NEWS ARCHIVES - part one (part two)
National Press at warmwell.com
CATTLE TEST NEGATIVE FOR DISEASEfive animals imported from France to Cumbria in February which were suspected of having brucellosis have all tested negative for the disease. One of the animals was slaughtered after it tested positive on arrival in Cumbria but further tests proved negative. Four other animals, in a consignment of 44 cattle imported on February 4, gave inconclusive test results. Further blood tests have also given negative results. Government officials claim it is likely that the initial results were due to exposure of the animals to a cross-reacting organism.
The animals were all blood tested, with negative results, in France prior to export. All movement restrictions imposed on the animals have now been lifted. Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley said: "This is good news. But I must once again stress that it is important that we're all vigilant when restocking herds following FMD to prevent the introduction of any disease." .....
April 12 2002
Papers chart Alliance plansTHE national press covered the Countryside Alliance's plans for a "summer of discontent" on Friday (12 April).
The campaign to put pressure on government not to ban foxhunting with hounds was to begin in London on Friday with the submission of an open letter to Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael, reported the Daily Telegraph. The Times reported that the protest by a delegation from the Countryside Alliance (CA) and Council of Hunting Associations would urge ministers to ensure an open and fair six-month consultation on the future of hunting. Rallies are planned at 15 regional offices of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
CA chief executive Richard Burge told The Times hunting has become the touchstone for the countryside's overall concerns. "Rural Britain has come together to warn the government that it would be foolish to ignore the scale and depth of distrust and anger rural people feel at this moment," said Mr Burge. "Rural people have lost faith that the institution of government will deliver a fair and just resolution to this problem." The CA intends to run two marches of more than 500,000 people later this year.
April 12 2002
Ainsworth: Countryside action demonstrates rural angerCommenting on the launch of the Countryside Alliance's 'Summer of Discontent', the Shadow DEFRA Secretary, Peter Ainsworth MP, said:
"This action clearly demonstrates the frustration and anger felt in rural communities towards the Labour Government. "This urban Government doesn't seem to understand the problems facing the countryside and is widely believed not to care. Rural crime is rising, rural services are failing, there is a crisis in farm incomes and 60,000 rural jobs have been lost in the last three years. ....
April 12 2002
SUPERMARKETS have been accused of profiteering from the food chain at farmers' expenseKevin Hawkins communications director at retail giant Safeway, responds to questions submitted by Farmers Weekly Interactive users Read them on the Farmers Weekly Site.
Bar on slaughtermen made F&M even harder to controlBy Philip Clarke Farmer reluctance to let slaughtermen on to their holdings during last year's foot-and-mouth crisis was a serious impediment to containing the disease and needs to be addressed by future legislation. Giving evidence at this week's sitting of the European Parliament's temporary committee into F&M in Strasbourg, junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty said rapid access to holdings was crucial.
At one point during the out-break around Thirsk in Yorkshire as many as one in three attempts to get on to premises for culling was met with resistance, he said. Although 27 of these objections were upheld, seven farms were later found to be infected with the disease.
Farmers' right to appeal was a real problem and the government may have to take emergency powers to deal with it in case of future outbreaks. Lord Whitty levelled targeted criticism at Devon farmer Guy Everard, who had successfully contested a compulsory slaughter order. If more farmers had acted like him, the situation would have been even worse.
But Mr Everard, also giving evidence to the committee in Strasbourg, blamed the government's lack of consultation and bullying tactics for any delays.
His farm had only been identified as a dangerous contact because of a visit from an agricultural contractor. After testing, MAFF had agreed his animals were free of the disease. Two days later it changed tack, announcing at a Press conference its intention to slaughter the stock. Mr Everard refused access and, after a seven-day stand-off, MAFF backed down. "To announce to the Press before informing me was typical of the way MAFF operated throughout the epidemic," he said.
Other farmers were not so tenacious and many healthy animals had been killed unnecessarily, wasting vast sums of taxpayers' money in compensation, he added. Lord Whitty admitted there were weaknesses in the government's contingency plan for F&M, which, he said, was designed for individual out-breaks, not the widespread epidemic that hit the UK last year.
In particular, there should have been an immediate ban on live-stock movements as soon as the first case was discovered, even though this would have appeared Draconian at the time.
April 12 2002
Foot and mouth tests 'negative'(Filed: 12/04/2002)
INITIAL test results from a North Yorkshire farm at the centre of fresh foot and mouth fears have come back negative, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed today. Concerns were raised yesterday after a vet examining animals on the farm at High Worsall, near Yarm, noticed a cow with signs of what could be the disease.
A ban on livestock movements was immediately put in place in a five-mile radius while tests were sent to the Institute for Animal Health laboratory at Pirbright in Surrey.
A Defra spokesman said: "Preliminary laboratory tests from Pirbright have come back negative. But culture testing will continue and we may know something more definite within 96 hours, it may be considerable earlier." None of the cattle on the farm, which was classed as an "infected premises" last May, have so far been slaughtered.
April 12 2002
New fears of foot and mouth on farmBy Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent
ALL livestock movements were banned in a five-mile radius around a North Yorkshire farm yesterday after a vet detected in the mouth of a cow lesions which could be foot and mouth disease. Six and a half months after the last case, vets examining animals at Moorhouse Farm, at High Worsall, noticed signs that they said could not be ruled out as symptoms.
The farm, a former infected premises tenanted by Herbert Bainbridge, was culled on May 30 after its herd of 76 cattle went down with foot and mouth last year. Last night the 168-acre property was again sealed off as a precaution and surrounding farmers were anxiously awaiting the result of blood tests on the animal. Mr Bainbridge, 46, who lives at Moorhouse Farm with his wife, two sons and three daughters, said: "I thought it was something else. It was the vet who suspected foot and mouth. I am 99.9 per cent certain it is not foot and mouth."......
April 12 2002
Foot-and-mouth group meetingThe Western Mail
AN ACTION group set up in response to foot-and-mouth pyres and a burial site held a public meeting last night to collect evidence for a European Union public inquiry.
The EU inquiry, is scheduled for May and June and submissions must be in before the end of April. The Epynt Action Group, based in Sennybridge, near Brecon, held the meeting at Trecastle Community Centre.
A spokeswoman said, "The pyres burnt from April to August 2001 when the initial intention was to burn for two to three days."
April 11 02
Tests may identify BSE before it developsRobin Turner, The Western Mail
WELSH researchers are close to achieving a world first by inventing a test that could diagnose BSE in animals before clinical signs of the killer disease appear. Scientists at the Aberystwyth based Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (Iger) will announce the first results from their four-year programme to invent the test in Swansea today.
Professor Mike Theodorou and his colleague Dr Gordon Allison will present details of the ground breaking study at the Society for Experimental Biology conference at the University of Wales Swansea. Research teams around the world are desperately hunting for a test that could be used to diagnose BSE before animals go down with the clinical signs of the infection. The Iger scientists, however, are taking a radically different approach. Professor Theodorou said, "BSE is primarily a brain disease but the brain's job is to control other body systems so damage to its circuits is likely to have knock-on effects on body chemistry. .....
Researchers in Israel say they are close to developing a diagnostic test for variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, the human form of BSE. They say their method can distinguish reliably between urine samples from healthy humans and those who died as a result of vCJD, the disease which killed 16-year-old Vicky Rimmer of North Wales.
April 11 02
QMS pulls quality mark from Ormiston pig farmFordyce Maxwell
QUALITY Meat Scotland announced yesterday that it has withdrawn its Specially Selected Scotch farm assurance pig scheme certification from Scotpigs unit at Ormiston, Kirknewton. The unit received wide publicity earlier this week when animal rights activists released a video recording of conditions there. The recording showed pigs eating a dead pig, dozens of live and dead rats and dilapidated buildings.
Mike Flynn, an SSPCA superintendent who visited the holding said: "Although the pigs were dirty, they were physically OK. We found nothing to indicate the suffering suggested in the video."
But Professor Hugh Pennington, now thought of as Britains leading food safety expert, said the conditions were a nightmare, with the possible spread of salmonella top of his list of concerns. Arthur Simmers - "King Arthur", head of Scotpigs, now the biggest pig business in Scotland after rising from the ashes of a #7 million bankruptcy several years ago - refused to comment, but a spokeswoman for the firm said it would be carrying out an internal investigation. ...
April 11 2002
Call for pig farm probe amid poison rats fearsANIMAL campaigners have called for an investigation into the possibility that pigs reared at a West Lothian farm have eaten the carcasses of poisoned rats. Video evidence obtained by Advocates for Animals showed a major rat infestation at the Scots-pigs production unit at Ormiston.
The video included clips of dead rats on the floor of the unit, and numerous live rats running over and among live and dead pigs. The footage also showed pigs eating the carcasses of dead pigs. Now pressure group Animal Concern has written to the Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers at West Lothian Council, asking them to fully investigate the Scotspigs farm. John Robins, campaigns consultant for Animal Concern, said: "The pigs were eating the carcasses of pigs which had died at the farm and the pig pens were also littered with dead rats. "If pigs have eaten poisoned rats, checks must be carried out immediately to ensure this poison has not got into the human food chain."
Ross Minet, a spokesman for Advocates for Animals said: "There can be no doubt that our findings raise serious concerns. Our undercover investigations will continue." A spokesman for West Lothian council said an investigation was underway at the Ormiston farm. He added: " When the investigation is completed, probably this morning, we will be preparing a report to go before the council." A Scotpigs spokesman today refused to comment.
April 11 2002
Ainsworth: Urban Labour is failing the countrysideCommenting on the Countryside Agency's report highlighting the Government's failure to assess the rural impact of its policies, as pledged in its Rural White Paper of November 2000, the Shadow DEFRA Secretary of State, Peter Ainsworth MP, said: "Over two years on from the much-vaunted Rural White Paper, it seems that most Government departments have still not got the message. The countryside is in crisis and joined-up thinking is urgently needed to support it.
Press release from Conservative Party
"The fact that DEFRA itself has made such lamentable progress towards meeting the commitments of the white paper is depressing, but tells its own story. If the lead department fails to provide a lead, why should other departments bother?"
"This report is a rare and welcome example of independence within the machinery of Government. The fact that it is largely a chronicle of humiliating failures will come as no surprise to people who live and work in rural areas.
"This report states in black and white what rural communities have known for years: the Government has no understanding of the problems facing the countryside and no apparent desire to find out about them."
