"Silence of the lambs, calves, sheep, cattle and mathematicians"An article to his fellow vets in the Veterinary Times, March 2006, by Bob Michell, BVetMed BSc PhD DSc MRCVS, Former President of the RCVS
Rapid Diagnosis RT PCR - " a transforming moment"
" ...the means to eradicate and control these diseases are now available ... ..." Read in full
Warmwell.com Archive ~ Bird Flu pages Contact the site How FMD crisis was turned into a disaster - Scotsman, Times
Archive July 2007
July 28-31 2007 ~ Flood losses for farmers and landowners in affected areas could be worse than in the foot and mouth epidemic
Telegraph ".. because there is no automatic right to compensation. Some farmers will have lost every crop they have.
Livestock farmers will not have been able to make forage for the winter, not just because they can't get on the field, but also because hay must dry and even silage must be allowed to wilt or it will spoil. Silage without dry matter is no good for stock.
Some farmers' winter feed will have been flooded or contaminated by filthy water. A few will have nowhere for their cows or sheep to graze and will have to rent land or, at worst, sell their animals immediately for slaughter...."
One of the more sensible reader comments below Charles Clover's article ; "The security of both our agriculture and home grown food as well as imported supplies seem very low indeed on the political agenda of the three major parties. Is it not time for a serious risk assessment to be commissioned as to the security of food supplies to our town and cities?"
July 28- 31 2007 ~ Germany opts to request derogation from the EU's BSE slaughter regulations
The EU rule by which the UK tried to kill the pet cow Harriet - even after it had been pointed out that flexibility was allowed - is the subject of this paragraph from the EU's Summary Record of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, held in Brussels on June 19. (See pdf file) All the Member States were present, except Malta. We read:
7. Exchange of views of the Committee on a draft Commission Decision regarding a derogation of BSE eradication measures following confirmation of the presence of a TSE in certain Member States (Legal basis: Regulation (EC) No 999/2001) (SANCO/1703/2007). Based on a favourable risk assessment taking particularly into account the control measures in Germany, this proposal provides Germany with a derogation allowing the use of at risk bovine animals until the end of their productive lives, and therefore, by way of derogation from general provisions, to defer their immediate killing and complete destruction. The Commission would like to be informed whether other Member States would also request such derogation. If the inter-services consultation can be concluded, this proposal will be presented for a vote at the SCFCAH meeting on 18 July 2007.Will ".. other Member States also request such derogation"? It will be remembered that Harriet's post mortem showed no sign of BSE. Indeed, the whole sorry business served no useful purpose at all and cost the country a great deal in wasted money and man power. It will be interesting to see whether the UK follows Germany's example.
July 28- 31 2007 ~ Not a single one of the 1543 nasal mucosal samples .... including those from the 32 reactors found to have lung lesions - proved positive for m.bovis - but this is not mentioned in the ISG report.
See bovinetb blogspot latest about DEFRA's 2000 'Pathman project' into 'Pathogenisis and diagnosis of tuberculosis in cattle - complementary field studies' - i.e. to see whether bTB is passed from cattle to cattle via the respiratory tract. The editor comments: ".....Considering the amount of emphasis placed on cattle to cattle transmission by the ISG, it is interesting to note that in the Pathman project, not a single one of the 1543 nasal mucosal samples of which 1006 proved clear of contamination - including those from the 32 reactors found to have lung lesions - proved positive for m.bovis, a point missed by the ISG when describing the project in their final report. How could John Bourne have missed that, one might ask? It was mentioned at least four times (4.6) (3.6)the executive summary and the conclusion.
"M.bovis was not detected by bacterial culture in any of the nasal mucus samples." andThe editor further tells us that R.M.Q.Sainsbury and Dr. John Gallagher point out in this week's Veterinary Record that the final report of the ISG "used data somewhat inconsistent with those in the recently published 'Pathogenisis and diagnosis of tuberculosis in cattle - complementary field studies' "
"The results suggest that large concentrations of M.bovis are not present in the nasal passages, and the shedding of M.bovis, if it occurs, is rare in naturally infected GB cattle."
