Thank you Prof Thomas and members of the Panel. The FMD journey of some15 months has indeed been a long and arduous one both for thousands of people in Cumbria and elsewhere. I am deeply honoured to be submitting evidence today.
This Inquiry will enable many Cumbrians to express their feelings of anger, frustration and despair; to tell THEIR STORY!
In CONTRAST, the failure of HMG to conduct a proper National PUBLIC Inquiry is outrageous! Given that in excess of 11 million animals; just under 5 million in Cumbria, have been killed, the vast majority healthy.
Many businesses were wrecked both in tourism and agriculture; peoples lives destroyed and rural communities torn apart by an unscientific, bullying policy dictated almost entirely on political grounds.
The loss of hundreds of years of breeding to some of the finest stock resources in the world, has without doubt resulted in the worst tragedy to hit Cumbria this century,
( pause) and the Prime Minister REFUSES to allow himself and his ministers and civil servants to come under public scrutiny! Indeed a cowardly response!
These same Ministers and Civil Servants have been proven to be "economical with the truth". The truth, of course, is embroiled in a complicated web of deceit encompassing not only Ministers and civil servants but also the NFU and the wider scientific community.
I was very interested to hear the fact that Mr Sutton, Editor of The Cumberland News, whose newspaper did not in fact support the Judicial Review for a Public Inquiry, stated that things changed when the Prime Minister arrived "Things began to change"!
Mr Sutton is damn right there! Millions of healthy animals were killed illegally!
Magnus Linklater, a highly respected journalist, summarises the FMD policy admirably:
"So there you have it: the research, it seems, was wrong, the science was outdated, the slaughter unnecessary, the policy unethical, and the strategy ineffective. Apart from that, things seem to have been just fine."
Well Mr Chairman, things weren`t fine here, we in Cumbria were under the cosh for months and indeed many of the community, farming, tourism and others still are!
The question that is always asked is "Did it all go wrong!" It blatantly did, the Question we should all be asking is
"WHY DID IT GO SO DRASTICALLY WRONG?"
To condense the research and evidence I have collated over nearly 15 months, some of which is in the 5 papers I have given to the panel and the press, into just 10 minutes is clearly impossible and unsatisfactory. So I will, if I may, only concentrate on the one subject I consider to be of great importance to Cumbria and other areas. It opitimises the most horrendous aspects of the FMD policy confusion, chaos, dysfunctional, unscientific and with a level of bullying conducted on our people and animals that may never have been seen before!
That is the very controversial 3km/firebreak cull. I have also provided submissions concerning appalling animal welfare and examples of very poor bio-security conducted by MAFF in Cumbria.
There is still confusion over the terminology relating to the 3km cull. However, I have examined in detail the events leading up to, during and since the cull and I have explained how and why the Department deliberately misled us all. Indeed there were instances of the Department lying!
The 3km/Firebreak Cull was indeed a barbaric, unscientific and bullying procedure that was invoked on the personal orders of the Prime Minister. I remind you, if you need reminding, that it was The Prime Minister Tony Blair, who took personal charge of this crisis.
My personal feeling is that there has to be some level of retribution and that those responsible must be held accountable.
The 3km cull was conducted in an atmosphere of confusion, misinformation, bullying, intimidation and lies! The question is why?
The 3km Cull was ordered on Thursday 15th March 2001 at 13:30 hrs. Mr Nick Brown, the sacked MAFF Minister, stated: "All animals within 3km. will be destroyed on a "precautionary" basis. Those affected by the COMPULSORY 3km cull will receive full market value compensation for their animals, whether infected or HEALTHY. (The government had no powers to kill healthy animals under the 1981 Animal Health Act).
It must be noted that at this time the disease was officially under control with a reproductive rate of 1. (Ref. MAFF, Data assembled by Prof. Woolhouse of Edinburgh University).
After an astonishing u-turn it was announced that the cull only applied to sheep and pigs.
Great confusion existed during the cull and since. This was apparent amongst Government Ministers, Civil Servants, valuers, farmers and the general public.
Between 12-16th March 2001, the European Commission recommended the following actions be taken as a matter of urgency. "Consider preventitive slaughter in certain circumstances in an attempt to "get ahead" of the disease, and to reduce the weight of infection to which animals are being exposed."
(In direct contravention of EC Directives).
Alistair Campbell, PM Blair`s Press spokesman, admitted Downing Street did not have powers to enforce the mass cull of healthy animals. There were "practical difficulties" over the establishment of firebreaks around infected farms. He said: "We have to do that with the consent of farmers. There were no plans to introduce emergency legislation to take compulsory slaughter powers, as the government hoped to "persuade" farmers to co-operate in the cull.
Suddenly the cull was VOLUNTARY. HMG had realised that they had no powers to invoke this policy. They were in deep trouble!
The resistance to the 3km cull comes as MAFF vowed to get tough with people who did not cooperate.
