual event, a follow-up or final report to the OIE deserves to be submitted." (Read full posting)The situation in Cyprus led to much unnecessary killing, unhappiness and anxiety. It all emphasises how important it is to have the most up-to-date testing technology in the hands of knowledgeable and responsible people in all Member States when the consequences of suspected disease are so draconian.
December 4 2007 ~ Marks and Spencers wins 'Compassionate Supermarket 2007' award
M&S narrowly beat Waitrose in Compassion in World Farming's award. The Farmers Guardian says CIWF considers that although " many supermarkets were improving their welfare practices, many animals producing food for the supermarket shelf still ‘face unnecessary suffering’...and used the ceremony to urge consumers who want to shop compassionately to look at its guide www.ciwf.org.uk/supermarkets recommending high welfare products on sale in supermarkets.
December 3 2007 ~ The energy of children at play provides the community's water pump
Every hour that a specially designed merry-go-round turns, it draws up 1400 litres from the borehole below and channels it into a large storage tank in a village in Kenya - thanks to Practical Action, formerly the Intermediate Technology Development Group, founded in 1966 by Dr E F Schumacher, ( ‘Small is Beautiful'), fighting poverty from the bottom up rather than imposing from above. A one-off donation, however small, can be made here to help support more ingenious, low-cost solutions like the merry-go-round. Sending communities gifts of animals, clean latrines, taps, agricultural supplies and so on ( I chose alpaca food) on behalf of a loved one at Christmas seems also a refreshing antidote to excessive consumerism at this time of year.
December 3 2007 ~ Funding for Biotech research amounts to around £50 million per year; Support for organic farming: £1.6 million last year.
(Gloucestershire Green Party obtained these figures under Freedom of Information.)
In a valedictory speech at the Royal Society last week, Sir David King urged: "To date, the government has taken a broadly neutral approach to GM issues.... I believe that it's now time to revisit this issue." (See Guardian) and the Guardian reported in September that ministers believed public concerns over GM had "softened".
The Farmers Weekly is running a poll to see whether farmers' attitudes have indeed "softened". (It would appear not)
Interesting that today, Dino Adriano, the former chief executive at J Sainsbury plc wrote (Guardian) , "The suggestion by some, who should know better, that the absence of legal challenge in the US over a 10-year period is evidence of GM's safety to humans is puerile. How can members of the public be expected to challenge the biotech companies in the absence of sound epidemiological evidence on the effect of GM in humans. Such research does not exist because neither the US government nor the biotech companies have wanted it."
December 3 2007 ~"Currently available (GMO's) mostly contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security and positively to the stock market."
It is unfortunate that a lot of the GM debate tends to proceed on all-or-nothing lines. As warmwell's recent Blog commented,
"...as an advocate of vaccine production involving some degree of genetic engineering I can hardly want to throw the baby out with the bath water. But this is not an all or nothing issue. Nothing need stop me from being glad that human insulin can be grown in GM yeast. The baby can be kept happily in the tub and still the question of the possible biotech monopoly of the food chain be raised with deep misgivings."So it is good to read informed comment from a contributor to the FAO's Electronic Forum on Biotechnology in Food and Agriculture, Professor El-Tayeb, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Industrial Biotechnology at Cairo University: "..currently available (GMO's) mostly contribute negatively to poverty alleviation and food security and positively to the stock market."
December 3 2007 ~ "When you industrialize food and farming too much, there will be outbreaks of disease. People will want local, organic food as a secure supply."
Any interview with Vandana Shiva is always well worth reading in full. In this one, she explains:
"... My fight against patenting and genetic engineering is a fight against the enclosure of the biological and intellectual commons that is the basis of survival of the large majority of the people of the world. It’s also the basis of cultural diversity and cultural richness. Water is being enclosed through privatization. Water is a commons. The atmosphere is a commons that has been privatized by pollution from fossil fuels and the oil companies. They are taking what doesn’t belong to them, using it as their private sink. They are destabilizing the climate for all of us."However, she sees a ray of hope from the fact "the system will crack. When you industrialize food and farming too much, there will be outbreaks of disease. People will want local, organic food as a secure supply. Alternatives are built into the very logic of the system because it’s designed to fail and will lead to environmental catastrophe." Dr Shiva's farm is reintroducing traditional grains, more nutritious than a lot that are grown now and that will grow with tiny amounts of water. In Frontline (India's National Magazine), Volume 22 - Issue 02, Jan. 15 - 28, 2005 we read that Orissa, Kerala and Karnataka grow a wide variety of salinity-resistant rice cultivars. These varieties, unlike the genetically engineered. ones, are eco-friendly too. "After all, farmers have tried and tested them over hundreds of years, while the effects of genetically engineered rice varieties on the ecology are not yet understood," says Vandana Shiva.
December 3 2007 ~ "a genetic problem from a narrowed base, husbandry systems and susceptibility related to more intensive farming"
New Zealand hosted an OIE Regional Commission for Asia, the Far East and Oceania last week. Discussions were held on Bird Flu and included debate on controlling foot and mouth, emerging diseases in pigs, food safety challenges for developing countries and an update on the disease status of all countries. The part in animal disease played by a narrowing genetic base, changed husbandry systems and intensive farm practices was discussed. Foot and mouth is endemic in South East Asia, with about 400 outbreaks each year. China took part in the conference for the first time last week and has agreed to host the next one in 2009.
"The highlight for me was the commitment from the countries accepting we need to work together to be able to control these serious diseases,"said New Zealand's biosecurity head and President of the OIE, Dr. Barry O'Neil. ( More detail in theNew Zealand Herald)
December 3 2007 ~ Deepening concern about water shortages is reaching the world's press.
Professor Asit K. Biswas, an expert in water use and the 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate, wrote in a report released by the Asian Development Bank (Bankok Post):
"If the present unsatisfactory trends continue, in one or two decades Asian developing countries are likely to face a crisis on water quality management that is unprecedented in human history."Underwater aquifers are running dry in China - the consequence of rapid industrialisation and water pollution in China's dash for economic transformation. Aquifers are running dry in India too. Major water diversion schemes are spoken about but are not a reality - and attempts to create more dams or desalinate water are in danger of being as destructive of ecosystems as the droughts themselves. The US state of Georgia and the southern part of California have suffered serious shortages during the past year due to unusually severe droughts and poor planning. Pollution and profligate consumption patterns point to a coming desperate situation.
December 3 2007 ~ Peak Oil is now talked about everywhere - but a lack of water is of even greater significance
At least 700 million people among Asia-Pacific's 3.7 billion population don't have access to safe and affordable water and more than 1.9 billion don't have adequate sanitation, according to statistics compiled by the UN and other agencies. (See Bloomberg)
Last year, the BBC reported that in London leaks from ageing water mains are wasting 300 Olympic swimming pools' worth of water every single day; elsewhere in the world mismanagement of water means an increasingly desperate situation. Intensive industrialisation - particularly of farming, with its exploitation of animals and natural resources and its effect of exiling vast numbers of people into cities - demands a price to be paid that must outweigh any advantage in the long run. Human ingenuity in making profits is of little value if the wellbeing of the planet is put in jeopardy.
December 1 2007 ~ "In hyper-'efficient' Britain, policy makers continue to urge that we should abandon farming altogether.."
Highly and urgently recommended is a book by Colin Tudge; "Feeding People is Easy" He says we need a renaissance world-wide in which - contrary to the pressures exerted by the powerful - small, mixed, labour-intensive farms are the norm, the default position.
"As John Maynard Keynes pointed out 70 years ago, there is no relationship between the Gross National Product and human wellbeing...In hyper-'efficient' Britain, policy makers continue to urge (I have heard them doing so) that we should abandon farming altogether and buy from abroad, which these days largely means Brazil and Africa. Yet the money we spend in those countries does the population little or no good - merely speeding their exodus from traditional farms...we cannot allow the people who have the most influence in the world ...and all their attendant battalions of bureaucrats, economists and scientists - to perpetuate a system that is clearly based on nonsense and is threatening our entire survival.."Colin Tudge applauds the many signs of renaissance already from farmers' markets to 'transition towns' like Totnes and Stroud setting out to run their own affairs differently. Anything short of a renaissance - fiddling with the CAP, trying to get Tesco's or Sainsbury's to stock half a shelf of local produce - is a waste of time. (Links to other writing by Colin Tudge on warmwell.)
November 30 2007 ~ Huge take-up for "early severance" from DEFRA
In answer to a question from Peter Ainsworth, Mr Shaw said, " In the last six months 161 employees of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have been offered early retirement. To date, 135 of these have accepted the offer. A further 230 employees, aged under 50, have been offered early severance in the same period and of those, to date, 167 have accepted the offer. The scheme has been open to core DEFRA staff only and does not include agencies." Details of the deal are below. Meanwhile other DEFRA animal health employees belonging to the union Prospect have rejected a 2.9% offer and have been balloted on strike action.
In Tuesday afternoon's Opposition Day there will be a debate in the House of Commons on the Politicalisation of the Civil Service and the Performance of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
November 30 2007 ~ "H5N1 infection has not been detected in wild birds nor have any incidents of high mortality been observed in the area"
says the preliminary epidemiological report of the Norfolk outbreak. It says the Norfolk strain had a 99.8% identity to the isolates from "wild birds" in June and July 2007 in the Czech Republic. In an email today, Alan Beat quotes the FAO report which says that the Czech outbreak "started on a commercial turkey farm on 21st June holding 1800 birds. On 10th July, a single infected dead wild mute swan was found some distance away. Although the DEFRA epidemiological report mentions the single mute swan it does not mention the conclusion of the FAO investigation that the source was more likely to have been the turkey farms not to the farms via birds but the other way round:
"the disease has spilled over from the turkey farms in the Czech Republic resulting in wild bird infections."Fred Landeg told journalists "At the present time wild birds, most likely migratory species from central Europe, cannot be ruled out as the source of infection" and the BBC's first obedient headline was "Flu cases 'linked to wild birds". It is both interesting and reassuring that this has now changed to "Bird flu cause probe inconclusive" Even more heartening is the campaign by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to put pressure on the poultry industry to raise its standards. Chicken Out! is being led by River Cottage locals, especially in and around Axminster, who are boycotting intensively-reared chickens and choosing free range instead. See Blog
November 29 2007 ~ DEFRA staff are being balloted on possible strike action
Hot on the heels of the news of ultra generous retirement schemes for senior DEFRA personnel (see Blog) comes the threat of strike action. 738 vets, animal health specialists and scientists - all members of the professional union Prospect - have rejected a pay offer of 2.9%. See FWi which quotes Kim Heywood of the NBA, "We are working out protocols for farmers who are currently in the bluetongue zones and there is potentially a window between January and March to allow movement from these zones. Obviously if DEFRA staff were to strike this would make this difficult to achieve..."
November 29 2007 ~"The root of DEFRA's problems"
- as an NFU spokesman comments in the FWi -"is the inadequate recognition from the Treasury of the important role it plays..."
Hardly surprising that the morale of both farmers and DEFRA's own staff are at an all-time low. The consequences of this desperate state of affairs are dangerous for farming, food safety, animal welfare - and human health.
November 29 2007 ~ "overly complex, highly fragmented and confusing for participants. ..."
Last year's independent review by David Eves CB is a formidable document. It examined how the Animal Health and Welfare Strategy is delivered in England. It made no fewer than 55 recommendations. David Eves, in spite of all diplomacy and tact, nevertheless said:
".... the present delivery system for animal health and welfare... is overly complex, highly fragmented and confusing for participants. It is not conducive to better regulation, and the many current uncertainties are militating against close and effective collaboration between delivery partners. ... there are risks to its performance and reputation as the UK Competent Authority. The position is not made easier by the interactions and overlaps with food safety and public health...."DEFRA is expected to do a complex task that is far too difficult for it. In the face of crisis after crisis, the Department papers over cracks, fails to communicate adequately with those involved, seems unable even to question its own level of competence - and its Minister, shuddering with relief, presumably - moves on as rapidly as possible.
November 29th 2007 ~ " I try to sell everything locally thus obviating the need for traceability"
One sheep farmer writes as if he were living in a sane world - one where traceability would only matter if animals were being moved out of the local area, farmers were paid proper prices for the food they produced, trustworthy records could be kept on paper, sheep were not made to suffer the effects of double tagging and choke-inducing boluses - and tax payers, via local Councils, were not required to fund an army of officials. See email.
Warmwell readers might like to spread the word about the website www.bigbarn.co.uk devoted to helping people to find good, safe, accountable food from local sources and to rebuild local food supply chains across the UK.
November 28 2007 ~ "The making of Sir David was his handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis in 2001"
In his curious eulogy of Sir David King, Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News writes:
"...The epidemic was spiralling out of control; but with the help of Lord Krebs he pushed for a policy of contiguous culling. It was politically unpopular. The vets didn't understand it and didn't want it; and ministers were loathed to see pictures of smoke from burning carcasses blotting out the Sun. But it was the right thing to do. And, despite tremendous pressure, he fought for the policy to continue. It was this call that won Sir David the confidence of not only the prime minister, but - more importantly - the public."The amount of misinformation packed into such a short paragraph takes one's breath away, rather as Sir David's policies took away the breath of up to eleven million doomed animals in 2001.
November 28 2007 ~ First, the FMD crisis was not "spiralling out of control" on March 29 2001
the date when David King and John Krebs and co, a bizarre alliance of the powerful ignorant, "pushed for a policy of contiguous culling". The policy of killing en masse around suspected infected premises (many of which were not infected at all) was based on the "false statistics, bad science and wrong deductions" of Roy Anderson's team - as Magnus Linklater explained in the Times last year. As Dr Alex Donaldson's submission to the Lessons Learned Inquiry - very much worth reading in full - said, "The epidemic had been in decline by the time of the introduction of the contiguous cull policy on 29 March. (In a publication by Keeling and co-authors, it was stated that the epidemic peaked on 26 March with 54 outbreaks per day.).."
"Politically unpopular" it may have been - although we saw little real attempt politically to change it.
November 28 2007 ~ vets and scientists who understood all too well what a tragic mistake was being made were ignored, as was Pirbright itself whose FMD experts were not even consulted
in the drawing up of contingency plans. It will be remembered that the UK was fined £600 million by the European Commission over its disastrous handling of the crisis. The desperate grief of hundreds of people was never given media coverage for exactly the same reason as the pictures of "smoke from burning carcasses" were soon stopped; the political damage was considered far more important than the misery in the countryside.
Pallab Ghosh says of the carnage that "it was the right thing to do" and that the confidence of the public was won. On the contrary, it was the most callous and ignorant mistake and we have never heard any member of the "public" say otherwise. It will take more than a few articles attempting to airbrush the reputation of the departing Chief Scientific Advisor to eradicate the damning effects of his refusal to admit that terrible mistakes were made, of his continuing destructive influence on animal health policies or of his powerfully influential contempt for humane practices in animal husbandry.
November 28 2007 ~Exit King, enter Beddington
In January Professor John Beddington, a professor of applied population biology at Imperial College, and present Chair of the SAC committee, takes over from David King. Alick Simmons is apparently to step into the position of Chief Veterinary Officer. Hopes for a better state of affairs are hard to come by.
November 27 2007 ~ "Gordon Brown likes to cite his handling of the bluetongue and foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks as evidence of his competence."
So says the Financial Times. There are those who would cite the handling of the foot and mouth and bluetongue crises as evidence of the UK's medieval approach to animal disease control. The inability of the UK and DEFRA to learn either from the mistakes of the past nor from the most up-to-date- disease control technologies is costing the country dear. How could it have been possible not to use vaccination in August - that vaccines produced at the Merial Pirbright laboratory are for export purposes only? How is it possible that Bluetongue vaccine still has not actually been ordered - meaning the vaccine companies are stillsitting on their hands? How is it that anxious poutry owners who want to protect their birds from the next outbreak of H5N1 are still being told that they may not do so?
26 Nov 2007 ~ "This strange event has been characterised by EU-dictated cullings and other control measures; convincing evidence for a circulating virus is still lacking."
It looks even more than ever likely that Cyprus had no active FMD virus at all. This is of little comfort when we contemplate the miserable scenes that have taken place. Of the reported news that "There have been 2 new cases of foot and mouth disease [FMD] located in Cyprus", the ProMed moderator comments: Are these findings indicative of "outbreaks?" According to reliable sources, they are just indicative of sporadic positive serology.... Since the start of the event, all findings have been serological, affecting a small number of sheep..... Not a single suspected case has been recorded ....within 3 km of the index farm. Similarly, no suspected cases have been detected within the 10 km zone....
This strange event has been characterised by EU-dictated cullings and other control measures; convincing evidence for a circulating virus is still lacking." Read the Moderator's commentary in full
25 Nov 2007 ~ Staff offered £40,000-a-year for life 'bribes' to quit shamed ministry Defra
is the headline in this Evening Standard article. One insider is quoted: "They can't believe their luck. There are retirement parties all the time stretching into next spring. It seems an odd way to save money but no one is complaining. Some intend to take the money and then work in the private sector."....
".....the £300 million "voluntary retirement" scheme was devised as part of emergency measures to save money after Defra was fined £300 million by the EU for failing to pay farm subsidies on time. The department's budget has come under further strain as a result of foot-and-mouth disease, bird flu, the floods and a failure to meet earlier job-reduction targets. But some officials say the job-cutting scheme is so generous that Environment Secretary Hilary Benn is "throwing good money after bad.... ".One emailer writes this morning, "Cost sharing? £40m a year from the livestock sector. Why not, instead, take it from those responsible for the losses...?"(more) In view of the imminent publication (see Telegraph) of the report by the cross-party Better Government Initiative, this Memorandum by Sir Christopher Foster, is relevant. See also Blog
25 Nov 2007 ~"the terminal decline of the UK farming industry through the pursuit of cheap food..."
Lords Hansard for November 14th. The Lord Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael Langrish, asked whether Lord Rooker was aware that the “World at One” on Radio 4 had carried a report in which it was suggested that British farmers should be assisted in growing more food for the UK market and that a spokesperson for Defra responded by saying:
“It is up to the market to decide food prices. The UK can source efficiently food from a wide variety of stable countries, and that enables Britain to obtain the best value for money”?The Bishop commented "Whatever the legal issues surrounding FMD compensation ....does not this Defra statement mean that Her Majesty’s Government continue to take food security insufficiently seriously and are prepared to see the terminal decline of the UK farming industry through the pursuit of cheap food and the concomitant exploitation of UK farmers by the retail food industry?"
Those warmwell readers who want to support their local farmers might like to publicise www.bigbarn.co.uk - a website devoted to helping people to find good, safe, accountable food from local sources and to rebuild local food supply chains across the UK.
24 Nov 2007 ~ The NFU’s Why Beef and Sheep Farming Matters campaign
This campaign was launched in London last week and hopes to get consumers themselves to put pressure on supermarkets so that beef and lamb prices will allow farmers to make the profit needed to keep them in business - and lambs and cows in British fields. It is supported by a range of other organisations, including the National Council for Women, the Townswomen’s Guild and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
Politics.co.uk says, "As a result of soaring feed costs and foot and mouth and bluetongue restrictions, the supermarkets have been cashing in, with the gap between the producer price of beef and the average retail price higher in every month since March 2007 than in the equivalent month a year previously, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission."
23 Nov 2007 ~ Such a virus escape, although bizarre, was not dangerous to the outlying countryside
when, as the Times says,
"urgent maintenance work on faulty effluent pipes and manhole covers at Pirbright had been completed and a new facility was also in place to heat treat waste from virus production. The ground above the drains is also now a controlled area and anyone entering it has to follow strict cleansing and disinfecting regimes. Effluent from the plant also now enters a chemical treatment facility that deactivates any virus, and this equipment is monitored and tested daily."It appears that a faulty valve on a pipe used to separate live virus from waste product allowed virus to leak into the contained drainage system. However, Merial became aware of this at once and took immediate action. There was no question of any virus getting out of the contained drainage system and the valve was replaced without delay. It is inevitable though that such an occurrence was going to hit the headlines, and the apparent attempt by DEFRA to delay reporting the incident, to make a statement instead of answering Opposition questions in person at the time they were asked, has the effect of making it seem more sinister. Bluetongue vaccine production is being held up once more. We can only hope the revoking of the SAPO licence is a very temporary withdrawal.
22 Nov 2007 ~ On non-Redgrave farms the pre-emptive culls returned negative results. When can we vaccinate?
"On Tuesday [20 Nov 2007], it was confirmed that turkeys culled at 2 other farms because they might have been exposed to the disease, tested negative. These were Stone House, in West Harling, and Bridge Farm, in Pulham, both in Norfolk." BBC
Dr Watkins writes today,
"When should we vaccinate here against H5N1 in this outbreak? Should it be now - or when there is an obvious trigger; infection on an unrelated poultry farm or the infection found in wild birds in East Anglia?"She adds that Equine influenza in Australia has spread widely in the East and the spread can only be explained in some instances by people taking the virus on their persons (fomites) or on equipment to an uninfected premises. Australia have taken the decision to change their equine influenza status from that of a country without vaccination to one with vaccination. They have ordered millions of doses of vaccine. In the UK, Plans revealed today show that the government would vaccinate half the human population against a bird flu pandemic - but many might feel that getting to grips with the problem in the birds themselves might be thought a saner use of resources.
22 Nov 2007 ~ Jamie Oliver wants viewers to face the realities of industrial chicken production
With excellent timing , considering news of another grossly large number of unfortunate birds being slaughtered at another of Redgrave Farm's so-called 'free range' premises, some celebrity chefs are going to try to alert the nation to the reality of mass production of birds for cheap food in the UK.
Andrew Mackenzie, head of factual entertainment at Channel 4, says (Western Morning News )
"Jamie's simple message, in quite an overt way, will be,There will be three Channel 4 programmes dealing with the reality of intensive poultry production. They are: Cook-a-Long-a-Gordon LIVE, Hugh's Chicken Run and Jamie's Fowl Dinners, and they will be broadcast in January.
'If you knew what happens to a chicken before arriving on your plate, would you change the way you think about chicken? Would you eat it?"'Our standards are not as good as some in Europe. Jamie reveals how chickens go from the farm to the fork."
22 Nov 2007 ~ FMD virus escape? SAPO Licence suspended yet again
On the possible leak at the Merial site on Monday, Pirbright, Hilary Benn's statement is on the DEFRA site, "....The inspection team judge that while it was possible that live FMD virus had entered the contained drainage system, from their discussions and the evidence gathered they are assured that live virus has not been released to the environment. The extensive layers of biosecurity that we require under the SAPO licence effectively contained the virus in the closed, re-lined drainage system before deactivation in the chemical treatment facility."
The Times reports,"...on Monday Merial discovered a shortfall in the quantity of virus recovered from production batches last week. A faulty valve on a pipe used to separate live virus from waste product was identified as the cause of the leak. "
One wonders how Steve Kendrew is feeling today. It will be remembered that he was hired as a project manager to oversee construction projects at IAH's sites at Pirbright and at Compton, and raised concerns with managers at IAH, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), DEFRA and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). He continued his warnings via e-mails throughout 2006. Many were ignored - and it seems his career at the IAH ended somewhat abruptly. As he said at the time: " “This has cost me dearly. My career is blighted . . . but staying silent would have been a crime by omission.” (See Sunday Times Sep 30 07)
The general feeling - as in this Guardian report - is that no virus can have actually leaked out into the environment around Pirbright.
20 Nov ~ Latest Export and Movement Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) Regulations 2007
The full Statutory Instrument can be seen at www.defra.gov.uk (24 pages). Schedule 1 gives a list of those areas who are still under restrictions. An emailer wrote this about a recorded message sent by DEFRA to farmers today:
"...Had lovely mechanical garbled telephone message from Defra this a.m. Unfortunately it was so long by the time they had listed all the counties and places that cannot move and all the different zones which now all have different names our ansaphone lost interest and switched off. Do hope the last bit wasn't the important bit.."Here is the list of those areas still under restrictions. There is no live export from anywhere in the UK yet.
November 19 2007 ~2nd H5N1 outbreak. No vaccination policy in place to prevent possible disaster
The Guardian reports that "The site of the new infection - Hill Meadow Farm, in Knettishall..... was identified as having "dangerous contact" with the initial outbreak last week because workers for Redgrave Poultry, which operates all five sites on which culls have taken place, moved between the farms... "
The reluctance to vaccinate birds is looking ever more serious. Unvaccinated birds, prey to the virus, coming into contact with human workers - very few of whom have been inoculated against the human flu viruses with which the bird flu strain might mingle - could so easily lead to a mutation that affects the human population. It is astonishing that such an avoidable situation has been allowed to happen.
November 19 2007 ~ "January is far too late"
The danger of a pandemic comes when the lethal H5N1 virus can meet a human flu strain and mutate. The Sunday Telegraph reveals that very few people who work with poultry have received anti-flu injections. Free range and pedigree poultry owners who have not been allowed to vaccinate their birds have been plunged yet again into uncertainty and worry - but not even their workers have been given the anti (human) flu jabs. The Sunday Telegraph says
"vaccinations for poultry workers will not be completed for another 2 months. .... Suffolk Primary Care Trust, which covers the infected farm, said it expected to have vaccinated the workers by January . But Dr Graeme Laver, an influenza virologist, said: "January is far too late."..."This reminds us of an email in March from an exasperated breeder of pedigree geese who wrote that the ban on vaccinating his animals meant in effect that
"it is considered acceptable for us to risk contracting bird fly from our poultry, but we cannot be allowed to have normal flu at the same time because that would mean everyone else would be at risk..."No H5N1 vaccine for birds when vaccines have been approved by both the OIE and the EFSA. Precious little human flu vaccine for poultry workers. One wonders what is the point of a conference such as that at Verona in March if nothing has happened in the UK by the time need arises and when human as well as animal health is at stake? As for the current DEFRA dogma, it seems to us that this information from Intervet carries rather more weight:
"Unfortunately, as with FMD, the anti-vaccination message seems to be the official line, but we are doing what we can to provide people with the other side of the argument...To my understanding, there are no 'silent carriers'. When our vaccine is used as recommended (2 doses 4-6 weeks) apart it prevents transmission of the disease, even with the high challenges used experimentally."
