Re the justification for the contiguous and 3 km culls,

I thought you might be interested in this from the Foot and Mouth Diaries Archive on the BCVA website, written by Richard Sibley, President at the time, and a regular member of the Stakeholder Meetings. This seems to echo Jim Scudamore, who apparently stated that the sheep flocks in Cumbria were so heavily infected that the farmers should "voluntarily" give them up for mass slaughter at Great Orton.
 
"The level of infection in the sheep is such that areas of Cumbria bordering the Solway Firth, and the southern parts of Dumfries and Galloway are heavily infected. The 3km protection zones around infected premises almost merge, and for this reason, the decision has been made to remove and destroy all sheep and pigs within these areas....
 
We support this decision. Unpopular and draconian as it may seem, the strategy has logic" (See BCVA foot and Mouth Diaries March 18 2001)
 
 
This can be linked in with a Report from SEERAD 10 December 2001, detailing the slaughter policy (main body of Report in separate email):
 
16. "The disease was highly contagious and spread rapidly.  However evidence of local spread from sheep into cattle and into neighbouring flocks and epidemiological work by the SVS suggested that animal to animal spread was more likely than airborne spread in this outbreak."
 
17. "It was therefore agreed on advice of the CVO, that to reduce the risk of disease spread outside of those areas of D and G already infected, removal of all sheep within 3 km of an Infected Premises should be undertaken, recognising the risk that all such sheep might have been exposed to infection.  A three km cordon is the designated protection  zone under EU legislation taking account of aerosol spread.  On 15 March the Minister for Environment and Rural Development, Ross Finnie, accepted this advice and announced that sheep flocks that may be harbouring the disease would be identified and destroyed, whether or not clinical signs of the disease were yet evident. In practice this meant all sheep flocks within 3 kms of Infected Premises."
 
It is intriguing that in Para 16 it is acknowledged that animal to animal spread was more likely that airborne spread, and yet, the Scottish Executive seems quite content to use the aerosol spread argument to justify the contiguous and 3 km cull. My view is that you cannot have it both ways.  I feel that the logic used by the SE was hardly scientific and therefore should be subjected to the closest scrutiny by veterinary experts in FMD control. 
 
Furthermore, what was the justification for the intensification of the cull mentioned below on 24 March?
 
20. "On 24 March the Scottish Executive announced the intensification of the cull to include all susceptible species in farms adjacent/contiguous to premises at which FMD had been confirmed on or after 16 March, again prioritising farms on boundaries of disease clusters to prevent outward spread."
 
This in the event meant that some farms well within the 3 km radius were being slaughtered out 10 weeks after the IP had been diagnosed.  Bear in mind that for Wigtownshire, only 2 of the 15 IPs returned positive tests in the first place, and  that these results (displaying the very low level of infection in reality, compared to what was being claimed) would be known by the higher echelons of the SE, as well as the DVM in charge of the slaughter policy for the area. Yet, they still pursued the "scorched earth policy". What was the scientific basis for that? The evidence from the acknowledged FMD veterinary experts would indicate there was no scientific justification whatsoever.
 
The strong support given by Sibley for the slaughter policy in the Stakeholder Meetings cannot be underestimated, not least because of his role as President of the BCVA. Some idea of his depth of feeling about the anti slaughter/pro vaccination lobby can be gauged from the following further entries in the BCVA Diaries:
 
"The criticisms coming from some welfare groups and some of the public are crass. The slaughter of healthy animals goes on every day, and it is what meat production is all about...".(18th March 2001)

Vaccination has been an issue all week. The growing calls for some form of vaccination strategy have been coming from all directions, including some vets and scientists. The recent paper (by Prof Brownlie) that we commissioned gave a good insight into the pros and cons of vaccination, but the messages were not getting through..... Now we have the Soil Association, Prince Charles, and all sorts of “we know best” individuals pontificating on the virtues of vaccination and alternative control strategies. (1st April 2001)

He also gives some indication of the reasoning behind his anti vaccination stance, referring to Prof. Brownlie's paper:

It is proving very difficult to get people to understand that a wide-scale vaccination programme will almost certainly lead to a longer eradication, and indeed may lead to the eventual acceptance of endemic FMD infection in this country. 