"In total over 1500 nasal mucus samples were taken in order to ascertain whether tuberculosis (bTB) was passed from cattle to cattle via the respiratory tract. Micobacterium bovis was not isolated from any of these samples despite lesions being found in the lungs of 32 of the cattle . ..."...."The bovineTB posting concludes " after £2.8 million, Professor Bourne missed the histology conclusion on those mucus samples completely. They were all negative. Every one. ....surely the negative-for-onward-transmission results of every mucosal sample taken, deserves a higher profile?"
We agree that it certainly does. Again, we should be grateful for informed comment.
July 26 2007 ~ ARC Addington Fund are trying to get water to livestock farmers
ARC Addington are putting pressure on Severn Trent Water to get water to livestock farmers devastated by the flooding and who are without water. Contact details below. Anyone knowing a farmer without water should give them these details - (ARC Addington also have small personal hardship funds for arable farmers whose crops have been lost) Contact Ian Bell, Fund Director
The Red Stable Block
Tel: 02476 690587 or Mobile: 07909 538426
Since no compensation from the Government seems likely, the help offered by ARC Addington is vitally important - and very much appreciated.
July26 2007 ~ No compensation for farmers devastated by floods
David Fursdon, president of the Country Land and Business Association, who accused the Environment Agency of failing to prioritise flood protection and accused it of not being strong enough to ask for adequate funding from Government for flood defence ( see Telegraph) has appeared on BBC News 24 this morning to explain that farmers are not to be compensated for the widespread losses they are suffering.
July 20 2007 ~ "scientists at the labs are also working on a new test for viruses, such as rabies, bird flu and foot and mouth disease, which could cut the time taken to confirm an outbreak from up to ten days to only a few hours..."
So says this news release from the York Press Once again we are left wondering why the wheel has to be reinvented in this country when the Rapid or the SmartCycler, for example, are already being used in other parts of the world. As we saw last year in this letter from Roger Breeze to Dr James Irvine and to warmwell:
"....A RAPID PCR machine (www.idahotech.com) costs about £40,000 and the tests for exotic diseases like foot and mouth, classical swine fever, avian influenza, and Newcastle disease cost about £3 each. Of course, with other test reagents, this same machine can detect all the common animal diseases too (with the exception of BSE and scrapie)..... There are hundreds of scientists and technicians... who know how to do PCR tests (a standard lab tool) and who could learn the works of the RAPID in an afternoon. There are also plenty of labs with the necessary but minimal infrastructure to handle the analyses safely (when the sample goes into the test reagent tube any virus is inactivated so it can't cause disease)..... a lab system can be expected to give a result in less than 6 hours. .."Detecting pathogens by such on-site rapid means would ensure that action could be taken immediately - but, as Dr Breeze pointed out a year ago, in the UK a sample would be still on its way to Weybridge or Pirbright (or waiting at the airport, or going nowhere) for confirmation by conventional, and much, much slower, means. In January 2006 an avian influenza conference in Kiev was followed by hands-on avian influenza H5N1 detection training on the RAPID for veterinary lab staff from six countries.
Ever since the foot and mouth disaster of 2001 we have felt it to be incomprehensible that the UK is not making use of available, effective systems. Strange too, when dangerous diseases can strike at any moment, that scientists at York's Central Science Laboratory, an executive agency of DEFRA, are being paid to work on a UK model for use 'sometime in the future'. Are there any comments from readers about this?
July 19 2007 ~ Forget vaccination. Soft music sells this "animal friendly, total culling concept"
An advertisement from a Netherlands gassing and electrocution equipment provider called the TCC Group (Total Culling Concept) encourages governments to pay for quietly managed mass killing. With gently tinkling music playing in the background of the website, the killing process is described as "environmental (sic) friendly, animal friendly and safe for the people doing the job". They offer 'stable gassing for a fixed price' A Final Solution offered to governments to cure the problem of bird flu.