November 18 2007 ~ DEFRA faces making £300m in emergency cuts
says the Observer in an article about the decision by Hilary Benn to press ahead with the plan to make farmers pay towards the policies in which they have so precious little say. Once again, we see in this article the failure of so many journalists to make a distinction between people who farm the land in order to produce decent food for the country and those agri-profiteers who cannot be termed farmers at all. Those of us who do make such a distinction and think that it matters, will object to such a paragraph as this:
"....there will also be anger among some farmers over a levy, because the foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey last summer came from material which escaped from a government research laboratory in Pirbright.Some disease outbreaks, however, have been caused by clear lapses in biosecurity on farms. The bird flu found at a Bernard Matthews plant last year was traced back to its plant in Hungary".This is so wrong and so misses the point. The Holton outbreak had nothing to do with farmers and everything to do with the dangerous industrialisation of food production; of treating sentient beings as mere parcels of edible, cheap protoplasm in order to make a great deal of money. And it is not merely the Pirbright fiasco that has made farmers so angry at the proposed levy. It is taxation without representation at an almost undreamed of level. Unless they are part of the tiny so-called "core" stakeholder group, farmers have no way to exert any pressure on DEFRA at all.
By means of a legal sleight of hand, animal health policy now so successfully separates people from their ability to take responsibility that it has stolen from owners the freedom to protect the health of their animals. They must submit to the killing of their stock and to the shutting down of movements across swathes of the country. Failure to comply results in criminal charges. Now, with a savage twist of the knife, the worse than bankrupt Ministry is telling them that they themselves must pay for what threatens to put them out of business.
November 18 2007 ~ Doubts deepen as to the existence of active FMD in Cyprus
On the basis solely of individual serological (NSP) FMD tests in a few animals in Cyprus, over 2000 animals have been killed. Yet there is a terrible illogicality here. It is claimed in the EU that the tests are not specific enough for individual animals. This, it is claimed, is why they are accepted only on a herd basis. Yet in Cyprus we are seeing individual NSP tests being treated as a valid enough reason to assume the presence of active disease. The positive 3ABC tests, detecting Non Structural Proteins (NSP) might indicate merely the past application of poorly inactivated FMD vaccines and not active virus at all.
Vaccination with modern, potent vaccines tried and tested across the globe is even more effective on islands where borders are not shared. It has not been considered by Cypriot officialdom who wring their hands and blame Brussels. It seems, however, that unofficial, poor vaccines may be behind the present misery One goat farmer, also quoted in the Cyprus Mail, says
"And if anyone did buy faulty vaccinations from the north, no one will admit it."The ProMed Moderator seizes upon this:
"Subscribers's attention is drawn to the sentence above. The possibility that vaccination has taken place in the past within Cyprus territory(ies), or that vaccinated animals found their way into local flocks, deserves thorough investigation. Its outcome may be significant in explaining the detection of several seropositive adult sheep within a population of susceptible, predominantly seronegative population of sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs"
November 18 2007 ~ ".. How can you kill 2000 animals for one case of FMD?"
The report in the Cyprus Mail brings home the fearsome reality of a bureaucratic killing machine in the community and will remind those in the UK of the sight we never want to see again - and fear we shall.
"Veterinary Service officials dressed from head to toe in all-white are everywhere as if on the set of a futuristic disaster movie. They move around farms in white cars, spraying, decontaminating, setting up check-points, testing animals, and when the order comes in, culling and burying them"The policy is stamping on the small farmers:
"...... They suffer more because they look after their sheep day and night. Rain or snow, they are there for them when they are pregnant, help them to give birth, milk their young. For them it is very hard, they can't look..."And this is what our concern about DEFRA, about the EU and about the patent absurdity of current animal health policy is all about: this callous obsession for central control leaves ordinary people in a nightmare from which they cannot escape. All responsibility has been wrested from them The Cyprus Mail reports one Cypriot: "..when we say let us bring in private experts to check for FMD, they say 'No'..."
There are also rumours that the killing off of the animals is highly lucrative for those on the make: "land prices have shot up in this little village..."
How to get one's hands on cheap land in the country is of abiding interest to many - and not only in Cyprus, of course.
November 16 2007 ~ Worries that the intensive poultry industry wants to force regulation on free range and organic bird keepers
Several emailers have expressed concern that Valerie Elliott's Times article today concludes:
"Poultry farmers are incensed by what they perceive as lax biosecurity at the farm which allowed turkeys, geese and ducks to mingle with wild birds near an ornamental lake. Many are now demanding new rules for free-range and organic birds and for the Government to regulate rather than offer guidance about the need to keep outdoor farmed birds away from places where wild birds congregate."Such comment from "poultry farmers" - which means those whose unfortunate birds are, in their cramped conditions, kept well away from any natural surroundings - presupposes that the H5N1 came from wild birds. This is looking less and less likely.
November 16 ~ What tends to be forgotten by consumers who would really rather not know where their cheap meat comes from are facts such as these
from Alan Beat's article in Country Smallholding (which should be read in full)
"...During 2006, some 3.9 million broiler chicks were exported while 2.3 million were imported, 1.6 million turkey poults (hatched birds) were exported while 1 million were imported, and 233,000 tonnes of poultry meat were exported while 451,000 tonnes were imported. There is similar two-way traffic in other categories of live birds, hatching eggs, feedstuffs and waste products (3). Around 75% of this trade is conducted within Europe, but significant amounts of poultry meat are imported from countries such as Thailand and Brazil."What is needed is regulation of the intensive systems and - for all who care about the birds - a vaccination policy.
DEFRA, it seems, is still trying to evade this, giving as its reason that "Currently available vaccines have disadvantages in that although they are able to reduce mortality, it is possible that some vaccinated birds would still be capable of transmitting the disease if they became infected whilst not displaying symptoms. This would increase the time taken to detect and eradicate the virus."
This is almost unbelievable and has been used over and over again by DEFRA to give a sort of spurious justification to its refusal to get to grips with vaccination for any notifiable disease. Dr Ruth Watkins - with a great deal more tact and forbearance than many of us have left - comments on this latest DEFRA statement.
16 November 2007 ~ "Brussels made it crystal clear that there was no choice than to proceed with the immediate culling of livestock or risk serious consequences..."
ProMed quotes this from the Cyprus Mail today - but the Moderator then comments, "....The decision to apply stamping out in the flocks found "infected" on ground of several positive serological tests in adult animals -- while virus/antigen remaining undetected -- is assumed to be the outcome of EU policy. Additional commentary, in particular explaining the decision -- or correcting the said assumption -- will be welcomed." (our italics)
It will be remembered that Paul Sutmoller was quoted with gratitude by the same moderator for his comments, which included the following:
"..one wonders if immediate vaccination of the susceptible livestock population of the island has been considered to bring the outbreak quickly under control.Hundreds of animals are being culled. There is as yet no definite evidence that active FMD virus is present in Cyprus at all.
There are no scientific reasons to believe that under the prevailing conditions of Cyprus stamping-out may be more effective than vaccination in controlling the disease. Is that not exactly why the EU promotes vaccination if FMD occurs in the European part of Turkey?..."
16 November 2007 ~ " What foot and mouth zones really mean?"
The Farmers Weekly's Stephen Carr explains "what they are really about" in an article which can hardly be termed tongue in cheek since the fury of it blazes from the page. It reflects the growing realisation that what we are witnessing in the realm of so-called animal health has nothing at all to do with the health of animals.
(If it had, the relevant authorities would have embraced vaccination and state of the art diagnostics for Foot and Mouth and for Avian Influenza instead of the continuing nonsense about vaccination masking disease. The bluetongue tendering for vaccine comes because all Member States affected agree that it is our only weapon - but DEFRA's present plan - astonishingly - ignores the EU commitment to pay for all vaccines and half the cost of implementation for the first year. DEFRA is asking farmers to pay and is suggesting voluntary vaccination - an option that has little hope of success. In place of the increasingly closed "Core" stakeholder meetings there would be genuine consultation with those who, together with their unfortunate animals, have up until now been forced to pay the price of these outdated and compassionless policies. )
13 November 2007 ~ "Euro Coop supports vaccination as an alternative to mass slaughtering on prevention grounds of healthy livestock, which is intolerable..
.. both from a societal and an animal welfare perspective. Vaccination is also beneficial insofar as it prevents suffering and can help avoid the use of chemicals..."
It is very cheering indeed to see such an unambiguous statement. Euro Coop is the European community of consumer cooperatives.
Its Secretariat is based in Brussels. Its members are the national organisations of consumer cooperatives in 16 european countries. Created in 1957, Euro Coop today represents over 3,200 local and regional cooperatives, the members of which amount to more than 22 million consumers across Europe. Here is its full position paper on vaccination.
13 November 2007 ~ "We are determined to throw the kitchen sink at this to ensure that farmers are properly compensated."
Peter Kendall. Listen Again to Farming Today. The action is being brought to both Merial and IAH at Pirbright..."for them to apportion blame among themselves". Nearly 1000 NFU members are joining the class action.
13 November 2007 ~ Bird Flu in Norfolk. More slaughter
5,000 birds - turkeys, geese and ducks - are to be slaughtered.
Preliminary tests showed the turkeys had the H5 strain of bird flu, but it is not yet known whether it is the highly pathogenic H5N1 form of the disease. The RSPB, quoted in the Guardian, warns against the assumption that the disease had spread to poultry from wild birds. , No wild birds have been found with avian flu in Europe since late August and the autumn migration is now largely over. See warmwell's Bird Flu page The outbreak is in a "free range" farm. See also the warmwell chronology of the Bernard Matthews case - still very much a mystery. UPDATE In a television interview, Fred Landeg said that it's closely related to this summer's strain in the Czech Republic and Germany. (BBC)
Monday 12 November 2007 ~ Anderson FMD Review: 2007
Readers may agree with us that it is important to put in writing, however brief, one's views about
Iain Anderson will make recommendations "by the end of 2007 to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the future handling of foot and mouth disease outbreaks". Our letters and emailed comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD(send them here) must reach the Cabinet Office by 16th November, Friday this week. See today's Blog
- whether relevant points from the Lessons to be Learned Report and Royal Society Inquiry on the 2001 outbreak were implemented;
- whether new lessons might be drawn from the handling of the 2007 outbreak
Sunday 11 November 2007 ~ "The worldwide rise in food prices is, in part, the result of using maize for fuel rather than for food."
It is now being widely accepted that the end of cheap oil has arrived. The importance to Britain of its own food has increased - yet the government shows little understanding of or sympathy for the crisis in farming. Indeed there are many who suspect the present government would like to see an end to UK livestock farming altogether. But the knock-on effects of dwindling oil will soon be felt by everyone - and not just at the petrol pumps. Independent on Sunday:
"It also changes the sense of power: Russia and the Middle East have become more important; Western Europe and the US less so..... .... If China is to go on using all the additional oil that is available, or more, the rest of the world will have to get by with less. This makes the present surge in the oil price different from all previous oil shocks: it is caused by rising demand rather than restricted supply..."Warmwell has been watching the supply and price of oil since April 2004. (Oil depletion page) Our world will not be fueled by oil and fossil fuels for much longer. This could - in quite a short time - drastically reshape the way food is produced, bought and sold. Supermarket shelves that are filled by cheap imports may soon be emptying. And if the expertise of our farmers has disappeared along with the farms it will be far too late to rue the social unrest of a hungry population.
Sunday 11 November 2007 ~ "encourage the writing of clear and reader-friendly English."
Our attention has been drawn to a timely guide (pdf) "....... the overriding aim in both parts of the Guide is to facilitate and encourage the writing of clear and reader-friendly English. Writing in clear language can be difficult at the Commission..." It is an interesting document of which DEFRA might take note
Saturday 10 November 2007 ~ The 150 km "high risk" area demonstrates "regionalisation"
How ironic it is to see regionalisation used at this point in November when the UK could have asked that the vaccination regulations be allowed to apply to Surrey alone This could have been done right from the start. Consequently very much smaller zone be put in place while the rest of the UK carried on as normal. But, without either vaccination nor on-site rapid diagnosis (requiring non-invasive swabs) the outbreak was allowed to drag on until September 30th and hundreds of animals have been bled over and over again in a relentless attempt to show freedom from disease.
Although farms within this new zone, (chosen by the UK itself rather than Brussels, it seems), are miles away from any likelihood of FMD infection, they are to be treated as a region in which no movements may take place. See what Daniel Hannan, MEP for the South East, had to say on the subject, while Peter Kendall was even more outspoken. The amendment to Commission Decision 2007/554/EC unanimously agreed by SCoFCAH on Tuesday now does allow the rest of Great Britain apart from the FMD "region" to revert to normality in the matter of meat, milk and their products - but this 150 kilomentre zone is to pay the price. The decision will not be formally adopted until 16 November at the earliest. It could possibly be 19 November. As for live exports, the three month rule must still be seen to apply. (We would love to hear from anyone who does not find this Pdf file almost wholly incomprehensible. Link mended. Apologies. It is a badly scanned EU document.)
Friday November 9 2007 ~ Latest FMD report - and farewell to D. Reynolds
For the first time on the 6th November the follow-up report 13 for FMD received by the OIE from Dr Debby Reynolds reported that the "source of infection " was "Laboratory escape". Today's report (no 14) finds us back to the older refrain: "source of infection - Unknown or inconclusive".
What is unlikely to dither is Dr Reynolds decision to take early retirement.
You may - if you so choose - read on this DEFRA page entitled "Chief vet leaves with plaudits after four years service" how Dr Reynolds seems convinced that this Summer she "built a disease control strategy which is the best in the world"
Friday November 9 2007 ~ The 1968 Northumberland Report advised vaccination and testing to check for disease before slaughter
An email just received reminds us that it is not just the recommendations of the reports following the 2001 disaster that have been largely ignored. Four decades ago the Northumberland Report quoted the Gowers Committee whose members showed that they understood the "....mental anguish it may cause to those who suffer its consequences, and the shattering disaster, not computable in terms of money, that it may bring to a farmer who has to see the work of a lifetime destroyed in a day.”
What is even more significant is - from Part Two - paragraph 36 "...Diagnostic techniques are now available which can show the presence of virus before clinical signs appear and we therefore recommended that material (including samples taken by probing) from all suspected in contact animals that have been traced should be tested in the laboratory for the presence of virus." Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD
Friday November 9 2007 ~The Zones explained
Concise, easy to understand advice from the Farmers Guardian. Both FMD and Bluetongue. What the rules are. What you can and cannot do. In English. (Plus a good map).
Friday November 9 2007 ~ "I tried to respond to your blog but I fell foul of the Google log in..."
What Dr Ruth Watkins wanted to say was this:
" Surely Cyprus has the option of vaccination against FMD? What did the EU visitors advise? Even if it turns out to be Bluetongue that gave those sheep symptoms (and some serotypes and strains of Bluetongue are very mild) no harm is done by FMD vaccination- but slaughtering the cypriot farmers flocks - some as precautionary measures- is appalling. One must find evidence of new seroconversions or above all the virus in animals acutely infected to be sure there is an outbreak. The farmers may have bought sheep from an area where FMD infection has occurred, such as Turkey; the animals could have been infected a year ago or more. If animals are slaughtered without taking proper specimens, they will will not solve the question of whether they have FMD or and Bluetongue. What a shame Roger Breeze cannot go out there with his kit and do PCR for both viruses on some of the ill sheep."We couldn't agree more. Where are those with clout? Why is Cyprus not being told to vaccinate? Can anyone advise those in authority there?
Friday November 9 2007 ~ "The focus of our inquiry was to find a better way of handling this dreadful disease in future, in the firm belief that what happened in 2001 was unacceptable..."
So said Gavin McCrone, Vice-Chairman, Royal Society of Edinburgh Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease, on the 18 August 2002 It is a grim exercise to look again at the recommendations of all the Inquiries as one prepares a submission to the latest Anderson Review. How many of the points, so carefully arrived at by these earnest reports, were put into practice in 2007? Here is a summary of the recommendations. Accountability matters. Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD
November 9th ~ At least in 2001 no one pretended that the panicky mass cull was allowed by law.
In 2007, on a minimum of 33 locations, all animals were summarily killed. It is hoped that readers will be able to take the time to remind Iain Anderson that his first recommendation "to revise powers under the Animal Health Act to ensure laws for slaughter were clarified" allowed - in 2007 - the killing of hundreds of healthy animals to be legally carried out. Only a handful of animals on the 8 premises designated IPs were actually infected. Was that what the Anderson Inquiry intended?
The decision not to vaccinate ignored his second recommendation: "Vaccination must form part of future control of a disease outbreak". If a "senatorial" group, recommended by his Inquiry, was set up then one has to ask what were the qualifications for inclusion and how far DEFRA listened to such a group. There is a lack of expert input; the failure to provide adequate research funding could be said to have led to the disaster itself. Their recommendations of the reports seem to have been so forgotten that one wonders what all the time and expense - and expertise - in producing them was for. Send comments to the Anderson Review of 2007 FMD
November 9th ~ Funding to provide for a diagnostic on-farm test, recommended by the Royal Society, was not forthcoming.
Only now are we in sight (but it is still some way off) of a test that Pirbright helped develop It was not able to be used during that August/September crisis and is not ready now. Yet cheap, portable on-site diagnostic kits, for which training takes precisely five minutes (I have been so trained) are now routinely used in the former Soviet Bloc countries to test for animal pathogens including FMD. And, the most heartbreaking irony of all is that a prototype machine was offered to the UK in 2001. The action of Sir David King and others in rejecting it is a decision long overdue for proper appraisal.
Thursday November 8 2007 ~"If the veterinary service does not show me in writing whose animals actually have this disease, no one will enter my farm to kill my animals,”
Farmers in Cyprus are tearful, angry and disbelieving at the nightmare into which they have been plunged. New blog
Thursday November 8 2007 ~ "Even farmers who have no export trade now find themselves hampered by restrictions on their domestic activities; and all to pacify the rest of the EU."
Like so many of us, Daniel Hannan, MEP for the South East, says the EU restrictions on livestock exports are for commercial rather than scientific reasons.
"Pause, for a moment, and think of what these men and women have been through in recent years: two foot and mouth outbreaks, one inflicted on them by their own government; the decline in world prices; bluetongue; late subsidy payments; floods.As for the CAP, he favours replacing it "with an acreage-based grant determined by land quality" or "we could adopt the Country Landowners' Association scheme for a transferable agricultural bond". Under either option, he says, farmers would get 90 per cent of the money contributed rather than, as happens under the CAP, 40 per cent.
English farmers must feel as though they are living through a series of Biblical murrains..." Read his Blog here
Thursday November 8 2007 ~ Report FMD SCOFCAH
Page 5 shows the chronology of the infected IPs, page 6 shows holding where animals were killed dated October 15th, page 8 is entitled "additional culling" but gives no details of numbers or species.
Read in full (Defra pdf file)
Reports of the "enhanced surveillance" can give no real idea of the amount of bleeding that has been done on the hundreds of animals in the area. One NFU spokesman said that 'nearly every animal in the South East had been nearly bled to death with so many tests being done to show we are clear of FMD - but that hadn't been enought to satisfy the EU'.
It has been described by a local vet as "out of all proportion to the risk."
Wednesday November 7 2007 ~“I told them to wait for the final results. Then they started making me offers...”
The misery of Cyprus continues (see latest Blog) One farmer, Demetris Dirris, fought back tears during the House Agriculture Committee hearing on Monday. He said his livestock were like his children:
“They offered me £150 for every adult sheep… and £20 for every lamb [to be culled]. I said to them, ‘I wouldn’t even accept £1,150.’ “Then we sat down and looked at another price estimate. I told them to get up and leave and not to come back. The next day they returned, and this time they didn’t even bother to talk to me or ask me to sign anything. They just went ahead and executed the animals,” Dirris said.See also www.cyprus-mail.com
Wednesday November 7 2007 ~" the EU appears to be extending the agony for hundreds of farmers for no worthwhile benefit in terms of controlling the disease."
Peter Kendall, quoted in www.farminguk.com speaks for many when he expresses the bafflement and anger felt by farmers finding themselves caught under yet more new restrictions - "on hundreds of farms miles away from the centre of the outbreak". He calls the new controls "perverse and unreasonable" .
"How can farmers be expected to understand a situation in which they can move animals across a boundary line this week, but will be banned from doing so next week, when there is not a scrap of evidence to suggest that the disease is still around? Up to now, we have been prepared to accept the decisions of the veterinary authorities here and in Brussels as a necessary price to be paid for stamping out foot and mouth disease..."It is perhaps to be regretted that the NFU in August did not direct its powerful voice in favour of regionalisation and vaccination. It is evident to most people now that vaccination works well and it is only the continuing unfair regulations that make the humane control policy such a poor relation. If it is not enough that "extensive surveillance" shows that the virus has gone, one wonders what the EU requires.
UPDATE For many, confusion still reigns. DEFRA announced yesterday that the new FMD restricted Zone would now include the old Surveillance Zone, that movement restrictions would remain in place and the BBC reported .
The SCOFCAH decision, likely to take effect from 14 November, has split the UK into three FMD areas. The "high risk" area immediately around the IPs are allowed no meat exports. From the so-called "moderate risk" zone, covering a 150km area around it, meat and meat products can be exported if they have the paperwork to prove a 21 day standstill and residency period (7 day standstill in the case of pigs) The new rule, stipulates that animals cannot be moved out of the "moderate risk" zone.
No live export is allowed from anywhere at present.
Wednesday November 7 2007 ~ Superbug ESBL E. coli has been found on 32 UK farms since 2004
ESBLs are proteins that give their host organism - in this particular case, _E. coli_ - the ability to resist a wide range of antibiotics like penicillin. The papers may well give the impression that humans are at risk from farm animals - but no one yet knows very much about the situation. ProMed reports on this. A Moderator writes:
"The first isolation of an ESBL in _Escherichia coli_ (_E. coli_) in Great Britain in food producing animals was made by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) in autumn 2004. ... The prevalence of cattle testing positive for CTX-M-14 containing _E. coli_, among the herd, has continued to rise at each sampling visit, despite the measures taken since the initial finding in 2004. The source of the infection was not determined..." Read in full. According to the BBC the Soil Association wants a review into some antibiotics used in dairy farming which it believes helps the spread of the strain.
Tuesday November 6 2007 ~SCoFCAH decision
The new DEFRA page today reports that the Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health unanimously agreed further to relax the export restrictions currently in place on fresh meat and hides. "The changes will also affect the import of susceptible live animals. We are still awaiting details of when the Commission expect the new measures to come into force."
All this suggests that the EU FMD regulations are not set quite as permanently in stone as many believe. If the rules forbidding trade until after three months can be changed when SCoFCAH feels it appropriate, would it really be so difficult to appeal for changes to be made in the out of date and scientifically unjustified rules on vaccination for FMD? The answer to this depends on how far the rules were put there for veterinary and safety reasons - and how far they are mere protectionism, having less to do with animal health than with protecting the meat trade.
Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ New publication might speed up validation of individual-based NSP tests?
There has never been a case of a vaccinated animal spreading FMD - but the concern about vaccinated "carriers" persists and seems to many to be able to justify continuing trade restrictions against animals vaccinated against foot and mouth. A new publication "Modelling studies to estimate the prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease carriers after reactive vaccination" Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Oct 30, by M. E. Arnold1, D. J. Paton , E. Ryan , S. J. Cox and J. W. Wilesmith is now available on the internet. ( We are grateful to FMD News for alerting us to this).
" sensitivity for carrier detection can be optimized by adopting an individual-based testing regime in which all animals in all vaccinated herds are tested and positive animals rather than herds are culled."This may give strength to the view that individual tests should be used in preference to whole herd testing in which one positive assumes many false negatives and would result in whole herd killing. " It would be better simply to test all individuals and cull only those that are positive. Removing the need to cull entire herds whenever a single carrier is identified would allow the use of a test system in which more emphasis can be placed on sensitivity rather than specificity", say the authors.
Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ FMD restricted zone still in place over Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.
(See BBC) Yesterday, the FMD Surveillance Zone was lifted and became part of the Restricted Zone. Fred Landeg has said that there has been "extensive surveillance work" in the old surveillance zone but only negative results have been returned. DEFRA says "Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission regarding further changes to allow the easing of export restrictions".
Tuesday November 6 2007 ~ "I’m responsible for saying that it’s their responsibility"
The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, has told the annual autumn conference of NFU Cymru that the UK Government is morally responsible for the leak, and she would continue to press for compensation under the “polluter pays” principle, adding, "..I’m responsible for saying that it’s their responsibility and that farmers have been hit through no fault of their own.”
See icwales.icnetwork.co.uk "Ms Jones was responding to NFU Clwyd chairman Ken Bellis who asked, “Why is it that the UK Government has set aside £13bn for consequential losses for people who invest in companies and lose their share money and hands out £30m to save Northern Rock but in Wales we get £6m and only £3m of that goes to farmers?"
Monday November 5 2007 ~ The Emerson's continuing sense of bereavement
Portable on-site diagnostic tests that can detect virus before clinical signs appear - such as those used now so successfully in the former Soviet Bloc countries - have been rejected by the UK for seven years - presumably while the UK races to help produce its own commercial version.
On Your Farm this week showed what it is like to be on the sharp end of the 'killing without testing' policy. It may be remembered that the animal welfare friendly farmers at Hunts Hill Farm thought their sacrifice (none of their free range animals proved after death to have been infected) was going to mean that theirs was the last farm where killing would need to take place. But a minimum of 33 holdings were killed out in the end. The Emersons are too much affected by the death of the animals they had cared for to continue to keep breeding cows. In spite of her stoicism, going into the deserted pig barn proved too much for Mrs Emerson. The UK policy depends on the kindly decency of such farmers - but it lets them down. Those of us who know how and why these scenes could have been avoided may feel that we have a duty to express our concerns to the Anderson Review.
Monday November 5 2007 ~ Killing without first testing to check for infection. We actually had killing taking place on a minimum of 33 holdings.
A couple of weeks ago, (Hansard 24 October) Peter Ainsworth asked "at how many premises during the recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease culling was undertaken before the receipt of test results." The answer was chilling.
"With the exception of the first infected premises (IP1) where provisional positive laboratory results were available, authorisation to cull the remaining premises was made under the slaughter on suspicion or dangerous contact policies. Some of the subsequent premises may have been subject to earlier surveillance visits and blood testing, but culling was initiated at all the remaining 16 premises prior to the final laboratory test results being received."