They could vaccinate stock at risk, but that means that they could no longer trade with the rest of Britain, let alone the world

In essence, vaccination is best used only as a last resort, and as a firebreak to prevent uncontrolled spread.

Vaccinated stock are a liability in the long term, and would most probably be slaughtered to remove the confusion created by their seroconversion.

It is not yet feasible to differentiate between a vaccinated animal and one that has been infected. (18 March 2001)

Sibley then goes on to give some insight into some of the politics in the Stakeholder Meetings, and what his future policy will be for the coming week:

"Our function as an Association is to look after the interests of our members. Those interests could simply be served by providing knowledge and information, and preparing members to face a changing world. However, many groups are now having influence on the decisions being made by Government, many of which are against our own interests. We cannot sit back and let this persuasion by media, and control by popularity, work against our own interests, which depend upon the long-term survival of an efficient, and productive cattle industry."

"Push forward with our vaccination policy, which is to only allow vaccination of cattle in contiguous herds while they await slaughter. Any vaccination should only be carried out on animals that are to be slaughtered, and the vaccine must only be used to buy time and slow virus spread where keeping up with slaughter targets is proving impossible. Any “vaccination and live” policy will be vigorously resisted."

I think a close examination of the make-up and the functioning of the Science Group/Stakeholder Meetings is called for.  It is certainly something  a Public Inquiry would look at.  Prof Anderson, in his appearance before the EFRA Select Committee on 7 November, 2001, throws some light on how the Science Group was put together.  He claims they had looked at the best people in Europe and the USA. The very close links with the FSA are also intriguing.

"…In the last week of February, I had a phone call from Sir John Krebs at the Food Standards Agency, who said, "Are you looking at this privately?" and I said, yes, we had; he said, "Would it be helpful to organise a meeting to ensure that you had prompt access to the data?" and we discussed membership of that committee, who were the best people, not only in Britain but more broadly, in Europe and the United States. That committee was organised by Sir John Krebs. Subsequent to that, we did some more work, very quickly, because it was quite clear the epidemic was not under control , and at a subsequent meeting of the FSA, which John Krebs organised, he invited David King. At that meeting, David King formally took a detailed interest in the problem and constituted the Science Group, and then for the following month we were asked questions almost daily, particularly at one stage, about, if you did this what impact would it have."

Whatever claims are made about the Committees/Groups providing the "best scientific advice", the end result on the ground spoke for itself. I finish with Sibley's graphic description of the turmoil which seemed to be a feature of much of the FMD eradication campaign - the Diary entry for 18 March 2001.

The events of last weekend, when the control of this situation moved from the Ministry of Agriculture to Downing Street, continued into the week. The virtual meltdown in control and implementation occurred on Wednesday when it became evident that even the most simple policy decisions were subject to misinterpretation by the regional offices, and instructions were inadequate. Policy, strategy and delivery were at best confused, and at worst shambolic. The Intervention Board could not cope with the welfare schemes, and longer distance licences were becoming a farce. Lorries were whizzing all over the place to get disinfected and the supervisors often failed to turn up. Farmers were being put through mental torture by being unsure if they were to be slaughtered out, and vets were becoming tired and frustrated.

The final straw was when TVIs returning to base were told that they were to be taken off slaughter supervision. We received phone calls from dissatisfied TVIs to say that this was unacceptable, and indeed was contradictory to what was reported in last week’s diary. It also raised other issues such as the poor line of communications that TVIs have into the local management, and the poor representation they have nationally. One major centre, which accommodates over 150 TVIs, apparently has only two washbasins and no car washing facilities. This is nothing short of shambolic.

 













Foot and Mouth

The British Cattle Veterinary Association

Foot and Mouth Diary Sunday March 18th

A full and up to date Diary for members is availble on the newsletter pages of the members section of the website. Follow the links from the What's new box after you have logged in

Surveillance, pre-emptive culling, manpower and vaccination

This week of ups and downs has generated new cases of disease in many areas of the country, but has focussed particular attention on Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, and Devon. It appears that the movement of sheep out of Longtown market between the 14th and 24th February has been the cause of the major problem that we see in the North West. The level of infection in the sheep is such that areas of Cumbria bordering the Solway Firth, and the southern parts of Dumfries and Galloway are heavily infected. The 3km protection zones around infected premises almost merge, and for this reason, the decision has been made to remove and destroy all sheep and pigs within these areas.