As one correspondent to warmwell comments dryly, if the so-called competent authorities ..
".. had to go through the whole dirty process of "disease eradication" we might end up with vaccination...."Vaccinating Birds against H5N1 - warmwell's recent postings include news from the US yesterday that their national veterinary stockpile has a total supply of 140 million doses of vaccine and also they have a contract in place that will quickly give access to another 500 million doses of live pox recombinant H5N1 vaccine to protect younger birds. While the US feels it is impractical to attempt to vaccinate all poultry, vaccines, says the White House briefing, "can be used to protect healthy birds outside the perimeter of the outbreak...
...Here domestically, the USDA and Department of Interior have launched a phenomenal surveillance program. You've seen the outputs of that. We found lots of low-path avian influenza. And it's good news that it's low-path. It's also good news that it, I think, validates, to some degree, our wild bird and domestic bird surveillance activities.."
(See also the paper from Hong Kong by Ellis et al (Avian Pathology (August 2004) 33(4), 405 /412): "after 18 days post-vaccination no more deaths from H5N1 avian influenza occurred and intensive monitoring by virus culture on these farms showed no evidence of asymptomatic shedding of the virus. This provides evidence that H5 vaccine can interrupt virus transmission in a field setting.")
July 18 2007 ~ A case of bluetongue in Belgium
According to Expatica.com the bluetongue virus "seems to have turned up at a sheep breeder in Oelegen, a submunicipality of Ranst. The results of the most recent tests will give a definite answer this afternoon, but the Federal Food Agency says that all indications are pointing to the virus at the moment...."
Last month, the Farmers' Guardian reported that "John Gloster of the Met Office, seconded to the IAH, said the risk of infected midges being carried to the UK was currently minimal, but the risk would increase if outbreaks of the virus were to be reported near the west coast of mainland Europe..." (Bluetongue page)
July 15 - 21 2007 ~ ".. the option Skanda Vale have chosen is the difficult, long and expensive path."
It is unfortunate but probably inevitable that we are now hearing indignant voices proclaiming that the Shambo ruling is, for example, "keeping this terrible pool of infection alive" and that it is "driving a coach and horses through the policy of dealing with bovine TB". It really does need to be pointed out that the policy of dealing with bovine TB is quite hopeless and also that no "pool of infection" resides in Shambo's stall. Skanda Vale is not a farm. No animal on the monastery is ever in contact with other farm animals again. No animal products are given or sold to the public. In any case, as the virologist Dr Ruth Watkins tells us, the risk of being infected from bovine TB being shed on the breath of an bovine, who is infected and shedding, is very small. Indeed, the government's only medical advice is to recommend that drinking unpasteurised milk ceases. If they are under 30 months old, cattle culled because of a positive test actually enter the human food chain . So much for the assertion that Shambo's continuing presence is a risk for both animals and humans.
Instead, many calmer commentators will see the Shambo ruling as a challenge pointing the way towards a better, more pragmatic approach to livestock policies. However, that is the future. In the present case, Dr Watkins can see the likely future for Shambo - and it is expensive. The option Skanda Vale have chosen is the "difficult, long and expensive path".
"This is in contrast to culling and taking the money..."
She says that further testing must be done in the USA - and paid for.
"Treatment is going to cost the monks at least £5000 (treating an elephant was $40000 in 2005) and will require the supervision of experienced vets. Such treatment will probably have to continue for 9 months and involve at least three different antibiotics. Shambo must then be carefully monitored.Provided that the testing proves harmless for Shambo, she understands that the Skanda Vale monks want such testing to benefit others and to benefit science. After his death she believes they will allow a detailed post mortem to determine the success of treatment.
He will be kept in isolation, even more remote than his current temple, and he'll require the attention of the monks every day for drug dosing, and general care..."