April 11 2002
GOVERNMENT POLICY FAILS RURAL PROOFING TESTCommenting on the Countryside Agency's report into Rural Proofing of Government policy, published today, Sir Edward Greenwell, President of the Country Land and Business Association said: "We congratulate the Countryside Agency on their honest and hard hitting report into the rural proofing of Government policy by Whitehall departments. Progress has started along the right lines but it is quite apparent that most departments have done little more than reach a minimal baseline and are not yet making rural considerations an integral part of policy making. It goes without saying that the real work is yet to be done. "No-one can be in any doubt now about how significant a role the countryside plays in the economic well-being of the UK and so the real questions will come next year when we shall assess whether any of the lessons of FMD have been absorbed and applied to key areas of Government policy, such as the 2002 Spending Review, and consequently whether this Government is to be taken seriously on rural issues. "The Countryside's 14 million population and half a million businesses are watching with interest."
CLA press release
April 11 2002
GOVERNMENT WILL BE SUED OVER FOOT AND MOUTH CRISIS.By Julian Whittle
Lawyers claim action could have been taken earlier.
Legal proceedings to sue the Government over its handling of the foot and mouth crisis are underway. London law firm Class Law is bringing the action on behalf of the UK Rural Business Campaign that lost money during the outbreak.
Class Law claims to have proof that the disease was prevalent long before the first case was confirmed last February, and says that officials were negligent in not acting sooner. The law firm believes that up to 50,000 businesses could be entitled to compensation. (more)
April 11 2002
Workers fear for futureMEMBERS of a 200-strong workforce whose jobs are under review have spoken of their concerns for the future. Dalehead Foods is currently reviewing the future of its factories in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket which employ a total of 227 workers. ...The factories are part of Flagship Foods, one of the country's largest pig producers, slaughterers and processors, supplying fresh meat to retailers and major manufacturers. In a statement the company said: "The UK pig industry has been through extremely difficult times in the last three years.
April 11 2002
Spanish import raises BSE fearsSpinal cord should have been removed in Spain
Material that could transmit mad cow disease has been found in beef imported from Spain, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Spinal cord - classified as a specified Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) risk material - was found as the meat was unloaded at Cumberland Meats in Coventry. ...The Meat Hygiene Service will supervise its destruction. National Farmers Union president Ben Gill was "appalled" by the discovery. He is calling on European Union vets to step up checks on export plants.
"We cannot continue to have to rely on our own authorities .....
April 11 2002
Ministers 'break' countryside promises
Protests: Ministers have faced rural pressure
The government has broken its promise to ensure that rural areas benefit from new policies, according to its advisers on the countryside. Its Rural White Paper pledged to ensure all departments would take account of the needs of those in the countryside when making policy.
"There are severe shortcomings in many departments
Ewen Cameron Countryside Agency"
Residents' fears of outbreak aftermathMany feared that carcasses would infect the area People living near an army range in mid Wales which was used for the disposal of animal carcasses during the foot-and-mouth crisis are meeting to discuss concerns about lingering pollution. Forty thousand carcasses were transported to and burnt at the Epynt military ranges in Powys at the height of the outbreak a year ago.
However, there was intense opposition in a rural area which was free of the disease. Mass protests were staged as lorries carrying the carcasses arrived and extra police drafted in. The protests attracted a heavy police presence
The original plan was to bury the slaughtered animals. But the Welsh Assembly made a policy U-turn on this, after continued demonstrations by angry residents. Some complained they had already been made ill. .... The Environment Agency later confirmed that contamination from livestock carcasess was found near the burial pit. So the disposal method was altered, and a pyre of burnt animals was alight for months. The 17,000 tonnes of ashes it created were later removed from the area in sealed containers and taken to a landfill site in England. Campaigners are now concerned that land and water sources - which are still being monitored - may have suffered lasting pollution from the carcass disposal. Gathering evidence
They are meeting on Wednesday to compile evidence for a public enquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis by the European Commission. The community is also gathering evidence into the way the police and army handled the situation. ....
April 10 2002
Farm loses meat industry backingThe undercover video showed rats in the pig feed..... The Scottish meat industry's quality assurance body has withdrawn its backing from a rat-infested pig farm in West Lothian. An investigation was launched after animal rights campaigners shot undercover video of Scotpigs' Ormiston unit near Kirknewton.
Quality Meat Scotland says it has now withdrawn permission from the piggery to sell its produce as "farm assured". One of Scotland's leading food safety experts, Professor Hugh Pennington of Aberdeen University, said the possibility of serious infection was a grave concern.
Campaigners fear pigs could pick up serious infections He was commenting after seeing pictures which the pressure group Advocates for Animals claims to have taken inside Ormiston Farm, near Kirknewton in West Lothian.
The farm is run by Scotpigs - a company set up in 1998 by north-east pig farmer Arthur Simmers. Mr Simmers was not available to speak to BBC Scotland at his farm complex at Whiterashes in Aberdeenshire - but Scotpigs financial controller Donald Repper said the accusations came as a bolt out of the blue to him. ......
The public rarely gets to see the reality of what goes on behind the closed doors of factory farms in the ever-increasing effort to produce cheap meat. ...Following an inspection of the farm, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said there were no welfare concerns for the animals .........
April 10 2002
West rides Biotech boomSHAREMARKET followers will tell you biotechnology has become the fashionable investment after the collapse of the dotcom bubble. Technicians who find new ways of helping scientists decode the mysteries of life itself stand to gain enormously. The Western Sydney Industry Awards recognise this new field of endeavour in more ways than one. The booming biotech industry in the region is being supported by the publication of BioWest - the directory of the biotechnology industry in Western Sydney. Launched last month by the Minister for Western Sydney, Kim Yeadon, the directory showcases the region's strong biotech sector for the first time. "Western Sydney has the potential to play a significant role in this world-wide industry worth more than $1 trillion," ...
April 10 2002
Farm and home waste could power 250,000 householdsFARM and household waste could produce enough electricity to power 250,000 households in Ireland, according to new claims.
Methane produced by decomposing organic matter in landfills is already being used to generate electricity for 20,000 homes and this could be increased more than tenfold with proper investment, said Paul Dykes of the Renewable Energy Information Office (REIO), a service of the government-funded Irish Energy Centre....
April 10 2002
Drop green fuel duty, say farmersBy Tom Allen-Stevens
HUNDREDS of farmers have joined a campaign to urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, to reduce the tax on green fuels.
Names and addresses of those who took part in the "Do your duty for Green Fuel" campaign in Crops magazine have been sent to Mr Brown. These went with a letter urging him to bring the duty on bio-diesel and bio-ethanol down to same level as liquified petroleum gas - 4.5ppl - in the Budget next Wednesday (17 April). "You will already be aware of the enormous environmental benefits that biofuels offer," wrote Crops editor Debbie Beaton. "They could also be a life-line for an agricultural industry that wants to be part of a greener and healthier Britain." The National Farmers' Union has also called for bio-diesel, which is made from rapeseed oil, to be exempt from duty in its Budget submission sent on Tuesday (9 April). "There is a massive opportunity in bio-diesel production and we need to take part," said NFU Oilseeds and Alternative Crops Committee Chairman Rad Thomas. "We have the land, the processors and the production capacity. All we need is the extra push from government to put us on the same footing as the rest of countries in Europe."......
April 10 2002
WHERE WAS HE WHEN CATTLE PYRES BURNED?...... The most important issue facing rural communities is reversing the downward trend in the rural economy. Such a ban will make matters worse, not better. What your reporter Emma Lister failed to ask Mr White of the International Fund for Animal Welfare was where his organisation was when they were burning cattle on the pyres near Axbridge during the footand-mouth outbreak last year.
The Bath Chronicle
Animals were starving in fields due to movement restrictions and what did IFAW do?
They went to ground.
IF AW donated £1 million to the Labour Party prior to the General Elections of 1997 and 2001 and one of their founding members is the sister of antibloodsports MP Tony Banks.
Perhaps this is why they kept silent during the foot-andmouth crisis.
It must be remembered the anti-hunting lobby linked foot and mouth into this debate by calling on DEFRA to assiduously enforce movement restrictions. Doesn't Mr White accept that he should have to fill in these movement forms and go around with his camera without impunity? Mr White, what did your organisation do to give logistical support about animal welfare during the crisis to rural communities?
While speaking on the subject of animal welfare, what is IFAW's stance on the scientific blunder last autumn that nearly resulted in the UK's entire sheep flock being 48 hours away from extermination. That would have caused massive damage to the environment as well as the animal welfare crisis that would have ensued.
Perhaps they would also like to comment on the Animal Health Bill which allows DEFRA officials to turn up at a farmer's or smallholder's and slaughter their animals purely on the basis of suspicion of having foot and mouth with the animals' owner having no right of appeal to protect them.
The animal welfare lobby must not be allowed to escape their responsibilities on the welfare crisis raised by foot and mouth with their pet subject dominating the countryside agenda at present.
Matthew Bell Address supplied
posted April 9 2002
END THIS SUFFERING
Western Daily Press (letter) 18:00 - 08 March 2002 The welcome end of the foot and mouth epidemic brings with it one real danger: the resumption of the cruel live animal export trade. The suffering of sheep and lambs in severely overcrowded trucks, often without food or water, for journeys which can last for 40 hours or more, is a practice that must never resume. Before foot and mouth the UK was exporting around 800,000 lambs and sheep a year, many being sent all the way to Italy, Greece and Spain. Many farmers are eager to return to this trade. Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) investigations have revealed that animals suffer terribly during the long journeys to southern Europe. They become increasingly dehydrated, exhausted and stressed as the journeys wear on.
Some get injured, while others collapse on the floor of the truck, where they are trampled on by their companions. In the worst cases, many die. Once in southern Europe, many British animals are killed in abattoirs using cruel and illegal slaughter methods.
The foot and mouth crisis has cost the British taxpayer at least £2.7 billion and has resulted in the death and suffering of countless animals. The legacy of this crisis should be an end to future animal suffering. I urge sheep farmers not to go back to live exports. Instead, animals should be slaughtered here in Britain with our exports being in meat form. As foot and mouth comes to an end, many people want to see farming go forward in a way which is humane and sustainable, and not be tarnished by the cruelty of live animal exports.
posted April 9 2002
A very British confusion over Scotland
The Scotsman NOTEBOOK Fordyce Maxwell
.......the consultation process for application of the EU's rural development regulation in Scotland left "several rural and environmental organisations bitter and disillusioned" and a final plan which has "a narrow scope and strongly agricultural focus".
Ward and Lowe say that even the handling in Scotland of last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic - seen by almost everyone as more efficient than in England - can be traced at least partly to the strength of representation enjoyed by farming and "the weakness of the representation of non-farming rural interests".
The control of the epidemic within three months in Scotland was also helped by being almost apolitical and "the evident knowledge within the Scottish Executive of the local complexities of Scottish agriculture compared with their counterparts in London", the report says.
Some of the report's conclusions might come as news to Scottish farmers with their inbuilt tendency to see themselves as a persecuted minority. But an outside view can be instructive. There could also be lessons for DEFRA and the Westminster government as Ward and Lowe conclude: "Devolution has brought into sharper focus the rural/agricultural version of the English question: what is English (as distinct to British) agricultural and rural policy?" They suggest that the answer to that could mean the development of a more regional English rural policy - along the lines of the Scottish model?