We support this decision. Unpopular and draconian as it may seem, the strategy has logic. To understand the reasons for the decision, there needs to be an understanding of the industry, the market and the disease.

Over a third of sheep production is exported, and the market is entirely dependent on this. Indeed, the exports support the domestic trade. With the closure of export markets for the foreseeable future, there is currently about 1million fat lambs waiting for a home to go to, either in storage as carcasses, or in fields as store lambs. Killing has virtually stopped because there is practically no market, and no freezing or storage capacity. The retailers are tied to New Zealand contracts. Cull ewes have no market at all, and are being kept to keep up numbers for headage payments. The sheep leasing schemes run by dealers are legal as long as the movements are recorded and the incoming ewes are replacements and not additions.

We have an increasing population of a species which is harbouring an infectious disease. The value of these animals is falling by the hour. So what incentive is there to be a sheep farmer? We suspect that when the issues are explained to the Cumbrian farmers by the CVO on Monday, and the options that are available discussed, the scheme that he is offering will be more popular that it is today.

Those unfortunate farmers have three choices, and we deeply sympathise with their plight.

  • They can stick it out, and hope that the disease can be controlled in the traditional way. The level of infection is such that this is unlikely to work, and once disease is diagnosed, the scorched earth policy swings into action, where everything including the cattle are killed, and the farm is locked up.

  • They could vaccinate stock at risk, but that means that they could no longer trade with the rest of Britain, let alone the world. Professor Joe Brownlie discusses the consequences of vaccination in various strategies in an article, which is available with this diary. In essence, vaccination is best used only as a last resort, and as a firebreak to prevent uncontrolled spread. Vaccinated stock are a liability in the long term, and would most probably be slaughtered to remove the confusion created by their seroconversion. It is not yet feasible to differentiate between a vaccinated animal and one that has been infected.

    Click here for pdf copy of Review Article

  • The third option is to remove the sheep and pigs as dangerous contacts, retain the cattle and keep the farms. This reduces the reservoir of infection, starves the virus of a method of spread, and protects the cattle from exposure to an unknown risk. Experiences in Italy showed that apparently healthy sheep returning from summer grazing, some months after the last clinical cases of FMD, were still carrying the virus, and caused new infections in cattle.

    These are not easy decisions and they have not been taken lightly. The CVO is sure of his facts, has been well advised, and we support him. The criticisms coming from some welfare groups and some of the public are crass. The slaughter of healthy animals goes on every day, and it is what meat production is all about. Grasping the concept of slaughtering to protect is not easy, but there have been precedents, and they have generally worked. However, nobody can feel enough for the people involved, particularly at lambing time, and where highly prized pedigree flocks are involved. We will work to provide help and support for those involved, and it may be possible to prioritise the kill so that some may be preserved. The preservation of the genetic elite is essential, and the area is renowned for its highly valued pedigree flocks. This disease has human tragedy as well as being an animal health disaster.

    The veterinary manpower problem is causing us some concerns and requires attention. No vet is working at the front line simply for the money, but there should be just reward for the effort, and proportionate to the responsibility and skills that the job requires. The current conditions and remuneration are derisory. Farmers, who have been through the experience of having their herds slaughtered, have informed us that the skilled and sympathetic direction of the vets involved was very much appreciated, and an essential part of the ghastly operation. We believe the so-called veterinary manpower crisis is more one of time management, and there are not hundreds of vets in practice awaiting the TVI call-up. Most practices have provided what available staff they have. Many of us are tied to our practices by the work routines and management demands of modern day veterinary practice. Shutting up shop and going to the front line is not an option. However, many of us have part time farm animal veterinary capacity which we would gladly contract out to MAFF for specific tasks, and we wanted to get that across to them. We are ready and willing to help.

    Our current strategy centres on identifying and quantifying unrecognised infection in sheep flocks. Our view is that the unquantified risk of exposing our cattle to infected sheep is unacceptable and this opinion is gaining credibility.