On 26th April 2001 Nick Brown announced a major relaxation in the governments slaughter policy following the media outcry about the fate of Phoenix the calf. The confusion apparent within government was obvious when Alistair Campbell's deputy lied blatantly but ineffectually that "this was not a decision taken by politicians". "No 10 refined the story again: 'The final decision was taken on the Wednesday morning, following meetings that morning with Nick Brown, Jim Scudamore, Professor King and others.'
But Brown at the time of this meeting, was in Luxembourg. !
Many vets commented "The policy had switched from compulsory to voluntary to the present voluntary/compulsory scheme. The voluntary aspect had a strong compulsory veneer."
The term voluntary was widely used to describe the cull and appeared on official documents, including valuation forms, Invoices and letters.
Dr Paul Kitching, ex Head of Exotic Diseases at the IAH Pirbright, stated that many infected premises are now known never to have had the disease. The policy of culling within 3km of an infected farm was based on the wrong model and was introduced on the back of a fundamentally flawed prediction. Common sense was totally suspended. Ministers were alerted to the wrong policy in March.
Dr Shannon, chief scientist at the Ministry of Agriculture and Defra said the committee that advised the Prime Minister made incorrect assumptions about the outbreak because it did not fully understand the disease, the food industry or farming practices. He attacked the cull policy as unscientific.
Mr Elliot Morley, Animal Health Minister, stated:" As at 22 October a total of 7,294 Dangerous Contacts (DC) and 255 Slaughtered on Suspicion (SOS) cases, which have not been recognised as Infected Premises, had laboratory tests conducted. Of these, FIVE yielded positive results and subsequently became I/P`s and were recorded as such." That is 7549 premises of which ONLY 5 of them showed evidence of FMD!
Cumbrias own figures are equally depressing!
Out of 5786 sheep tested at Gt Orton, in 116 groups, (7 April-24 April 2001) only ONE tested positive!
Slaughter on Suspicion
..of which "contiguous"
Total premises slaughtered
figures as at Dec 4th 2001
Positive results returned
There are grounds for believing that the changes to the diagnostic protocol were dictated by the government's electoral concerns. As early as April 26th 2001, Valerie Elliot wrote in The Times, "There will be no new FMD cases by the time of the election date of June 7th, the government's Chief Scientific Officer has predicted. David King told the Agriculture Select Committee that epidemiologists believed that the number of new cases would drop to zero in the days before June 7th (Not in the Eden Valley!"." Clearly this date was significant to the modellers, presumably because they were asked about it. It had no significance from a disease control point of view. This provides the reason for suspecting that that the drastic culling was instituted to validate the model's prediction and to eradicate the disease in time for the election, even though it required debasing the diagnostic criteria and killing far more animals than was strictly necessary for disease control. IAH, Pirbright also attacked the modelling and "The 24/48 hour culling policy went against the available scientific evidence which showed that the virus was unlikely to spread over significant distances provided the control measures, in particular movement control, were enforced effectively.
In November, I received a "leaked" memo from DEFRA, Page St. London. The document was sent by Mr Roy Hathaway, Head of Foot and Mouth Division and was dated 6 November 2001.
In this memo, sent to Mr Elliot Morley amongst others, Hathaway confirms that the "Voluntary" cull in Cumbria was not "voluntary".
On the same day as Mr Hathaway sent his Memo to Mr Morley, Mr Morley told the House of Commons,
"At the present time we do not have powers for a fire break cull. There WAS the 3km cull in Cumbria BUT that was a VOLUNTARY CULL and people were invited to participate in that. If there was a situation where it was recommended that a fire break cull would be desirable, then it (The Animal Health Bill 2001) gives you power to do that."!
Professor Thomas, members of the panel, The Department were clearly lying!
However, although Morley has said the cull was VOLUNTARY a letter sent to farmers from MAFF states:
"According to our records you were not willing to give up your sheep. This letter is to advise you what arrangements are now being put in place to include your sheep in the cull. In the infected area, sheep, goats and pigs within 3 km of infected premises will be treated as Dangerous Contacts. This means that the Ministry of Agriculture will make arrangements for your sheep to be slaughtered on your farm."
NIKKI ELLIS Assistant Director of Operations (MAFF, April 2001)
Voluntary or Compulsory, Mr Morley?
Mr Eric Martlew MP for Carlisle, stated, "In north Cumbria, one option was that we should have a fire break--that we should cull the sheep in the north of the county to stop the infection getting on to the fells. That policy would have been illegal, as the Government did not have the powers to implement it. It was ultimately carried out by other means, but if it had been challenged, we would have had serious problems."
On Friday 23rd February 2002, some 31/2 months after his astonishing lie to the House of Commons, it was revealed that Mr Morley had at last back tracked! He had written to Mr David Maclean MP, Penrith & Borders. Morley writes:-
'Some owners of animals subject to the 3km Cumbrian cull on grounds of FMD may have been informed that there animals were culled on a voluntary basis ... they may also have been informed that they had no right to dispute the valuation of their animals ... the Department considers that all such culls, carried out under the supervision of its officials, were in fact compulsory and that in all such cases there was a right to dispute their valuation within 14 days.'