April 9 2002
Call for co-operation in disease outbreaksNational Farmers Union president Ben Gill has called for international co-operation to fight against diseases like foot-and-mouth. He says only "co-ordinated global scanning" could protect against the spread of major animal infections in future. Mr Gill was giving evidence to the European Parliament's special inquiry into the recent foot-and-mouth outbreak. He said: "Countries and continents need to co-operate if they are to protect themselves against diseases like foot-and-mouth in future. Diseases like this know no boundaries. He went on: "It is important that predictive modelling and surveillance is used to provide a detailed and up-to-date picture of infectious diseases around the globe as they occur and develop."
Mr Gill says the Paris-based international office of infectious diseases should be used as a co-ordination centre to ensure that countries are not caught off guard again by major disease outbreaks.
The NFU President used the inquiry to repeat calls for rapid diagnosis of suspect cases when animal diseases occur and the introduction of tried and tested contingency plans in anticipation of outbreaks.
"An immediate and effective strike is crucial in the control of a disease like foot-and-mouth. We have learnt to our cost the price of delay during the all important first stages of the fight."
The cross-party committee of Euro MPs has already taken evidence from former Agriculture Minister Nick Brown and the Government's chief veterinary officer Jim Scudamore, who have both insisted that the Government's response when the crisis broke out last year was swift and effective.
The committee has no legal powers but is expected to draw up recommendations on how to improve EU-wide handling of such diseases in future. The inquiry is expected to continue until later this year.
April 8 2002
Fight against Monsanto vaults farmer into spotlightBy KRISTA FOSS
The Globe and Mail
Monsanto did not know what it was getting into when it tried to teach Percy Schmeiser a lesson.
Two years after losing a patent dispute with the biotechnology giant, the 71-year-old grain farmer from Bruno, Sask., has taken his story -- and his message about farmers' rights -- from Brazil to Bangladesh, from Australia to Austria. ....... Farmers groups, environmentalists and United Nations policymakers all want to hear Mr. Schmeiser's tale of being taken to court over the kind of canola found growing in his fields four years ago.
Some will pay his air fare and expenses to have him tell it in person (he doesn't charge speaking fees.)
And the next time this grandfather of 14 will be back home in Saskatchewan is mid-May, when a Saskatoon judge is to hear his appeal of the March, 2000, ruling that made him an international folk hero.
"Monsanto couldn't have picked a worse person to get into a fight with," said Pat Mooney, the executive director of the Winnipeg-based technology watchdog group ETC, who has seen Mr. Schmeiser speak at international forums. "He's articulate and emotional, and he always creates a stir when he tells his story." .....
In 1998, Monsanto informed him he was infringing on their patent for a herbicide-resistant strain of canola, called Roundup Ready, because they had found it growing in his fields. He had not paid the necessary fees to cultivate it.
Mr. Schmeiser argued that the seed had blown into his field or had been dumped there by accident, and that made Monsanto's patent invalid. Monsanto wanted to settle out of court, but Mr. Schmeiser refused. A federal court judge ruled in March, 2000, that it was unlikely the patented canola ended up growing in Mr. Schmeiser's fields by accident and that he must have knowingly harvested the patented strain without informing Monsanto. "What the judgment said was it doesn't matter how Monsanto seeds get into your fields; it's their property. All the farmers' rights go out the window," Mr. Schmeiser said.
The case cost Mr. Schmeiser and his wife Louise $200,000 in legal fees. To pay, they mortgaged their land and gutted their retirement savings. But the judge also awarded costs to Monsanto, which this fall asked for nearly $1-million. "Sometimes we wake up in the middle of the night and ask ourselves, 'What did we get ourselves into? We could lose everything we worked our whole lives for,' " Mr. Schmeiser said. But rather than sit at home and fret, Mr. Schmeiser has turned himself into a global poster boy for the rights of small farmers. Through his Web site (http://www.percyschmeiser.com), which touts his story as "the classic David vs Goliath struggle," he has raised tens of thousands of dollars to pay for next month's appeal.
.... Ms. Jordan said the company is not at all worried about Mr. Schmeiser's appeal and she noted he has not paid "one cent" of the costs owed to Monsanto. But high-profile lawsuits against Monsanto are not likely to end with Mr. Schmeiser's appeal.....
April 8 2002
HORROR AT THE PIG FARMSteve Smith Exclusive
SCOTS consumers are being sold bacon from pigs reared in horrific conditions. An investigation has uncovered a stomach-churning lack of hygiene at a farm run by one of the country's biggest pork producers.
Pigs were found feasting on decaying carcasses of their own kind. And their filthy pens were over-run by rats. The appalling conditions were discovered at Ormiston Pig Farm in West Lothian. It is run by Scotpigs, one of the country's biggest pork producers.
The revelations raise serious questions of public health and safety, particularly in the wake of the BSE and foot and mouth outbreaks. And animal welfare experts say the conditions at the farm amount to one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they have come across in Scotland.
Last night, Britain's leading food safety expert Professor Hugh Pennington described conditions in the piggery as "a classic nightmare". He said the filthy conditions posed a grave risk to the human food chain, as well as to the animals involved. Professor Pennington added: "Top of my list of worries would be salmonella, which can be easily passed on to the pigs from wild animals such as rats.
"There is a real contamination issue here because anyone handling the pig carcasses could easily spread salmonella to other foods. "The workers at this unit are also at risk from diseases such as leptospirosis, which is spread from rats' urine.
"There are clearly other hazards, such as foot and mouth, the first cases of which were from a badly-run piggery. "Pigs are extremely efficient spreaders of the virus and conditions such as these could spark another outbreak." ... Scotpigs have farms across the country. The boss is Aberdeenshire-based tycoon Arthur Simmers, nicknamed the Pig King because of his massive control on pork production. ... "Any animal being kept in this type of confinement can develop strange mental disorders, which explains why they were nibbling at one of their own. "At one point there must have been about 20 rats in one of the feed bins - they weren't even scared when we approached. .......
Simmers, who lives in Whiterashes, Aberdeenshire, last night denied owning the farm. But he would not answer questions about Scotpigs, and retreated into his farmhouse, shutting the door. The dossier of information about Ormiston Pig Farm is available to police and the SSPCA. Last night SSPCA chiefs said they would hold urgent meetings with Government vets today before inspecting the piggery. Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn said: "We will be looking at the video today and would expect to be going into this piggery shortly after. "We have to get approval from Government vets, who would also take part in the inspection. ... ........ PIG king Arthur Simmers made his millions from piggeries across Scotland. A former chairman of the Scottish Pig Association, he once owned a quarter of all sows in the country. ....... he resurrected his career shortly later when he set up his new company Scotpigs - much to the outrage of his creditors. In 1995, Simmers appeared in court on charges of pig cruelty but was cleared. .........
April 8 2002
Farmers vow to bounce back from foot-and-mouth crisisFarmers in the area of Britain hardest hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis have vowed to fight back and develop their businesses, according to a new study. ........... The researchers say these findings demonstrate the farming community's collective resilience and a determination to carry on in the face of the most adverse circumstances.
After the outbreak, the Cumbrian farms forced to cull their livestock had an average shortfall of income for the year 2001-2 of £51,516 compared with the previous year. In addition to the financial worries, farmers and their families also suffered a great deal of emotional stress during the outbreak.
Dr Katy Bennett, one of the Newcastle University research team, said: "The rural economy of Cumbria was fragile before the outbreak of foot and mouth. "It is perhaps remarkable and certainly contrary to opinion and predictions expressed generally in the farming press that 63 farmers said they would continue farming; only one would definitely cease and three were unsure."
April 8 2002
Malaysia detects foot-and-mouth disease in northeastern stateKuala Lumpur, April 7 (AP)
Malaysian officials banned the movement of cattle in the northeastern state of Terengganu Sunday after detecting 30 cows infected with foot-and-mouth disease in the past week. Fhaisol Mat Amin, a spokesman for the Terengganu state Veterinary Services Department, said the ban was meant to confine the disease to the rural district of Besut, where the infections were reported. Fhaisol, quoted by the national news agency Bernama, said officials were vaccinating livestock in the affected areas against the disease. Authorities have not yet established the cause of the outbreak.
Cattle are not to be moved within the state or transported outside of it, Fhaisol said. Terengganu is about 450 kilometers northeast of Kuala Lumpur.
Officials at the veterinary department's office could not be reached for comment Sunday. Foot-and-mouth is a highly contagious viral disease that is harmless to humans but can cause lameness and weight loss in such animals as cattle, sheep and pigs and can decimate a country's livestock trade and meat exports.
April 7 2002
PROBE INTO TRAINING SCANDALAn investigation is underway into alleged fraud involving funding for meat industry training at Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology resulting in the suspension of a member of staff. The Learning Skills Council, Qualification and Curriculum Authority and Departments for Education and Skills have been investigating allegations of fraud, implicating many major processors, that could total over £500,000 It is alleged that a senior member of staff in the meat technology department at the college had been making false applications for funding in relation to the College and abattoirs in the UK. The scam involved deals with abattoir owners/managers in order to obtain funding for training, which was not carried out.
Meat trades Journals
Unconfirmed reports suggest that one major UK abattoir is alleged to have received £300,000 plus to train 92 people, when only 11 were actually trained. ......
The investigation into the College is one of 33 investigations into alleged fraud and irregularities that the LSC is currently carrying out into colleges and training bodies in all industries. Geoff Snell, head of the Special Investigations Unit at LSC said; " these alleged frauds and irregularities do involve significant amounts of money - several million pounds is at risk in the cases we are investigating at the moment, although it is impossible to give any firm figures at this stage".
April 7 2002
Inspector held over trade in tainted meatJonathan Leake, Science Editor
POLICE are investigating an alleged nationwide fraud in which meat potentially infected with BSE is said to have been illicitly sold to outlets including supermarkets. The investigation centres on allegations that officials of the government's Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) approved meat for sale when it should have been condemned because it was decomposing or banned under BSE regulations.
Last week police raided a Welsh regional office of the MHS and arrested Peter Maguigan, a meat inspector based at Oriel Jones abattoir in Llanybydder near Lampeter. He was later released on bail. Six other people were also held in raids in Wales and London. The raids are the latest in a series that have sought to target the multi-million-pound trade in recycling condemned meat back into shops. This is the first investigation to involve red meat, which may also harbour the infectious prion agents that can cause variant CJD in humans. Until now the trade was mainly thought to involve poultry.
The raids followed an earlier one on an unlicensed store in Llandre, Aberystwyth, at which 1,100 boxes each containing up to 50lb of beef or lamb were seized. The meat was apparently destined for leading retailers, but at a court hearing experts said much of it was unfit for human consumption. The court heard that the haul included dozens of boxes of beef marked as belonging to Oriel Jones. At the hearing to approve seizure, Levon Stephan, a vet and senior MHS official, said much of the meat had been deliberately mislabelled to make it appear fit for human consumption.