    We propose the use of LVIs to define, identify and survey sheep flocks for endemic FMD, and thereby quantify the risk to our precious cows before they turn out to graze. Sheep Vet Soc has produced an excellent risk analysis score sheet which will pinpoint the high risk flocks, which can then be inspected, examined and sampled. There may be a need for a helping hand from the vet student volunteers, but this would seem a more appropriate task for them than patrolling farms in protection zones, where farmer stress levels are high, and the atmosphere tense. Pig Vet Soc are similarly worried about their outdoor pig herds, and so they fully support the strategy.

    Movement licences continue to attempt to alleviate welfare problems caused by stock trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time. We are helping MAFF to sort some Of the idiosyncrasies of these schemes, but the principles seem sound, and our original document specifying need against risk is still being used. We believe that some of these licences could be controlled by veterinary practice without the need to go through MAFF at all, thus relieving their administrative resource, and giving us another useful job on their behalf.

    The essential control of disease remains the restriction on the movement of animal. It is absolutely fundamental that unnecessary or unauthorised movements are prevented, and we all have an obligation to get this message across. The pressure to move animals is becoming acute, and licensed movement will become easier with the introduction of longer distance movement licences and the zoning of the country to reduce the restrictions in some low infected areas.

    BCVA continues to support the strategies that MAFF is using to combat this disease. In fact the decisive way this has been handled at the top, and the support that the State Veterinary Service has received from the Ministers have impressed many of us. The principles are sound. We support the Minister’s view that we must pull together to destroy the common enemy, which is the virus.

    We know that our members will respond positively to any demands that are put upon them by the implementation of sound control measures. We have the confidence that veterinary surgeons will deliver service when they are asked, and we hope that the trust we are placing in the LVI system is not misplaced.
    RJS
    18.03.01




    Foot and Mouth Archive










  • Foot and Mouth

    BCVA Foot and Mouth Diary 1st April 2001

    Slaughter, movements, biosecurity and vaccination

    This version of the FMD Diary is for general circulation.

    A full and up to date Diary for members is availble on the newsletter pages of the members section of the website. Follow the links from the What's new box after you have logged in

    The events of last weekend, when the control of this situation moved from the Ministry of Agriculture to Downing Street, continued into the week. The virtual meltdown in control and implementation occurred on Wednesday when it became evident that even the most simple policy decisions were subject to misinterpretation by the regional offices, and instructions were inadequate. Policy, strategy and delivery were at best confused, and at worst shambolic. The Intervention Board could not cope with the welfare schemes, and longer distance licences were becoming a farce. Lorries were whizzing all over the place to get disinfected and the supervisors often failed to turn up. Farmers were being put through mental torture by being unsure if they were to be slaughtered out, and vets were becoming tired and frustrated.

    The final straw was when TVIs returning to base were told that they were to be taken off slaughter supervision. We received phone calls from dissatisfied TVIs to say that this was unacceptable, and indeed was contradictory to what was reported in last week’s diary. It also raised other issues such as the poor line of communications that TVIs have into the local management, and the poor representation they have nationally. One major centre, which accommodates over 150 TVIs, apparently has only two washbasins and no car washing facilities. This is nothing short of shambolic.

    Phone calls and urgent faxes defused the situation, and the misinterpretation of central instructions from Page Street was corrected, and the situation salvaged.

    Friday started with an early call to a meeting in Page Street before the Stakeholders’ Meeting. There appeared to be a new atmosphere, and some of our objectives, which we had failed to achieve during the first part of the week, started to materialise. An intended showdown at the Stakeholders’ meeting was being defused.

    At the Stakeholders’ meeting, various topics were discussed. Heading the agenda were the proposals to open up the countryside and start opening footpaths. A new priority was appearing in front of our eyes. A tired Minister of Agriculture then appeared, and the week’s bad news was trotted out. Various proposals on increasing movements under licence, with the view to allow movements to slaughter within infected areas were discussed. The dramatic rise in the number of slaughtered animals and those awaiting slaughter was mentioned, while the new case rate moved relentlessly upward.