Monday November 5 2007 ~For those who are going to write to Iain Anderson's Review
Literally hundreds of animals killed were free of disease. 2,160 animals were compulsorily killed. There were 24 individual locations where killing took place as a result of the 8 "IP"s For the 7 so-called 'Dangerous Contacts' and 2 even more chillingly termed "Slaughter on Suspicion" there was also a minimum of 9 holdings Thus killing took place on 24 holdings plus at least 9 more, and even more than that if any of the SOS and DCs were made up of multiple holdings.
So, from the escape of virus from Pirbright that could, with swift use of ring vaccination, have been cleared up within days, we actually had killing taking place on a minimum of 33 holdings.
"At least one animal tested positive for foot and mouth disease at all eight of the infected premises" (which is why they are allowed to be termed "Infected Premises" ) but "no animals at the two remaining 'slaughter on suspicion' and seven 'dangerous contact' premises tested positive for foot and mouth disease" It will be remembered that a "premises" could comprise several separate holdings. Readers may like to consider this sort of thing when expressing their view of the handling of the Surrey outbreak. ( useful information from Parliamentary Questions.)
The Anderson Review is mentioned below and on this DEFRA page.
November 4 2007 ~ "angry farmers blocked the entrance to the two farms"
Cyprus wanted to kill "up to 300 goats and sheep" today before tests are returned tomorrow but the scheduled cull did not go ahead after angry farmers blocked the entrance to the two farms. Reuters "Authorities said they were also extending a quarantine zone around two suspect farms in the southern district of Larnaca."
How depressing that Cyprus too is clinging to the trading advantage of "FMD free without vaccination" instead of pushing for these outdated rules to be changed. It is perverse that animals cannot be protected with the boon of the available modern potent vaccines and the technology of on-site diagnosis.
UPDATE On the basis of "some clinical signs" the killing has gone ahead today. It seems that lab tests have even now not been received but 2 EU veterinary experts are in Larnaca. See Bloomberg
November 4 2007 ~ Cyprus on FMD high alert again.
The 1500 animals in danger of being culled last Wednesday and that were reprieved by a negative result from Pirbright a few days ago are back in the firing line since Cyprus too, it seems, would prefer to kill than protect. See www.int.iol.co.za
We find it quite extraordinary that - in spite of the potency and success of FMD vaccines, the idea is still being repeated in all parts of the Western World as "fact", that there are "no readily available vaccines that would eliminate the need to depopulate animals" The untruths continue. The bottom line is the trade protectionism advantages that "FMD free without vaccination" status confers on the states that eschew modern techniques of vaccination and diagnosis.
November 2 2007 ~ Surveillance Zone to go at last
DEFRA says it will be lifted on Monday 5 November "subject to there being no change in the disease situation and the completion of the necessary surveillance testing." See DEFRA page which also says, "Discussions are ongoing with the European Commission regarding further changes to allow the easing of export restrictions"
November 2 2007 ~ a moral and financial responsibility to compensate
The Farmers Guardian reports on the £25million bill sent by Scotland to the British Government. Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead said he expected the bill to be paid and accused Gordon Brown of 'bottling it', leaving Scotland's farmers and crofters in financial meltdown:
“Despite the fact that this summer's foot-and-mouth outbreaks occurred hundreds of miles away in the south of England, the impact shattered many of our farmers and crofters here in Scotland, particularly in the sheep sector, both economically and emotionally... in 2007, the UK Government has the moral, and financial responsibility to compensate Scotland and they should get on with it."
November 1 2007 ~ "we should use the word killing" not the euphemism. "culling" is far too soft a word to describe what goes on, says local vet.
Please see today's blog. ( It is sometimes hard to contain one's anger but this information based website is not perhaps the best place for it.)
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?Agreed. Sincere apologies if it seemed that warmwell was not fighting for the future of farmers and livestock in all areas of Great Britain.
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."
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 themWe 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.
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."
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.
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.
- News item: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news07_e/sps_ims_oct07_e.htm
- More on sanitary and phytosanitary measures: http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/sps_e/sps_e.htm
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:
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?
- 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.
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.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?"
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."
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
" 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.2001 November (Westmorland Gazette)
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...."
"....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.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.
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....."
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
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
- £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.
".... 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.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.
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."
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 :
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.
- "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.
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
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.....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."
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..."
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
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.
- 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?
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.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.
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
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
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.
- 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.
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 fullWhile 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.
However, we'd remind Mr Benn, Dr Reynolds and Mr Landeg of these words:
- The 2002 Animal Health Act now makes it legal for the government to slaughter in the name of "animal health" any animal it chooses
- and that law also makes it illegal for anyone to protest
"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.
Sunday September 30 2007 ~ NINE contiguous farms culled - an unholy, miserable, and unnecessary mess
According to Jonathan Long, FW Livestock Editor on the FW forum
"I'm told that nine contiguous farms were culled today, as sign of the seriousness of the situation evolving in the PZ as the disease continues to spring up.Or rather, descending into total chaotic misery because our animal disease policy has been allowed to stay in the wrong hands and is stuck in the 17th century The "seriousness of the situation" is not this finding of cases. It is the panicky killing spree and the unholy, miserable mess that DEFRA made when it fudged vaccination. Not one single lesson learned since 2001 - and the sufferers are, as usual, the patient and the innocent.
Meanwhile, I believe a meeting is underway this evening to establish the protocol for a welfare cull scheme for south east England.....pitiful payments will do little to help the confidence of an industry rapidly descending into crisis."
UPDATE A posting on the Farming Weekly forum
"That was my husbands farm. And brother-in-laws.(No. 8......Ankerwyke) I also had my "pet" sheep taken out (dangerous contacts.... But all were negative) How do I feel ?......... Who cares? I'm absolutely devastated. I was still bottle feeding 2 lambs. I reared and bred them all.."
Sunday September 30 2007 ~ FMD confirmed at slaughter on suspicion site
So now we have the 8th Infected Premises - but this means that FOUR more contiguous premises near Wraysbury will be culled. "..veterinary experts have concluded that a number of cattle on four (4) premises in the vicinity of IP8 have been exposed to infection of FMD to such a degree that they are likely to develop disease.."
And testing? It would seem that this is not going to be done before killing these neighbouring cows.
. "In keeping with our strategy to stamp out FMD, these cattle and any other susceptible livestock on these four premises will therefore be humanely culled" DEFRA pageThe "humane" aspect of culling has yet to be described. On-site RT-PCR would have confirmed very quickly on the farm itself if they had been infected or not - but DEFRA has determinedly turned away from this technology since 2001, preferring to transfer samples and do the tests in the lab. The calm and so reasonable language is that of continuing nightmare - a nightmare that could have been halted in its tracks in the first week of August. But the media seem not to be asking any difficult questions at all.
Sunday September 30 2007 ~ Merial facilities were "state of the art" and Spratt did not blame Merial
The Sunday Times today quotes the contracted engineer who warned managers at the IAH and BBSRC and telephoned DEFRA of his concerns about the state of the pipes at the Pirbright site. The Sunday Times goes on to say
"Spratt's report said the virus in the outbreak most likely came from Merial, a company making vaccines on a site next to the Pirbright laboratory"This is quite untrue and it is an astonishing sentence to read.
Genetic sequencing was unable to determine which part of Pirbright the virus came from and both reports say so. Merial's biosecurity was never in doubt when the two official reports were published. While the Spratt report referred to the 'poor state' of the IAH facilities, it said that the Merial facilities were "state of the art" (para13) The HSE report describing the Merial facility as "modern with a high degree of engineering controls", said
"... the required SAPO Level 4 standards are achieved and regularly monitored."Of the possible virus leak via the effluent drainage system, we read
"this act of discharge was permitted by Defra, hence we conclude there was no breach of biosecurity at this juncture by Merial."While it would be financially convenient for the government if Merial could be shown to be to blame, it seems that responsibility lies elsewhere.
It is a worrying thought that the vaccine production at Merial for both FMD and the vitally important BTV-8 could be being held up in order to imply a lack of safety at the Merial facilities that does not in fact exist.
(We see that BBSRC has issued a statement on the ST article.)
Sunday 30 September 2007~ Killing Trade
So often, in all the repetitions about foot and mouth restrictions, foot and mouth spread, foot and mouth vigilance, blame for foot and mouth, one important underlying fact is very often forgotten by journalists and is consequently not appreciated by the public at large. But it too needs to be repeated. It is that the last hurdle against vaccination is simply the extended trade restriction after emergency vaccination.
On September 14th, the German Veterinary Association (BTK) issued a press release urging the German Government to stage a protest against such trade restrictions , adding that, ".. intracommunity as well as global trade in vaccinated animals and their products, milk and meat should not be restricted."
The justification that led to these restrictions was the old assumption that vaccinated animals could not be distinguished from infected animals. But, as we have explained, modern marker vaccines permit the distinction to be made. The German Farmers Union agrees. Dr. Helmut Born, its Secretary, is quoted in an article in the German paper "Die Welt" :
"In the light of the recent outbreak of FMD in the UK the German Farmers Union demands vaccination of susceptible animals. In the long term the culling of healthy animals is not justifiable."DEFRA's plan to "Reduce the risk of spread through identifying and culling Infected Premises, Dangerous Contacts and slaughter on suspicion" has shown no signs of being successful after 60 long and miserable days. It is well overdue that the UK change its policy and the EU heed these calls for the rules discriminating against emergency ring vaccination to be reviewed.
29 September ~ Yet more slaughter of cattle "on suspicion"
The DEFRA news says only " This follows clinical examination of animals on land in the existing Protection Zone as part of intensive surveillance in the area. Samples are being taken for laboratory testing. There is no timetable for when laboratory results from these premises will be received." This sounds very grim. Perhaps the penside "lateral testing devices" were used on the farm and found evidence of antigen indicating past disease. We are not told. We wait for results - but let no one ever be in any doubt about the distressing scenes that take place when a herd is killed in this way. Yet again, one can only repeat the dismay so many of us feel that emergency ring vaccination was not immediately applied in early August.
29 September ~ a 24-hour telephone service to be set up to keep farmers informed about both diseases.
Gordon Brown has hinted at some kind of help - whether this is to be financial is not clear - but his words:
"Hilary Benn will within the next few days consult with the farming industry all over the country. He will look at the financial consequences of what's been happening, he will look at what the European Commission is going to be able to do to help us"do suggest that he is hoping to be able to find some financial support from somewhere. He has also said a 24-hour telephone service would be set up to keep farmers informed about the fight against both diseases. We can find no reference anywhere to the actual number to ring and would appreciate any information about this. Press Association report has more detail on Mr Brown's words today.
29 September ~ "a scientifically unsound policy" and "the alienation of the industry as a whole"
Dr Fink's letter in reply to Howard Dalton's points out that killing animals does certainly - when no animals remain standing - also kill the disease.
Sir, Professor Howard Dalton, on behalf of Defra (letter, Sept 27), has made it clear that a slaughter policy to eliminate foot-and-mouth in the UK is their informed choice. Reductio ad absurdum it will inevitably work.(Dr Fink's original letter to the Times on Tuesday may be read here, and another letter in eloquent support is that by Anne Lambourn raising again the question of the make-up of the so-called independent Expert Group
He fails to acknowledge the loss of UK genetic stock adapted to an area often built up with many generations of both farmers and livestock and the alienation of the industry as a whole.
It is a scientifically unsound policy and all the more remarkable to be supported by, as he states, the largest concentration of virologists in the Western world.
DR COLIN G FINK, Micropathology Ltd, Coventry
".....The critical question is this: what veterinary experts with field experience of foot-and-mouth disease control by vaccination currently serve on the expert group advising government? There is top quality advice available within the EU, as well as from US counterparts with expertise in the global FMD threat from bioterrorism, which Defra could draw on. As far as I am aware, these individuals have not been consulted...."The third letter, from Andrew Tyler, Director, Animal Aid is also worth reading in full - while one warmwell reader's response to Howard Dalton's reply is on the email page.)
September 29 ~ Reality of living in the "risk zone"
The problem that only farmers can really fully appreciate is the tragedy being played out already when - as one farmer puts it for warmwell
"I already sell around 20 lambs a week locally. My problem is that I have too many lambs that I cannot find grazing for - and rather than starve my breeding ewes the only option I have is to take out all the surplus lambs and hope that I have a flock left for next year.
The situation is this - that we are in a FMD risk zone, so are not allowed to move from farm to farm. Now with Bluetongue many of our traditional winter grazing land is outside of the area and even when the restrictions on FMD are lifted we cannot go into these areas even for slaughter where the main large abattoirs are.
Our sheep do not eat hard food and we only have very minimal supplies of hay and silage. We do not have the facilities to feed this number of animals and with the very low value of the sheep it would be economic suicide to try to feed all of them from now until next spring.
However the situation may change if the bluetongue zone becomes larger and includes larger areas of Engand. We have to make decisions now as we will not be able to ever winter more than around 2,000 ewes on our main farms, at the moment we have just over 11,500 total head of sheep.."
September 29 ~ The nightmare sight of pyres of wasted light lambs from the hills of Britain is also looking more and more likely.
Can nothing be done to offer real, practical support?
One wonders if, in the carpeted offices of Page Street, there is anyone capable of offering any comfort in this dire situation. At the end of August the sum of 15 Million euros (10 million pounds) was earmarked by the French equivalent of Defra for the support of French farmers who have been hurt by bluetongue. See french press release
Here in the UK, it is the Prince of Wales who has stepped up, yet again, to help farmers, donating £100,000 himself (matched by the Duke of Westminster) and approaching leading supermarkets and retailers who are all making donations too. The total raised, (see Press Association) will be given to farming charities.
Had we vaccinated against FMD in August there would now be no "risk zone" Wth Bluetongue as well, the live export market is shot to pieces anyway. Will any journalist be pointing out this black irony?
29 September ~ Still in circulation - the idea that FMD vaccine "masks carriers of the disease"
The much respected Charles Clover of the Telegraph, after expressing the hope that BTV vaccine will soon be available, then goes on to damn FMD vaccines. Instead of telling his readers that FMD vaccines are high potency, can show whether an animal has disease or has been vaccinated, and give solid protection even if only 70% of stock is vaccinated, he writes
"...the problem there is with foot and mouth vaccine which is that it masks carriers of the disease"Ruth Watkins, the expert virologist who is also a livestock farmer, has addressed this misconception for anyone who cares to examine it critically and she is clear that a healthy animal once vaccinated,"... does not become an infectious carrier...." Dr Colin Fink's exasperated response below to the subject of the "carrier" theory is robust, while in the 2004 paper,Evidence that high potency foot-and-mouth disease vaccine inhibits local virus replication and prevents the 'carrier' state in sheep Barnett et al, Vaccine 22 (2004) 1221 - 1232 the conclusion is that
"...all of the vaccinated sheep, regardless of antigen payload, were protected against clinical disease and development of viraemia. Virological and serological results confirmed that there had been no local virus replication in the oropharynx of sheep from the high potency vaccine group in contrast to moderate or substantial virus replication in the oropharynx of the low potency vaccinated or unvaccinated sheep respectively....."The high potency vaccines of today do not mask carriers of disease in real life situations. The NSP tests can differentiate between vaccinates and those animals infected and recovered. That there are still arguments against the scientific and veterinary good sense of vaccinating against FMD, when there is now so much evidence in the field and in the journals to support it, is odd. Perhaps this continuing assertion is so hard to eradicate because it masks carriers of serious and unresolved political questions from 2001.
Friday 28 September ~ The reappearance of FMD with the reimposition of the nationwide ban on animal movements has been an unmitigated disaster for the livestock industry, costing farmers an estimated £10m a day.
Muckspreader< in Private Eye
"......The sole cause of this massive financial loss has been the incompetence of Mr Brown's own government (compounded by its continuing refusal to allow the ring vaccination which could stop any spread of the disease dead in its tracks)."Read in full
Friday 28 September ~"no timeline on the resumption of exports"
Farmers Guardian "The current measures are due to remain in place until October 15 but there will be a review before then to determine what action to take. I don't know when the review will be yet but there will be no lifting of restrictions until we are convinced that the UK has eradicated the disease."
(The"foot and mouth risk areas" defined by DEFRA are now Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Greater London.
The low risk areas include the rest of England, Wales, and Scotland. Livestock can be taken to markets in the Low Risk Area only from 4 October.)
Friday 28 September ~ Fifty nine days later
It is hard to see what lessons were learned from 2001. Given the always distressing situation when FMD strikes, here was the best possible scenario. Within a very short time indeed after August 4th, and thanks to the efforts of Pirbright staff, we had the exact strain of the virus identified, we had a perfect vaccine match to hand, we had the testing capabilities of a World Reference Laboratory within spitting distance. We also had, in addition to its endorsement of emergency vaccination, the Royal Society's follow-up report, five long years ago, voicing its concerns that progress still needed to be made by DEFRA in some vitally important areas, among which were:
Even so, had we gone ahead and vaccinated in early August, a move now so solidly underpinned by science, the virus would have been stopped in its tracks - giving the UK the argument it needed to demand modernised regulations from the EU.
- "Further action to ensure that emergency vaccination is a viable option for pre-emptive action, including the validation of Non Structural Protein (NSP) tests "
but the decision to implement emergency vaccination has been fudged again and again and some stakeholders' anti vaccination remarks show they have never heard of NSP tests
- "The development of portable RT-PCR diagnostic equipment that can be used in the field and sensitive enough to detect virus in pre-clinical cases. (5)"
but there is in the UK no portable RT-PCR diagnostic equipment available even after the 6 years in which it has been available elsewhere.
- "The need to ensure that animal health research is given the support it requires" -
but chronic underfunding led to the very escape of virus that started all this
Instead we followed a contingency plan by numbers. And here DEFRA still is, as week follows miserable week, still waiting and hoping and slaughtering. The CVO and DEFRA continue to repeat, to all except themselves, the increasingly impertinent sounding mantra about "vigilance".
If those at the top of DEFRA can make such an almighty hash of the best FMD exercise ever, what hope for Britain's farms and animals?
September 27 2007 ~ DEFRA is to have a new Chief Scientific Advisor
The Register reports that Howard Dalton will be replaced by Dr Robert Watson, a former aide to the White House on climate change. The Register quotes him: "I am keen to continue to build on the foundations laid by Sir Howard Dalton and his team in ensuring one of Defra's strengths is its focus on robust and quality science and evidence-based policy."
To perceive at DEFRA much in the way of "robust and quality science and evidence-based policy" in the area of animal disease control may be thought a misapprehension somewhat elementary on the part of Dr Watson.
When Howard Dalton is away from the controlling influence at the top of DEFRA he may perhaps find an opportunity to speak on the subject of animal health policies - just as we saw with the departure of Dr David Shannon from the same post. When he had retired as DEFRA's Chief Scientist, Dr Shannon made some genuinely robust and evidence-based remarks on the subject of those who took control of the 2001 handling of foot and mouth.
Of those directing operations, he told theLessons Learned that there had been limited knowledge of agricultural systems and serology, and it contained no FMD experts from outside the UK. (As the virologist Dr Ruth Watkins wrote to the same inquiry "None of the vets whom I spoke to, particularly the senior vets, understood the implications of control by vaccination...") He also expressed great unease that Professor David King, during the foot and mouth outbreak, had "had enormous influence on policy without having formal responsibility for the consequences of its advice"
How far things have changed since then is questionable since many of the key players then are still very much with us. Despotic, arrogant and rigid control seems alive and well - - and a shambles, in all senses of the word, is still the unfortunate result.
September 27 2007 ~ It seems that livestock markets will be allowed from next Thursday
See details in the Farmers Guardian
September 27 ~ Blood tests from all 20 of the lambs with lesions have been taken. DEFRA had said results would be back late yesterday, however they are now expected this morning.
( This posting at 2.00 pm ) We read that Farmers Weekly has been talking to the Berkshire farmer at the centre of the new temporary control zone. On Tuesday he found symptoms of orf. ( Regular warmwell readers will remember with pain the number of sheep and their contiguous neighbours who were killed in 2001 because vets mistook orf for FMD)
DEFRA vets agreed that it looked like orf but, on Wednesday morning, tests were taken anyway. An odd feature was that "20 lambs each had one small round lesion on the centre of the tongue towards the back, about 3-5mm in diameter, something that the DEFRA vet had not seen before." The farmer is quoted as saying:
" What worries us is that this strain may not be showing the typical foot and mouth symptoms which were prevalent in the last outbreak due to it being a laboratory strain, so we have been told."And we remember too that this strain is not behaving quite as the classic 1967 strain did. In Surrey the virus seems to have infected many animals at once rather than, as in 1967, rippling slowly through the herd. However, near Maidenhead, none of the animals on farm,( 163 sheep and 29 head of pedigree British Charolais) is showing any of the clinical signs of foot and mouth. We wait for results
UPDATE - negative " Initial tests for foot and mouth disease on animals at a Fifield farm have proved negative, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has revealed. (sic) An NFU spokesman said despite the negative test a temporary control zone will not be lifted by Defra (Department for environment, food and rural affairs) until a second negative test comes back. The second results are expected tomorrow morning..." www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk.
September 27 ~ Vaccination production at a standstill
It has been confirmed by Philip Connolly at Merial that vaccine production is still at a standstill in the UK and that "We need DEFRA permission before we can work with live FMD or BTV"
With farmers in Northern Europe now desperate for vaccine, Bernard Vallatt approving its use and saying that failure to act could cause a "disaster for all European nations" and an EU Commission spokesman quoted as saying "There is, or will be, considerable demand for this vaccine. We will do all we can to speed up its approval .." one wonders how aware they are that BTV-8 (and FMD) vaccine production has been stymied in the UK. See Bluetongue page.
September 26 ~ "Redundancies at the Wildlife Administration Unit were "crazy" when the department was struggling to contain foot-and-mouth and bluetongue disease".
FT tells us that compulsory redundancy notices have been issued to staff at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - not at the top, alas. But there is now a real likelihood of a nationwide strike by civil servants in many sectors. ".....PCS, the largest civil service union, will on Friday launch a ballot of 270,000 members for strike action across 200 government departments and agencies in support of a series of disputes over pay and job cuts. Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, has called on other public sector unions, representing more than 1million local government, postal and prison workers in dispute over pay and job threats, to co-ordinate industrial action to cause maximum embarrassment to the government..."
September 26 2007 ~ How can we help our farmers? asked Alan Titchmarsh
An emailer tells us that on the programme, Clarissa Dixon Wright
"gave two answers; first get rid of this government and secondly get rid of section 36 of the Trades Description Act, which states that any product regardless of its country of origin can be labeled as produce of Britain as long as one process has been carried out in Britain - even if this process has only been to put the item in a poly bag. She suggested that every member of the public should be petitioning the authorities to remove said Section 36. Hopefully this is just the beginning of common sense starting to kick in."Here - www.writetothem.com - is that excellent website that allows UK citizens to send emails or faxes to their MP, MEPs and other elected representatives. It is not true that MPs take no notice of constituents' concerns. And MPs really do need to be told the facts about vaccination for FMD and to engage against the insanity we are enduring in the country because of political and economic pressure masquerading as scientific advice.
Meanwhile, Nick in Cumbria has been trying to get some answers from the DEFRA Helpline
September 26 2007 ~ Yet another case? Foot and Mouth Disease: temporary control zone established in the Surveillance Zone near Maidenhead
In addition to the usual "This is a precautionary measure following a veterinary assessment of clinical signs. Laboratory tests are ongoing" we also read that
"Defra has also today received positive test results for Bluetongue for a fourth animal on a third premises near Ipswich, Suffolk. This animal will be culled."and the equally depressing and extraordinary statement: "At this stage, there is not sufficient evidence to confirm an active outbreak of Bluetongue as it cannot yet be demonstrated that the disease is circulating. Epidemiological investigations are on-going to establish whether bluetongue disease is circulating in the UK. Action will be in line with the UK Bluetongue Control Strategy, published in August, but will also take account of the current FMD restrictions." It remains essential for animal keepers to practice (sic) the highest standards of biosecurity, remain vigilant for disease and report any suspicions immediately. Livestock owners should examine their livestock twice a day."
Oxfordshire has now been placed within the FMD Risk Area
September 26 2007 ~ "The penny is slowly beginning to drop that if the British public want home grown food, produced to a high standard of animal welfare and health, it will be expensive...
.. Or there will not be any significant home production. As an island we will be vulnerable, as the world demand for food increases."
The latest article on landcare.org on animal disease must be read in full. It is highly critical of the Royal Society of Scotland's assessment of the threat to Scotland of Avian influenza, but many of Dr Irvine's conclusions apply to all aspects of animal disease control in the UK. One of his conclusions is particularly urgent and important:
"The importance of taking part, along with the rest of the UK, in persuading Brussels to adapt its Directives to keep pace with the application of modern technology, and to do so promptly according to the regional requirements of Member States. This is of particular importance if the most effective weapon against viral infections, vaccination, is to be used. The main obstacle to its use at the present time are the EC rules regarding the exit strategy."But if the meeting of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels today spends all its time discussing GM maize and sugar, (as on the agenda) a vitally important opportunity will have been missed.
September 26 2007 ~ Confusion still reigns about the number of animals killed by the non-vaccination policy
While we know about the 7 IPs following the escape of virus from Pirbright, there seems a lack of information about "slaughter on suspicion" - that unpleasant phrase from the carnage of 2001. ProMed remarks (see below) the 2 orange triangles (infected premises - evidence of PCR). "This means, that the total number of IP's, on Fri, 21 Sep 2007, was 8; this deviates from the 5 IP's which were officially published."
The EU Directive requires that a written report to the EU Commission must include, ".. in cases where animals of susceptible species have been killed in contact holdings or in holdings containing animals of susceptible species suspected of being infected with foot-and-mouth disease virus, information on:
From Annex ll of the EU Directive (page 44). The latest report from Debby Reynolds we can find is on the OIE and dates from 24th September. Certainly, no reports of the missing infected premises - evidence of PCR killings are mentioned there.
- the date of killing and the number of animals of susceptible species of each category killed in each holding and in cases where animals of susceptible species in contact holdings were not killed, information must be provided on the reasons for this decision,
- the epidemiological link between the outbreak or case of foot-and-mouth disease and each contact holding or the reasons that have induced suspicion of foot-and-mouth disease in each suspected holding,
- the results of the laboratory tests carried out on the samples taken from the animals of susceptible species in the holdings and when they were killed.