Detective Inspector Gareth Jones, of Dyfed-Powys police, who led the raid, said seven people had been arrested and released on bail. "This was part of a major investigation into criminal offences associated with the illegal slaughter and processing of meat," said Jones.
The Oriel Jones abattoir is one of the biggest in Wales. Its 300 staff slaughter up to 25,000 sheep a week and process a range of other meats to make burgers and sausages. Customers include Sainsbury's and Tesco.
Last week Oriel Jones, co-owner of the abattoir, confirmed that one of Maguigan's duties had been to inspect plant output. In a later statement, he insisted that no offences had taken place on his premises. A police source in Dyfed-Powys, however, said the abattoir is one of several under investigation. In February last year Oriel Jones was fined £35,000 for dumping waste in private woodland. The Welsh Environment Agency prosecuted after finding offal coating the ground and hanging off trees.
This weekend a spokesman for Tesco confirmed that Oriel Jones supplies it with sausages, burgers and other meat products.
"All products sold at Tesco must be safe and legal and any allegation that these expectations have not been met would be taken extremely seriously," he said.
Sainsbury's said Oriel Jones supplied the chain with a range of fresh lamb and lamb cuts sold under the Sainsbury's label, plus sausages sold under another brand name. A spokesman said the safety of such products "was not compromised", adding: "Oriel Jones does not supply Sainsbury's with beef products."
April 7 2002
New director for shamed animal instituteA new director has been appointed at the research institute that faced scandal three months ago when scientists investigating the risk of BSE found they had mistakenly been examining cow brains believing them to be from sheep.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council today announced the appointment of Professor Paul-Pierre Pastoret as director of the Institute for Animal Health.
In October it emerged that a four-year government-funded study at the institute into whether the national sheep flock was infected with BSE had been ruined after it was found that scientists were mistakenly examining cow brains. An investigation is now underway to discover how the mistake was made.
Officials at the BBSRC stressed, however, that today's appointment is not connected with the controversy. Professor Pastoret succeeds Professor Chris Bostock, who retires later this year.
Currently head of the Unit of Immunology-Vaccinology at the University of Liege, Belgium, Professor Pastoret specialises in viral diseases and immunology and vaccination. He has been closely involved in the development of effective strategies for rabies control on the continent. He is an invited expert on many international bodies, and is a member of the Board of the International Livestock Research Institute, Nairobi, with which the IAH has extensive links as part of its work on exotic diseases. The 55-year-old is also familiar both with the research and organisation of IAH, having served on an independent assessment panel of IAH operations.
"This is an excellent appointment for the institute and for UK animal disease research generally," said the BBSRC chief executive, Professor Julia Goodfellow. "The UK faces many serious issues about livestock vaccination, diseases that can be spread from livestock and wild animals to humans, and the role of wild animals in spreading diseases such as bovine TB. I can think of no one more appropriate to take over the leadership of the Institute for Animal Health at this time."
posted April 6 02
Nick Utting's Speech From the PENRITH HERALD.....record attendance at the meeting of the Probus Club of Penrith and District, held at the Roundthorn Country House Hotel, Penrith. The chairman, Mr. W Quick, welcomed 50 members and guests who had come not only to partake of the food and fellowship, but also to listen to the guest speaker, Nick Utting secretary of the National Farmers union of North Cumbria, whose subject was "Foot and Mouth Disaster".
Mr. Utting looked back to 12 months ago when the disease first struck, affecting Northumberland, Essex, Devon and, worst of all in the number of cases, Cumbria. He displayed a map of Cumbria and southern Scotland showing every case up to its maximum spread by midsummer last year. The disease spread with great rapidity across North Cumbria, creating the notorious hotspot of the "Penrith triangle", many farmers having just bought stock from Longtown mart.
It had been forgotten how quickly infection spreads. There was no plan or strategy to get on top of the spread, he said.
No lists were available of vets, slaughterers, hauliers and waggoners. Information from the earlier outbreaks held on file were gathering dust in Whitehall - never having been updated or checked every month as they should have been. Instead of outbreaks being dealt with in 24 hours and neighbours farms within 48 hours, vets initially had to send tests away to London, sometimes taking three to four days to get confirmation for culling the animals. So the horror unfolded and the human trauma with it. Crisis point was reached - the NFU councils, emergency services and communications all offered help, but MAFF stated that it could cope.
The London civil services were imposing their authority, not allowing slaughter and carcasses to be moved. He said the response was disastrously slow. Local MPs could not even get the interest of the politicians, but the press did and soon, nationally and throughout the world, pictures recording the holocaust appeared, belying the claim that "the outbreak is under control!". Eventually, the Prime Minister visited Carlisle on 20th March and was told what was needed. .....
April 6 02
Gill faces Brussels virus probeBy Adrienne Francis
NATIONAL Farmers' Union president Ben Gill is preparing to give evidence to a European Parliament inquiry into Britain's foot-and-mouth disease. The temporary committee, set up in Brussels to learn the lessons of the crisis, will hold an open session in Strasbourg on Monday (8 April). "The Temporary Committee has stated clearly its intention to establish the truth regarding many issues that have achieved much publicity in the last 12 months," said Mr Gill. "I welcome this. But this must be based on fact and reality and not on the wishes or unrealistic expectations of one sector or another."
Mr Gill is expected to be critical of research and development budgets and press for an increase to this funding along with more research on vaccination, said an NFU spokeswoman. .......
The European Parliament committee is expected to sit for a year.
April 4 02
The vote in the House of Lords for Lord Moran's amendment on the Animal Health Bill was a wonderful victory for common sense and good governance.All of us who live and work in the countryside owe the noble lords a great debt of gratitude. I attended the debate in the Chamber, and sensed the swell of support for the motion as the debate went on.
Letter in the Western Morning News
It came from all quarters within the House, including two bishops. It is dishonest of Lord Witty to try to lay the blame for his defeat on errant hereditary peers smarting from a defeat on hunting last week.
Firstly, I didn't notice any defeat in the Lords last week . They voted for what they wanted.
Secondly, it was Labour which put on a three-line whip for the vote on the Animal Health Bill, whereas those supporing Lord Moran were under no whip. It was Labour which wheeled in a whole bevy of cronies who contribued nothing to the discussion.
What I attended was called a debate. If the Minister wanted to win it, he needed to produce arguments and to get his supporters to do likewise.
Almost without exception, every conribution which I heard was in favour of Lord Moran's amendment.
If the Government had any arguments to put in favour of the Bill, why did no one put them? So it is the Government and not the hereditary peers, who should be criticised. Who were these 123 silent dummies who mindlessly went out to vote for a Bill which has no place on the statute books of any free country.
So I will tell Lord Witty what he can do with his pernicious little Bill. It needs only one futher, very small, amendment to clause 87(2)(a) of the Animal Health Act 1981 by the deletion of "except man". Then it should be sent to Roberty Mugabe. If passed into law in Zimbabwe, it would give full legal powers for everything that Mugabe and this thugs are doing to the farmers there, including killing them. ......
April 5 02
Gill claims vaccination victory 'We won the argument and have been proved correct'by Alistair Driver
BEN Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, has defended his controversial role in preventing animals being vaccinated against foot--and-mouth disease, ahead of his appearance at the European Parliament's inquiry into the crisis. Mr Gill, who will give evidence in Strasbourg, on Monday, claims he won a major victory for farm ers by changing the Government's mind about vaccination. The controversy over the sub ject has refused to die down a year on from when it split the farming community down the middle and evidence now being given to the various foot and mouth inquiries is bringing it to the fore again.....He said vaccination would have created a two tier market in the UK as retailers would have labeled vaccinated products. There were also unanswered questions about the effectiveness of the policy on disease control. ........
, Helen O'Hare, a temporary vet erinary inspector during the crisis, said the NFU did not represent the majority of farmers and were not experts at disease control. Writing on the Warmwell website, she also attacked the excuse that a two tier domestic market would have developed, claiming the consumer already buys vaccinated meat and EU money was available to offset losses. Countering other reasons put forward by the Government for not vaccinating, she said "There were enough vaccines available and blanket vaccination would have eliminated the disease within one month. There is no scientific reason for a 12 month ban on exports following vaccination and the EU could end all financial penalties of using vaccination at a stroke."
April 5 02
No sign of BSE in doomed water buffalo Tests on destroyed bull find no mad-cow disease as pair work to save herdVICTORIA -- The first of Darrel and Anthea Archer's 18 water buffalo to be destroyed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has tested negative for mad-cow disease.
Bond, the herd's gentle bull, was euthanized Feb. 21 at Fairburn Farm in the Cowichan Valley, then shipped to a provincial laboratory in Abbotsford where brain samples were taken.
From there, the tissue was delivered to a state-of-the-art federal lab in Winnipeg for weeks of tests for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
The negative results were revealed to the Archers just days before the next three water buffalo to be destroyed were picked up yesterday.
"People say it's good news. Well, we knew what the results would be," said Anthea Archer. "That makes this whole thing a horrendous witch hunt.".....
April 4 02
F&M committee's soft on witnessesEuro-MPs Investigating last year's foot-and-mouth crisis held their first two full sessions In Brussels last week. Their aim is to learn the lessons and recommend Improvements. But, as Europe editor Philip Clarke explains, the key witnesses got off lightly
The European Parliament's temporary committee into foot-and-mouth, set up to assess the EU's and UK's handling of the crisis, has been heralded as the next best thing to a full public inquiry.
Despite its inability to legislate, or even compel witnesses to attend, it is at least independent and is holding every meeting in the full glare of the media. But after the first two days of deliberation, doubts are emerging as to its likely effectiveness. It was as if the three star wit-nesses, former UK farm minister Nick Brown, EU food safety commissioner, David Byrne, and UK chief vet, Jim Scudamore, had met in private beforehand to confirm their stories. There was little to suggest that the authorities' handling of the crisis had been anything other than a total triumph........
...And Mr Scudamore admitted that the three-day delay from the discovery of the first case to the imposition of the total move-ment ban had made things worse. But generally the British government did a pretty good job.
That is far from the experience of those at the sharp end the farmers, slaughterers and hauliers. The inexcusable lack of controls at airports, the lamentable delays in calling on the army's expertise in logistical management, the horrendous welfare abuses by over-stretched slaughtermen, the unacceptable hold-ups in removing week-old rotting carcasses from farms for disposal. Sitting in the plush surroundings of the European Parliament's debating chamber, it was all too easy to forget these harsh realities. ......
April 5 02
Kansas Wants Probe of Cattle RumorBy John Milburn Associated Press Writer
TOPEKA, Kan. The state attorney general is asking federal regulators to investigate last month's unfounded rumor of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in cattle in northeast Kansas
. The rumor was blamed for a steep decline in prices of cattle and beef products that was estimated to have cost the industry as much as $50 million.