But Shambo's reprieve does not give a licence for treating commercial farm animals. As a trading farmer herself, and one who does receive the single farm payment (Skanda Vale receives nothing from the State) Dr Watkins points out regretfully,
" I must abide by the current rules even if I think the policy could and should be improved."Many farmers will be feeling the same, and as Judge Hickinbottom pointed out in Monday's ruling, the proportionality of the government response in its animal health policies is what needs to be examined very closely now.
Skanda Vale ( see website) now asks the Government to "enter into constructive dialogue with us" rather than waste taxpayers' money on an appeal.
July 15 - 21 2007 ~"....profitability should not be a priority when vaccination policies are established." Bernard Vallat
Two special issues of the OIE Scientific and Technical Review aim at providing useful information about animal vaccination. Bernard Vallat, Director General of the OIE, says in his Preface says that recent progress in animal genomics and in veterinary immunology will help to develop more effective and safer vaccines.
"Vaccination, when available, is undoubtedly the most cost-effective means of preventing and controlling, and even eradicating, infectious diseases. ....Links to the various papers in Part 1: "development, production and use of vaccines "- can be seen here. The paper by P.L. Roeder & W.P. Taylor, for example, Mass vaccination and herd immunity: cattle and buffalos suggests ways to "optimise the efficiency of mass vaccination programmes."
Unfortunately, there are several barriers to the development of new vaccines: economic barriers such as the lack of investment incentives, especially for vaccines against diseases that only occur in developing countries; scientific obstacles, for instance, the antigenic variability of some pathogens and the ability of parasites to circumvent immune response; regulatory hurdles due the stringent and non-harmonised regulations in place for vaccine registration; deliberate withholding by some countries of strains of pathogenic agents; and, finally, public perception of the consumption of food products derived from vaccinated animals and of technologies such as genetic engineering.
... profitability should not be a priority when vaccination policies are established. The OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (Terrestrial Code) and the Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals (Terrestrial Manual) respectively provide recommendations on how to administer and how to manufacture veterinary vaccines. Veterinary Services should be encouraged to regularly consult these publications in order to improve animal health throughout the world.
Part 2: "scientific, economic, regulatory and socio-ethical aspects" will be available in August 2007
July 9 - 14 2007 ~ The ELA conference in October - the beginning of the first serious pan-European contribution to animal health policy development.
Later this year the EU Commission will publish its Animal Health Strategy 2007-2013 (CAHPS). In order to present the EU Parliament with a cohesive response to the EU plans before they are formalised and implemented, the European Livestock Association, formerly known as European Livestock Alliance, will hold a conference: 'Towards a Durable Global Animal Health Policy' on October 17th 2007.
The European Parliament is eager to join in the discussion; the conference will take place at the European Parliament in Brussels. ELA was founded in 2001 by a number of committed breeders and scientists concerned by the mass-slaughter policy to control the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in both the UK and Netherlands. It now has members in UK, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.
ELA believes that animal health policies will have a greater chance of success if they are developed with the wide support of stakeholders - including keepers of rare breeds or endangered species, and those farmers who keep animals extensively (organic, bio-dynamic, free-range). Thijs Berman and Jan Mulder, Dutch MEPs, and Elisabeth Jeggle, German MEP, are giving their support in hosting the conference.
All interested organisations are invited to attend the conference where they will have the opportunity to share their views, thoughts, ideas and needs with a number of MEPs. Read more and/or print out an Invitation to the conference. (It is important that these are returned quickly. Help with funding may be possible.)
July 9 - 14 2007 ~ Reply to E-petition to scrap the fallen stock disposal scheme and reinstate on-farm burial as a green initiative
The government reply does not provide any acceptable reason for the monstrously wasteful law to continue. It mentions, without being specific, both "a number of scientific opinions" and "the lack of scientific information available on how persistent the prions that cause diseases such as BSE and scrapie are in soil". Once again, as below, one can't help wondering what is really being protected here. And the update on the Newburn cows, condemned by DEFRA in spite of their posing no risk whatsoever, makes us wonder even more.