September 26 2007 ~ "Since Friday, 2 additional IP's have been officially added, bringing the official current total to 7 IP's while -- according to the map -- their number is 10."
The ProMed moderator points out a discrepancy in DEFRA's epidemiological map on page 16 of the new epidemiological report updated 21 Sep 2007 ".....the sender of this report comments that the epidemiological map on page 16, updated 21 Sep 2007, shows 6 red triangles ("Infected premises - disease confirmed") as well as 2 orange triangles ("infected premises - evidence of PCR). This means, that the total number of IP's, on Fri, 21 Sep 2007, was 8; this deviates from the 5 IP's which were officially published. The moderator comments
" It is possible that the background to this discrepancy is the criteria applied by the authorities in defining an IP; clarification will help.See abstract to the paper mentioned. Our own first reference to the roaming Surrey deer was on August 5th.
As to the (according to the above report, very remote) possibility that deer could have been involved in the dissemination of the FMD virus, subscribers are reminded that this issue was subject to a study at Pirbright during the early 1970's. The study, which included experimental infection trials, showed that infected red deer can shed amounts of virus similar to cattle and sheep, and could thus infect in-contact animals. It was also shown that fallow deer and sika deer can become carriers. (Gibbs et al., 1975. Foot-and-mouth disease in British deer: transmission of the virus to cattle, sheep and deer. Vet. Rec., 96, 558-563). - Mod.AS]."
September 26 2007 ~ "It is time for a serious conversation with UK farmers and the public about the realities of infectious diseases in today's world of rapid global travel and trade "
" Is there any other part of the human struggle against human or animal diseases that is still stuck in the 18th century?" Roger Breeze was contacted by a major UK Media organization that wanted to know if he was willing to comment on the failure to use vaccine or rapid tests in the current UK FMD debacle. This was his reply. Extract:
"......Can I suggest that 6 years after the debacle of 2001 and with renewed attention stimulated by avian influenza, the recent small FMD outbreak and first discovery of Bluetongue it is time for a serious conversation with UK farmers and the public about the realities of infectious diseases in today's world of rapid global travel and trade? I am happy to talk to you about rapid FMD testing for UK but this would be a conversation about whether the Titanic's deck chairs should be stored deep in the hold or close to the sun deck whilst sailing in iceberg-filled waters.Dr Breeze's comments might be of interest to readers who are also asked for responses.
I attach a recent paper (1) that I wrote for the International Office of Epizootics (the World Trade Organization-like body that regulates international trade in animals and animal products). This sets out my views and how to pay for them....."
September 26 2007 ~ Bluetongue latest
also includes quotation from ProMed moderator's commentary which, although couched in the most tactful language, is nevertheless very different from usual.
September 25 2007 ~ DEFRA lifts the temporary zones in Hampshire and West Sussex
Defra website - and adds the bald sentence, "The Foot and Mouth Disease situation is that there are currently 7 Infected Premises."
Seven infected premises.
More "slaughter on suspicion" apparently going on because tests can't be done fast enough, monitoring and surveillance so ineffectual that cases were missed and still, even now with evidence of virus having been circulating for weeks, no move on vaccination, pedigree herds destroyed, lives made miserable and a desperate situation on all the farms in the country still only partly being addressed.
What kind of Contingency Plan for the whole of Britain is this? As Roger Breeze says, " The current issue is not should the government use rapid FMD tests or should it vaccinate animals.
The issue is that 6 years after 2001 UK still does not have any rational concept of how to control highly-infectious livestock diseases that quickly spread across national borders... If 2001 was not a wake up call for all of us, what will be?"
Just spotted is the picture on Jonathan Miller's blog captioned "Cattle Farming: The Herd Struck by Cattle Plague, Slaughtering the Infected Animals Michael van der Guch, 1660-1725. Seventeenth-century disease control methods still being used by Defra."
(Jonathan Miller has now sent the picture)
September 25 2007 ~ "The Government must listen to the specialists"
The Times today publishes a long letter from Dr Colin Fink. Extract:
".....once again the handling of this infection has been an illustration of a woeful lack of understanding within Defra of viral disease....If we had started a thorough ring vaccination programme on August 10, when the onset of infection in the second affected herd was obviously so sudden that a large amount of virus was now within the countryside, the outbreaks in other herds would not have occurred. ... It is quite extraordinary to report that there are no virologists within Defra. This is contrary to a reply given to the Countess of Mar's question in the House of Lords when the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer (DCVO) replied that there were more than 100.Full text is here. It is important that an expert practising virologist's understanding about vaccination is seen. We also refer people again to the very important paper written for warmwell in 2001 on veterinary vaccination and transmission by FAO expert Dr Keith Sumption back in 2001. In an article on the FAO website, describing the successful vaccination programme in Turkey last year, Dr Sumption says: "FMD is a virus that propagates incredibly quickly -- when it discovers a new niche where there is no immunity among animals, it just rips through them. Europe is FMD free, and animals there aren't vaccinated against it - so they have no immunity."
There is a lack of understanding within the vet labs' scientists of the mechanisms of clinical containment of viral disease. ... There is a failure to use newer techniques of nucleic acid amplification (RT-PCR) to detect the virus in pre-clinical stages in animals. This is a much more sensitive surveillance than veterinary clinical inspection or the penside crude antigen test that has been made for the Third World which Defra has sanctioned although it is of unverified sensitivity.
It may be helpful to the Prime Minister's Cobra group to read Mary Critchley's voluntary website www.warmwell.com, to which a number of us contribute. The group should invite the most informed virologists with clinical experience to join their team and formulate sensible policies to contain this disease.... The British are subscribing to EU rules that virologists and informed vets consider to be ill-informed. It would be better to solve the problem with good science and then lobby for change in Brussels.
A lack of coherent virological advice from the CVO and DCVO makes matters worse...."
( Hansard reference)
September 25 ~ Farmers face fines for 'missing' foot and mouth
DEFRA really are amazing. Here we read (Telegraph) of the threat to farmers who 'missed' old lesions in recovered cattle " being investigated by local trading standards officers and could be fined £5,000 or imprisoned for six months."
We remember the moderator comment on ProMed on September 16th:
"[Detection of FMD-suspected animals is a professional undertaking. During an outbreak, frequent visits of veterinarians to farms around infected areas will probably enable early detection of disease. The discontinued activity of many district veterinary investigation centres in the UK, an unfortunate process which took place during the 80's, had devastative effect upon this vital surveillance system. This has been demonstrated during several animal-health events since, culminating during the 2001 FMD epizootic. Putting the blame on the farmer -- whatever his/her age may be -- seems to this moderator unfair. - Mod.AS]"DEFRA has insisted on holding central control of animal disease. But the 'professional undertaking' of proper and adequate surveillance has been shown in the past six weeks to be beyond its capabilities. Such attempts to deflect criticism by threats of prosecution will strike many as quite breathtaking. As one emailer puts it. "... Action against farmers ? What next ? Taking midges to court over Bluetongue ?"
The virologist, Ruth Watkins, wrote last week that Pirbright's "lateral flow" device would have been unlikely to spot disease either. On-site PCR is the ultra fast and reliable way forward:
" I would think that sampling old lesions by their penside test is likely to be negative, whilst the PCR test will remain positive. This would not be because of antibody coating but because there is not enough virus present to register positive in the Pirbright lateral flow device. I think DEFRA should bring its ideas of good diagnostic practice up to date. I agree with Roger Breeze." (See article for warmwell by Roger Breeze)Relying on visual examination in the infected area is disastrous. As Dr Watkins says, "we have heard nothing of faecal sampling or milk sampling where essentially pooled specimens can be submitted to PCR and culture. Nose swabs and lesion swabs and blood can all have PCR done on them. Again nose swabs can be pooled. This appropriate test is looking for the presence of virus. If there are lesions then the penside test can be done as well. Obviously they have not invested in a. mobile laboratory. Any animal susceptible to FMD should be sampled in this way."
September 25 ~ "The real disaster is that, six years after the 2001 epidemic, a needless rule is still in place"
A week ago, the farmer Toby Tennant gave a succinct and knowledgable reply to an article that had appeared in the Scottish Farmer, Vaccination "catastrophe" warning He rightly called obsolete the EU requirement for the treatments of vaccinated meat that has turned so many farmers against vaccination
"....Modern science, which Defra seems so reluctant to understand and accept, has made these rules obsolete.read in full But DEFRA's heirarchy seems unable to contemplate the possibility that it could be wrong. We are reminded of what Magnus Linklater wrote, well over six years ago "So there you have it: the research, it seems, was wrong, the science was outdated, the slaughter unnecessary, the policy unethical, and the strategy ineffective. Apart from that, things seem to have been just fine. "
Modern vaccines no longer mask the presence of the disease. They carry markers, which enable today's new diagnostics tests, which are fast, cheap and accurate to differentiate between antibodies induced by vaccines, and those induced by the disease itself.
Therefore it's no longer necessary to impose an extra three month export ban on vaccinated animals for fear that they might act as carriers of the disease, or discriminate against vaccinated meat on the domestic market. The disaster of 2001 must never be allowed to happen again, and, thanks to modern veterinary science, it need not. The next battle is to ensure outdated rules, with harsh economic penalties, are abandoned.... The recent outbreak was a wake up call, which shows the urgent need to modernize the regulations..."
September 24 ~ New Outbreak. Yet another FMD outbreak within the Protection Zone - IP7
DEFRA "Positive test results for Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) have now been confirmed at the site where it was decided that cattle should be slaughtered on suspicion earlier today. The site is within the existing Egham Protection Zone in Surrey and this becomes the seventh Infected Premises since 3rd August this year. Minor changes are being made to the Protection Zone (PZ) and Surveillance Zone (SZ) in the area..."
The herd was killed at a farm in Englefield Green near Egham "as a precaution" (DEFRAspeak for the old "Slaughter in Suspicion"). Emailer Brent from Canada comments:
"Makes one want to cry. We'd have been a lot better off if the vets and scientists that Gordan Brown applauds (below) had taken their normal vacations... All we would really need would be a few to organize distributing vaccine and instructions to farmers who could vaccinate their own animals, as Lawrence Wright's email noted And as Uruguay practised in 2001..."
September 24 ~ " During the outbreak this summer our vets, scientists and public officials in DEFRA cancelled their holidays..."
"To fight the contagion farmers worked day and night. And they have done it all over again this month and continue to do so...." This was Gordon Brown in a speech reported by FWi this afternoon Their headline is "Prime Minister Gordon Brown uses Labour Party speech to back farming" Any comment here would be superfluous. And finding a polite enough turn of phrase to make such a comment might be difficult when we are all so busy trying to cope with the realities of the animal disease situation - a situation brought about by years of underfunding, lack of independent scientific input and a blatant centralised contempt for real farming.
September 24 ~ "Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did not immediately confirm the result of tests at the farm near Petersfield, about 55 miles (90 kilometers) southwest of London."
It was the NFU that told www.live-pr.com the news it now reports that the "Petersfield" temporary zone has now been given the all-clear. It comments:
"Farmers have already been hurt by the restrictions on the animal movements and exports following two outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease discovered over the summer. Hundreds of animals have been slaughtered and movement of animals has been restricted at what is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year for livestock sales...."
September 24 ~ Another Temporary Zone
UPDATE September 25 (These were false alarms. ON-site RT-PCR could have detected the presence of the virus or its absence almost immediately. But samples are still being sent to the lab. Pirbright's penside test checks only for antigen and is unvalidated.)
Today's map actually is within Hampshire. Here are both maps showing the West Sussex temporary zone centred on the village of Rogate from yesterday and now this one - again in the heart of the countryside in Hampshire. Once again, one wonders about what testing is being done before imposing these perfect circles.
Update 17:15 24 September FMD
DEFRA now says of FMD,
"There are currently six Infected Premises. There is one Temporary Control Zone on the Hampshire/West Sussex border and in addition, a further Temporary Control Zone has today been established at a premises in Hampshire (ie those on the maps above).As we expected, the epidemiological report contains no certainty nor hard news. The SoS slaughter is deeply concerning. Is it near Beaumont Farm? Are any animals in the royal farms concerned? What tests have been carried out? We should very much like to know the answers to these questions. The NPA site says that "outside the high risk zone, the distance limitations on farm to farm movements will be scrapped, but a veterinary certificate will still be required. It is expected movement to slaughter will still be allowed in the high risk zone. The inclusion of Essex in the high risk zone is a surprise. Further information about this may be available here this evening..."
A further slaughter on suspicion for Foot and Mouth Disease is taking place at a premises within the existing Egham Protection Zone.
Defra has also today published the latest Foot and Mouth Disease epidemiology report (pdf) produced by the National Epidemiology Emergency Group. It concludes that Infected Premises 5 provides a link between the August and September cases with Infected Premises 5 probably being infected by mechanical transmission, either from the Pirbright site or one of the first two Infected Premises in the Elstead area. It also concludes that Infected Premises 3 and 4 were probably infected subsequently.
Based on the epidemiological report and the overall assessment of risk, two FMD risk areas will come into effect from 3.30pm tomorrow (Tuesday 25 September):
Risk Area: consisting of Essex, Kent, East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Greater London.
Low Risk Area: The rest of England, Wales and Scotland. In England, farm to farm movements will be allowed also from 3.30pm Tuesday 25 September under stringent conditions and subject to high levels of biosecurity with enforcement by Local Authorities.
September 24 ~ German National Farmers Union demand ring vaccination instead of culling and calls on Brussels for clarity
Dr. Helmut Born, secretary of the German National Farmers Union (DBV) was quoted in "Die Welt" in August.
(Translation and link here)
In the light of the recent outbreak of FMD in the UK the German Farmers Union demands vaccination of susceptible animals. In the long term the culling of healthy animals is not justifiable. Dr. Born demands the implementation of ring vaccination around outbreaks to prevent spread of the virus. As this would result in trade restrictions for the whole of the European Union Born calls on Brussels to pave the way at WTO negotiations for a regionalized approach. It must be established under which conditions vaccinated animals can be traded. "The consumer in Germany and Europe will no longer tolerate the mass slaughter of healthy animals."This is the sane approach. DEFRA, however, will have none of it. With the support of our own powerful agri-industry, it stubbornly clings to most of the very same policies of 2001 that have been criticised with such horrified amazement not only in the UK but abroad.
DEFRA's priority: "Reduce the risk of spread through identifying and culling Infected Premises, Dangerous Contacts and slaughter on suspicion"
If PCR testing (which can be done on swabs without upsetting animals) were being done at farms to establish pre-clinical disease, DEFRA would have more hope of containing the disease - but it is their continuing resistance, as week follows week, to using emergency ring vaccination that is such a despicable dereliction of duty. The CVO and the DCVO should be facing very serious questions indeed..
September 24 ~ "The warm glow of competence has gone..."
The Scottish Farmer (registration required) on the Lady Bracknell-esque feeling in Brussels "that one outbreak was an accident, but that the subsequent alert, on the day Brussels was set to give the all clear, is unacceptable."
"...no adequate explanation has yet emerged as to how the virus moved. Theories abound, including vehicle movements, but without that explanation the commission will remain nervous about the true level of risk in the UK and the effectiveness of the precautions taken after the first outbreak..... the commission team is now asking some very pointed questions about Defra's stewardship of Pirbright.All true. But we can't help reminding readers that the EU Directive also places a responsibility on the EU Commission itself - see below ) to ensure that high risk laboratories are properly supported and safe. Article 66 "Checks of laboratories and establishments handling live foot-and-mouth disease virus" says "Veterinary experts from the Commission, in collaboration with the competent authorities of the Member States, shall carry out spot-checks to ascertain whether the security systems applied in the establishments and laboratories referred to in Parts A and B of Annex XI comply with the bio-security standards set out in Annex XII."
.... What has happened over foot-and-mouth is perfect evidence for farmers that responsibility sharing has to have real teeth. The government in London, or indeed the European Commission, cannot expect farmers to write a blank cheque if the industry can be put at risk by officials too wrong headed about finance to cost the industry millions by saving a few thousand on repairing a leaky pipe..."
September 24 2007 ~ Deer do not recognise closure of footpaths
In their latest entry about the FMD situation in the UK, ProMed give this link to a photo of the Great Walk at Windsor Great Park. It does rather make one think. We mentioned the possibility of deer as vectors on August 5th "...The official opinion that FMD infected roe deer constitute a low risk, because sick animals hide and probably die, is not valid. Like cattle or sheep, susceptible deer are very infectious prior to the development of lesions while they still actively move and graze. Also deer with sub-clinical or minor lesions will still roam around..."
September 23 2007 ~ Another outbreak? 48 miles away from Egham?
Our attention is drawn to yet another circular map showing a temporary control zone with the villages of Rogate and Trotton in West Sussex (sic) inside it. See the pdf of declaration and map on the defra site here ( The relevant map is here)
" Update 17:45 23 September A 3km Temporary Control Zone has today been put around a premises near Petersfield, Hampshire. This is a precautionary measure following an veterinary assessment of clinical signs. Laboratory tests are ongoing."One can only hope this is another false alarm but there seems no excuse in a case like this for not using rapid RT-PCR. It only takes 2 hours and the samples don't have to travel far to get to Pirbright. Why could not the initial results have been waited for before this declaration? RT- PCR results would surely be available by now - negative one assumes since there has been no further announcement. The symptoms of Bluetongue are similar - as the unfortunate farmers in Ipswich discovered after their animals were cleared for FMD.
September 23 2007 ~ "I believe that the Germans are proposing a permanent lock-up of birds"
Everything in animal health is ultimately connected. We read with great foreboding, in connection with H5N1, that "German bird-keepers are now threatened with an indefinite lock-up, causing welfare problems in particular for waterfowl." If readers feel concerned about the closing in of free range birds on very dubious scientific grounds please see H5N1 page. The petition referred to closes on 29th of September and will take only a moment to sign.
September 23 2007 ~ "of course our approach towards vaccination has to be reviewed, particularly in the light of new and more effective vaccines" (J.Scudamore in 2002) "Of course.." yet more pyres are now envisaged
In his memo for the Anderson "Lessons Learned" Inquiry, the then CVO, James Scudamore wrote in a tone that can only be described as defensive:
"....of course our approach towards vaccination has to be reviewed, particularly in the light of new and more effective vaccines. The Commission will actively support such a review both at the EU level and in the relevant international bodies like the OIE. However, we should not allow our enthusiasm for more effective vaccines cloud our judgment. Instead, they must be properly researched, validated and accepted for use at the international level. FMD is too dangerous to allow fundamental changes in approach which are taken in haste."The properly researched, validated and internationally accepted vaccines that Mr Scudamore's memo described in 2002 have been with us for many years now. (see here) But without ring vaccination in early August the continuing movement controls across the entire country have led to literally millions of animals that are as good as trapped. The Sunday Times reports calmly: " The government is considering the culling of millions of sheep trapped on hills by the livestock movement ban imposed after the recent foot and mouth outbreaks. That could mean a return of the pyres of cremated animals seen in the 2001 outbreak..." In similar vein, the Sunday Telegraph "...Pig farmers are being forced to shoot livestock because they say low supermarket prices mean it is too expensive to feed them. They also claim that restrictions on animal movements because of foot and mouth and a rise in the cost of fodder are pushing them towards economic ruin."
September 23 2007 ~ The first ever case of Bluetongue disease in Britain in one cow near Ipswich, Suffolk. It has been culled and restrictions put in place on the infected premises.
There was no need to kill this cow - culling is not a strategy for bluetongue. More on Bluetongue page.
There is heavy irony concerning vaccination for FMD and for Bluetongue.
On one hand we have excellent FMD vaccines, they are available within mere miles of the infected zone, vaccinated animals have never been implicated in the spread of FMD - and yet the UK will not agree to use them. Already about two thousand animals have been killed and no one knows where the disease may emerge next.
On the other hand we see Europe crying out for bluetongue vaccine, but this is not yet ready for distribution.
Michel Barnier, the French Minister of Agriculture, has been pressing for the subject of bluetongue vaccination to put on the agenda of the next EU meeting of the Council of Ministers of Agriculture on 26 September 2007. We saw on ProMed on Wednesday that Holland has also obtained the support of Belgium and Germany to raise bluetongue vaccination at that meeting of agriculture Ministers on Wednesday.
" The vaccine must be ready before Christmas, [so that] veterinarians will be able to carry out preventive vaccination in spring ."What is more, the Dutch MP, Krista van Velzen, wants to see preventative vaccination against Foot-and-Mouth Disease made compulsory." The Belgian minister Laruelle (Agriculture) is already willing to provide the government's partial financial coverage of the vaccination costs". And the French Agriculture Minister, Michel Barnier, is solidly behind the move to an EU-wide vaccination programme for bluetongue. Can EU legislation making FMD vaccination truly the control measure of choice be very far away when bluetongue vaccination is being so very urgently requested? Will Hilary Benn be led by the archaic advice of the Fred Landeg brigade, anxious not to be seen retreating from the UK's entrenched slaughter policies? Or, when he goes to that meeting next Wednesday, will he add his voice to those of the EU Ministers who are eager for change?
September 22 2007 ~ 11 Surrey farms had their animals killed last week?
A reliable source tells us that eleven farms were due to be culled out last week . Although the excellent BBC map shows 14 small blue squares denoting the "centre of zones" we have, in this September phase, only the names of Hardwick Park Farm, Egham, Stroude Farm, the Klondyke farm and now there is the unfortunate Beaumont College Farm. That is four. That leaves ten. See also email on Sept 18th from Hugh Boyes. The practice at DEFRA's "latest situation" page (last updated on Friday at 9.45 pm) seems to be to keep the names of farms affected secret - although journalists very soon find the names of the infected farms and interview their unhappy owners. But anxious farmers and smallholders in the area must be desperate for hard news and exact locations.
One thing we do know, however, is that the people carrying out the killing in Surrey, (whom we refrain from terming vets), were unable to provide the names of valuers to owners waiting to have their animals given a fair price before being killed. The culling was subsequently delayed. Eventually a valuer from Worcestershire was brought in.
We hear from someone actually on the vaccination team for FMD that ".. we were all sent home on Tuesday as they decided not go ahead at this stage." COBRA, it seems from the lack of news, did not decide to go ahead at this stage either. Incompetence, ignorance, inhumanity and bad judgement really do seem to be heaped one on top of the other in this sorry state of affairs.
September 22 2007 ~ Royal animals now in imminent danger
An emailer writes, ".... the cattle culled that came back positive yesterday, grazed in a field directly adjacent to Windsor Royal farms; there is apparently a Windsor pig unit just over the fence and a pedigree sheep flock just on from them, and of course deer all around. They (his informants) had been told that there are high level meetings going on this morning to decide on the next step."
If the "next step" is not emergency ring vaccination, we hope that there may be others rather more important than ourselves who will tell those in COBRA that they are Not Amused. Are we to be told that it is still "too early" to make that decision to vaccinate? If things go on as they are, are we to be told that it is too late?
September 22 2007 ~ Misery escalating
As we type this, the small herd of 40 pure-bred West Sussex cattle are being "culled" at Beaumont College Farm, in Old Windsor, Surrey. PA reports
"A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' official at the farm said on Saturday the couple were too upset to speak about the loss of their herd. "There are some very upset people in there at the moment," he said..."This is, we seem to remember, within sight of the River Thames and getting even closer to the Queen's own animals. "To cull" is, of course, a euphemism that means "to shoot" - not 'put gently and humanely to sleep' (see piglet story below, if you can bear it) Culling also means " slaughtering within sight and smell of each other" - it meant this in 2001 and there were many botched attempts that led - as on Saturday 15th September. to further distress. That incident last week involved terrified cattle bolting and being chased for several hours, on foot and by helicopter, before being shot by police marksmen on a public golf course. In 2001 it led to yet more centres of infection being assumed and yet more contiguous culling.
This outbreak at Beaumont College Farm was ten miles away from IP1 in Normandy and no one is yet any the wiser about how virus from Pirbright got there. Footpaths across the National Trust's Runnymede estate had been closed since the decision taken to close them (a little late. 6.08 pm on August 7th) near Pirbright. (More information on this in the Telegraph)
September 22 2007 ~ the underlying cause of the UK's reluctance to vaccinate
Unfortunately, letters to the Minister, such as that from the excellent Compassion in World Farming (here), tend to fail to get to grips with - nor spell out in words of one syllable - the underlying cause of the UK's reluctance to vaccinate.
And as Abigail Woods wrote so persuasively in her book "A Manufactured Plague" ".. for over a century, FMD has brought fear, tragedy and sorrow - damaging businesses and affecting international relations. Yet these effects were neither inevitable nor caused by FMD itself but were, rather, the product of the legislation used to control it.."
- for the live-export farmers, a powerful group ever at DEFRA's side, it is the unfair EU trade rules ( here) that discriminate against vaccination. (Many feel live export in itself is an aberration)
- for all livestock traders is the confusion about what treatments are demanded ( read here) if vaccination happens - and this really is a legitimate reason for concern, although comments from Bernard Vallat, the Director General of the OIE, suggest that things are not as bad as they may seem. OIE experts see no reason to identify/label products from vaccinated animals and this thinking will inform the imminent debate on bluetongue vaccination too.
- the reason for DEFRA is a refusal to accept that the public sector technology and expertise, so long underfunded, is not up to coping with the alternative to vaccination. At the top of DEFRA there seems also a deep conviction that, as a government department, they and their advisors must be right and everyone else wrong
- The Expert Group does not comprise enough truly independent advisers. They tend to follow the thinking of all those above on this list. Yet the EU was clear on the sort of independent thinking it required and the record of the present group is not good. (see performance criteria required)
September 22 2007 ~ Devastating comment from ProMed about potential spread "for weeks"
The ProMed moderator today says,
" DEFRA's decision to cull the animals in this holding "on suspicion", prior to laboratory testing, was based upon the clinical examination, probably taking into consideration that the animals might have been exposed to infection from neighbouring farms. Reportedly, animals in IP 5 (The Krondyke farm), had been infected -- and potentially spreading the virus -- for weeks before eventually diagnosed and culled."A BBC map of the locations of IP3, IP4, and IP5 is available here
We have now seen the spread of the escaped virus from Pirbright to Egham and beyond (see map) and it all started on August 4th. That it will have got further seems inevitable. Professional surveillance and testing, using hi-tech equipment, is paramount for OIE List A diseases. DEFRA still wants farmers to share costs on disease control - but sharing involves shared responsibility on both sides and at present DEFRA seems - because of long-term underfunding, lack of the latest hi-tech diagnostic equipment and a lack of expertise driving the policy - unable to cope. As we say below, if Pirbright's arsenal of diagnostic equipment is not as impressive as it should be, blame for this does not lie with IAH. We seem to have a government that does not understand the importance of existing technology and expertise in the realm of animal disease and chooses not to spend money on supporting its own scientists nor in getting the best systems in place.