State attorney general Carla Stovall said Thursday that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has jurisdiction over cases involving allegations of price manipulation.
She said she sent a letter to CFTC chairman James Newsome in Washington, saying that because of the commission's "exclusive" jurisdiction, "We are unable to conduct our own investigation and prosecution."
On March 12, a rumor that nine cows at the Holton Livestock Market were infected with foot-and-mouth disease spread quickly throughout the Midwest and to the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where livestock futures contracts are traded.Analysts estimate that the rumor cost the industry as much as $50 million nationwide after prices dropped $1.50 per hundredweight for market cattle. Prices later rebounded.
CFTC spokesman Alan Sobba said Thursday that Kansas' request follows similar calls for an investigation from several states, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and other interested parties.
He said investigators are building a timeline, comparing events to March commodity prices. Details of the probe are expected to be released April 19 when the cattlemen's association meets in Washington....
April 5 02
From the Countryside Alliance Rural Round UpEUROPEAN FOOT AND MOUTH INQUIRY - The European Commission is poised to reject a government claim for £750m compensation towards the multibillion pound cost of foot and mouth disease in Britain. A week after DEFRA admitted that its predecessor (MAFF) mishandled aspects of the crisis, the commission is asking why Britain's bill is considerably more than that of the Netherlands, which contracted the disease around the same time. With questions about the handling of the seven-month epidemic unanswered, the commission is considering cutting Britain's compensation by £300m to £450m. While the amount is relatively small, the commission's reasoning will strengthen claims that MAFF and Downing Street paid huge sums in an attempt to "bury" the disease, with over-generous payments at a politically sensitive time. The inquiries from Brussels will raise further questions at the "lessons to be learned" hearing into the crisis, being undertaken for the government under the chairmanship of Prof. Iain Anderson. The government has already said that, in the event of another outbreak, it would not dispose of animals with mass pyres, nor close down the countryside in an attempt to halt the disease.
EURO MP'S TO VISIT UK FOR FOOT-AND-MOUTH INQUIRY - Euro MPs investigating last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak are to visit the UK as part of their inquiry. About 40 members of the European Parliament will spend three days visiting farms and markets in Scotland, Northumbria and Cumbria to examine how the crisis was managed. One of the aims of the visit between April 17 and 20 is "to learn from affected individuals who do not normally have the chance to be heard". The MEPs are spending a year drawing up recommendations for EU governments on how such outbreaks can be prevented or tackled more effectively in future.
posted April 5 02
Planning threat to weekend rentsFARMERS could lose out on a valuable source of extra income under new government proposals, warns one Midlands-based weekend market organiser. Many farmers benefit from renting out land for weekend markets or car boot sales which, under current regulations, do not require planning permission as long as no more than 14 are hosted per year. But the organiser, who did not want to be named for fear of a backlash from planning authorities, reckons this exemption could be under threat. He believes all future events, including clay pigeon shoots and motor cycle races, will require permission, something he fears planners are unlikely to grant. .......
April 4 02
Milk price cuts 'inevitable'By Robert Harris
MILK cheques are set to shrink for April deliveries and beyond as the spring flush kicks in and markets remain under pressure. Co-ops were concluding talks with buyers this week, but all said sizeable ex-farm price cuts were inevitable. They have already reduced levels by 1-2ppl since January and further cuts of 1.5-2ppl are likely.
Few processors have showed their hand, either. But Robert Wiseman Dairies will lop 1.67p off a standard litre from 1 April. This follows the firm's 0.6ppl price cut last month and takes the farmers weekly standard litre price (4.1% butterfat, 3.3% protein, top hygiene bands, 1101 litres/day) to 18-18.1p, depending on area. Pete Nicholson, director of procurement, said: "We deeply regret this price cut, but we cannot ignore market conditions. "The slump in the commodity market started in the middle of 2001 and is being perpetuated by increased milk production and the strength of Sterling against the Euro, which is making milk from the UK uncompetitive." Farmer-owned First Milk wrote to its members today (Friday) and is understood to be cutting prices by 1.4-1.7ppl, a near repeat of its January reductions. Milk Link, Zenith, Express, United Milk and the Milk Group are also due to announce lower milk prices.
April 4 02
Growers face manure rulesBy Isabel Davies
GROWERS are being asked to stop spreading fresh manure on fields for six months before a crop is harvested in an effort to protect consumers from food bugs. The Food Standards Agency has issued draft guidance which says salad and soft- fruit growers should manage farm manure to improve food safety. Potentially lethal bugs such as E.coli and salmonella are in manure and salad, vegetable and fruit crops are often eaten without being cooked first, it said. The planned guidelines, which are out for consultation until 14 June, were drafted by representatives from government and the food and farming industries. ....
April 4 02
Lancet report backs sheep dip campaignFordyce Maxwell Rural Affairs Editor
A REPORT published in the Lancet last month concluded: "Our results support the hypothesis that organophosphates contribute to the reported ill health of people who dip sheep."
Some campaigners against OP dips, such as Brenda Sutcliffe and Brian Anderson, have never doubted that. They have argued for years against what they see as a medical, veterinary and health and safety establishment agog with apathy. ......
April 4 02
Labour's rural retreat over mishandled epidemicMagnus Linklater
Ministers' failure to take any blame for foot-and-mouth has enraged farmers ...... The lamb was frisky and fluffy, and seemingly unembarrassed by its pedigree. At least this time we were able to watch its early stumblings without the fear and foreboding that gripped us last year, when foot-and-mouth disease was rampant, the farms reeked of disinfectant, and the men in white coats, with slaughter in mind, were never far away.
On the surface, the countryside has made a remarkable recovery. You still see empty fields, particularly in Cumbria, Dumfriesshire and parts of Northumberland, where farmers have sold up or not yet cleared the paperwork for restocking; there are gates that stay locked, as much from superstition as from any real threat that the disease will soon return.
But for the most part, what comes across to visitors is a passable impression of normality. Farmers who lost their animals have begun replacing them, prices are climbing again, and the tourists are trickling back. If the state of the roads over Easter is anything to go by, the lure of the countryside in spring is as strong as ever.
You cannot, however, so easily plaster over the trauma of mass slaughter, or heal the wounds with a fat cheque for compensation. There is still enormous bitterness among those who lost healthy animals - unnecessarily, as it now emerges. There is deep resentment against a Government which chooses to blame farmers for what happened, rather than acknowledge its own inadequacies. And there is little confidence that it has learnt any serious lessons from the mistakes made last time - the failure to control imports of infected meat, the desperate slowness to react, and the use of funeral pyres belching out black smoke over the countryside, which brought tourism to its knees and cost billions of pounds in lost revenue.
The recent contingency plan, announced by Defra, the department which will again be in charge if an outbreak occurs, shows that next time the same tactics would be used, up to and including the infamous 3km contiguous cull, which accounted for the bulk of the slaughter - despite evidence that more than 80 per cent of all animals killed under that edict were disease-free.
Great political disasters usually have one redeeming quality - they usher in change. This one has had the opposite effect: it has reinforced the status quo. The only piece of legislation so far introduced - the Animal Health Bill, which was rejected in the Lords last month but will doubtless reappear in another form - would give the much-criticised officials of Defra the right to enter farms and slaughter animals at will, depriving farmers of any legal redress. This, according to Lord Whitty, who proposed the Bill in the Lords, is because "the main reasons for delay were resistance to the contiguous cull . . . and poor bio-security". This is not only unfair to farmers, it is untrue. The department's own survey showed that only 7 per cent of outbreaks resulted from serious lapses of security.
This assessment also ignores Defra's own mistakes. The various inquiries into foot-and-mouth being held up and down the country have heard scandalous stories of what happened on the ground in the course of the epidemic. Dr Iain Anderson, who is conducting one investigation, recently encountered an emotional crowd of local farmers at Carlisle who left him in no doubt about the "anger and disgust" they felt at what they described as the "breathtaking incompetence" of Defra officials. The most frequently voiced complaint has been about the run-down of the national veterinary service. Despite a reassurance from the Prime Minister that there is no shortage of vets in Britain, the epidemic revealed the service's total inadequacy. Nearly 500 foreign vets had to be imported to help with the outbreak, some of them barely able to speak English.
Confidence in the Government's position took a further knock last month when Nick Brown, who was Agriculture Secretary during the epidemic, gave evidence to the European Parliament's inquiry into foot-and-mouth, and found himself accused of "selective amnesia". The inquiry's vice-president said that he had turned "evasion and ambiguity into an art form". This charge revolved around his explanation of why, despite all its obvious advantages, the Government still refused to countenance vaccination.
Mr Brown said that the main reason against it was the resistance of the farmers, and the absence of sufficient doses of the vaccine. It now appears not only that there were five million doses available, but that the farmers were kept in ignorance of a fairly crucial piece of information: under a European directive, they were entitled to compensation for any losses incurred through vaccination. Since their principal objection was fear of losing their export market, this disclosure might have played a vital role in changing attitudes, winning them round to vaccination, and thus bringing the disease to a far earlier conclusion. It is the gradual emergence of evidence like this which is eroding confidence among farmers. Ministers should realise that if the worst comes to the worst, and foot-and-mouth breaks out again, they will need the farmers as allies, not enemies. It is time that the whole truth about this epidemic was placed on the record, and the Government accepted responsibility for what happened, rather than taking every opportunity of shifting the blame elsewhere. Contribute to Debate via Comment@thetimes.co.uk
April 4 02
POLICE STATE, UK Britain's Lords kill 'Animal Death Bill' Legislation would have given government unprecedented powerBy Sarah Foster ) 2002 WorldNetDaily.com
World Net Daily
In a stunning move that caught its proponents completely off-guard, Britain's House of Lords has blocked a major power grab on the part of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor government by rejecting a bill that would have granted unprecedented powers of entry and slaughter to ministry officials in the name of curbing animal diseases.
On a vote of 130 to 124, the peers March 26 derailed the Animal Health (Amendment) Bill, which was on the final leg of its journey through Parliament. The action gives the opposition some breathing space and a chance to regroup while awaiting its certain return. .....
Had it passed, farmers, pet owners and owners of animal refuges in England and Wales would be blocked from mounting challenges against actions by DEFRA inspectors, as many did successfully last year. Owners of animals would not be able to appeal until the slaughter had taken place, and then essentially only to haggle over the amount of compensation. Not only would it be a crime to resist, but simply refusing to help inspectors carry out orders would be a criminal offense carrying a six-month prison sentence. Organizing and participating in on-site protests and demonstrations would be criminalized as well. Few outside the government heralded the legislation, which was roundly condemned by lawyers, columnists, farmers, owners of animal refuges and pet owners.
