We have switched to HTML format for tonight so that Bryn's message can be included as follows:
Has anybody else received this questionnaire from the RSPCA ?
The questions continued on the reverse side,
4. Do you read a newspaper on a regular basis ?
5. Do you watch television news programmes on a regular basis ?
6. Do you listen to news broadcasts/programmes on the radio on a regular basis ?
7. Would you recommend the RSPCA to others as a source of information about animal welfare issues ?
I will not shock you with my replies.
The abysmal softly, softly approach and stupid inane questions, whilst we are in the midst of the worst atrocities the WORLD has ever seen, and we have this service survey centred on the FMD WAR which they label as "incidents".
The RSPCA wants to know how to react more effectively to "similar incidents"............My God, they want to know how to do their job, and indeed contemplate the same happening again to shape their next response !!!!!
Maybe the #91 million pounds sitting in their kitty and the #30 million/year bequests will help with the postage on these questionnaires ?
RSPCA = Royal Society for the Prevention of Cullers being Arrested.
Captain Bryn Wayt
Our comment: We get the impression that Bryn is not too enamoured of the RSPCA just now!
# # # #
Heard from Matt and Suzanne that they too have just had their sheep blood tested, and that if negative, the MAFFia will not pursue their slaughter any more. They had a few words with Stella Beavan, Divisional Veterinary Manager in Exeter, as follows:
I asked SB what she thought about vaccination should FMD get worse again or
"come back" if she truly believed eradication was going to happen this time.
Her main argument against vacc. seemed to be that other countries with vacc.
policies still had FMD outbreaks.
When I told her we would really rather be breeding from our animals than
killing them if they had shown good resistance to a disease challenge, the
best argument she could come up with against this stance was "but the
antibodies only last a few months and then they would be clear so they
wouldn't be passing them on to future generations anyway!!!!!"
My thoughts about this, having had a few hours to digest these words of
wisdom is that it's not about passing on antibodies- although I would have
thought than a ewe passing them in milk to a lamb might give it at least
temporary immunity - but passing on good genetically resistant breeding
stock; but whilst we are on the subject, if these antibodies, apparently
limited in their infectivity after a few days anyway are also so weak that
they dissappear after a few months why don't we simply isolate such animals
where possible until they are clear again?
Our comment: We agree; antibodies in themselves are of course no threat to any other animal, and in sheep are reckoned to shed from the bloodstream over a period of approx. nine months until clear. The press, the public and the MAFFia seem to equate antibodies with risk of future infection, whereas they are only evidence of past infection. There is no scientific or statistical evidence that we know of to show that "carrier" animals represent any practical threat of infection to other stock, yet that is the assumption being made by the UK authorities - or is it just to comply with EU rules that demand the "proof" of no antibodies in the national flock?
# # # #
# # #
We rang Ro this evening for a progress report on the situation at Tony and Catherine Ward's farm following the risk assessment visit yesterday. She said that MAFF/DEFRA had not made any contact today and her feeling was that they had backed off for the moment. Our own view is that they will be laughed out of court with negative blood tests proving that there is no disease present in the sheep, and as is usually the case, when challenged with court action they have backed down.
Nevertheless we will keep a close watch on events.
More good news from the Ananova website:
The owner of a celebrity pig called Grunty has succeeded in her High Court bid to save the animal from falling victim to the Government's foot-and-mouth cull.
A judge ruled that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is not entitled to a court injunction allowing the cull to go ahead.
The ruling is a victory for Grunty's owner Rosemary Upton who has fought a determined battle to prevent the death sentence being passed on her six-year-old pet pig and 11 of her prized rare-breed sheep.
Sparing their lives, Mr Justice Harrison, sitting at the High Court in London, said the animals had shown no sign of the disease and it was sufficient that they were now monitored and tested.
The judge refused the agriculture minister permission to appeal and awarded Mrs Upton her legal costs, leaving the Government with an unofficially estimated legal bill for the case of #40,000.
Grunty starred in the film Pig at the Ritz and has accompanied 54-year-old Mrs Upton, of Hill Farm, Stawley, near Wellington, Somerset, on trips to the local village in the past - but has been penned in an orchard during the local foot-and-mouth outbreak.
A Ministry of Agriculture inspector condemned the farm on June 14, which meant both pig and sheep faced the death sentence.