It will be seen eventually that the decision not to use ring vaccination when the "Ring" could have been limited to such a small distance was a mistake of the greatest seriousness.
September 22 2007 ~ Will Hilary Benn be up to speed on this? Will he have the understanding to call urgently for the FMD rules to be changed?
Where can we read definitive information about the pros and cons of vaccination? asked an emailer the other day - and we are sorry to say that this website is pretty much it - and the vaccination page on warmwell is worth reading in full..
There are some indications that with concerted effort, a "virtual community" can be set up so that the information about the wider impact of the outbreak and the case for alternative strategies - including vaccination - can be gathered together in one place.
The NFU has said this year that it is not against the use of vaccination if it's the right control policy. Unfortunately there are those who seem to have clearly told the NFU that this would "not help" in this incident. We still can hardly get over the extraordinary (anonymous) reader comment in the Scotsman on Thursday saying "..We haven't see a scrap of veterinary/scientific evidence in favour of vaccination..." The most obvious "scrap" is the eradication of FMD in Uruguay at the same time as our own was simmering on and on
As Ruth Watkins, the expert in viruses who is herself a farmer, has said:"... the problems of scientists in labs as they have no specialist training generally in the subject ie infection or virology, nor field experience, their focus is narrow and confined to the lab.." Where thinking is so rigid among the scientists and even among so many vets, we need a central and well publicised bank of expert opinion. The problem is that those who trot out the line that there are "problems with vaccination" fail to specify that these problems are economic and political ones. On the agenda for the meeting on September 26 of EU agriculture Ministers should be the Europe-wide call for vaccination against BTV-8 and accompanying arrangements. Will Hilary Benn be up to speed on this? Will he have the understanding to call urgently for the FMD rules to be changed?
September 22 2007 ~They should create quite a large vaccination zone, perhaps larger than Surrey depending on natural boundaries especially to deer.
Ruth Watkins writes,
"... they do not know for sure how the virus escaped from the Pirbright site nor how it has reached Egham with quite a gap in distance and time even if farm 5 was infected about 2 or 3 weeks after farm 2. They should create quite a large vaccination zone, perhaps larger than Surrey depending on natural boundaries especially to deer..."Meanwhile we hear such stories as this that we thought, after 2001, never to hear again. A harbour master who had rescued a drowning piglet that he had named "Lucky". While he fed it with warm milk and "kept it entertained", the RSPCA officials "explained the law about livestock movements" "...they took the piglet across the road from my office and then we heard a gun shot." This is Britain 2007and it stinks. Sticking to the law...loading people onto trains...following orders.... No wonder these decent tugmen wished they had kept away from the RSPCA.
September 22 2007 ~ Doubts about the Pirbright drain theory voiced in Farmers Weekly
Lawrence Wright tells us about the Jonathan Riley article in the Farmers Weekly magazine: ".... He quotes "a former senior official" who worked at the IAH site at Pirbright for over 30 years casting doubts on the theory that FMD could have spread from leaking drains. Referring to the theory that virus escaping from the drains was carried to local livestock on something like workers' clothing or vehicle tyres he quotes the official as saying that this was "asking people to believe improbable, on top of improbable, on top of improbable. For this scenario to have worked would require hundreds of thousands of doses to have escaped down the drain.....The notion that the virus would remain infective on a lorry tyre, at least in sufficient quantities to infect animals, is stretching reason and imagination beyond breaking point" ...." More
All the same, if lorries went in various directions out of Pirbright carrying soil should there not have been a much wider surveillance of sheep? What did they do about the soil removed from the site given that it was deemed to have been a source of infection? Could it have ended up in a local farm to save time and trouble?
Are there any veterinary infectious disease experts out there?
September 22 2007 ~ No one knows where the animals moved from Surrey ended up...
An alarming development this week, says the Herald, " was the revelation that 139 animal movements have been recorded as going off farms in the 50 kilometres in Surrey, but there is no record of them coming on to farms. In other words, 139 animals have come out of the highest risk zone in Great Britain and vets have no idea where they have gone...."
Meanwhile, the Hexham Courant is just one of the newspapers to predict disaster. It quotes one distraught farmer: "Prices are in free fall; the industry just can't take it. It beggars belief. "Prices have halved in two months. It's a disaster, with feed costs up 20 to 30 per cent since May. The livestock industry is in crisis and so many people are despondent. It is a serious situation. There will be people going out of farming because of this."
September 22 2007 ~ DEFRA confirmed a sixth outbreak last night - still in the Protection Zone.
On the Scottish Crofting Foundation website, Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochead is quoted as having said (19th Sept) that "work has today identified movements involving 72 cattle from three farms in Surrey to farms in three different parts of Scotland" and " A number of other tracings across GB are causing concern." No evidence like this appears on the DEFRA website.
We now read in the Herald that "Defra has claimed that it has no money for a welfare cull of hill lambs despite the Scottish Government stressing that it has a moral responsibility to pay for it. That prompted an angry response from NFU Scotland at the negligent attitude of the UK Government to the consequences of an outbreak that it is partly, if not wholly, responsible for...."
September 22 2007 ~ The farm where the cows were culled on suspicion has tested positive for FMD - the 6th case.
Ruth Watkins writes, "Will this trigger vaccination?
Will a case of bluetongue in the UK trigger FMD vaccination?
Whilst it is useful to look out for and report clinical signs there is too much emphasis on this at present. ....I think farmers would be doubly mortified if they knew that diagnosis especially in screening was not the best available, in this epidemic of laboratory escapee virus. (More)
DEFRA cannot be in control when they do not know for sure how the virus escaped from the Pirbright site nor how it has reached Egham, with quite a gap in distance and time even if farm 5 was infected about 2 or 3 weeks after farm 2. They should create quite a large vaccination zone, perhaps larger than Surrey depending on natural boundaries especially to deer."
September 21 ~ Yet more animals to be slaughtered on suspicion
Almost unbelievably, and following the good news that the Solihull animals were not killed comes an update from DEFRA
Foot and Mouth Disease update: slaughter on suspicion in SurreyIt brings into even sharper relief the article for warmwell by Roger Breeze today.
The decision has been taken to slaughter cattle on suspicion of Foot and Mouth Disease on a farm in Surrey. This follows a veterinary inspection of the affected cattle on a parcel of land in the existing Protection Zone. There is no timetable for when laboratory results from these premises will be received.
"In 2002 Callahan and colleagues (1) described a real time PCR test that could be performed within an hour on or close to premises where there were animals that might be infected.... this PCR test could detect foot and mouth infected animals 2 or 3 days before they showed any outward signs of disease and before virus could be identified by any other means.."That was news in 2002 and yet we still read on the BBSRC site and on a page that actually cites very Callahan paper mentioned above by Dr Breeze, the following "...the development of technologies that provide rapid and sensitive diagnosis of FMD that ideally can be deployed in situ without transferring the samples to a central laboratory is a current research priority" NO. It is NOT a research priority. It already exists, has done for at least 6 years, is used elsewhere in the world and could have been used today to test and perhaps save those doomed cattle.
It is sickening.
UPDATE Test results are returned more quickly when positive. A ProMed moderator says,
" DEFRA's decision to cull the animals in this holding "on suspicion", prior to laboratory testing, was based upon the clinical examination, probably taking into consideration that the animals might have been exposed to infection from neighbouring farms. Reportedly, animals in IP 5 (The Krondyke farm), had been infected -- and potentially spreading the virus -- for weeks before eventually diagnosed and culled."A useful map, showing the locations of IP3, IP4, and IP5 is available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/07/uk_enl_1190130862/html/1.stm
September 21 ~ " Defra are investigating two Bluetongue Virus reports"
News we really did not want to be reporting. Suspicion at the moment, we understand. More when we hear. Meanwhile see Bluetongue page for the worsening situation on the other side of the Channel.
September 21 ~ Getting information out of a stone
Some quick-witted person eventually phoned round to ask what was the accurate answer about the fate of animals at Woodhouse Farm suspected of FMD in Solihull. The Solihull Council Office knew. No animals were killed; the area was cordoned off and tests taken.
Both Scotland and Wales have now got an FMD messaging service but we hear from Bill Osborne that he tried hard to get information about the Woodhouse Farm results yesterday from the fountain-head :
" I've just phoned the DEFRA Helpline to ask if they had the results yet of the test on the Solihull herd and the answer I got was - wait for it - " I'll look on the BBC news website to see if it's there."......"Not an awful lot of help...
September 21 2007 ~ "We do not have a lot of animals. We have pigs, sheep and cattle. A lot of them were pets. Two of the lambs used to sleep in the kitchen."
Sally Hepplethwaite who is 69 and who farmed at Klondyke Farm with her husband, spoke to the BBC and in doing so artlessly revealed the human consequence of turning an eradicable disease into a political and economic one. The Farmers Guardian reports Mrs Hepplethwaite's bewilderment:
"Animals are our life. I'm upset because even the cows I've had for a long time and they all had names. We will get compensation from the ministry. But it is heartbreaking. It is so quiet out there now. It's just so sad..."Official inertia to change is well known but it is not always as deadly as this. The outdated three month/six month rule is indeed unfair and ripe for change. If the government gives in to those who use political pressure - even a kind of blackmail - to defer vaccination, what happens next time? Far more than the disease itself, it is Britain's spineless giving-in to the crueller option that makes us, once again, the sick man of Europe.
September 21 2007 ~ "We can now add DEFRA to the list of those who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity"
writes Roger Breeze in this article for warmwell today:
"..... In 2002 Callahan and colleagues (1) described a real time PCR test that could be performed within an hour on or close to premises where there were animals that might be infected... This test was more sensitive than traditional foot and mouth virus isolation and had the added advantage of detecting virus in non- optimal samples in which the virus was dead and not detectable at all by cell culture.Read full article The conclusion that wilful ignorance has been displayed at the top of DEFRA seems inescapable. We see on the BBSRC site that the Callahan research is cited. Yet we read, "...the development of technologies that provide rapid and sensitive diagnosis of FMD that ideally can be deployed in situ without transferring the samples to a central laboratory is a current research priority" But why is it a priority to reinvent something that already exists?
But Callahan and his colleagues also demonstrated something remarkable and previously unsuspected - that this PCR test could detect foot and mouth infected animals 2 or 3 days before they showed any outward signs of disease and before virus could be identified by any other means.
Had this rapid PCR test been performed on a few nasal swabs collected from each farm examined by animal health officers in Surrey in recent weeks there is no question but that infections would have been detected long ago even though lesions were not recognized.
The British veterinary authorities and the government's Chief Scientist, David King, have known about this technology since 2001 - ......
I also read that the Countess of Mar was told in the House of Lords that "tests have to be validated by the OIE"... This is not true....."
September 21 2007 ~ "a lateral flow device - similar to that of a home pregnancy test"
Following their Statement 9 on September 16 IAH Pirbright brought out another statement, Statement 10 yesterday to explain the technology of the 'Rapid diagnosis' that they are using. The "lateral flow device" illustrated is not the rapid real time RT-PCR test that we have, for six years, been writing about. It is used to detect virus antigen (they call this "virus particles") the virus protein which naturally coats the virus RNA. It does not amplify any that are there. It is therefore not as sensitive as PCR since it can only detect virus particles when they are there in enormous numbers. (More on this)
Pirbright uses the real time RT-PCR test but not as rapid on-site diagnosis, only (as far as we are aware from Statement 10) in the laboratory.
The Pirbright penside test is not the same as the real time RT-PCR used in other countries in kit-form at the farm gate. That on-site kit can be a first line of defence test in the sort of acute situation that we had in early August. It can be done on nose swabs of animals not showing clinical signs and it can detect active virus before disease appears to the eye. It was the system offered to the UK in 2001 from Plum Island, and it was rejected on the grounds that it was "unvalidated" ( see below)
Long time readers of this website will no doubt be bemused to learn that Pirbright's 'lateral flow device' is unvalidated.
But if Pirbright's arsenal of diagnostic equipment is not as impressive as it should be, blame for this does not lie with IAH. We seem to have a government that does not understand the importance of existing technology and expertise in the realm of animal disease and chooses not to spend money on supporting its own scientists in getting the best systems in place. As Clive Aslet says below: "the cleverest scientists have gone with the money..."
Newbury Today reports that its MP Richard Benyon has urged it to pump more money into Compton, the sister IAH lab of Pirbright near Newbury. He said, "I am fed up with the Institute's scientists and employees being the whipping boys for Government under-investment."
September 21 2007 ~ European Commission inspectors in London and Surrey
The report of the EU's Food and Veterinary office is expected to be published within a month. Farmers Guardian " It is likely to recommend tightening up biosecurity at Pirbright and other laboratories, alongside suggestions to improve the response to foot-and-mouth outbreaks. Defra, which regulates, licences and inspects the Pirbright site, faces large claims for compensation from farmers who have suffered heavy financial losses as result outbreaks caused by lapses at Pirbright. A number of legal firms are putting together cases in a bid to claim money back through the courts."
As we say below, however, if farmers are so bound by the EU Directive, its Article 66 can't be ignored by the Commission itself. It is also the responsibility of the EU Commission - see below) to ensure by carrying out timely checks that Pirbright is effectively and safely run.
September 21 2007 ~ "Details of contractors routes are being scrutinised by Defra"
In the Farmers Guardian today an article by Alistair Driver considers a number of possible routes of infection. "....One theory is the virus got into sheep in August and spread undetected within the species and then into cattle in the Egham area....Epidemiologists have looked at the possibility that legal or illegal livestock movements on to a farm in the Egham....Could the river have risen, depositing the virus on the field? Or could it have been carried from the riverbank by birds?.... Did a vehicle or person pick up the virus on wheels or clothes in mud, faeces, grass or straw and deliver it, directly or indirectly, to the Egham area? Or alternatively, did the contractors who transported the virus from Pirbright to the Normandy area also deposit it somewhere else...." The article needs to be read in full
September 20 2007 ~ Solihull "Initial indications suggest that preliminary tests have ruled out foot and mouth"
UPDATE On Thursday night Defra confirmed that laboratory results showed no sign of foot-and-mouth, and the control zone was lifted
".. .Initial indications suggest that preliminary tests have ruled out foot and mouth but Defra experts have yet to give the official 'all clear'. Top brass are said to be reluctant to rule out the disease until a second set of tests comes back negative.""Top brass?" The writer has put his finger one of the problems: Defra puts hierarchy before science, secrecy before transparency - so the public are very often in the dark about what the disease is, how it is spread and why vaccination is not being talked about. One quotation from a neighbour of the farm in Solihull illustrates this well: " I'm extremely surprised that there could be foot and mouth on that farm. The Cattells are extremely diligent in terms of how they operate, they're very clean...." This makes one wonder what the public think foot and mouth is. A plague it is not. It is an economic and political disease - only fatal to animals because of the policy used to remedy it. The animals in the second wave at Egham were not spotted because they had recovered on their own and were back to normal. How ironic that nearly two thousand animals have now been killed in the fallout from the decision not to vaccinate in a circle around Pirbright. How ironic that to eradicate this virus we must first set about a few out of date paragraphs in the EU Directive. After that, all the reluctance to use vaccination will die away along with the disease itself. As Roger Breeze wrote last month "... No new technology is needed - just the vision, the will and the resources. What British agriculture and all those who care about rural communities should understand is that there is no mysterious "they" who are going to remove the threat of accidental or deliberate introduction of foot and mouth disease sometime in the future. Only a few labs, and nations that you can count on one hand, are ever likely to contribute to such an effort, so if we don't do this no one else will - and Britain, like North America, the EU, Australia and New Zealand will continue to live in fear."
September 20 ~ General licences are now available for limited movements outside of the Surveillance Zone
DEFRA "In line with Defra's risk-based, staged approach to allow specific animal movements, general licences are now available for limited movements with stringent conditions outside of the Surveillance Zone. These allow: * Pigs to be moved from breeding units to grower units and to finishing units to address current and anticipated welfare issues; * Animals susceptible to Foot and Mouth Disease to be moved up to 3 km between premises under the same occupation, or along and across a road, for any reason; * Cows for calving and cows with their calves to be moved up to 50 km between premises under the same occupation."
September 20 2007 ~ Foot and mouth could linger through autumn, scientist warns
The Guardian reports on Colin Fink's interview on Farming Today.
"......The foot and mouth virus could linger for months in autumn conditions, a leading specialist said today, in a warning that puts further pressure on the government to order vaccination of livestock against the disease.(Our full transcript of the interview is here)
Colin Fink, a virologist from Warwick University, said the virus could survive for "a very long time in cool conditions". He gave the warning ahead of the release of a government report on how the disease spread from Pirbright to Egham.
Speaking to BBC radio's Farming Today, Dr Fink said: "The longer they wait and vacillate about vaccination, the more this is going to become entrenched. "We have a major problem because without the sunshine to destroy the virus in the field, we're going to have the virus around for a long time."
September 20 2007 ~ No word yet on Solihull
We can only hope that it is not FMD - and not Bluetongue either. The symptoms are similar.
September 20 2007 ~ "we have a major problem because without the sunshine to destroy the virus in the field we're going to have virus around for a long time .."
Colin Fink on Farming Today. Listen again to Farming Today Extract:
Farming Today: How concerned are you that now the virus will be in the wildlife population?(Read transcript of the interview)
Colin Fink: It's possible. Not only in the wildlife population which is one problem but it will be in what are called fomites - it will be in the fields, it will be in the mud, in the slurry, and that's a much more difficult problem to eliminate - and it will survive for a very long time in cool conditions in this sort of material . So now it's out there it is well entrenched and the chance of other animals picking it up and it then getting into the wildlife also increase day by day. The longer they wait and vacillate about vaccination the more this is going to become entrenched...
Farming Today: But we can't vaccinate the wildlife population...
Colin Fink: ..No but for any vaccine to be successful you only have to vaccinate about 70% of the susceptible population and then it will die out
September 20 2007 ~ "We're working together with the industry right across Scotland, England and Wales to develop an approach based on areas..
..where movement controls, where it's right to do so, based on the risk, and on the epidemiology, can be removed or altered to allow the appropriate alleviation of animal welfare problems and to allow movements to occur above those for slaughter when it's appropriate to do so and I hope we'll be able to have an Indicative timetable before the weekend." Debby Reynolds speaking this morning on Farming Today
September 20 2007 ~ Supermarkets colluded to raise milk prices
FT "The UK's largest supermarket groups, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Tesco colluded to raise milk prices, costing consumers an estimated £270m, the Office of Fair Trading said on Thursday. The supermarket groups could face fines of hundreds of millions of pounds if the competition watchdog's preliminary findings are confirmed. The OFT said the supermarkets and dairy processors Arla, Dairy Crest, Lactalis McLelland, The Cheese Company and Wiseman colluded to keep the price of milk, butter and cheese artificially high during 2002 and 2003. ..."
September 20 2007 ~The government's report on "how the disease spread" will be published on Friday.
says the FT in an article that also reveals that the animals on IP5 were inspected by "Animal health experts " (ie SVS) three times before the lesions were spotted. The Scotsman today carries an article by Dan Buglass saying, "a large number of "hobby" farmers, many of whom lack a deep knowledge of animal health...." I have suggested that the lack of deep knowledge resides elsewhere and such assumptions about the level of 'animal health knowledge' among smaller farmers in Surrey are mere (and rather contemptuous) speculation.
What will Friday's report on "how the disease spread" say? Does DEFRA have new understanding that it has not yet shared? Unlikely. With DEFRA's slow or inefficient methods of testing, surveillance has been woefully lacking. As I comment beneath the Scotsman article:"I sympathise with the NFUS wanting to establish a containment zone - but if Solihull or any other report outbreak does prove positive the odds will lengthen considerably. The unions should be pressing for the Directive to be changed. It is not written in stone."
September 20 2007 ~ The Common Agricultural Policy falls outside the control of the British Government, let alone British farmers.
William Rees-Mogg writing in the Sunday Mail, able to see, as so many cannot, the connection between the price of oil, the population of the earth that must now be sustained, the fragility of food supplies, feed costs and the giant forces beyond UK control:
"....here is one cost that every farmer has to pay, and that is the cost of oil, which enters into almost every input on the farm. It's not just a matter of diesel for tractors or the added cost of transport to market.....This has not only pushed up the farmers' costs, but has funded larger purchases of grain by the Russians. The Russian economy depends on high oil prices to fund grain imports.It is a tragedy for the country that the brightest minds avoid Whitehall and Westminster - but at least there are a handful of excellent journalists. The seriousness of the present situation escapes the general public, perhaps because there is no shortage of food on supermarket shelves. Not yet.
Even the largest British farmers are minnows in a sea of whales, unable to control their own destiny. They always have to face the weather, the biggest force of all. This year, waterlogged harvests have meant many British farmers had to buy grain they had expected to grow for themselves.
.... farm markets are a valuable outlet, but tiny compared with Tesco. The world market for food now forecasts higher costs as well as higher prices. The Common Agricultural Policy falls outside the control of the British Government, let alone British farmers.
Besides these global forces, the latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease is particularly serious because farming is already under such pressure. It comes as a major setback, just when the earlier outbreak seemed to have been brought to an end. The timing could hardly be worse...."
September 19 ~ Many Happy Returns to the Countess of Mar
Described today in the Times as ".. a tenacious crossbencher in the House of Lords, where she has the oldest title, dating back to 1115 She says: "I'm looking forward to getting back and having a go at Defra; they've done some terrible things recently." The Countess of Mar is 67 today.
We have every reason to be grateful to her for the splendid questions she has asked in the House of Lords and her trenchant comments pointing out the idiocies we see around us. One example is that when, on the subject of rapid diagnosis in the field the Countess of Mar was told: "tests have to be validated by the OIE. We are waiting on that" her frustration was evident.
"The Countess of Mar: My Lords, it is coming up to five years since the foot and mouth disease outbreak. If that has not been done, can the Minister say why not? I remember the late Fred Brown coming over from America and telling us that they were using the tests in America. Why has that not been done in this country in the past five years?" Hansard
September 19 2007 ~ "we just don't know when the sheep may have become infected - if they have ..."
Uncertainty is at the heart of this crisis. Prof John Oxford - ( who, thank goodness, a virologist ) is quoted in the Telegraph today, speaking of the sheep at the Klondyke farm near Egham :
"Somehow the virus got out of the lab, but when the sheep may have become infected - if they have - and what the process was, is not known. They may have been the first animals to be infected, if they are, but we just don't know."We now have three premises in Surrey on which animals have recovered from FMD (only to be slaughtered by the UK Contingency plan) They are:
But no one feels confident that DEFRA is in control of this disease. There are too many uncertainties. Some 1,700 animals have now been slaughtered (PA)
- Hardwick Park Farm, Egham, 12 September, with animals then testing positive. The farm comprises a number of separate parcels of land.
- Then nearby Stroude Farm owned by Ernie Ward shortly afterwards
- On Tuesday it emerged animals killed on suspicion (nowadays we have the euphemism "as a precaution") at the 20-acre Klondyke farm, John and Sally Hepplethwaite, had returned positive results. Cattle and sheep were slaughtered there on Monday but whether the pets were too has not, perhaps unsurprisingly, been made public. A cow had been moved on 11 Sep 2007 to a Welsh abattoir and traced to the St Merryn Meat Company in Merthyr Tydfil. It was removed from the food chain for testing.
- In Solihull, Woodhouse Farm cattle have again summarily been killed before testing ( UPDATE DEFRA has just put up a revocation of the temporary control zone imposed on Sept 19th.
Warmwell may have been wrong to say below that animals there had been slaughtered. Reports today, (for example at Horse and Hound) say that they were not. Apologies. However, the FT does say, "The discovery that IP5 cattle and sheep, which were culled as a precaution a few days ago...." so nothing is certain.
The IAH scientists say (here) that they are able to determine in around one hour whether FMD virus is present in tissue samples.
- laboratory tests on pigs slaughtered on suspicion last Saturday at another Surrey farm have proved negative.
September 19 ~ UK Contingency Plan to blame
The bureaucratic insistence on following the Contingency Plan to the letter is now being used to excuse the early lifting of controls. Numbers of animals killed as a result of the escape of virus and subsequent decision not to vaccinate must now be close to two thousand. Recent developments in diagnostics and surveillance have not been incorporated into the thinking behind the Plan. Absent from the Contingency Plan are the crucial topics on improving record/data acquisition and analysis and there is, of course, no mention at all of on-site rapid testing. Pirbright, even today, and in spite of their Statement is not up to speed on the RT-PCR for virus RNA in the samples submitted. The on-site diagnotic test kits we have been describing on this site for 6 years now are available and can complete diagnosis within an hour so from the time the sample is received. Pirbright's ELISA capture test should not be more than 2 hours. One might expect some batching if hundreds of tests were being carried out, but Pirbright is receiving specimens from no more than 3 a day so far and usually just one.
Four years ago, now, Fred Landeg was quoted here as saying: "This is a small island…. we have no trouble getting samples into the laborarory. Pirbright is the World Reference Library for FMD, and we use it in the laboratory, PCR that is. We are fully up to date" Alas, this complacency was sadly unjustified. Professor Martin Hugh-Jones' comments sum it up perfectly:
September 19 2007 ~ "Most non farmers I speak to are astonished to hear that FMD is not fatal to animals and not dangerous to humans"
Lawrence Wright's email: Mr Wright is a sheep farmer who, like many others, was denied permission to vaccinate his own stock at his own expense in 2001
"......NFU spokesmen give out the message that the suffering of the infected cattle is appalling and most people think that it is a kindness to kill them. They also infer that the payment made to farmers for the cattle in compulsory purchase is some sort of grant "compensation" and that the infected animals would be worthless...."Meanwhile, we hear from another reader, William Proudfoot: " I have just made an official complaint to the BBC regarding the nonsense in the Vaccination Q & A that you highlighted. While it almost certainly will make no difference at all, I feel that as many people as possible should be encouraged to complain about this and other inaccuracies.The more who do so, the more they might have to acknowledge their errors."