Barbara Jordan, a solicitor with the Bristol law firm of Jordan and Jordan, in Gloucestershire, had a number of clients who were sheep owners whose animals were spared slaughter thanks to her efforts. To her, the bill was simply an attempt to legitimize actions that weren't lawful in the first place and, under the mantra of "emergency," to acquire powers that deprive farmers of rights. ........
April 4 02
Brussels uses internet to do down the UKIPTHE European Union - annual cost to the British taxpayer: £25 billion - employs 23,000 civil servants at the European Commission. But what do all these pen-pushers actually do? I can reveal that, inter alia, the Eurocrats devote a sizeable chunk of their time to blackguarding the views of British Euro-sceptics.
The UK Independence Party's internet discussion forum, at www.independenceuk.org.uk, presently includes a bevy of colourful postings abusing the UKIP. A typical one asks party members: "Do you get jackboots with your uniforms?"
Amazingly, Peterborough has traced all these postings to an EC office address: the Commission of the European Communities, Batiment Jean Monnet, Plateau de Kirchberg, Luxembourg.
Nigel Farage, one of the UKIP's three MEPs, says: "This is clearly a concerted attempt by the EC to suppress our arguments and shut us up. They must be worried. They jolly well ought to be."
Efforts to call the Batiment Jean Monnet meet with limited success. An answering machine message informs me (in French) that, since it is Easter, its offices are shut for a week.
posted April 4 02
Indian farmers oppose UK aid plan Its supporters say Vision 2020 will eradicate poverty: Its critics say it will worsen itBy Alex Kirby
Six Indian farmers are in the UK to urge the Government not to support a radical farm restructuring plan. They are visiting the Department for International Development (DFID), asking to see the Development Secretary, Clare Short, to make their case. They say DFID has promised £65m ($93.5m) for the plan, called Vision 2020. But DFID says it has made no specific promises, and there is no formal plan.
A DFID spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "We are giving the state of Andhra Pradesh £65m for poverty reduction, but it is not tied to Vision 2020. "And it is wrong to call it a plan anyway. It's just a consultation document, covering sectors like health, education and employment as well as farming." ....
April 4 02
Calls for farm rent cuts increaseA CALL for a more even handed approach to fixing or amending farm rents, particularly in Scotland, has been called for by the Tenant Farmers Association. Almost on the brink of new Scottish Agricultural holdings legislation, it has pointed out that recent rent reviews in England and Wales have seen rates cut by 10-15 per cent compared to a standstill in Scotland.
This follows a further massive cut in farm earnings in the past year, largely due to the foot-and-mouth epidemic, with total farm income falling to around 30 per cent of its 1995 level. ....
April 3 02
Paper speaks out on GM riskTHE risk posed by genetically engineered crops will be hard to predict, according to an editorial in the Financial Times. European politicians and scientists have failed to allay concerns over unsubstantiated health fears that the technology has sparked, the paper says. But Indias decision to approve the use of GM cotton reflects growing confidence in emerging markets that the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks, it adds. Brazil could follow suit within weeks if its federal appeal court lifts a ban on genetically engineered soya beans, the editorial continues. India and Brazil have been the biggest stand-outs against agricultural biotechnology, which has already been adopted by other developing countries such as China and Argentina. Developing countries approving GM crops must create effective regulatory institutions to ensure benefits are not eclipsed by environmental consequences, the paper says. There are three environmental concerns about genetically modified organisms that raise issues for the scientific community and those countries approving their use.
First, biotech crops require careful field trials to avoid impacting on biodiversity when introduced into new environments.
Second is the risk consequence of genetically modified crops interacting with other plants.
The third consequence is the emergence of super-weeds resistant to GM genes. If farmers were forced to use more pesticide against super-weeds, it would undermine the environmental benefit of growing genetically engineered crops, the paper says. Management techniques to prevent the emergence of resistant pests require vigilance by farmers and careful monitoring by regulators, the FT says.
posted April 3 02
GM firms kiss and make upTWO leading international chemical companies have agreed to bury the hatchet and work together to produce genetically modified seeds for farmers, reports the Financial Times. Previously rivals in the making of GM seeds, Du Pont and Monsanto have licenced each others biotechnology to make corn, canola (rapeseed) and soyabeans.
The collaboration comes as the tide may be turning in favour of GM seeds outside the USA, following India's approval of the use of Monsanto GM cotton last month, the FT reports. DuPont and Monsanto have been involved in long-running legal battles against one another over seed technology patent infringements. But all pending lawsuits between the two companies have been dropped, patent disputes resolved and a battle over experimenting with technology such as germplasm ended.
William Fiala, of the analyst company Edward Jones, in St Louis said the agreement would shift the two companies focus from the courtroom to the farmer.
Key elements of the deal mean that Du Ponts Pioneer unit will receive a licence for Monsantos Roundup Ready soyabeans and canola.
April 3 02
France to spend 10 bln euros on boosting wind powerFRANCE: April 3, 2002
PARIS - France, a European wind power laggard, said yesterday it planned to invest 10 billion euros ($8.81 billion) to build 10,000 megawatts of wind generating capacity by 2010 to boost its dependence on renewable energy. France wants to increase its renewable energy sources to 21 percent of total demand in 2010 from the current 15 percent, mainly by tapping wind power, Industry Minister Christian Pierret told a conference. "Wind power will be the largest contributer to this growth, because it has great potential in France," Pierret said.
"It is reasonable to estimate 20 to 30 terawatt hours (TWh) of windpower will be required to keep to our (European Union) commitments, which means about 10 MW of installed capacity or 10 billion euros of investments," he added. France is hosting a global conference this week on wind power, a growing source of clean energy, amid fears of continued high oil prices and international concern about so-called greenhouse emissions blamed for warming the atmosphere.
The conference comes on the heels of tension within France's centre-left ruling coalition over the place of nuclear power in supplying the country's energy needs, less than three weeks ahead of elections. Although Europe's top electricity exporter, France is still only the region's fourth smallest generator of wind power since it currently relies on nuclear reactors to supply nearly 80 percent of its needs.
By the end of last year, France had 78 MW of wind power generation, just a fraction of Europe's wind powerhouse Germany with 8,754 MW of windpower capacity.
Wind power is also a tiny part of France's total generating capacity of 115,000 MW, with the rest of its renewable energy supplies coming from hydroelectric dams. By contrast, one single nuclear reactor produces 1,000 MW. To allay fears that wind farms can be an eyesore, France says it is planning to develop wind farms offshore. For now its wind farms are all on dry land.....
April 3 02
India plans 6,000 MW wind power in next 10 yearsPARIS - India said yesterday it plans to produce 6,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from private investment in wind power in the next 10 years with the help of a new electricity law. "The industry is facing some problems because the states have different policies and the government policy is not correctly followed by the states," M. Kannappan, India's minister of non-conventional energy resources, told Reuters on the sidelines of a wind power conference in Paris. "To make it mandatory, we are planning to bring out a new electricity act to have uniform participation by all states. It will make investment a lot easier," he said, adding that the bill was being considered by an expert committee.
Investment in India, which opened up its power sector to foreign investors in the early 1990s, has been overshadowed by a dispute between its biggest foreign direct investor, collapsed U.S. power group Enron Corp, and a local state utility. To attract 100 percent private investment in renewable energy, including wind power, the government is offering policy and fiscal incentives such as soft loans, concessional rates of customs duty, exemption from excise duty and sales tax, income tax benefits and accelerated depreciation, Kannappan said. India is implementing one of the world's largest renewable energy programmes and has installed over 3,400 MW of capacity based on renewable energy, including wind, solar, biomass and small hydropower plants.
It plans to boost this clean energy production by 10,000 MW by 2012, mainly by tapping the wind, Kannappan said. India is already the fifth largest wind power producer in the world, with over 1,500 MW of capacity, but it is looking to expand output by 6,000 MW, especially for remote villages where the costs of linking up to a grid would be too expensive. "In India, the planning strategy has to be different from the industrialised world," Kannappan said.
Investment in existing wind farms has been limited to local investors, but Kannappan remained optimistic on his country's potential for foreign investors. "We will not wait for you to come and invest, but we expect foreign investors to come in because there are good returns and it is good for them too," he said.
April 3 02
American pets to be given passportsBy Cahal Milmo
....... The Government confirmed yesterday it was preparing to remove quarantine restrictions on bringing pets from North America to Britain after years of diplomatic pressure from Washington. Ministers are studying two reports that suggest the "pet passports" scheme for the European Union and rabies-free countries could be safely extended to America and Canada.
The move will be welcomed by the 300,000 Americans, including military personnel, living in Britain. Some diplomats were reportedly turning down postings because of the trauma of separation from pets.
The campaign to change Britain's stringent quarantine laws has attracted several high-profile supporters from pet-loving transatlantic glitterati such as Sting, Elton John, Liz Hurley and David Hockney. Chief among them was Elizabeth Taylor, who considered pulling out of her investiture as a Dame at Buckingham Palace in 2000 when she was told her Maltese terrier could not attend
....An extension of the travel scheme to North America was expected to be put forward last year but the foot-and-mouth outbreak caused a delay in the plans. Elliot Morley, the animal health minister, is now consulting other government departments on whether it is safe to include America - which still has rabies - in the scheme. A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "This is not something we have taken a firm decision on but we hope we will be able to, eventually, extend the scheme to North America.....
April 3 02
Japanese scandals rich pickings for organic exportersBy Tim Large
Organic food has long had a bad rap in Japan, where polished apples and flawless melons wrapped in ribbons adorn supermarket shelves.
Such perfect bounty, grown with agrichemicals and pesticides, is notoriously pricey. If an exquisite cantaloupe costs $20, why pay even more for the gnarly organic version?
Until recently, few did. But thanks to a string of health scares and mislabelling scandals that have gnawed away at confidence in "conventional" produce, the world's most finicky food market is getting back to basics. Sniffing big opportunities in Japan's long-cosseted agricultural sector, foreign exporters in particular are finding it pays to ditch the chemicals.
"Organic vegetables aren't at all popular at home," said Thai farmer Sermpong Taptipakorn, who grows spinach, onions, edible burdoch and Japanese radishes in the rolling hills near Thailand's northern city of Chiangmai.
"But demand in Japan looks set to take off, so I switched my fields over."
Government braced for reportTHE government is bracing itself for a highly critical report from the "Lessons Learned" inquiry into last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic.
Soldiers and police officers will be drafted in from day one of a future outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, report two national papers. Ministers admit that the government made a mistake not using the armed forces earlier in last year's epidemic, reports the Financial Times. A senior minister told The Independent that Iain Anderson, chairman of the "Lessons Learned" inquiry into the outbreak, is very interested in command and control. "He thinks we should have brought the army and police in on day one," the paper quotes the un-named minister as saying. Dr Andersons inquiry is expected to conclude that the failure to send in troops earlier was one of the governments biggest mistakes, reports the paper.