July 9 - 14 2007 ~ Repeating the mistakes of the past - "no dramatic fall in cattle reactors to show for the cattle carnage ..."
In the early 1970's, the draconian Tait regime on bTb incidence in SW Cornwall - which involved not only the killing of TB reactors but also their cohorts and even whole herds - failed to reduce the numbers of reactors or affect the disease. It was interesting to see last Sunday's posting on the bovine TB blog about this failed regime. And at centre stage in any discussion of bovine TB this week stands Shambo, doomed by the new "rural development" minister for Wales, Jane Davidson. She has been telling AMs that she had "considered requests from the religious community to spare it" but that destroying Shambo " in accordance with the law" was the only way to protect 'people and other animals'.
Many would suspect that the killing of Shambo is to protect something quite different; to protect officialdom from any public acknowledgement that the present policy hasn't a hope of succeeding.
The bovine disease is accelerating. Countless farmers are hedged about with restrictions and have lost their cattle, just as in the early 70s in Cornwall, and it is doing no good now just as it did no good then. As now, it was a cattle-only policy. Available technology not available then, is still being ignored. We have the ability to target infected setts. Vaccine trials took place a whole year ago. Leaving the pools of disease in wildlife untreated, when modern technology could do so much to help the situation, has led to a vicious circle of killing, misery and anger.
What is missing, yet again, is the political will to use what the ingeniousness of modern technology has provided. And when the politicians are told by their all too ignorant advisers to trot out the old excuse of lack of validation it is time someone thundered back that the policy of using an unvalidated and erroneous mathematical model to justify the mass killing of the contiguous cull during foot and mouth was a despicable mistake unbacked by any real experts. Lack of validation can be a political excuse for inaction - or ignored when it suits. Skanda Vale's only recourse is now the law. We can only hope for the sanity and common sense shown by such as Judge Onions, allied to proper independent scientific expertise and advice, such as saved Rosemary Upton's equally prized animals in 2001. Killing Shambo will not protect people or animals.
July 9 - 14 2007 ~ "If that degree of financial mismanagement had occurred in a public limited company, the board would have been out - never mind the chief executive."
Michael Jack evidently shares the widespread frustration at the lack of accountability over the RPA fiasco. He says (Hansard)
"Our report on the single farm payment and what went wrong raises not only a series of practical observations on the execution of Government policy but some fundamental points of principle.....there has been a debacle concerning a core responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. That is why our report goes beyond the mechanics of what went wrong and explores fundamental issues to do with accountability in government..... When the wheel fell off, DEFRA had not heeded the warnings, and we now know what happened to the rural economy.....As for who was responsible and who should have accepted responsibility, the head that rolled was Mr. Johnston McNeill's - it was the agency's former chief executive who was fired. Sir Brian Bender, the former permanent secretary at the Department, whose name was on the documents about the Rural Payments Agency, the DEFRA change programme and the agreement on the path forward, and Mr. Andy Lebrecht, one of the most senior civil servants in the Department - he sat on the management boards of the Rural Payments Agency and, indeed, on DEFRA's own boards and should have been the link - were the people who effectively signed off what happened. Rachel Lomax, who was supposed to be an expert, was brought into the Department to provide advice. Despite all that, there was still failure, but only one person has paid for it with their job...."Johnston McNeill's sacking has cost the country more than £250,000 - and he could seek further compensation. However, Margaret Beckett spoke to him only twice, the second time the day before he was dismissed. Her departure from the Cabinet can hardly be regarded as a result of 'accountability' for her mismanagement and will be of little comfort to those farmers who are still waiting for payments from 2005. Many have gone out of business as a result.
It will, according to MPs, take until 2012 and another £55m to sort out the chaos. More on RPA page. After the RPA fiasco unravelled publicly, we saw the cynical buck-passing of those who failed. The same thing happened over FMD - and involved many of the same people. If Roy Anderson were to become David King's successor we should indeed be close to despair. Accountability matters. It matters in the case of the RPA and it matters in the case of the mishandling of animal health.
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