Had a reply from Dr Adams, here is is, together with Open Letter in reply.

All the best, Gill

Dear Gillian Swanson,

I have not read Ruth Watkins' paper, but will certainly endeavour to do so. Meanwhile, could I suggest that you might like to look at DEFRA's website on the Foot & Mouth outbreak, which gives the view of all the scientists and veterinary people who are advising the Government.

There is to be a special meeting in Brussels towards the end of November, at which the whole question of vaccination is going to be discussed, and I have no doubt that this will lead to a full scale examination of the issue in due course.

I do, however, remain firmly convinced that vaccination would not have been an effective method of controlling the outbreak once it had occurred. The outbreak was of a particularly virulent virus and without question complicated by the passage of time before notification was given. It seems that something like a fortnight passed before the disease was reported. By that time most of the damage had already been done.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Gordon Adam
Member of the European Parliament for the North East of England

Gill's response

Dear Dr Adam ,

Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to my last e-mail. I was delighted to hear that you were intending to read Dr Ruth Watkins' paper on vaccination for yourself, even at this late date. No doubt by now you will have done so. I would be interested to hear your comments.

Thank you, too, for your suggestion that I should take a look at DEFRA's website. Having done so, I must say that it is inferior in every respect to , if one's purpose is to obtain comprehensive information about FMD in general and the current epidemic in particular. The views of "all the scientists and veterinary people who are advising the government", for instance, are already widely available to us, without DEFRA's help; the opinions of acknowledged world experts with practical experience of the FMD virus, on the other hand, have so far reached a more restricted audience, and remain studiously unpublicised by government agencies. On, in contrast, a full range of opinions can be found, and their implications debated. As agriculture spokesman in the European Parliament, why not take advantage of the platform offered by this specialist website to contest any points you feel we are getting wrong?

Regarding the "special meeting in Brussels towards the end of November": no doubt it will "lead to a full-scale examination of the issue", though with undue delay, rather than "in due course". Why the lack of urgency ? By the end of November thousands more animals will no doubt have been slaughtered either in contiguous culls or on welfare grounds, because they are being slowly starved to death by the intransigeance of movement restrictions still in force.

I am surprised that you "remain firmly convinced that vaccination would not have been an effective method of controlling the outbreak once it occurred." As you say, matters have been "without question complicated by the passage of time before notification was given". In fact, all the evidence suggests that at least two months, rather than "something like a fortnight", passed before the disease was reported. However, the advice of those skilled in the practical control of FMD is diametrically opposed to the conclusion you have reached. Dr Bernard Cane, for instance, the Chief Vet of Argentina, quite specifically recommends a prompt switch to vaccination once the virus has been spreading for any length of time. To quote his exact words (in the BBC programme "Countryfile", 9 September), " If you approach with that system (slaughter) and you see that in two weeks the disease is continuing growing, forget it! Stop killing animals! Do vaccination!" Stop killing, he says - not after two months; not after six months; not after you have managed to round up a tableful of EU potentates and forced them to sit down and come to a decision: after two weeks!

The "virulence" of this particular virus is irrelevant: as Ruth Watkins and others repeatedly state; an effective vaccine is, and has always been, available, should the government choose to employ it. It works on sheep. It does not make the meat of animals vaccinated unsuitable for consumption. It does not require subsequent slaughter.

In addition to the points previously mentioned, it is worrying that the government has chosen not to make use of the Cepheid Smart Cycler, a tried and tested machine which can be used at the farm gate for identifying animals which have the FMD virus within one hour. With such apparatus available, and assuming the priority of keeping numbers slaughtered to a minimum, why opt for a three week wait for Pirbright to come up with results ? (Perhaps you have not heard of this gadget. You can read all about it, along with many other things which will interest you, on

The way this whole business has been managed is puzzling, to say the least. After the wholesale massacres of the past seven months, and the scrupulous care which the government seems to be taking to ensure that maximum damage is inflicted (eg, refusing to vaccinate; rejecting the latest and most reliable testing equipment; allowing slaughter teams to get away with unsatisfactory hygiene procedures while opening footpaths to ramblers; restricting the movement of starving animals; etc), it seems only too likely that a reduction in the number of Britain's small-scale, independent livestock farmers is not a regrettable accident, but the specific goal of Mr Blair's policy.

Can you offer any solid evidence against this conclusion?

Yours sincerely,

Gillian S

And a response to this from Richard
Date: Sun, 7 Oct 2001 05:11:57 EDT


It is interesting to observe that, like so many others, Adam confuses 'virulence' with 'infectivity', the former describing the potency of the virus (and thus the severity of the disease caused) and the latter describing the ease with which it can be passed on to susceptible hosts. In fact, this epidemic virus is neither particularly infective nor virulent. Its airborne spread capacity is highly limited and the number of animals infected in herds tends to be small, with a high proportion of asymptomatics (indicative of low virulence).

Although these may appear minor points, they clearly demonstrate a degree of technical illiteracy which would tend to support a contention that their author was somewhat disqualified from offering an informed opinion. In fact, Adam's contention that the disease had spread for 'two weeks' runs at odds with the low virulence and infectivity, the combined characteristics tending to suggest that the virus had been around for much longer, undetected. That much was evident within a few days of the epidemic being reported, in which case the 'contain and slaughter' policy was even then doomed to failure. With an uncontained epidemic, the only effective response would have been to vaccinate widely, something which the 'technically illiterate' Adam could not be expected to understand.

As for his EP inquiry, this is just gesture politics. As with the European Parliament BSE 'inquiry' it will give the opportunity for phalanxes of MEPs, whose degree of technical illiteracy quite matches that of Adam , to display their extraordinary lack of understanding of quite simple issues. It will not be a pretty sight.