Why is this Animal Health amendment Bill such a bad bill?

"This Bill will result in a complete withdrawal of co-operation by the farming community and make the control of animal disease impossible.

Here is one vet who will have nothing to do with this disastrous Bill. If this Bill, is passed I will do everything in my power to stop the veterinary profession taking any part in its implementation. It makes criminals of people whose only fault is their love for their animals and allows officials to decide that genetic make-up is sufficient to condemn normal, healthy animals to death."

Roger Windsor MBE. MA (Cantab), BSc (Edin) BVM&S, MRCVS. (Speaker at the Meeting Nov 29 Committee Room 6, House of Commons)

Why is this Animal Health amendment Bill such a bad bill?

7 It confers power on one person only - the Minister - effectively removing it from the rest of the executive, legislature and judiciary

7 the proposed new power is a power to slaughter animals - note not just foot and mouth susceptible animals - which are not infected, which have not been in contact with the infection in any way, and which the Minister does not even believe have been exposed to the infection.

7 This is, therefore, a power of quite extraordinary breadth. One wonders what the perceived need for such a power can possibly be. The Ministry's Explanatory Notes (said to be designed "to help inform debate" on the Bill), give no clue at all.

7 By failing to tackle inadequate import controls, the bill will do nothing to prevent future outbreaks of serious animal disease

7 It has been hastily prepared, without any consultation, and it pre-empts the findings of the Government's own inquiries. This makes even more urgent calls for an open Public Inquiry.

7 Written into the heart of this Bill is the notion that it was farmers who were responsible for allowing Foot & Mouth to get out of control. This is a shabby attempt to shift the blame from where it belongs - with Ministers and their officials; It confers sweeping new powers on the very people who stand accused of incompetence

7 the fear from which this legislation appears to stem (that neighbouring animals contribute to the spread of the disease) has not been scientifically tested, still less proven, and that the experience of those who have successfully resisted culls has generally been that the animals saved have not subsequently contracted the disease.

7 It offers inadequate rights of appeal against arbitrary decisions to order mass slaughter - and in fact gives the government unlimited powers of slaughter.

7 Although scrapie is cited as one of the reasons for the unseemly haste of this bill, scrapie has been in Britain for at least two centuries, is of no danger to human health - nor, as recent fiascos have shown, is there any proof whatsoever that sheep can develop BSE. NOR has any link between BSE and vCJD ever been properly proved. The precise relationship between genotypes and resistance to scrapie is not properly understood, and decisions are being made in ignorance.

7 There are very real ethical problems for veterinary surgeons being presented with instructions to slaughter, which are at variance with their considered scientific and professional opinion.

7 Lack of definition and general confusion over "veterinary surgeon", "veterinary inspector" and "inspector"; the changes from one to another in the text seem deliberate to assist the draconian measures envisaged.

7 The Animal Health Bill threatens valuable native breeds, and the genetic diversity of the national sheep flock, by the political application of bad science.

7 The policy of mass slaughter for the control of the FMD/2001 outbreak has already resulted in the destruction of almost 20% of farm livestock in UK. Breeds of special genetic importance, as identified by Rare Breeds International, have suffered losses up to 50% of breeding stock , these breeds which should be protected under the Convention of Biological Diversity to which UK is a signatory

7 the inspector and the magistrate will have determined the civil rights and obligations of the farmer without any fair or public hearing, with no appeal.To cap it all, the farmer will commit an offence if he refuses admission to his premises.

7 a warrant can be expected to be enforced immediately by the inspector backed up by the police/army, and the farmer's animals will be destroyed. There will be no practical scope for the farmer to point out to a Judge that the Ministry may be mistaken

Please see the website for further veterinary concern, comment from the legal profession, alternative ways of controlling disease ignored by the government, a new look at the scrapie issue, an archive of newspaper reports, local eye witness accounts and the findings of local independent inquiries.