After seeing this Lawrence wrote,
"Please reassure William Proudfoot that he should pursue his complaint to the BBC. I am told that they do take listener feedback seriously - and he should persist. (Most complainants, feeling as he does, that "it almost certainly will make no difference at all', only try once...) If he feels his complaint is not being taken seriously, I am told, he should send it to the BBC Rural Affairs Committee - who will take it seriously."( To write to Farming Today you can use this link)
September 19 2007 ~ "an outrageous piece of carelessness and misinformation."
Can vaccinated animals still spread the disease? asks the BBC Q and A vaccination page today
Yes. But vets say that vaccination helps to "dampen the shedding of the virus". In other words it helps slow the spread from infected animals. "Vets say"? It merely "dampens"? Where is the informed comment from people who understand both vaccines and viruses - the virologists? (Hugh Pennington is a microbiologist - not, alas, an expert in viruses.) The BBC's answers on vaccination form such a travasty of the truth that we wonder if the ground is not being prepared for an announcement about suppressive vaccination. Once again, Holland in 2001 is mentioned but without the important reason why the authorities there told farmers that their animals were to be killed; i.e that purely for trade reasons no vaccinates would be allowed to live. This horrified the farmers - and they will never again allow it, nor see below, would the Dutch Veterinarians agree to cooperate.
Ruth Watkins is one of the best authorities we know. The BBC, who has often used Dr Watkins for sound bites, is not doing so at the moment. Could it be that they know full well that she will say, as Dr Watkins explains here, that a maximum of
"5 days or so after vaccination antibodies to disease have developed so the virus cannot continue the chain of infection. It will not be able to spread -neither on that farm nor into the vaccinated neighbouring farms." And she would also point out that there is misunderstanding about the frequency of injections needed with high potency vaccine.Lawrence Wright, in an email today, tells us that he suspects that BVA President, David Catlow, went on to make his second point about vaccination - which could have been about vaccination to live - and the programme editor cut it out: This, says Mr Wright would have been, "an outrageous piece of carelessness and misinformation." And he adds, "After yesterday's efforts, something must have rung a bell because Anna Hill took time at the end of the programme to explain that Patrick (Holden) is advocating vaccination to live and that we now have tests to differentiate vaccinated and infected animals."
September 19 2007 ~ "This afternoon a Temporary Control Zone has been put around one premises in Solihull.
This is a precautionary measure. An assessment of clinical symptoms by Animal Health veterinary staff has been carried out, and laboratory test results are awaited..." DEFRA We see too that the only other "information" today is an exhortation from Debby Reynolds that livestock keepers check their animals twice a day for signs of FMD. Does she imagine they are not doing so when so much is at stake? But the government also has a responsibility - virus testing and active surveillance. And a responsibility to give accurate and full information. For example, what is the order of infected premise 1, 2, 5, 4, 3? How DEFRA can convince anyone they have control over the outbreak when no one knows how the virus got to 5 we do not know - actually they don't even know how it got to IP One.
September 19 2007 ~ What meat and milk treatments are required for exported products after vaccination?
Imports of meat into the UK from Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay may be from vaccinated animals, and although the meat must be deboned and matured, no record is kept of whether the animals were vaccinated or not. (Lord Whitty, Hansard)
Annex 8 of the Directive sets out the treatments at present required for EU vaccinated products.
Article 58, once disentangled of its terrifying legalese, says provided that fresh meat is properly identified, contains no part that could harbour virus, as in Annex 8 of the Directive, and kept separately from unvaccinated meat, meat and milk, it can be sold freely inside and outside the vaccination zone in the UK.
Milk has to be pasteurised or sterilised - which it already is. Intra Community trade requires - at present - the treatments described in Annex 8, carry a special stamp and be transported separately but an EU Discussion document (not online) from last October said:
"...the OIE has recently stated in two letters that their own experts and those at the world reference laboratory, consider that there should be no reason to identify/label products from vaccinated animals, and that FMD vaccination does not differ from those vaccines already largely used against other diseases that may affect the same animals, without any adverse effect on consumers...."This looks as though there will soon be no justification left for any two-tier system and that we should indeed be lobbying for more rational changes to the rules. Vaccinated and antibody positive animals pose rather less risk than animals that may be infected with live virus but not noticed . In 2001, as has been pointed out, there is no doubt at all that we consumed infected products. Unrecognised, acutely infected sheep were passing through abattoirs undetected for some time during the 7 month epidemic.
".....correct, informative and trustworthy information must be communicated from everyone involved: scientists, veterinarians, government and national food safety authorities, farmers, industry, retailers, multinational food chains and consumer organisations...."
September 19 2007 ~"The outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Great Britain has once again made it clear that the current EU policy is wrong"
said the Dutch Socialist Party MP Krista van Velzen in August, calling on agriculture minister Gerta Verburg to put the argument at European level for compulsory vaccination for bluetongue. This we now see on ProMed has now happened and Holland has obtained the support of Belgium, Germany, and France to raise bluetongue vaccination as subject for EU discussions in Brussels on 26 Sep 2007.
" The vaccine must be ready before Christmas, [so that] veterinarians will be able to carry out preventive vaccination in spring ."It may be remembered that Dutch farmers, having been promised that their vaccination policy in 2001 was to allow animals to live, were then appalled to learn that all vaccinates were going to be slaughtered after all. An eminent Dutch vet from Utrecht, Peter Poll, said at the Bristol Conference in England in 2001 that he thought it very likely that the Dutch veterinary associations themselves " will no longer cooperate in an eradication programme as carried out in Spring 2001"
The Dutch MP, Krista van Velzen, wants to see preventative vaccination against Foot-and-Mouth Disease made compulsory. The Belgian minister Laruelle (Agriculture) is already willing to provide the government's partial financial coverage of the vaccination costs. And the French Agriculture Minister, Michel Barnier, is solidly behind the move to an EU-wide vaccination programme.
The mindset in Europe is changing fast. Bureaucrats hate change and the farmers' leaders would have Britain go along meekly with the EU rules that put farmers at a disadvantage if they vaccinate. But this is no way to get these absurd rules changed.
September 19 2007 ~ For the hill farmers it could be the end
Hundreds of miles away from the small area of outbreaks caused by the leaked virus from Pirbright are the sheep farmers facing a situation where they have no income, extra stock to feed but dwindling supplies of food. By the grazing of their hefted sheep they have, for as long as any of the families there can remember, been keeping the wilder hills of Britain - the hills that tourists love to see - free of the march of weeds and tangled undergrowth. One is quoted in the Northern Echo who says of his sheep:
"They normally go for breeding to farmers down South, but they are still on the farm and we do not know what is happening. We plan the whole year knowing that they will be sold at that sale. Everything is planned round that -the feeding, grass management; everything."If the hill farmers go to the wall it will be the country as a whole that will be the poorer. Those (and we see them on almost every forum) who have been encouraged by a government ignorant of the realities of real farming to vent their spleen against 'fat cat farmers' fail to consider what this crisis really means for the wilder places of Britain. Traditional farmers have skills than cannot readily be recreated and we owe them a great deal. Their loss would be more than a national tragedy. It is the trade rules that must be targetted - after we have put the ring vaccination in place that would ensure no further discoveries of healthy animals with healed lesions. But we now hear Evening Echo that " authorities have admitted they are now investigating a site in Wales too". The Welsh Assembly Government refused to disclose the location of the premises under investigation....but it seems that this was meat processing plant in Merthyr Tydfil and "no signs of FMD" have been found. (BBC) .
The income from the sale is not profit, but goes on bills and running costs."
September 19 2007 ~ the 5th Infected Premises since 3 Aug 2007 changes the P and S zones map again
"......from 11.35 a.m. on 18th September 2007, the declaration made at 16.50 on 12th September 2007 under article 31 of the Foot-and-Mouth Disease (England) Order 2006 (S.I. 2006/182) ("the Order"), as amended by the declaration made at 13.00 on 13th September, is amended under article 5(4) of the Order as follows: i) In Part 1 of the Schedule (The Protection Zone): • following the words "those parts of Surrey" add "and those parts of the Unitary Authority of Windsor and Maidenhead"; and • add the grid reference TQ 0013867338. In Part 2 of the Schedule (The Surveillance Zone) add the grid reference TQ 0013867338." Defra pdf
The revised map can be seen here.
UPDATE It should be pointed out that these new Surrey cases are not considered to be 'extra follow up cases', Lesions (healed) suggest that infection occurred at the same time as the IP 1 and 2 near Pirbright, but remained undetected. But healed lesions indicate successfully warded off disease by the animals' immune system. The killing of such hardy, recovered animals might be thought bizarre. But FMD is an economic disease and fatal to animals only because we choose to make it so.
September 19 ~ the importance of spending money on proper and adequate surveillance cannot be underestimated as we contemplate the unanswered questions about the spread of FMD to Egham
The UN food agency, FAO, warned livestock producers this week (click here) that "... excessive concentration of animals in large-scale industrial production units should be avoided and adequate investments should be made in heightened biosecurity and improved disease monitoring to safeguard public health."
It is good to see the FAO warning against large-scale industrial production units - if not on ethical grounds then at least for the self-interested reason that they can spread disease affecting both animals and man - as we saw in February at Holton. And the importance of spending money on proper and adequate surveillance cannot be underestimated as we contemplate the unanswered questions about the spread of FMD to Egham - and wait, without much hope of its early detection, for the first cases of bluetongue.
September 18 2007 ~ Kow-towing to out of date regulations is no way to get them changed.
The OIE publication: Animal vaccination, (of which Part Two on the scientific, economic, regulatory and socio-ethical aspects of vaccination has just been published), is advertised on the OIE website. Extract:
"... Public perception and disapproval of some veterinary prophylactic measures, such as mass slaughtering of livestock to control epizootic diseases, also contribute to drive vaccination as an alternative. This will be made easier, thanks to recent progress in veterinary vaccinology, such as the availability of marker vaccines.But in the UK, "recent progress in veterinary vaccinology, such as the availability of marker vaccines", is apparently unknown to the powerful forces of darkness at the head of the Ministry - and the policy of hanging on to see if we can get away with not vaccinating this time - see Debby Reynolds' statement today - seems to be holding sway. Trade rules have a stranglehold on this policy, but as OIE Director General, Bernard Vallat puts it -
".... profitability should not be a priority when vaccination policies are established."Farmers should be allowed to protect their animals from disease and - like the French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier - the British politicians should be supporting farmers by calling upon the Commission to change the Directive. Those out of date parts of Article 61 that fail to understand the advances in vaccination must be expunged.
September 18 2007 ~ More misinformation on Radio 4
David Catlow President of the BVA, speaking today about vaccination, is a vet of the "kill them, stamp it out" variety. Different from the James Herriot school of thought - so well illustrated by the German Veterinary Association yesterday. Their clear and practical views put our own vets to utter shame.
Mr Catlow was misleading over the reasons for culling the vaccinated animals in Holland in 2001. He said it was because they couldn't distinguish vaccinated from infected animals. He never mentioned that the primary reason was so that trading could be resumed for export of pork etc as soon as possible. He selected to refer to this use of vaccination in Holland quoting Patrick Holden - someone who would never, ever advocate the killing of vaccinates or healthy animals - out of context. In fact David Catlow was indulging in political manipulation in a way we never thought to hear on the BBC. Or perhaps - more likely - both Mr Catlow and David Holden were misrepresented in what they actually meant by means of editing.
Have we heard anyone speaking on Farming Today or in the public media who is an expert in veterinary infectious disease and virus infections and vaccination? (Lawrence Wright's email on the subject of the misleading information and BBC lack of balance today is well worth reading.)
September 18 2007 ~ "plans in place to introduce a vaccination programme should there be one more case of FMD"
The Scotsman "has been led to understand that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has plans in place to introduce a vaccination programme should there be one more case of FMD." Which, although welcome news, may be rather like the police deciding that if there is one more murder they will start taking steps to apprehend the perpetrator. We are distressed to read in the Scotsman Dan Buglass' comment that
"This runs contrary to the balance of veterinary opinion, which reckons that the longer-term consequences could be even more serious, especially with sheep, where the symptoms of FMD can remain latent. "Does Mr Buglass and the "veterinary opinion" that he asserts is there, seriously maintain that not vaccinating around the centre of the disease is less likely to result in latently infected sheep?
We find this sort of statement perverse and very much hope that some other scientific and veterinary opinion will be swiftly sent to this website once again to counteract such a view. UPDATE From Dr Colin Fink
"Once again we must offer a more coherent opinion than that provided in the Scotsman: Vaccinated animals do not become 'carriers' nor do they excrete virus in to the environment if they are vaccinated whilst incubating the disease. The vaccine will ensure that any virus produced will quickly become coated in antibody and non-infectious."
The yawning gap in any basic understanding of the actions of vaccines in animals and the different view for homo sapiens is to say the least perverse. Perhaps the UK Department of Health should hold a seminar for their Civil Servant colleagues in DEFRA?
What is so sad about this outbreak is the tardiness in implementing a ring vaccine policy which many of us recommended back in early August. The EU legislation needs to come in to line with the virology and in the meantime our Defra Nero fiddles whilst Rome burns.
September 18 ~ what is undeniable under the present arcane rules does not justify a brutal out-of-date policy
Jim Walker's view, duly represented by Dan Buglass in the Scotsman:
"... The methods used to contain the plague in Scotland were deemed by many to be brutal, including a cull of a large number of sheep on contiguous farms where there was no sign of infection - but the policy worked."No, the policy in Scotland was brutal and unnecessary. Another Scotsman article says
"The contiguous cull policy was ruthlessly applied in south-west Scotland, and the results were acclaimed by Walker, Ross Finnie and Maxwell as a great success. But of 15 so-called Infected Premises in Wigtownshire, 13 were tested in the laboratory and only two were positive. Yet on 218 farms thousands of healthy animals were culled as a result of these misdiagnoses. Success? Or disaster? To anyone with an open mind, these facts speak for themselves. Until influential figures take the trouble to understand what happened, the public will continue to be misinformed, and policy will continue to turn crises into disasters.""These were the words of Fordyce Maxwell of the Scotsman in October 2005. We recommend the full article. The line that "Vaccination would also jeopardise the export of beef, lamb and pork in carcase form as well as resulting in a substantial moratorium in the live animal trade." does not give enough detail. The actual result of vaccination under the present arcane and unscientific rules are better detailed here. The bottom line for the livestock farming industry bosses such as Mr Jim Walker, who forget that the rules are not set in stone is that they are far more likely to be changed if the spotlight of Europe falls on the UK's decision to vaccinate its animals against this economic disease. The German Veterinary Association is speaking the most sense at present.
September 18 2007 ~ Peter Ainsworth asked DEFRA which recommendations of the Spratt Review into the outbreak of foot and mouth disease the Government do not intend to take forward in full. Hansard
Jonathan R Shaw's answer was that in regard to Recommendation 1, "we agree in principle but there is uncertainty as to whether any further work could conclusively identify the source of the virus. At present, we do not believe that it would add to our understanding of the risk mitigation measures...."
However, Peter Ainsworth says below,
"......since 2001, farmers have been subject to an oppressive government regime of inspection and penalties. If they get the smallest detail wrong, they get the book thrown at them. Yet when the Government fouls up, as they have done repeatedly, nobody seems to be responsible. ......why, when Professor Spratt recommends that "if identifying the source is considered a priority, an independent group" of experts should be convened to identify the source, does the Government reject the idea?... Could it possibly be that the answer might be inconvenient to a Government that is all too ready to impose orders, bans and regulations on others but is never there to take responsibility for its own mistakes?"DEFRA estimates its costs so far in Surrey at £8.7 million and the costs to the country so far at £20 million. It also emerges from Hansard that "Pirbright was last inspected under SAPO in December 2006. Some issues relating to biosecurity were identified." and that
"IAH was required to submit action plans for addressing them and the progress of these plans was closely monitored..."But this tone of disapproving schoolmaster cannot hide the fact that it is ultimately the government's financial responsibility (and also the job of the EU Commission - see below) to ensure that Pirbright is effectively and safely run. All this points to the one thing that DEFRA is supremely good at - offloading responsibility and blame onto others but not giving them, the means to take control. Meanwhile, what of poor Britain?
September 17 ~ At eight o'clock tonight the BBC reported more infected sheep
Strange that the BBC has become the first conduit of news to tell us of yet another infected premises - but tonight the BBC reports
"A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the farm's livestock would be slaughtered and further tests made." (Now on DEFRA - if one knows where to look on that labyrinthine website...)Jonathan Long, Livestock Editor, Farmers Weekly on the FWi forum writes:Re: Foot-and-mouth - latest developments including overnight news
"Possibly the most worrying news I've heard in the latest outbreak has just reached me from someone connected to a culling team. Three culling teams have been called up this evening to start an immediate cull on three farms. I haven't been told where they're heading to, but I suspect bearing in mind the source that it will be close to the latest outbreaks. I'll endeavour to find out more and post it as I have it""Three farms" sounds as if contiguous culling is in place.
So here we are again: yet more untimely and distressing and - if we had been more sane, unnecessary - killing for a disease that - as Caroline Cranbrook says, " is not a killer disease. The consequences are barely noticeable in sheep, cattle do not die from it, and there are vaccines which can prevent them catching it. In the old days, it was difficult to tell vaccinated cattle from cattle who were suffering from the disease itself. This is no longer the case..."
It may make a gentler future generation wonder at our callousness - as Alan Bennett says of the 2001 mass culling (Untold Stories p293): "In fifty years' time I am sure that we will not handle animals the way we do now and to succeeding generations our behaviour will seem as barbarous as bear baiting...."
Meanwhile, it is good to know that one veterinary association at least has the courage to speak out in such a practical and helpful way against this egregious neglect of the benefits of modern science in disease control. As in 2001, our own British vets are strangely and worryingly silent.
September 17 ~ German vets want Britain to vaccinate
A press release from the German Veterinary Association seems very clear even to a non speaker: In view of the renewed outbreak of the FMD in Great Britain they are calling for the the Federal Government to protest at the severe trade restrictions that result from vaccination to live and want vaccinated animals as well as meat and milk products to be traded freely. Dr. Ernst Breitling, president of the German Veterinary Association is quoted. Reference Extract:"Losses in trade that are always used as an argument against vaccination are, in our opinion, less important than the implications of animal welfare."
September 17 ~ Pigs culled were negative
It has been announced that the tests done on the pigs killed on Saturday have returned negative results. Valerie Elliott jumped the gun. It is the failure of official ignorance of rapid diagnostic testing that the pigs on the small farm culled out "as a precaution" couldn't have done the same. As for the second foot and mouth case at Stroude Farm, Egham, Farmers Weekly says, " they could have been harbouring the disease for up to three weeks before the first Egham outbreak." Even more vaccination sceptics are now feeling that things will get out of hand unless this virus is stopped in its tracks by ring vaccination from the outside in. And still the papers and the television hardly even mention the word. Had RT-PCR been used to test the pigs and it had been seen that there was no virus, in theory at least, they could have been saved and retested.
September 17 ~ Questions the farmers want answered
The main ones are these:
There are answers here
- How much cover does the vaccine give to animals and for how long
- what are the effects on the export trade
- what extra restrictions are there for vaccinated animals/meat?
September 17 ~ That there are no lines of communication between the private sector and the public sector is costing the country dear.
Officialdom is failing to use RT-PCR because of a misconception about the possibility of detecting early infection in sheep. Rather than enlist the expertise of those at the cutting edge of diagnostics, they are using out of date methods. Colin Fink informs us today that:
"The problem is in the way that they are assessing virus excretion and detection in sheep. They are using the criteria 'vireamia' based on tissue culture of live virus from sheep. Tissue culture is slow to show virus growth, (several days) labour intensive and will not detect antibody coated virus which will not grow in tissue culture. RT-PCR... will detect minute quatities of RNA in virus particles even if they are antibody bound and thus no longer detectable by tissue culture.What a desperate pity it is that there are no lines of communication between the hi-tech private sector - so willing to share their expertise - and the public sector whose disease control policy is causing anguish throughout the land and beyond.
RT- PCR is also complete in about an hour and is a whole new level of sensitivity and specificity.
So for diagnostic puposes asking the question " Do these animals carry virus and therefore are they infected?" RT -PCR is a very large scientific step forward. The problem the Vet labs have is that they are still locked into their old criteria of diagnosis which does not fit the newer science of nucleic acid amplification (PCR).
RNA may be degraded reasonably quickly and the specimens taken at the farm should either be analysed there on-site, (as Professor Fred Brown suggested in 2001) or be immediately placed in a substance which stops enzyme degradation of the RNA so the specimens may then be conveyed to a diagnostioc laboratory.
But surely the Vet lab staff must know this? " Read in full
September 17 ~ The reluctance to vaccinate may be being based on the expensive Risk Solutions CBA
The simulation results are in disagreement with field evidence. Dr Sutmoller wrote at the time of the CBA
"with regard to vaccination policies the report suggested that vaccination would reduce the size and extent of medium and large outbreaks only between approximately 15% and 50% and also reduce the number of animals culled for larger outbreaks by approximately the same percentages. Thus, according to these simulation results, the overall epidemiological effects of vaccination would be mediocre...These simulation results are in disagreement with field evidence...It appears that the results obtained by the model are, at least partly, a reflection of the inefficiency of the 10 km ring vaccination according to Defra's contingency plan (lack of resources!!) used as input for the simulation. With a good organization the 10 km rings can likely be vaccinated within 7-10 days and a solid immunity can be obtained in 90% of the population 7 days thereafter, particularly if high potency vaccines are used. The poor vaccination results as indicated by the simulation outcomes might also be caused by adhering to a 10 km vaccination radius from an infected farm, instead of considering natural zones based on geographical and demographical conditions. For modelling purposes 10 km rings may be attractive, but it is not the way FMD behaves in real life."Read in full. Once again one wonders if DEFRA is being guided by a model that has no relevance to reality. The comments about Risk Solutions analysis from warmwell and from others at the time - especially from Muckspreader - were somewhat less than enthusiastic.
September 17 ~ Is the public aware that it is illegal to take any of the following food and drink abroad?
"Practical Boat Owner" has made its members away that it is illegal to take the following abroad: "Meat Meat products Milk Milk and dairy products from animals that are susceptible to foot and mouth disease, including cattle, pigs, goats, sheep and deer. The ban includes sandwiches, packed lunches and food for self-catering holidays, and includes fresh, chilled, frozen, tinned, preserved and processed products."
What risk assessment produced this list and what the scientific basis for it is we should very much like to know.
September 17 ~ The Scottish Government launches an FMD text alert service
subscribers in Scotland will receive text alerts with information updates such as relaxation of movement restrictions. To sign up people should text FMD to 07781 482146 (note that FMD has to be uppercase). There will be a one off charge at their mobile network provider's standard text message rate to sign up to this service but no charge to receive FMD texts. www.publictechnology.net/ says, "The new service complements the Scottish Government's other channels for keeping the public informed - helpline, website, and email newsletter. NFUS also runs a range of support services."
As for England, the "Latest Situation" page of the DEFRA website says at 9.15 am today, "Page last modified: 15 September, 2007 22:20"
September 17 ~ "How much money has to be wasted and how many lives ruined ....?"
asks the Telegraph. The shrugging off of responsibility by DEFRA and the government over the RPA scandal and this miserable FMD situation - a situation that could, without any need for "hindsight", have been stopped in its tracks on August 5th by the immediate use of the vaccine that was mere yards away, has seemed to so many of us despicable. See RPA page today for more detail.
In the Scotsman, Dan Buglass writes,
"Brown has never shown himself to be remotely farmer-friendly. He is known to have been furious at the cost of the 2001 epidemic and the strain it placed on his budget and since then he has successfully reined in the funds for research and development. I suspect that is why the drains at Pirbright were never fixed. Since 2005, the budget of the Institute of Animal Health (at Pirbright) has been slashed by almost 20 per cent while there has been a parallel fall in the level of staff. It is also widely understood that the State Veterinary Service has seen resources trimmed. I wrote four weeks ago that there must be a full and open public inquiry, but I am increasingly concerned this will not happen..."He gloomily predicts a welfare disposal scheme to get rid of light lambs and of course that is only one of the pitiful consequences of the situation. That the media in general are so silent on the subject of vaccination will, one day soon, be regarded with utter incredulity. It will be an Emperor's New Clothes moment. Now we read that "Australian veterinarians are on stand by to assist British authorities in the fight against foot and mouth disease" Another army of foreign vets coming here, not to cure but to kill, is the very last thing we envisaged over the past six years of writing this website, hoping that the vast amount of daily researched information might help to herald in a saner policy. In Hawes auction market alone, 30,000 young sheep were due to be sold in the two day auction event of the Yorkshire Dales. £2 million usually exchanges hands- but today no one can move anywhere except to slaughter. To see so constantly the exhortation about "biosecurity and vigilance" when the government's own record is so abysmal, makes one want to weep with frustration.
September 17 ~ Third Infected Premises* No vaccination
The Times reports that this case, not yet officially confirmed by DEFRA, "coincides with today's official EU inspection of the Government's handling of the outbreak..." (See Farmers' Guardian on this)." The results of tests on cattle culled last Friday showed that they were infected.
They were owned by Robert Lawrence on a plot of land near Chertsey. It was cattle kept by him at Milton Park Farm, near Egham, Surrey, that triggered the resurgence of the disease last week. Results are awaited on 24 pigs kept at a smallholding next to Stroude Farm, Virginia Water, where the disease was confirmed in cattle on Friday. The pigs were slaughtered amid fears that they could be infected.The Times (Valerie Elliott) takes it upon itself to predict that "..without a dramatic rise in cases and no evidence of any leap in the virus from outside the surveillance zone, vaccination is unlikely to be recommended by Debby Reynolds". It also reports on the four cows terrorised by the botched cull early on Saturday morning. The animals fled across fields and through a canal and onto the 16th hole of Pyrford Golf Club. All 60 golfers at the course were kept in the clubhouse as armed police chased and shot the cows.