    The Welfare Disposal Scheme is supposed to be up and running. However, of the 3130 applications, involving 820,000 sheep, 250,000 pigs and 60,000 cattle, only a few dozen have actually been dealt with. We must have prioritisation and we are working on a scheme to allow the vet who determines the existence of a welfare problem to slot it into a category to then allow the IB to give it a priority. It seems that the hold-up is the limited carcass disposal capacity.

    The discussion moved on to the epidemic itself. The escalating new case rate was still causing concern, and although the targets for report to kill times were being achieved in most areas, Cumbria was still a problem. One option being considered was vaccination. The Commission had been approached, and their decision was made available to us. The specific condition of use, and the restrictions on produce from vaccination zones gave some indication as to how vaccination could be used within the control strategy. Industry reps soon realised the difficulties with such issues as the milk supply and the movement of animals in the longer term, let alone the implications of carrier animals and continuous vaccination.

    Vaccination has been an issue all week. The growing calls for some form of vaccination strategy have been coming from all directions, including some vets and scientists. The recent paper that we commissioned gave a good insight into the pros and cons of vaccination, but the messages were not getting through. A meeting at Downing Street with the NFU on Thursday had been called specifically to discuss the issue.

    Now we have the Soil Association, Prince Charles, and all sorts of “we know best” individuals pontificating on the virtues of vaccination and alternative control strategies. It is proving very difficult to get people to understand that a wide-scale vaccination programme will almost certainly lead to a longer eradication, and indeed may lead to the eventual acceptance of endemic FMD infection in this country. It is not simply a matter of FMD free status and reinstating export markets, but the difficulties of running an efficient livestock agriculture within a small land mass with animals of varying disease and immune status. The short term fix that it offers, which will be seen as a reduction in the headline figure of the new case rate, suits the political scene and may temper the growing frustration of farmers and public that this problem is out of control. Short term popularity but long term problems.

    Our function as an Association is to look after the interests of our members. Those interests could simply be served by providing knowledge and information, and preparing members to face a changing world. However, many groups are now having influence on the decisions being made by Government, many of which are against our own interests. We cannot sit back and let this persuasion by media, and control by popularity, work against our own interests, which depend upon the long-term survival of an efficient, and productive cattle industry.

    Many of these issues were covered in the later meeting with the CVO which took on a much more constructive ambience. The sheep surveillance strategy, conceived with Sheep Vet Soc and Pig Vet Soc, is now moving forward and we are assured that it will be finalised during this week. There are more objectives than just saving dairy cows from being exposed, but that objective still remains high in the priorities.

    Biosecurity advice is now a priority, with many of the new cases being caused by the movement of people and vehicles. Practical advice is to be issued, and vets will play a direct role in its dissemination. We have been helping MAFF, along with PVS and SVS, to construct practical guidance over this weekend.

    Carl attended a meeting set up by the MDC to explore long-term implications of the crisis to the dairy sector, including restructuring of the industry after FMD. Such major problems as restocking policy and the maintenance of the milk supply were discussed, and further meetings of the ad hoc commission have been arranged. Getting some clarity on how and when affected farms can restock is one of our objectives over the next few weeks.

    Our objectives this week are

  • Push forward with our vaccination policy, which is to only allow vaccination of cattle in contiguous herds while they await slaughter. Any vaccination should only be carried out on animals that are to be slaughtered, and the vaccine must only be used to buy time and slow virus spread where keeping up with slaughter targets is proving impossible. Any “vaccination and live” policy will be vigorously resisted.

  • We will try to get biosecurity advice finalised, and sort out an information flow to ensure consistent advice comes from all sources, including ourselves.

  • We will attempt to clarify the role of the vet, either as a private veterinary surgeon or an LVI in the various certification issues. Payment is really an issue for BVA but we will take an active interest.

  • We will help to push the sheep surveillance scheme forward with urgency, while ensuring it works and provides the right information.

  • We will ask BVA again to clarify such issues as TVI working condition, the status of payments in terms of VAT, and the compensation and financial help available to rural practices who are now suffering significant financial losses.

    BCVA will continue to be involved with these issues as best we can and through whatever media is available to us. The week ahead will signal whether this current administration is to seriously support the revival of a distressed livestock agriculture, or prefers to divert resource and effort towards political popularity and expediency.

    RJS
    01.04.01



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