But Mr Justice Harrison refused to allow the cull to go ahead, saying he had been most influenced by the "impressive" scientific evidence before him that even if the animals turned out to be infected, "bearing in mind the number of animals and the distance they are away from neighbouring animals, there would not be a risk to neighbouring livestock".
The judge said he had also borne in mind that Grunty was nine days into the incubation period for foot-and-mouth, with no sign of infection, and there were only five days to go before the maximum period expired.
He said: "It seems to me there is much to be said for the alternative of monitoring and blood testing - something which Mrs Upton had offered in the first place."
# # #
From the Farmers Weekly website this evening:
RENEWED calls for a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis have been voiced by Conservative agriculture spokesman Tim Yeo.
Addressing the Commons on Thursday (21 June), Mr Yeo, repeated earlier demands by Tory leader William Hague, reports The Daily Telegraph.
"The scale of this epidemic makes it essential that a full public inquiry is held to establish how the disease reached Britain, why the government acted so slowly and ... often incompetently," he said.
Lib Dem agriculture spokesman Colin Breed said he hoped the government inquiry would be as independent and thorough as Lord Phillips' BSE inquiry.
But Margaret Beckett, head of the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, stopped short of promising a public inquiry.
Earlier this week junior agriculture minister Lord Whitty said there would be no repetition of the BSE inquiry which lasted two years and cost #2.7m.
"We need to learn lessons quickly," he explained.
Lord Whitty said it was up to the Prime Minister to decide whether the investigation will take the form of a public inquiry.
# # #
No truth please,
George Orwell pointed out that the British government didnt need censors because the media largely censor themselves. This was in an introduction to Animal Farm that was itself duly censored by Penguin. So how did the media do when there was a real-life Animal Farm story?
They performed as Orwell predicted. They were the dog that didnt bark. The media failed. For the most part, coverage has been biased, banal, scientifically illiterate and craven. The absence of inquiry or courage is a shame on the profession of journalism.
The name of this conference is the search for truth. Id say youd not find it in the media.
The case for more humane, environmentally non-catastrophic and less costly strategies was never properly explained; the media default mode was instead shown to be supine. As I write this, foot and mouth has more or less disappeared from the news altogether, other than token coverage of isolated outbreaks. It wasnt an election issue. The public seems broadly disconnected. Media consumers deserve better.
Initially the media were simply lazy. The easy way to cover the story was to parrot official claims, to rely on anonymous sources (government and NFU spin doctors), and to neglect to examine a highly tendentious case for slaughter. Scientific ignorance was par for the course. The disease was hysterically demonised; the media hardly questioned the hard measures demanded by the NFU and clumsily executed by Maff.
But although an extraordinary story was unfolding of government incompetence and deception including many allegations of illegality, the media were unable to bestir themselves from indolence. Instead, we were offered scoops based on unattributed leaks, such as the story in The Times blaming everything on a Chinese restaurant.
The first weeks of coverage saw the political parties agreed to repeat 1967s strategy and slaughter, burn or bury everything in sight. The Times announced (in a story devoid of a single attributed statement) that vaccination was out of the question. Tim Yeo was on the Jimmy Young programme supporting Nick Brown. He even sounded like Nick Brown. Everyone was briefed by the NFU, which the media decided was the authentic voice of farming, despite its undemocratic constitution and membership representing fewer than half of registered British holdings.
As it became evident that Maff was hopelessly incompetent and a major commercial and environmental disaster loomed, the spinning intensified. Downing Street spoke of taking out sheep and pre-emptive strikes. The army arrived and the media assumed this was good news because now more animals could be killed quicker.
The story then morphed into an election story: would Blair go to the polls in May? The political correspondents took control. Their dependence on official spin is total hence their stories ignored the details of the continuing countryside crisis. By now, most of the press was already aligned behind the re-election of the government.
The only daily newspaper consistently to take exception to the government line was The Telegraph. The BBC and the tabloids reached new depths of sycophancy when Downing Street saved a photogenic calf. Meanwhile, more or less unreported, the prime minister was promising different strategies to different people, promising vaccination to one side and offering a veto to the NFU at the same time.
This is more sinister than mere indolence. All this speaks not simply to the laziness of the media but to a kind of corruption of intellect. How can most journalists accept without questioning that the tragic slaughter was essential? We know corporate media are part of the power structure but this really is Orwellian. I am ashamed that the media are no more to be relied upon than any of the other discredited institutions of British life. Why am I surprised? Perhaps I am not sufficiently cynical despite 35 years at this game. To me it is an odd mindset in a journalist that he or she can be so unquestioning. I thought that was what we were for.