Vaccination teams are on standby at an aerodrome near Guildford, but are unlikely to be called on today. . .."
Words fail us.
* UPDATE. We see that the accuracy of the Times report is in question. ProMed (Monday) says, "The unofficial, yet to be confirmed, information above on a 3rd outbreak within the 2nd wave of FMD in Surrey, has not been mentioned by other news media. This outbreak is currently regarded as "suspected"..." And it now emerges that the pigs' results were negative
September 17 ~ Vaccinated animals can be moved within national borders
Some farmers are under the misapprehension that animals can never be moved once vaccinated except to slaughter. Under the present Article 63 of the EU Directive they cannot be exported - (even though there is no valid scientific or veterinary reason why not) - but there is no ban on vaccinates moving freely within the UK once FMD status has been regained. Although with vaccination to live this is supposed to take six months, there is provision under Article 62 " .. to withdraw the restrictions applied in accordance with this Directive after the clinical and serological survey provided for in Article 56 and the measures provided for in Article 57 have been completed and confirmed the absence of foot-and-mouth disease virus infection." - a let-out clause that seems to allow for some degree of common sense.
The mindset that balks at vaccination is, in any case, likely to have to shift very soon. French Agriculture Minister, Michel Barnier, very concerned about the seriously escalating cases of Bluetongue throughout Northern Europe (See Bluetongue page) is now calling on the EU Commission for a community-wide vaccination programme against Bluetongue and for support to be given towards the urgent supply of relevant vaccines before the originally expected time of Summer 2008.
With such acceptance of vaccination for Bluetongue as we are seeing in France and much of Europe now, the mindset is certainly changing - and if for Bluetongue then it would be illogical for the outdated rules on FMD vaccinates to continue for much longer within the EU.
September 17 ~ Although the paragraphs on meat from the vaccination zone make one's head spin, they are not quite as complicated as they seem.
Under the present Directive , vaccination to live ("protective emergency vaccination") means that animals from around the outbreak are vaccinated and allowed to live out their "normal" life. 30 days following vaccination, fresh meat produced from vaccinated cattle, sheep and goats, deboned and matured, can be marketed with a health stamp inside the EU. Pig meat may be refused for six months by Member States who wish to do so, otherwise heat treated pig meat products can be marketed within the EU. However, within the country itself, things are simpler. Article 58, once disentangled of its legalese, says provided that fresh meat is properly identified, contains no part that could harbour virus (Annex 8) and kept separately from unvaccinated meat, meat and milk can be sold freely inside and outside the vaccination zone.
Milk has to be pasteurised or sterilised - which it already is.
It should be added that an EU Discussion document (not online) from last October said:
"...the OIE has recently stated in two letters that their own experts and those at the world reference laboratory, consider that there should be no reason to identify/label products from vaccinated animals, and that FMD vaccination does not differ from those vaccines already largely used against other diseases that may affect the same animals, without any adverse effect on consumers...."
".....correct, informative and trustworthy information must be communicated from everyone involved: scientists, veterinarians, government and national food safety authorities, farmers, industry, retailers, multinational food chains and consumer organisations."
September 17 ~ Misinformation about vaccinates
It has been worrying to hear uninformed comment, about how vaccinated animals can get infected, being aired in the press and online. "One in five vaccinated animals carry and display signs of the disease" said a Surrey farmer - wholly erroneous information - but which is likely to be believed because it was on a BBC page on Saturday.
Vaccination may not be a silver bullet - but it is very close to being one. Ruth Watkins has written for warmwell a careful explanation of vaccine and virus challenge. Dr Watkins' is one of most knowledgeable virologists in the UK on this subject. She now farms - not as a hobby but with absolute commitment - and her life outside the confines of the lab gives her a special perspective. Without attempting to gloss over the realities, she shows that the present vaccines are excellent:
"The possession of protective neutralising antibody prior to infection changes the whole outcome if a vaccinated animal should be exposed to FMD. If a vaccinee should somehow come across the virus (which is unlikely in a vaccinated herd unless there is exposure to infected deer or fomites) it is either completely protected against infection ( the commonest case - which is why FMD vaccine is so good) or, if infection should occur, it would be limited and the animal does not become an infectious carrier." (see article)Delaying vaccination - holding on to see if we can manage without it for the sake of the livestock trade - did NOT work in August. Gambling yet again - when the animals infected in Egham had old lesions meaning that the virus could be incubating in other animals anywhere in the region of Egham or beyond - is inexplicable.
Of course we must work on getting the EU's arcane and unfair rules changed but right now - vaccination works. It deprives the virus of the ability to spread - and FMD dies. The alternative of waiting and hoping - and killing - has been shown to be far, far worse. As we saw so often in 2001, the culling of livestock all together can terrify and stampede them - with the distressing and avoidable consequences of Saturday's miserable fiasco.
September 17 ~ Testing sheep ".. virus would be detectable by RT PCR for at least 4 - 6 days and possibly longer"
Dr Colin Fink writes about an apparent reluctance within DEFRA to use RT-PCR to detect active virus in sheep because of the short viraemic phase..
"This observation is based on previously growing the virus and when it grows - calling that the ' viraemic ' phase. Most of the virus will be coated with antibody after a few days and from then on will not grow in tissue culture , nor in fact in the host. However RT- PCR will pick it up for as long as the antibody complexed virus remains. This is likely to be for a few more days, so their discarding of the RT-PCR is a waste of the system and they would be well advised to continue to use it to see how long an infected animal does keep some of the virus RNA present. As there is a mucosal viraemia in sheep, I would suspect that virus would be detectable by RT PCR for at least 4 - 6 days and possibly longer. This observation is based on what we see and know about human disease involving RNA viruses of similar nature to F&M which we detect by RT- PCR.
The specificity of RT- PCR is not in doubt. and if there is doubt in the system used in Pirbright I would say that the whole application needs to be revisited very swiftly indeed."
September 16 ~ "..Diagnostic techniques which Micropathology used 12 years ago have only just been adopted at Pirbright."
Clive Aslet, writing today in the Sunday Telegraph:
"...the cleverest scientists have gone with the money.All true. What we must address now, and without delay, are the very real concerns felt by farmers who fear the consequences of vaccination. The EU Directive is at the heart of this problem. With great unfairness, the odds have been stacked against vaccination being acceptable to livestock farmers and it is this that we must address - after we have vaccinated. Warmwell has posed these four questions to various people knowlegeable about animal health, and about foot and mouth in particular. We shall be returning to this important subject often. Here too is definitive information on vaccines and virus challenge to vaccinated animals.
"People like me were encouraged to go out into the private sector, which has become hi-tech," says the virologist and university lecturer Colin Fink, who started Micropathology. "Meanwhile, the public sector has been denuded of competency."
Government departments such as Defra have made research a low priority. Their scientists, struggling along in laboratories that are in some cases old Nissen huts, speak a different language from cutting-edge private-sector counterparts. Diagnostic techniques which Micropathology used 12 years ago have only just been adopted at Pirbright.
The state of Defra's research capabilities has huge implications. "Legislation now lags behind the science," says Caroline Cranbrook, a Suffolk farmer. "There is no reason that foot and mouth should be the calamity that it has become. It is not a killer disease. The consequences are barely noticeable in sheep, cattle do not die from it, and there are vaccines which can prevent them catching it. In the old days, it was difficult to tell vaccinated cattle from cattle who were suffering from the disease itself. This is no longer the case...."
16th September ~ AT LAST. Foot and mouth: vets on standby to vaccinate
We can only hope this is true. There is nothing (early Sunday morning) on the DEFRA site. However, Geoffrey Lean in the Independent on Sunday whose efforts in 2001 were so appreciated in making IOS so vocal in its support of rational and humane animal control, announces, "Specially trained teams will be standing by from tomorrow ready to vaccinate livestock against foot and mouth. The move marks an extraordinary government U-turn from the last outbreak six years ago....Defra is carrying out an investigation into the latest site to be infected, Stroude Farm near Egham, after finding evidence that it had had the disease for 10 days. It says the farmer should have reported it, but it was found only through official animal health checks..."
"It says the farmer should have reported it, but it was found only through official animal health checks...." Of course, this too is an absurd attempt to deflect criticism. Animals that get a mild dose of disease and recover fast -as in these premises in Egham - are not only protected with antibodies from then on, but also show very little sign of disease and even the most conscientious farmer will not spot them with the eye. ProMed moderator comment:
"[Detection of FMD-suspected animals is a professional undertaking. During an outbreak, frequent visits of veterinarians to farms around infected areas will probably enable early detection of disease. The discontinued activity of many district veterinary investigation centres in the UK, an unfortunate process which took place during the 80's, had devastative effect upon this vital surveillance system. This has been demonstrated during several animal-health events since, culminating during the 2001 FMD epizootic. Putting the blame on the farmer -- whatever his/her age may be -- seems to this moderator unfair. - Mod.AS]" ProMedReaders will be relieved at this news - as long as this is vaccination to live and as long as these "vaccinators" actually know what they're doing around animals. We hear that they practise on oranges.... As Lawrence Wright said below yesterday, it is absurd not to let the farmers, experienced in giving injections, the job of vaccinating.
Getting the rules that are so unfair to farmers changed at EU and OIE level is the next challenge for us all.
16 September ~ EU anger at Pirbright is misplaced
The Sunday Times (whose cartoon is horribly apt) reports that
"Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, is facing fresh embarrassment after a senior European Union official said that biosecurity at the government site blamed for the foot and mouth outbreak was a "parody"...."The ST says that Alf-Eckbert Füssel, of the animal health unit at the European commission warned that Pirbright could be "struck off" - but this too is deflection of responsibility. EU Directive ~ Article 66 "Checks of laboratories and establishments handling live foot-and-mouth disease virus"
"Veterinary experts from the Commission, in collaboration with the competent authorities of the Member States, shall carry out spot-checks to ascertain whether the security systems applied in the establishments and laboratories referred to in Parts A and B of Annex XI comply with the bio-security standards set out in Annex XII."When was the last check carried out by the EU Commission and why was Pirbright allowed to fall into such disrepair?
15 September, 2007~ Police presence and what the public do not see: confusion, terror and blood
From the BBC News forums
"Can someone tell me what is happening in Pyrford at the moment? I am not being allowed back to my home. The police say no more than it is the 'surveillance zone' but we understand that the cull which was meant to happen in the water meadows along Newark Lane yesterday was a complete disaster with cows being corralled together and then shot randomly, the result being the remaining animals panicked and bolted, and they are now loose in the countryside. I understand that the reason we're not allowed home is because there are DEFRA people wandering the fields, looking for cows, and shooting them on sight, so people are not allowed anywhere in the area for fear that they get shot by mistake.Added: Saturday, 15 September, 2007, 17:59 GMT 18:59 UK
The News Editor of the Farmers Weekly: "In reply to Neil from Pyrford. Apparently, some cattle escaped the cull and got onto a public golf course. They were tracked and shot by marksmen from Surrey Constabulary who were working alongside animal health officers and vets."This is what we dreaded, those of us who knew what "culling" meant in 2001. We never believed it could happen again. And yet here we are in September 2007 - "bloody shambles" hardly sums it up. For God's sake, vaccinate.
September 15 ~ a "five day delay after a decision is taken to vaccinate because the "vaccinators" have to be away from susceptible livestock for five days before they can handle animals to be vaccinated" -utter confusion reigns
DEFRA has said, it seems, that there must be this delay of five days before the vaccination teams (on stand-by) can move in "because the "vaccinators" have to be away from susceptible livestock for five days before they can handle animals" . This is simply nonsense. (More on this) The whole point of vaccination is that the vaccinated animals quickly become non-distributors. The teams would be vaccinating all the relevant animals on a farm. Vaccinators are not going to be the same personnel as those who visit farms to look for infected animals or take part in the culling procedures on the infected farms. And even if they were - wild, infectious virus - even if actually present on that very farm - even if on the boot of a vaccinator - would subsequently meet a dead end as long as the animals were vaccinated before challenged by the virus.
It's hard to know what more one can say.
As for sanity, Lawrence Wright from a sheep farm in Devon wrote just now:
"What on earth is this about anyway? Practically any livestock keeper would be quite capable of administering a vaccination to their animals. If my vet were to advise me to vaccinate my animals, he would hand me the vaccine and a suitable syringe. Why would I need a team of outsiders to do the job I could do perfectly well myself?"Virtually all the relevant expert information is now on warmwell and can be found with the Search page if not on the vaccination pages - eg the most recent.
There is enormous, terrifying, ignorance in the media and government ( who know no more than their advisors have cobbled together - usually wrongly).
The frustration and the sadness at delay is almost unbearable. Vaccination should start on Monday.
September 15 ~ Another scapegoat?
No one is any nearer , it seems, to understanding the sudden jump of the virus. Spread at Royal Egham Show is pretty well discounted reports the Times, and that we have heard independently - but there is much in the Times article that seems to make little sense.
Who, for example, are the "experts" who are saying that vaccination is not needed since
"experts now believe that even if tests show that the pigs were incubating the disease the risk of them releasing virus into the environment in a way that could contaminate other farms is very low."Infected pigs release many times more virus into the air. What is going on?
Of grave concern too is that Valerie Elliott is suggesting that the farmer at Whitehall farm whose 800 pigs and 40 cattle were kiiled as a precautionary measure - and subsequently found to be infected -
"missed the symptoms of foot-and-mouth disease in his cattle "and that this is "thought to be the most likely reason for the resurgence of the virus in Surrey"
Since DEFRA demands to be in full charge of animal disease control then it is DEFRA's job to carry out adequate testing. All farmers are going to be desperate to check their animals - and to imply that Mr Stroude was negligent because he is 77 seems extraordinary. But following this assumption that Mr Stroude ignored clinical signs we read:
"Unaware of this, Government vets allowed the animal movement ban that was brought in after the August outbreak to be lifted last week and declared the country "disease-free"..."What is implied is that the government is not - of course- to blame. Many will undoubtedly find this sort of reporting despicable - and naturally wonder where this idea came from - but the government's ability to make up a scapegoat from thin air is what we saw in 2001. As the Telegraph says today, someone must take control of foot and mouth- "A sure sign that Defra knows it's in trouble is that it has battened down the hatches. It has given no press conferences, whereas it gave one a day in August when it thought it was doing well."
UPDATE ProMed has this to say:
"[Detection of FMD-suspected animals is a professional undertaking. During an outbreak, frequent visits of veterinarians to farms around infected areas will probably enable early detection of disease. The discontinued activity of many district veterinary investigation centres in the UK, an unfortunate process which took place during the 80's, had devastative effect upon this vital surveillance system. This has been demonstrated during several animal-health events since, culminating during the 2001 FMD epizootic. Putting the blame on the farmer -- whatever his/her age may be -- seems to this moderator unfair. - Mod.AS]" ProMed
September 15 ~BBC News 24 has announced more culling of pigs
4.00 p.m. Pigs on another Surrey farm are to be killed "as a precaution". The DEFRA website says "This is a precautionary measure and follows inconclusive veterinary inspection of clinical signs. There is no timetable for when laboratory results from this premises will be received." No "timetable" for test results? Are tests being done and if so, one wonders why it is not possible to say when results are likely to be made public.
September 15 ~Movement to slaughter allowed from midnight
As from midnight tonight (Saturday) movements of animals susceptible to Foot and Mouth Disease to slaughter will be permitted, under strict biosecurity conditions, from outside the Surveillance Zone in England, Chief Veterinary Officer Debby Reynolds announced today. A general licence will be issued that will allow:
- Direct movements of cattle, sheep and pigs from farms to listed abattoirs;
- Direct movements of cattle and sheep from farms to listed abattoirs via an approved collection centre or a slaughter market. DEFRA
September 15 ~ 1967 strain - characteristics
The Times (below), in its one brief mention of vaccination and that it is not going to happen, reports that it is the view of "experts" that
" even if tests show that the pigs were incubating the disease the risk of them releasing virus into the environment in a way that could contaminate other farms is very low."This raises the question of whether this strain really is the same as that in 1967. The 1968 Northumberland Report available on warmwell for 6 years now, was an excellent, succinct and scholarly report written in the plain English of unspun government. It was hardly mentioned in 2001 and has been pretty much ignored for forty years. Of the strain shared apparently by both the UK in 1967 and Surrey in 2007 it says:
September 15 2007 ~ "Looking at the "new map" published by DEFRA, the protection zone (blue edged) appears to comprise 8 or 9 circles - one wonders if we are being told the full story by DEFRA"
An emailer asks, " What are the 8/9 points represented by the centres of these circles, Why were they chosen? Do they represent farms/livestock holding with suspect animals?
These are key questions, the answers to which would reveal the true scale of the current problem. Ruth Watkins' points regarding the protection zone are valid, therefore one wonders what DEFRA know or suspect." (Map)
September 15 ~ "Surely it is not beyond the wit of man and woman to create a vaccination zone in the South of England and try and return farming to near normality in the rest of Britain?"
An email to warmwell from Dr Ruth Watkins, the virologist and farmer.
"........ How very fortunate we are to have the possibility of the highly effective FMD O vaccine based on the very virus that is causing our present outbreak..... Surely it is not beyond the wit of man and woman to create a vaccination zone in the South of England and try and return farming to near normality in the rest of Britain?...And as Dr Watkins says, the next slap in the face will be Bluetongue " we have heard nothing about it on the news whilst we bicker over FMD vaccination..." (See warmwell's Bluetongue page)
It is much more dangerous to have full blown infections out there and their high potential for transmission."
September 14/15 ~ If ever there was a moment to turn a challenge into an opportunity, surely this is it.
Anne Perkins in the Guardian (6:30 PM Friday)
".......Their hardest call is a judgment about the cost of a six-month ban on meat exports from vaccinated animals against three months for infected ones. But it is a lot easier to make that call when culling has been tried and has failed.The six month ban, as we say below, is not written in stone. It is certainly the time to challenge Article 61.
Defra has the vaccine (since its manufacture led to the outbreak). The experience of 2001 means it can muster the people to administer it. The farming lobbyists at the NFU say they are agnostic. If ever there was a moment to turn a challenge into an opportunity, surely this is it. .."
September 14/15 ~ New map -
Repeating what Ruth Watkins asked below: "....what is the science behind choosing the perimeter of the protection zone and surveillance zone? I think it is limited to custom, common sense and EU recommendations and short on science, it assumes a point source. But should the veterinary infectious disease experts have exercised their discretion? If lorries went in various directions should they not have carried out a much wider surveillance...?"
See defra page for the newest information the Ministry has put up - including the comment "We will not be able to confirm the full virus strain until all sequencing is completed. This is currently in progress"
Click here for the updated map (large) showing the new zones and the proximity of Windsor and the Queen's parkland.
September 14/15 ~"It is a very grim outlook and especially for these welfare-friendly outdoor herds where they have higher costs...."
EDP24 on the realities faced by farmers - and the despair that will lead many to give up. Farmers warn of exodus from industry
".......sheep breeder, Mrs Barber, added: "It is sad enough for our sector - selling rams, what the hills are going to do, I don't know. They cannot keep their product - their breeding ewes, their new lambs and store lambs. It is just a physical impossibility. It is just horrendous, it really is. You can't keep feeling, it is going to get better and I'm going to keep doing this. It is just around every corner, you get another slap in the face"The situation is indeed surreal. It is the decent farmers, those with "welfare friendly" pigs and the small hill farmers who are facing absolute hell. That it is also unnecessary is the worst thing of all.
September 14/15 ~ " the unions are urging the EU Commission and the respective Governments to support the development of a safe, inactivated vaccine against BTV 8 as quickly as possible"
See Bluetongue page. And if for bluetongue why not foot and mouth? The stricken livestock farmers of Europe are asking for coordinated action for the quicker availability of the safest possible BTV vaccine. Unlike FMD vaccines which have for years been excellent, the vaccine for BTV-8 is still in the very final stages of development. Is it not ironic (indeed moronic) that the effective and proven vaccines for FMD are not being demanded by the loudest voices in British farming? But the loudest voices are drowning out the voices of those - as at Sheepdrove - who say, "...farmers producing food for the local market and UK - not exporting - are all stifled by Defra's trade control policies, which the NFU support."
Once vaccination for Bluetongue is seen to be accepted in Europe the last strawlike barricades against vaccination will fall. Sooner would be far, far better than later. And toppling after them will come that demented clause in the EU Directive favouring non-vaccination or the obscene "vaccination to kill" Article 61.
September 14/15 ~ "If a sufficiently large spot-check show that there are no longer any viruses present, there is sufficient reason to lift the restrictions on trade.."
In 2003, when the new Directive was being drafted, a wise amendment to Article 61 was proposed by the MEPs Reimer Böge, Elisabeth Jeggle and Albert Jan Maat- They suggested(pdf in new window) :
Article 61, paragraph 1, point (b)(iii) changing 6 months to 3 months in order to gain parity for vaccination. They argued, "A period of three months is sufficient to obtain a sound result from the survey. The Commission should make every effort to ensure that this period is reduced from six to three months at OIE level too.....If examination of all ruminants and a sufficiently large spot-check in the case of pigs (vaccinated pigs cannot, after all, be carriers) show that there are no longer any viruses present, there is sufficient reason to lift the restrictions on trade. It is important to set down this possibility in the legislation in order to give those concerned enough security in taking decisions on the policy to be adopted in fighting the virus.."If this simple change had not been balked we should most certainly not be in this dreadful situation. The unions would be happy to vaccinate. The unfortunate escape from Pirbright would have been dealt with quietly and without bloodshed by vaccinating from the outside in - and there would have been an end. News 24 would not even have bothered to cover it. This is what the unions should now be arguing for - an acceptance of amendment 57 a grim four years after it was so wisely suggested.
September 14 ~ "DEFRA may soon be obliged to decide whether vaccination, probably around the disease foci, deserves consideration..." ProMed
By "consideration", the moderator on ProMed today means "use". Unfortunately, the word does not mean the same to the "authorities". To them, ever since the EU committee's findings left the government so shaken, the word has become a cloak under which to prevaricate - as in "under review". The Moderator's comment was:
"DEFRA may soon be obliged to decide whether vaccination, probably around the disease foci, deserves consideration. During the initial phase of the FMD outbreak in Surrey, on 7 Aug 2007, the government said "no decision has been taken on whether to vaccinate livestock, but 300 000 doses have been ordered from Merial -- to ensure it is ready if needed" (see ProMED-mail posting 20070807.2572). If the assembly of said batch was timely completed, vaccination may start immediately if the authorities decide to vaccinate."We are looking at a nasty situation that is getting nastier and could soon be out of hand and we fear the "authorities" have not yet got rid of lingering misunderstandings about the efficacy of vaccination. What is so blindingly and heartbreakingly obvious to those who have been working on this question for the past six years is, to the "authorities", still far from clear. It is time to listen to the real experts: the scientists who work with viruses and the producers of the vaccine.
In a local paper for Reading,getreading.co.uk, Dr Tony Wilsmore, senior animal health expert at Reading University is quoted. Although DEFRA immediately reimposed the ban on the movement of livestock, Dr Wilsmore said the action was "probably too late to contain the case" and Berkshire farms could "very easily" already be infected with foot and mouth disease. And then what? In the words of the late Professor Fred Brown, the way we handled FMD last time was "a disgrace to humanity". His pleas were arrogantly rejected by those who had no ability to recognise his stature. There must be no repetition.
September 14 ~ ".... the courage to stand up to the establishment and never stop explaining why they were wrong"
It is timely to remember Fred Brown. At the time of his death, Ruth Watkins wrote:
"........One of the most outstanding qualities he showed in the FMD epidemic of 2001 I thought was the courage to stand up to the establishment and never stop explaining why they were wrong in what they did and point out how things should be done.
So many scientists might stand back - particularly after being rebuffed publicly by the powers that be - and rage unquietly in the wings at the stupidity and folly of refusing to use vaccination and modern diagnostic techniques to combat an epidemic.
Fred never backed away or down. His high sense of integrity prevented it when he knew how FMD might have been managed differently. Those wonderful tools that science, Fred's work so outstanding in its contribution to their development, had given us - were never used...."
September 14 ~ The Blogosphere wants ring vaccination - and the truth
Tim Dodds writing his blog from Lightwater (see map) is again - as in August -uncomfortably close to the nastier action. He says today:
"This foot and mouth outbreak will result in three things:
Lightwater BlogThe doughty journalist Jonathan Miller, as always ( dieu soit loué) is singularly unimpressed by officialdom and makes a plea:
- Genuine and truthful exposure of the true cause, or many heads will roll
- Ring vaccination in any subsequent outbreaks
- Damage to Government credibility - they've escaped prior blame, not now methinks with comments like, "Puzzled" by Environment Minister, Hilary Benn"
"...Once again, those of us who have since the 2001 débâcle been demanding vaccination have been ignored. Once again, we have been proved right. Had Defra ring vaccinated immediately following the original outbreak this summer, the cows now infected in the shadow of Windsor Castle would not be infected....The only good news is that the Queen's pad at Windsor is in the middle of the control zone. She's a countrywoman at heart. Maybe she could have a word with Mr Brown and tell him to stop his ministers and their officials acting like such stupid cows. Go for it ma'am - we peasants are depending on you..."Sheepdrove asks the much needed question:
"..why do the media insist on referring to the NFU as 'the farmers' and take their views to represent us all? Farmers producing food for the local market and UK - not exporting - are all stifled by Defra's trade control policies, which the NFU support. The meat trade is not all about export! That's why we say let us vaccinate."As we wrote on the vaccination page:
"the logical conclusion of rejection of vaccination is the assumption that FMD infection is preferable - that shooting suspect animals in a pen where they can see each other die is better than protecting them.For a limited few hours, we reload our favourite bloggery cartoon
Ignorance about vaccination is precisely what allows the EU trade rules to persist.
September 14 ~ News that the 2nd farm has tested positive. CVO says she is pleased the animals were killed before test results came through
The Telegraph shows a sad picture of the dead pigs, lying huddled together, with the caption "slaughtered pigs are cleared away at Stroude Farm near Egham" Cleared away. Hmmm. This was the slaughter of 800 pigs and 40 cattle and it will not have been pretty. The mass "humane" killing of intelligent animals like pigs is, even in the best circumstances, kept well away from the public eye. It is hard even to contemplate the scenes on Thursday. Ring vaccination on August 5th or 6th would have avoided all this.