The action plan is a "tacit admission" that government did not act decisively last year to combat the spread of the infectious disease, it adds. Army personnel and police officers would receive training in the handling of future animal disease emergency, under the proposed plans, the paper says.
April 2 02
Plea for freer non-EU labourA RADICAL overhaul of the work permit system for labour from outside the EU is needed, say growers and the NFU.
Many sectors of agriculture in the UK are suffering due to a lack of workers at key periods throughout the season. The latest to be hit are daffodil producers in the south-west of the country.
Up to one-third of the crop has gone to waste because labour was not available to pick it, leading to an estimated £3m loss. Jim Hosking, who farms 51ha (125 acres) of the flowers in Cornwall, said that under the current system most non-EU workers were only available after May. "Our needs peak in February, we can suddenly require up to 5000 people, so the system definitely needs to be more flexible."......
April 2 02
Birds reared in 'hothouse hell'(see also opinion poll on this page)
ANIMAL rights campaigners have accused chicken producers of rearing birds in a "hothouse hell, lame, in pain and dying", reports the Daily Mail. A full-page story in the paper on Tuesday (2 April), features stills from a film by showing crowded chicken sheds with dead birds alongside live birds. "The images are truly appalling - scenes of pain, cruelty and death which are certain to provoke new outrage over factory farming techniques in Britains food industry," it reports. ......
April 2 02
DISASTROUS HANDLING OF EPIDEMICTHE handling of the foot-and-mouth outbreak was a disaster. The government failed completely to take appropriate action to control and eradicate the disease. As a result the farming and tourism industries in Cumbria were devastated.
North West Evening Mail
One of the neutered inquiries that the government set up to investigate the outbreak has now submitted a report and its conclusions beggar belief. The report contains a comment that "one of the leading lessons to be learned from the foot-and-mouth crisis was that it needed to improve the spin placed on negative stories". Government ministers have jumped on the bandwagon to put the best possible spin on their handling of the crisis.
Farming minister Lord Whitty is reported to have said that ministers had acted promptly to control and eradicate the disease and had shown great leadership. Elsewhere he is reported as stating that the government had handled the crisis successfully.
If the government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis was a success perhaps someone would tell me what they consider would be a failure.
April 2 02
Welsh fight wind farms plan for mountainsBy Chris Gray
For the pioneering ecologist Sir George Stapledon, the "shapely outline" of the Cambrian Mountains was of such beauty that any intervention by man would constitute a criminal offence.
The peaks of mid-Wales were to him the perfect location to site Britain's first National Park, an idea of combining conservation and development that Sir George was energetically promoting in 1935.
His view was shared by the Countryside Commission in 1972, when it designated the Cambrians a National Park, stating that the rolling moorlands, wooded valleys and gorges were some of "the loveliest" in the country, "equal in beauty to existing national parks" and embodying the "spirit of Wales".
But the commission's designation never achieved government confirmation and, 30 years later, Britain's "forgotten National Park" is facing development plans that would have infuriated Sir George.
The Council for Protection of Rural Wales says the suggestion that the Cambrians should be used for two of the biggest wind farms built in Britain, one the largest in Europe, is "a declaration of war" on the mountains.
The first proposal, which came from an Enron subsidiary, Enron Wind, was for 39 turbines, each 100ft high, at Cefn Croes, below Plynlimon mountain. It was given provisional government approval in what the Bishop of Hereford, John Oliver - the Church of England's environment spokes-man and a man not noted for resorting to hyperbole - called an act of vandalism equivalent to the Taliban's destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan.........
April 2 02
Army will tackle future foot-and-mouth outbreaks from first detectionBy Nigel Morris Political Correspondent 02 April 2002 The army and police will be drafted in from day one of any future foot-and-mouth epidemic under plans being drawn up by ministers.
The action plan is a tacit admission that the Government did not act decisively enough last year to combat the spread of the highly infectious virus.
Ministers waited a month after the disease was detected at Brentwood, Essex, before calling in army reinforcements. They said later they were impressed by the speed and expertise of the military response in the foot-and-mouth hotspots of Cumbria and Devon.
The Government is bracing itself for a highly critical report from an inquiry chaired by the microbiologist Iain Anderson, into the lessons learnt from the handing of the outbreak. His inquiry is expected to conclude that the failure to send in troops earlier was one of the Government's biggest mistakes.
A senior minister told The Independent: "Anderson is very interested in command and control. He thinks we should have brought the army and police in on day one." The minister added that the Government was coming round to this point of view.
The plan means that some army personnel and police officers would receive training in the handling of a future animal disease emergency.
Ministers have also been impressed by the example of Australia, which has recently drawn up the world's toughest contingency plans for a foot-and-mouth outbreak. Under its proposals, army and police officers would be called in within hours of a case being confirmed.
Although the Government has admitted to some errors in its response to foot-and-mouth, it had not until now conceded the need for a co-ordinated military and police response.
In a submission to the Anderson inquiry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs side-stepped the issue of whether the army should have been involved earlier.
It acknowledged the army's "logistical and organisational skills" were vital for combating the spread of the disease. "The armed forces brought logistical experience and capacity to foot-and-mouth disease control and was invaluable in many areas, for example organisation on the ground in clearing the disposal backlog," it added.
In the submission the Government said that, in retrospect, it regretted not stopping all animal movements once the disease had been found. It also conceded a mistake in shutting all rural footpaths, a move that sent a highly damaging message to potential visitors.
During the crisis, about 6.5 million animals were destroyed. The eventual £3bn bill is likely to be condemned by the European Union when it con-siders a £750m compensation request from the Government.
April 2 02
Forests to become friendlier to combat 'Blair Witch' effectThe Forestry Commission is brightening up its forests because it thinks people are scared by dark woods. It's likely to mean the appearance of cleared paths, neatly manicured glens and strategically placed water features. Psychologists have told the commission that folklore, fairytales and films like the Blair Witch Project were causing tourists to steer clear of woods.
The Times says one of the first woodland makeovers, at Grizedale Forest in the Lake District, will create wider paths, provide more information boards and clear large areas of trees.
John White, a tree expert and former researcher for the commission, told the paper: "Unless they are extremely careful, pouring millions of visitors into these forests will destroy the very natural beauty they are trying to publicise."
James Swabey, recreation manager for the Forestry Commission in England said: "We have started developing more areas where people can feel safe, with dappled shade and open areas where flowers such as bluebells can spread.
"To lessen people's fear from things such as The Blair Witch Project we have set up an education programme to introduce children, particularly those not used to playing unsupervised, to the forest." A team of psychologists from St Andrews University, led by Professor Terence Lee, said more than 25% of the 800 people they interviewed said they felt vulnerable in forests. Women feared getting lost and stayed near the entrance.
He says many people perceive forests as dense, dark and dangerous.
He said: "It goes back to our childhood and the fact that people are brought up on Hansel and Gretel and Babes in the Wood. People are genuinely terrified of getting lost."
April 1 02
Brussels steps up scrutiny of foot and mouth claimsPeter Hetherington
Britain's handling of last year's foot and mouth crisis is facing further questioning by the European commission, with officials poised to reject a government claim for £750m compensation towards the multibillion pound cost. A week after the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs admitted that its predecessor (the agriculture ministry ) mishandled aspects of the crisis, the commission is asking why Britain's bill is considerably more than that of the Netherlands, which contracted the disease around the same time.
With questions about the handling of the seven month epidemic unanswered, the commission is considering cutting Britain's compensation by £300m to £450m.
While the amount is relatively small, the commission's reasoning will strengthen claims that the former ministry and Downing Street - which took over handling of the crisis in the run-up to the general election last year - paid huge sums in an attempt to "bury" the disease, with over-generous payments at a politically sensitive time. ......
Under EU regulations, the commission has to refund 60% of the compensation paid out by a member state for animals slaughtered.
Although the government paid out around £3bn to cope with a crisis that is still making demands on the taxpayer - foot and mouth disposal sites are being dug up because of contamination fears - part of the cost is attributed to clean-up operations, and the employment of hundreds of extra vets, with around a third of the money going directly to farmers for culled animals.
The inquiries from Brussels will raise further questions at the "lessons to be learned" hearing into the crisis, being undertaken for the government under the chairmanship of Iain Anderson. The government has already said that, in the event of another outbreak, it would not dispose of animals with mass pyres, nor close down the countryside in an attempt to halt the disease. In evidence to the Anderson inquiry, Defra said that it had been mistaken to close footpaths last year, causing untold damage to the rural economy, and admitted that there was not one case of foot and mouth being transmitted by walkers.
It also admitted the government acted too slowly by not immediately banning livestock movements when the disease struck 14 months ago.
April 1 02
FMD debate: All over bar the shouting?Fordyce Maxwell
.........The first woman accosted was not only a stranger to Dumfries, but seemed not to have heard of last years epidemic anywhere in Britain; another refused to give her name; a third had her answer blown away by the Dumfries gale. There were others, but none added much to anything. In short, a typical vox-pop .
More worryingly, the radio show was a follow-up to a televised debate in Castle Douglas auction mart the previous night which had also failed to add anything to the foot-and-mouth story in spite of a ringside packed with people who had suffered, directly and indirectly, during the epidemic.
The format could have something to do with it. A decade ago I heard John Gummer harangue an audience at the same venue as part of the Tories election campaign. He was almost as dogmatic and spoke for nearly as long as Lesley and was almost as reluctant to let anyone else get a word in.
Thats her style and you either like it or you dont, but I think it invariably produces more heat than light. Only someone as forceful as Jim Walker, the NFU Scotland president, who ignores her commands and talks over the top of her, can make much headway.
He managed to do it again last Tuesday night as one of the panel at a table in the auction ring along with Riddoch . Alongside him, Ross Finnie, minister for environment and rural development, got a word in now and again, as did Robin Harper, Green MSP. Rowena Hulme, a young woman from New Zealand got an almost clear run because Lesley agreed with her theories about farming without subsidies. Those trying to contribute from the ringside seats had mixed fortunes. Some were chopped off mid-sentence, others should have been and still others took the chance to ride their own hobby horse to exhaustion.
The general audience watching BBC2 Scotland that night might not have known them, but anyone familiar with the internal politics of Scottish farming recognised the obsessives, conspiracy theorists and occasional nutter. This debate, for so it was billed, took us no further forward than any other televised debate Ive ever seen.
Perhaps the debate wasnt helped by the programme shown before it. This was a filmed record of the foot-and-mouth epidemic in Dumfries and Galloway - or as much of those desperate weeks as could be shown in 60 minutes.
It was well done. Close-ups of livestock being herded, slaughtered and burned and lambs being given lethal injections hit hard as they were meant to do.
But the balance, as it has been all along, was wrong. We saw a lot of the weaver who lost his small flock, the goat-keeper, the organic farmer - as if that made a difference to where the disease struck - and far too much of the lady with the animal sanctuary and not enough of ordinary, average, working farmers.