The press was poor but TV was much worse. If TV can balance a story by getting politicians of the different parties to parrot the party line in the lobby of the Millbank television building, the medium will often look no farther.
Because television news mirrors the Westminster agenda, and the Conservative party was broadly in support of the massive culling project, there was no television focus for oppositional statements. On balance, Channel 4 News and Newsnight were the only programmes that seemed at times to have a clue what was taking place. The NFU and Maff could have written the Archers treatment of foot and mouth, such as it was. Dimbleby (J.) was good on the wireless but the vaunted Today programme was pretty hopeless. Farming Today stuck pretty close to the line, too, although they did finally interview Fred Brown.
Obviously there are individuals, not all of them journalists, who did do much better. Times 2 was quick to give a forum to Abigail Woods, the veterinary historian, with her challenging dissident analysis of the illness and the official response. Times 2 also presented a heretical investigation of foot and mouth, introduced by Magnus Linklater. This included some formidable journalism, albeit three months late. Otherwise I am sorry to say the news pages and editorial columns of The Times were a disappointment.
I was also disappointed in The Mail, which aligned itself with farmers early in the crisis without recognising the deep divisions in the countryside. By collecting money for the farming charities, The Mail tacitly signed up to the slaughter. Only later did The Mail start seriously to question what was happening on the ground. Normally The Mail is quick to spot a story. I just dont think they really understood what was going on.
The Telegraph was the best of the daily papers, offering a consistently independent line and highlighting stories the other papers ignored. This clarity of opposition by a conservative newspaper was in strong contrast to the feeble performance being put up by the Conservative party itself.
The tabloids had very little of interest to say throughout the crisis, other than cheerleading Blair for saving Phoenix. Magazines? Not relevant. What an opportunity this could have been for Country Life and what a wasted opportunity.
I am not sure any of the other daily papers covered themselves in glory. The Guardian took a half-hearted stab at getting to the bottom of the story but its resources are not focussed on either the countryside or science. This is a paper that once claimed to have some scientific authority. Neither was there much journalism of note in the Independent.
I have seen snatches of local and regional daily papers and some of their efforts are deserving of note. I have seen good cuttings from the Eastern Daily Press and Western Daily Press and heard complaints about coverage in Scotland.
The Internet was not as powerful an influence on the story as conventional media. Yet foot and mouth showed the possibilities of the Internet as a platform for let us call it, to differentiate it from spin-dried mass media news, real news. Although many affected farms turned out not to have Internet access, an ad hoc network of individuals coalesced around their computers and between them, as the crisis developed, they were uncovering and publishing information of great importance.
Even without the searching inquiry that could rewardingly be made into media coverage of this epidemic, it is possible to detect in the coverage some other themes.
The first is that the media hasnt a clue when it comes to science. Those who run newspapers and broadcasts rarely have any scientific background. This scientific blank has been notable in the medias coverage of a number of recent subjects including Y2K (which the media got ludicrously wrong), GMOs (pace Daily Mail: Frankenstein food.); global warming, and there are other examples. Its not just the media, by the way: ministers and politicians are thick on science, too.
Another theme depressing for me is how poorly the media cover real news. Editors tend to be comfortable with what they know. And what they know is what they have done before. So when an entirely novel situation occurs, they are unable to comprehend it. They like to cover stories as they covered them in the past so they send for the clips and do not think. Ironic, isnt it, in a profession that claims to be devoted to the new?
It is not just foot and mouth on which the media have abandoned independent inquiry, indignation and perseverance. Corporate journalism is part of the power structure and will rarely truly rock the boat. But the critical media failure does challenge journalism and its reason for being. On a professional level it is a terrible indictment of my profession that journalists have so comprehensively surrendered their duty to ask difficult questions.
There are honourable exceptions. Jonathan Dimbleby in The Mail, Libby Purves, Magnus in The Times and a handful of lesser-sung journalists from the provinces have produced some good work. I hope The Sunday Times has also had its moments.
Otherwise, there has been the Internet, where amateur sleuths have picked up the job the traditional media now fail to tackle. Most of the real stories were and still are being broken on Smartgroups and Sheepdrove. Since the traditional media are not to be relied on as guardians of truth or justice, the media challenge of the future is to develop the Internet channel to play a more effective role.
13 June 2001
# # #
from Alan & Rosie