Debby Reynolds is quoted as saying that "as control of disease was her main concern she was pleased that this farm had been 'Slaughtered on suspicion' before they had the test results which now confirmed the presence of FMD". So there we are. She is pleased and, to make this sound rational, constantly talks of her concern for control of disease. And on the grim fiasco goes and so pitifully few of us seem to be pointing out the elephant in the room.
September 14 ~"....lobby Brussels to change its ridiculous and protectionist rules.
Simon Jenkins in today's Guardian " If they wish to prevent a contagious disease from escaping a district, they can combine to vaccinate all animals within range. That is literally their business, not a matter of national health or welfare. Nor is there any reason why the rest of the nation should be held to ransom - its country closed down, its entertainments cancelled and its pockets picked - for one group's commercial interest..."
September 14 ~ "...all too familiar stories of conflicting advice, bureaucratic buck-passing, ignorance of petty clipboard people, and of a disregard for the welfare of animals arising from either callousness or stupidity."
Peter Ainsworth in the Telegraph says Defra has lost its last shred of credibility.
"...Containment laboratories at the IAH are very old and are well short of the standards expected at an internationally important laboratory." Defra didn't need Spratt to tell them that. They knew already. For years, and especially since 2001, farmers have been subject to an oppressive government regime of inspection and penalties. If they get the smallest detail wrong, they get the book thrown at them. Yet when the Government fouls up, as they have done repeatedly, nobody seems to be responsible.It's hard to disagree with much of this - but far more important than worrying about the stable door is to care for the remaining horses. If the Conservative Party, of which Mr Ainsworth is a very acceptable face, were knowledgeable enough to be demanding emergency vaccination, the Queen's precious Jersey herd and other stock in the area could have been made safe by now - and we might be on the way to getting the irrational EU trade rules changed.
......why, when Professor Spratt recommends that "if identifying the source is considered a priority, an independent group" of experts should be convened to identify the source, does the Government reject the idea?... Could it possibly be that the answer might be inconvenient to a Government that is all too ready to impose orders, bans and regulations on others but is never there to take responsibility for its own mistakes?"
September 14 ~ Masking disease? What are FMD "carriers"?
Within the first days following vaccination it is possible for cattle, sheep and goats to become what is termed 'sub-clinically infected' if they encounter wild virus. (All animals on a farm are vaccinated together and pigs do not become carriers in these circumstances). In such cases, where infection was caught in the first hours following vaccination and therefore before developing into disease, cattle may remain sub-clinically infected "carriers" for some years. Sheep and goats for 3-9 months. The vital point, though, is that after DECADES OF EXTENSIVE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH, CARRIERS HAVE NEVER BEEN FOUND TO BE ABLE TO SPREAD FMD.
With any sort of vaccination, if any host is successfully vaccinated , they may boost their antibody and white cell immunity by exposure to wild type virus but they will not become "carriers" in the sense implied by those who want to suggest that they can spread disease. They cannot excrete enough virus into the environment to do so during or after an emergency vaccination campaign - especially since all animals in the vicinity will have been vaccinated too. The whole basis of vaccination is to reduce virus within the environment and this is what it does. The virus cannot replicate. It ceases to exist. Disease spread is stopped in its tracks.
Please read notes on transmission and spread written in 2001 by Keith Sumption (now Secretary, FAO European Commission for the Control of FMD -EUFMD Commission)
September 14 ~ "Serotypes included in these vaccines are to customer request"
In October 2001, Emma Tennant wrote an article for the Spectator in which she said, "Even the relatively primitive vaccines available 40 years ago were effective enough to stop the disease spreading" - Now, a company such as Intervet can say: "Serotypes included in these vaccines are to customer request" and can provide a test kit for differentiating vaccinated from infected animals that "has been validated in three national reference laboratories".
September 14 2007 ~ How many farmers and vets want vaccination now? How many in 2001 who were ignored?
In "Senseless Slaughter" Emma Tennant revealed that in April 2001 her MP, David Maclean, polled the Cumbrian farmers and vets in his constituency by fax.
" Eighty per cent of the farmers and 95 per cent of the vets wanted 'vaccination to live' (i.e., without subsequent slaughter) as soon as possible. On 20 April the Cumberland News carried the headline 'Desperate Cumbria pleads with Blair to vaccinate now'...." It was too late. The Prime Minister, in what has been called a 'spineless dereliction of duty', had already cancelled the vaccination plan at the last moment. The NFU had twisted his arm, an act of supreme selfishness and stupidity which would not be forgiven by the politicians or the country at large..."David Maclean's results are here. Emma Tennant's full article, Senseless Slaughter, can still be read here and the anger and grief she expressed then still make one shudder at the callous policies that rode roughshod over so many peoples' lives: ".....propaganda said it didn't work, cost a fortune and would prolong the epidemic. Consumers, they said, would refuse to eat meat or milk from vaccinated animals. None of this was true. Because of their obsession with our FMD-free status, the NFU was prepared to hold the country to ransom to the tune of, so far, an estimated £20 billion - and all for the sake of exports worth £300 million per annum. ..." .
September 14 ~ "the EU have also made provision for member states to apply for derogations which allow vaccinated meat, milk, and products destined for the home market to be treated no differently from non-vaccinated product, once testing has been completed".
A letter to the Telegraph last month from Janet Bayley, Co-ordinator National Foot & Mouth Group and DEFRA stakeholder:
"As regards costs; as most animals would then be able to live out their economic lives, the costs of vaccination would be far less than the cost of slaughter, compensation, transportation and disposal. The only loss would be regarding the export market of live vaccinated animals and un-boned vaccinated meat...." Read letter
September 14 ~ Vaccinated meat and milk contain no trace of "vaccine"
From the Food Standards Agency Their 2004 notice is overlooked by those who talk about consumer reluctance:
"The Food Standards Agency..... satisfied that eating meat, milk or other produce from animals that have been treated with authorised foot and mouth disease vaccines would not have any implications for food safety. Nor did the FSA consider that there would be any need to label products derived from animals that have been vaccinated with the foot and mouth disease vaccine. .... the Government's independent expert committee, the Veterinary Products Committee, thoroughly assesses the safety of the vaccine to ensure that its use will not pose any threat to human health." Read in fullAnd as we have said before, this is hardly surprising. The truth is that vaccinated meat has not one trace of "vaccine" in it. The immune system, having responded,destroys the natural viral protein in the vaccine by biodegrading it. As Ruth Watkins puts it, "The FMD vaccination is the injection of a very small amount of viral protein- 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 response. In the case of the viral protein a protective antibody response is formed." The Supermarkets should be crying out for vaccinated products when there is an epidemic of FMD. It is ludicrous to be troubled by vaccination when they quite disregard infection. There is no doubt at all that we consumed infected products during the 7 month epidemic in 2001 since unrecognised, acutely infected sheep were passing through abattoirs undetected for some time.
September 13 ~ The rules are absurd - It is this that the industry should be fighting.
Article 61 of the (2003) EU Directive is what needs an urgent rethink. (To avoid pdf file, see europa.eu/scadplus )
If vaccination has been used, Member States can recover their status if "at least three months have elapsed since the slaughter of the last vaccinated animal and serological surveillance has been carried out; at least six months have elapsed since the last outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease or the completion of emergency vaccination, whichever event occurred later."Can anyone, anywhere, explain the justification for this extra three months following vaccination to live? The despicable euphemism "suppressive" vaccination was used in the Netherlands in 2001 and farmers were sickened and appalled when they realised that it meant "vaccination followed by slaughter anyway". We have, on the vaccination page, refuted the "carriers" argument, we have refuted the nonsense about consumers rejecting "vaccinated" meat. There is no risk from vaccinated animals that justifies in any way this discrimination. It is this that the industry should be fighting - not vaccination itself - and there would undoubtedly be many in Europe who would be enthusiastic in their support for the removal of such an irrational and unscientific clause.
September 13 ~ Norfolk is in the clear
At last some good news. " ....Defra announced this evening that pigs at the Hindolveston farm are clear of both foot and mouth and swine vesicular disease. The temporary control zone set up around the farm will now be lifted. " edp24
The Perthshire sheep too, is negative. See FWi
September 13 ~ "It is just so miserable to watch the mess and the constant sins of omission. Where is the vaccine and a policy?"
"The slaughter on suspicion case on the farm adjoining the IP may well become IP2. The cattle on this holding were adjacent to the infected cattle; on visual inspection one animal showed signs of disease and the decision was made. This holding does have a housed pig unit which is also being culled...." NPA's FMD Update 1500 hrs Thursday 13 Sept .
Dr Colin Fink, evidently sharing the same desperate frustration as so many of us, writes "...No vaccine mentioned, just the usual mindless killing of course. Fred Landeg, that Page Street Guru of virology, at his intellectual best. ....All the talent in the high tech companies are ignored by the public service and it is in situations like this Foot and Mouth that you see the blind leading the blind from Page Street - and causing untold misery. They ignore even their own scientists from Pirbright and starve them of funds. It is just so miserable to watch the mess and the constant sins of omission. Where is the vaccine and a policy?"
But let it not be said that DEFRA - apart from its abject failure to get on with that elephant in the room, the vital task of vaccinating - has not thought of everything else. If you want to move a "laboratory rodent within the Restricted Zone (excluding Protection Zone and Surveillance Zone), subject to the conditions set out in the Schedule of Conditions attached" then this page, not a joke alas, is for you..
September 13 2007 ~ "I believe they are also in the process of slaughtering at a neighbouring farm.."
Farmers Weekly has interviewed the farmer in Egham, Rob Lawrence, at Hardwick Park Farm
"..... farms alongside his wife Katie, has spent the past 25 years building up a herd of 150 Aberdeen Angus purebred and cross suckler cows .....are unsure whether they will restock.Those who try to convince others that vaccination is not appropriate would be better advised lobbying against the discrimination at EU level that causes extended export bans. The poor Lawrences - and their neighbours, it seems - would undoubtedly have preferred vaccinated animals to dead ones. Even under those unjustified EU rules, if ring vaccination had been carried out on August 5th the Lawrences' animals would still be grazing peacefully. As it is the farmers right across Britain are now facing ruin and despair.
"I haven't got a business at the moment. After this, I don't think we will ever keep cattle again," he said.
"The real tragedy, apart from the culling, is the fact that our two little boys' lives are going to change forever."
Let's hope that people wise up to the realities of emergency vaccination and that its imminent use will be more than "considered" now. (See also Getting rid of FMD once and for all)
September 13 2007 ~ immunisation of livestock "being considered"
BBC reports that Peter Kendall said this latest outbreak was "much worse" than last month's, because it has come at a time when livestock farmers need to move their animals, and send them to market and that he has spoken of "the real state of despair" amongst his members.
".....an emergency meeting of politicians, animal health experts and officials.......Prime Minister Gordon Brown is chairing the meeting - .... Hilary Benn said there was "absolutely no truth" in Conservative leader David Cameron's suggestion that the chief veterinary officer had been pressured to declare Britain clear of the disease too soon for economic reasons.We can think of no valid reasons for this not being the right thing to do...Fast. See vaccination page.
He said immunisation of livestock was being considered.
"We have put arrangements in place to be able to vaccinate if we thought that was the right thing to do," he said. ..."
September 13 2007 ~ "I would like to say one more thing- If infection via deer cannot be quickly ruled out we should vaccinate without further delay."
All the virologists we know say the same thing: vaccination. Here is farmer and virologist Ruth Watkins in an email today,
"In creating a vaccination zone it is to be hoped that the rest of the country can get back to some normality outside that zone or the South East of England relatively quickly....As we say on the vaccination page, "Vaccine should be used as a ring outside an infected area to limit virus replication and should be used in conjunction with restriction on animal movements and, if necessary, limited culling. No one is advocating random vaccination with no other containment measures. The idea is to preserve stocks, limit infection and use all the recourses mentioned to contain disease."
I think there is a duty of care the government must make to the rest of UKs farmers. It is not good enough for Gordon Brown to say sorry.
We face ruin.
When farmers take animals to the abattoir or a market for slaughter under the restrictions placed by the government, farmers are offered a lower price than normal, less pence per live weight kilo. They cannot take the animals home under the government regulations. Has the public seen the price of lamb fall at the supermarket?
There is no compensation for livestock farmers. The feed prices are going up disproportionately and yet even the normal price for our product e.g.lamb is the same as it was 25 years ago. The number of livestock on the fields is the greatest during the whole year as we have our lambs ready for the seasonal market. What of rural Britain, with so many shows and country functions cancelled? So much business and enterprise facing financial ruin; I cannot think of what to compare the experience to for our urban compatriots."
September 13 2007 ~ "What is the science behind choosing the perimeter of the protection zone and surveillance zone?"
See full size here Among others, Geoffrey Whittle of Ranger Organics Ltd (Organic Beef), asks the pertinent question
"Looking at the new Exclusion Zone, why is it that Pirbright is now not in this Zone? The virus, it appears, is still travelling from there?"In posing more interesting hypotheses about how the virus got from Pirbright to Egham, Dr Watkins writes, almost as an aside
"....what is the science behind choosing the perimeter of the protection zone and surveillance zone? I think it is limited to custom, common sense and EU recommendations and short on science, it assumes a point source. But should the veterinary infectious disease experts have exercised their discretion?Read in full.
If lorries went in various directions should they not have carried out a much wider surveillance of sheep? What did they do about the soil removed from the site given that it was deemed to have been a source of infection?
As for the spread, she summarises, "... was there spread undetected along other routes the lorries took infecting a sheep for instance, or is this new infection from activites in relation to the soil directly or indirectly? In loose soil the virus could be buried out of the sun and kept cool and moist in discontinuous discrete lumps. (One of the reasons for the phenomenon that not everyone is infected who consumes a contaminated food is that the organism or toxin is not evenly mixed in the food). If this is found in retrospect to be so it shows they have not learnt all the lessons from 2001, when the infection was widespread in sheep, at least locally in Northumberland, before ever it surfaced in the Waugh's pig farm..." Read in full
September 13 2007 ~ It is the same strain
The BBC, which seems to be DEFRA's main conduit of information, reveals that "Preliminary tests show the latest outbreak of foot-and-mouth involves the same strain as that which infected herds last month.." We await further news.
Meanwhile, DEFRA has reintroduced a ban on movements of FMD susceptible animals throughout the British Isles. Licences are being reissued to permit:
Animal Health (SVS) have been issued with instructions about movements of livestock from shows and marts to holdings. "Some very limited movements are necessary for immediate welfare and practical reasons where animals have been at markets or at shows . Movements and collections will only be permitted to take place in accordance with strict licensing conditions, in particular biosecurity measures . Similar arrangements are in place in Scotland and Wales," says Debby Reynolds. We hear that "In response to observations and suggestions during August, DEFRA is putting into effect a team to deal specifically with wider food chain issues." A teleconference with stakeholders to discuss meat, milk and other product production and trade issues apparently took place last night. We'd appreciate any information about this.
- Movements of dairy cattle across or along public highways for the purpose of milking
- Movement of FMD susceptible animals for emergency veterinary treatment
September 13 2007 ~ Is anyone still saying, "I think we would be in a much worse position if we had gone for a policy of ring vaccination"?
The Farmers Weekly article on August 20th quoted spokesmen of what FWi called "farmers groups" Their anti-vaccination stance, based not on considerations of animal health and welfare but, as the BVA said, "its immediate economic consequences" seemed to have paid off in August. But the export ban is back. The economic consequences are looking disastrous. ( See also Vaccination page) Had emergency vaccination - which could, as we said below, have been completed within 24 hours - been carried out in Surrey we should not have been faced with the miserable situation that became clear yesterday.
(~ We owe the NFU Scotland an apology Warmwell has just heard from NFU Scotland, putting the record straight and are very glad to see that there is no mention in the statement, used by the Scotsman, of there being no vaccines for bluetongue nor that culling is the only effective control measure.)
(See Bluetongue page)
September 13 2007 ~ How can it possibly have happened?
One virologist friend of warmwell says,
" I disagree with Hugh Pennington about survival of the organism except in damp nooks and crannies, as the UV light still apparent in the South ( Aberdeen where he lives is probably rather greyer) will destroy the virus very quickly. It may survive in chalk stream water courses for some time although even these are probably too warm in the South to keep the virus for long. The peaty water of Scotland would wipe is out in no time."It seems we'll have to wait for the molecular typing of the virus to have attacked the Egham cows and also wait for any evidence for animal contacts to be confirmed (there have been rumours). Air borne transmission - except between one cow and another in a herd - seems highly unlikely. Meanwhile, Norm Coates in Australia has been poring over, on our behalf, what little evidence there is. See emails page
September 13 2007 ~ The possibility of sabotage must still be kept in mind.
I wonder how many people are allowing themselves to think the unthinkable. We note that the Times today says, "Deliberate sabotage by an aggrieved worker or eco-terrorist remains a possibility. " But there is another view. All the speculation in the HSE and Spratt reports was, in the end, just that. Intelligent and informed guesswork about how the virus got from Pirbright to the farms nearby. But what of an earlier suggestion? And as we also said at the time, "Who does DEFRA expect to inspect wild deer and report symptoms and to whom? What is their plan for containing the spread of FMD in deer?" Virginia Water, the proximity of Windsor Great Park - the area is ideal for roaming deer. Another virologist sends this suggestion to DEFRA
" It hasn't rained for a while so it would be worth sending out the naturalists / conservationists to collect deer faecal pellets between the original two farms and the third new farm infection. If there are scratching trees that deer scent mark it would be worth sampling these as well. .. At least a thousand different pellets should be picked up in plastic bags PCR could be done on extracts from groups of five pooled pellets for example with the option of returning individually to the original samples if a pellet pool tested positive. .... the properties of O1BFS 1860 FMD are probably different to the 2001 virus and it may be more infectious for deer, who of course may not be very ill with the infection and thus able to move a few miles."Read Ruth Watkins' suggestion to DEFRA in full
UPDATE: We see from the Daily Mail that this possibility has already been taken seriously. The Queen was said to be "deeply concerned" after it emerged her farm at Windsor is just a few miles from the latest foot and mouth outbreak. More than 10,000 cows, pigs and hens kept in Windsor Great Park could be culled if the disease spreads..." ( Thanks for this link to FMD News - a service provided by the FMD Surveillance and Modeling Laboratory, University of California at Davis )
September 12 2007 ~ "The animals are being culled this afternoon"
This has been repeated in various ways this afternoon but the reality of this "culling" is the most distressing aspect of a foot and mouth outbreak under the present contingency plan. There are ten parcels of land on the Surrey farm eight of which had animals on. At least 300 animals are being killed - and let no one think that this involves a quiet and gentle putting to sleep. The distress and terror of animals being killed within sight and smell of each other (which good abattoirs try to avoid) should not be forgotten among all the dry analysis of where the virus came from and how it got to Egham. And yet we have the means to get rid of these diseases. And Gordon Brown says, "We shall continue culling as necessary"
About three weeks ago we published "Getting rid of FMD once and for all" which is an expert's view. As he said
"....let's set a new mission for a Pirbright (and a Plum Island) of the future, with decent funding, a new facility and talented staff who have some assurance their work is valued. Let's protect the UK, US and everyone else - permanently - by eliminating foot and mouth as a threat to domestic livestock globally. We can control foot and mouth and the other major transboundary livestock disease threats in our lifetimes. No new technology is needed - just the vision, the will and the resources. ... we cannot build a wall high enough to keep disease out - we have to get rid of it where it lurks..... So will you and your many readers join me in asking the Prime Minister not to live with the threat of foot and mouth disease like all his predecessors, but to chart a bold new course and lead the international effort to get rid of this threat once and for all?"These were the words of Roger Breeze BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, CEO Centaur Science Group, a science consulting forum, Washington DC, USA, Formerly Director, Plum Island USA Department of Agriculture. This, along with our page on vaccination, should be read in full It's all very well asking for vigilance - but scare after scare about possible cases does not help. At Lanark today, where one sheep was suspected of having a disease that might be FMD, 1000 people and 700 sheep have been trapped at the Lawrie and Symington agricultural centre (See BBC). UPDATE From the Scotsman(Thurs) we learn that sanity prevailed when " .... the Scottish Government later granted a special licence to allow the sale to continue for the rest of the evening.." putting an end to the situation.
September 12 2007 ~ " It is ghastly for the farmers. Sales were just about to get going."
"Now slaughter only will be allowed for a time again, just when we must move ewes shearlings ewe -lambs and rams - not to say cattle, heifers and store cattle to sales. The market has been giving farmers less for their animals, pence per live weight kilo, because they cannot take them home again. In Hexham the farmers went on strike and did not bring in their finished lambs." One farmer's view. We agree that it is disgraceful that farmers have been getting pitiful prices simply because it is known they cannot take their animals back to the farm.
The Yorkshire Post says that farmers have criticised the Government for not keeping them up to date.
"....Some whose cattle graze nearby said said they have been relying on television news reports for information. Andrew Parsons, of Smallwood Farm in nearby Chertsey, said he had driven to the area in an attempt to find out more. "We've heard nothing except what we've heard on the television," he said. "I'm really worried because I've got loads of pigs, a few cattle and horses and we were getting the pigs ready for slaughter tomorrow."We now know that the tests on a sick sheep at the Lawrie and Symington centre near Lanark, Lanarkshire have shown no presence of foot and mouth. It was a poor old ewe with bad teeth making her dribble.
September 12 2007 ~ Near Glasgow. A single sheep in the Lanark Agricultural Centre (or market) is being tested.
Not confirmed. Also much talk in the media about the knock-on effects on the whole rural economy, hauliers and food prices. Not only has the price of wheat doubled in the past year but oil prices have reached a new high. Mortgages are seeing the ripples from the financial crisis and are at their highest for nine years. This is a cruel time to be facing yet another FMD crisis. It is also not the time to be relying on global markets for food. We need our farmers and safe, local food.
Latest media reports: Farmers Guardian Movement ban in place
Telegraph Tests confirm new foot and mouth outbreak
Scotsman New foot and mouth case confirmed
Reuters New foot and mouth case confirmed - or use Google for the latest news arranged in order of time received.
The COBRA meeting finished at about 4p.m. that lasted half an hour and was chaired by Gordon Brown but no further decisions about control measures have been made. One remembers the remark that Gordon Brown was "within a hair's breadth" of ordering vaccination in August.
(Now there is yet another temporary control zone imposed in Norfolk.)
September 12 2007 ~ Weybridge and Addleston - the home of VLA - are now in the circle.
As well as being almost unbelievably cruel, the situation is seeming curiouser and curiouser... Can it be coincidence that the exclusion zone this time also contains government labs? And one is beginning to wonder about the properties of a virus strain that can jump from Pirbright to the VLA - if this is indeed the same strain (and we have passed the conservative maximum 30 days incubation time since the last confirmed case). A correspondent reminds us that it was (in 1967) highly unusual for animals infected by the original 1967 virus to "collapse" - as the owner of the 2nd IP at the last outbreak said his did. We know that Pirbright has been working with GM viruses, with possibly anthrax, which is very fast acting, virulent and causes collapse of the animal which is experimentally infected. This, together with questions raised in August about the curiously large number of animals found to be infected, rather than the more normal ripple of a few per cent through the herd, makes one wonder what now to expect of this virus. This farm, we now know, has several locations. Could DEFRA have missed an outbreak since the 7th of August?
The EU was going to allow UK exports of meat and animals again today. Many abroad will be relieved that it was not. According to the OIE guideline, one ought to wait three months before the FMD free status is regained.
This outbreak is just 6 km from Heathrow, where there is a lot of movement of vehicles and persons going on. What everyone is wondering is whether this is a new introduction or related to the outbreaks near Pirbright. That should be clear by now..
September 12 2007 ~ FMD confirmed at Egham and a movement ban is now in force throughout the country.
COBRA is meeting at the end of the afternoon, which is after an emergency meeting at Defra that took place around noon. Confirmation of the FMD virus excludes the possibility that this is bluetongue.
Powerful farming voices, arguing against emergency vaccination are almost certain to be heard today. Indeed, the microbiologist (but not FMD expert) Professor Hugh Pennington, used yet again as an "authority" by the media (Channel 4 news at midday), blandly repeated many of the same anti-vaccination statements that we had to refute in August and we reproduce them here, together with - (apologies to Hugh Pennington) - the responses of those who actually know what they are talking about.
It is vital that people realise that vaccination against FMD works very well indeed and that vaccinated animals have not one jot of "vaccine" inside them when they enter the food chain. The vaccine, which can be likened to a bee sting, is biodegraded by the body straight away and produces the vital antibodies against the disease. And it is perfectly straightforward now, using the ABC test, to distinguish vaccinated from infected animals. Ignoring the huge advantages of vaccination is an unforgivable mistake. More Are we to see yet more of the UK's "wait and hope" approach, with all its miserable killing, before someone has the strength of will to insist on vaccination - and then to put pressure on the EU to change the daft rules?
September 12 2007 ~ FMD suspicion in 4-5 cattle - but the whole herd to be killed before testing proves presence of disease
We hear that the farm is located where the M3 crosses over the M25. Debby Reynolds, in addition to the usual mantra about "biosecurity and vigilance" has said: "The containment and eradication of FMD is our top priority. This is why we have moved swiftly to put in place a Temporary Control Zone while we investigate this development."
The suspect case is at Egham, in Surrey i.e. about 10 miles to the north of Pirbirght. Defra website
It would be truly encouraging to believe that in the UK "containment and eradication" of foot and mouth were a top priority. Unfortunately, there is scant proof that this is so. If it were we should be seeing the use, (as we said below earlier this morning), of on-site testing " quickly before irreversible actions are taken" and then ring vaccination from the outside inwards of the "temporary control zone" farms should begin the moment that FMD is confirmed. In a sane world, where producers were not frightened of loss of markets simply as a result of protecting their animals, this would be so. The rules are not written in stone. They can and must be changed - so that this sort of knee-jerk killing ("...a pre-emptive slaughter of cattle has been ordered") with all the attendant angst for farmers in the area and beyond will cease. The EU's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, coincidentally still in session in Brussels, immediately halted plans to reopen Britain's meat export markets to the rest of Europe, the decision they had reached on Tuesday. Livestock farmers across the country will be feeling devastated.