Mr MacLean said "The minister's confession was further evidence that a full public inquiry was needed to get to the bottom of the "scandal of the handling of foot -and-mouth and the pack of lies farmers have been told by ministers from day one. This announcement has been sneaked out in a letter to me with no announcement in Parliament and not a single word of apology."
Finally, what was the legal position regarding the 3km Cull?
Nick Brown at the EC Inquiry, one year after the cull had been invoked, was asked whether the "cull" had been legal. In a performance described as "turning evasion and ambiguity into a new art form", he said that he "believed it to be legal", which is not exactly the same thing as affirming that it WAS legal.
In the Upton vs DEFRA case, the presiding judge, ruled that DEFRA was not entitled to apply a blanket policy of slaughter and had to take into account specific circumstances. Mr Justice Harrison refused DEFRA leave to appeal and awarded Mrs Upton costs, leaving the government and the tax payer with an estimated bill of #40,000.
As for EU law, which has primacy, it permits "monitoring and inspection" of contiguous areas up to three kilometres. It does not authorise mass slaughter.
This was again confirmed by Devon Solicitor, Alayne Addey who represented more than 200 farmers successfully and none of which succumbed to the disease!. She confirmed that the EU Directive requires livestock on adjoining premises to be inspected or sampled, with regard to the configuration, location and possibility of contact. The contiguous cull did not follow the Directive. Instead, farms were systematically cleared of livestock using a discretionary power in English law. She goes on, as to the legal basis, the UK government published a document in November 2001 which confirmed that there was no general power to slaughter healthy animals on adjoining farms under English law, nor was there any such power in the EU Directives.
.Finally, the most telling piece of evidence available! The final nail in the coffin of those perpetrators who invoked the 3km cull! I need not comment!
Extract from Lobby Briefing 10 Downing Street on 29 March 2001:
Asked if any thought had been given to extending the powers that the Government might need beyond the contiguous farms policy and for the 'cordon sanitaire', the PMS (Alistair Campbell) said no. He pointed out that with regard to the 3km firebreak area in the south of Penrith, as we had said earlier in the week, there had been farmers in that area who were against a slaughter policy. Discussions were continuing with them on this matter. Pressed further, the PMS said that we were not looking at taking any powers at this stage. There was no need to do so as we were not going ahead with the 'cordon sanitaire' at this time.
Questioned as to whether we could force a farmer to have his herd slaughtered to implement a cordon sanitaire, the PMS said that ""If we were to reach that position, we would hope that we would have got there through persuasion."! Asked about the legal position, the PMS said that "If the Chief Vet decided that animals had to be destroyed either as high-risk contact or as diseased contact (animals on contiguous farms), then they could be destroyed under disease-control measures. In terms of the 3km cordon sanitaire, there was a difference inasmuch as the animals would be culled to act as a firebreak. Consequently, legislation would be required to take that forward should farmers decide they did not want to allow their animals to be killed. The PMS underlined that we were not going down that route at this stage. And they never did!
This may be why The UK government were unwilling to test their policy in the English courts. Only 15 cases brought by the government against farmers - 11 of these were withdrawn and only 4 had a hearing in the High Court - 2 were successful and 2 were lost. The judges concentrated on the level of risk and exposure, as required in English law. They did not analyse the legality of the policy against the EU Directives, which was very disappointing. In the 2 lost cases, virtually no scientific evidence was presented to the Judge in what were quick in and out cases. When full scientific evidence was presented MAFF/DEFRA lost!
I believe that Mr Blair, on hearing the Governments Chief scientist state that the epidemic was out of control and predicting that affected farms would be greater than 4,000 by June, caused him to panic. Blairs mind was firmly on the general election. Remember Blair embarrassingly caught on TV cameras discussing his election plans during his 2 day visit to Stockholm; His mind was clearly not on the FMD crisis in the UK. On his return he took "personal control" and ordered the cull of millions of healthy animals. Blair was at this stage told that the government had no legal powers to conduct the cull. It was therefore at this point that the term "voluntary" was hatched as a means of obtaining the consent of farmers to conduct the 3km cull in Cumbria. Can you imagine Blair and his government trying to introduce "emergency powers" at the same as planning an election?
The decision to conduct the 3km cull was a purely political one. The policy had no scientific merit at all. The spin being produced by Ministers desperately attempting to justify this obscene policy has been phenomenal. So desperate were they to protect Blair, that even seasoned Ministers like Morley and Whitty have been willing to lie!
This was not the biggest outbreak of FMD but due to Government policy resulted in the greatest number of animals being killed often under unacceptable circumstances.
It was a holocaust driven by economics and politics. The sole objective of Prime Minister Blair was not to upset his plans for the General Election and indeed to conduct the election without controversy. To do this resulted in the biggest massacre of British livestock ever and will, no doubt cause many questions to be asked in the future. If the government fails to satisfy the people of Great Britain, it may well result in the demise of this government and the Prime Minister!