One reason could be that the average livestock farmer is now looking forward rather than back. Lessons, unwillingly or not, have been learned both by farmers and the state veterinary service and what has been learned has nothing to do with a shouting match round an auction ring for the benefit of television.
Debate about the future was no more successful. We all know production subsidies will disappear, the question when to be decided by 15 European Union member states - no matter how much Lesley Riddoch wants to bang their heads together.
April 1 02
Booker's NotebookAppearing last week before the European Parliament's inquiry into Britain's foot-and-mouth disaster, Brussels Commissioner David Byrne came up with an extraordinary new twist to the story behind the "contiguous cull" policy, under which millions of animals were illegally slaughtered just because they were on farms within 'three kilometres' of infected premises.
As I reported last week, the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has now admitted that at least 98 percent of these animals were not infected. Under the Animal Health Act 1981 it did not therefore have the legal power to kill them. Until now it has been supposed that this "preventative slaughter" policy originated with its main champion, Professor Roy Anderson, who became the Government's chief scientific adviser on foot-and-mouth on March 23 2001. But Commissioner Byrne advised MEPs to look at the report on a visit made to the UK between March 12 and 16 by the European Union's powerful Food and Veterinary Office. When examined, this revealed that the EU inspectors had required such a preventative slaughter policy "to get ahead of the disease", before they left Britain on March 16.
It is because Defra ministers knew this policy went beyond their legal powers that they were so desperate to rush through their Animal Health Bill, giving them the power to kill any animal without having to produce evidence of infection.
But last Tuesday the House of Lords approved a motion by Lord Moran to postpone the Bill until after the official inquiries have reported. Lord Whitty and other ministers were said to be "incandescent" at this shock defeat, because it leaves them still without the powers they pretended to have when the 'contiguous cull' was launched. Twice in his blustering speech Lord Whitty referred to the "specious figures reported in the Sunday Telegraph" which confirmed that his ministry had acted illegally. But he did not deny them, which was just as well since they came direct from Defra's own website. What we also now know, however, thanks to Commissioner Byrne, is that it was not just the British Government which was responsible for this illegal policy. It was carried out in effect on the orders of Brussels.
March 31 02
CRISIS - HOLD A PUBLIC INQUIRY10:30 - 30 March 2002
This is Gloucestershire
GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council has criticised the government's leadership during the foot and mouth crisis. ....
The council also calls for a national public inquiry and the drawing up of a national contingency plan. It wants strict import controls on animal feed from countries where the disease is endemic. The role of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is also questioned. The authority says this should be made "more explicit".
Coun Mark Hendry (Lab, Brockworth and Hucclecote), the council's cabinet member with responsibility for economic development, said: "Gloucestershire was the sixth worst affected county in the UK.
"It is more than 10 months since the last foot and mouth outbreak here but the disease's legacy and impact are still being felt."
More than 200 county farms were affected with more than 79,000 animals slaughtered
posted March 31 02
EC plans to cut foot and mouth compensationBy David Harrison, Environment Correspondent
BRITISH taxpayers face a £300 million bill after the European Commission rejected the Government's claim for foot and mouth compensation as "excessive and unrealistic".
Britain is claiming £740 million towards the cost of paying farmers for the loss of four million animals during the crisis last year. A commission investigation into the British claim has found that the Government billed too much for each animal culled and is likely to receive less than £440million.
The shortfall will have to be picked up by the British taxpayer since nearly all the money has already been paid to farmers.
A senior Commission official told The Telegraph: "We are very unhappy with the British claim. At the moment we are looking at a payment hundreds of millions short of what they are asking.
"Obviously, some animals will be worth more than others because they are valuable pedigree animals but they can't all be in that category."
The official pointed out that Holland had claimed £460 a head for cattle slaughtered during the epidemic while Britain was asking for £1,200 a head. Britain has also claimed around 50 per cent more than Holland for each sheep slaughtered. The Commission's investigators have made two inspections of foot and mouth accounts at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and plan a third in the next few weeks.
The Commission's concern will revive claims that the Government was over-generous to British farmers affected by foot and mouth because it wanted to keep them quiet in the run-up to the general election last year.
Last night, Peter Ainsworth, the Conservatives' rural affairs spokesman, said: "This is another massive cock-up by a department incapable of getting anything right. They bungled and dithered and lost control of the budget during the foot and mouth crisis.
"Now we have another very expensive mistake. A lot of farmers have been treated generously but many other businesses received nothing and face ruin."
A spokesman for the Defra department said: "We would be very concerned if the Commission is saying we paid over the odds, and will be seeking urgent talks with their officials to clarify this.
"We took independent valuations of animals and if we felt any assessment was too high - as we did in many cases - we got a second opinion. We are confident that our claim is fair and realistic."
The National Farmers' Union also rejected any suggestion that farmers had been paid too much compensation. Ian Gardner, deputy director-general, said: "The valuations were independent - farmers did not pull figures out of the air.
It has cost farmers at least £1 billion more than they received in compensation." Under European law, the Commission has to refund 60 per cent of the compensation paid out by any national government for animal slaughter.
The commission must first establish that the amount claimed is based on prevailing market values and has not been inflated. The commission has reduced animal slaughter claims before: in 1997-98 a Dutch claim after a swine fever outbreak was cut by 25 per cent. Britain submitted its first claim in August, for animals slaughtered until the end of June. Sixty per cent of the claim came to £520 million, but the Commission said it would give only £300 million and has so far paid only £220 million while it works out the exact entitle ment.
Britain's final claim, for a total of £740 million, has been presented but is expected to be cut to about £440 million. A commission spokesman said: "We have not finished our investigation yet. At the moment it looks like the British claim is excessive."
March 31 02
GM-free nations fall to MonsantoBy Geoffrey Lean and Sue Branford
Genetically modified foods are poised to slip back into Britain after major advances by Monsanto in countries that have so far refused to grow them.
Last week, India lifted a four-year ban on growing GM crops to allow production of three bio-engineered types of cotton and hinted that it will also give the go-ahead to GM foods such as soya and corn.
And earlier this month, the Brazil's commission on GM foods recommended the immediate authorisation of GM crops and foods, despite a similar ban. The recommendation would particularly benefit Monsanto, which has been lobbying hard for approval to grow pesticide-resistant soya.
Brazil and India have been important sources for British and European firms that have been forced to drop GM materials from food and animal feeds. If bio-engineered crops now sweep through the two countries, companies will find it hard to find non-GM supplies.
Brazil, for example, is the world's second biggest producer of soya. The first and third biggest, America and Argentina, already grow GM varieties, and the three countries together account for 80 per cent of soya production.
Monsanto's victories are a blow for environmentalists who had thought their success in turning consumers against GM foods in Europe and Japan would have global repercussions. As consumers refused to buy, the argument went, exporting countries would be forced to grow GM-free crops in order to reach their markets. Eventually even America would come under pressure to change course......
March 31 02
Inspectors warn of chicken fiddleUnison, the union representing meat inspectors, has warned the food standards agency that chickens were regularly being repackaged in factories and sold in shops and supermarkets with their sell-by dates altered, or with British labels when they were in fact foreign. In a formal submission to the agency, Unison says: "Very often foreign chicken is packed as British with a UK health mark. We have seen ordinary broilers relabelled as organic for one major supermarket chain. UK assurance scheme labels are put on such products regardless of their country of origin."
According to the union, which represents inspectors in the government's meat hygiene service, meat that is not fit for human consumption has filtered back into the food chain because the system of health marks is too weak.
March 31 02
There was no way that a slaughter policy was going to contain itSirs, Elliot Morley (Journal 30 March) may well be right when he says Defra had a contingency plan for dealing with foot-and-mouth disease. No doubt they had.
(Newcastle) Journal Letter
The point is they had a plan for dealing with an OUTBREAK of F&MD. When the disease was first officially identified at Heddon-on-the-Wall it was already an EPIDEMIC. The disease had been rampant for at least 3 months and possibly as long as 6 months. There was no way that a slaughter policy was going to contain it at this stage. The Dutch, who are also in the EU and are presumably working to the same rules, recognised this obvious fact and vaccinated, which duly controlled the disease in a matter of days. The World's leading F&MD scientists pleaded with the British Government to adopt a similar policy. They were ignored.
For this reason, amongst many others, there must be a full and open public inquiry into this tragedy. In refusing this reasonable request we can only assume the Government has something, maybe a lot, to hide.
Meanwhile we must be grateful to Lord Moran and his colleagues in the House of Lords for effectively scrapping the Animal Health (Death) Bill. Yours,
John S. Pearson
THE QUESTIONS THAT BLAIR MUST ANSWERNick Brown is nothing if not loyal. And even after losing his job as Farming Minister he is still gamely sticking up for his boss Tony Blair over the Government's handling of the foot and mouth crisis.
Western Morning News
He tried his best to defend New Labour's handling of the outbreak when he became the first British minister to appear before a European Parliament committee set up to examine the issue.
And in doing so he found himself accused, by the vice-president of the Committee of Inquiry, of turning "evasion and ambiguity into an art form." Caroline Lucas said Mr Brown, who lost his job in a reshuffle following Labour's election victory last year, "ducked and dodged difficult questions" when he presented his evidence in Brussels on Tuesday.
The truth is that Mr Brown need accept only a relatively small proportion of the responsibility for New Labour's attempts to control foot and mouth disease. The Prime Minister - in response to growing concern about the alarming spread of the disease - assumed full control.
And on the crucial issues, from the possibility of vaccination to the controversial contiguous cull policy, it was the Prime Minister who was making the decisions. It stands to reason, therefore, that it should be Mr Blair who stands in the dock to face tough questioning about how he arrived at those decisions. And he should be doing so, not in Brussels before a committee of MEPs set up by the European Parliament, but in London before a properly constituted, fully accountable public inquiry with the power to demand his attendance.
The fact that Mr Blair has been able to rule out such an inquiry - now supported by a court following the judicial review hearing, backed by the Western Morning News - is a matter of enormous regret. It's also more than regrettable that Mr Blair himself is unlikely to be called before the European Parliament's Committee of Inquiry and even less likely to turn up if he were called.
So this week we had to rely on Nick Brown's evidence to give us the only insight we are going to get into why the Government made the decisions it did about the best way to tackle one of the biggest crises to hit agriculture for a generation or more. And it was not very informative.
There is one major question that the Government - and ideally the Prime Minister - ought to be asked about the foot and mouth outbreak and it's a simple one.
Did Mr Blair order the contiguous cull, thereby signing the death warrants of hundreds of thousands of healthy animals and destroying the businesses of hundreds of farmers, to protect his plans for a General Election to go ahead while New Labour remained the strong favourite to win. The suspicion, here in the Westcountry and in other foot and mouth affected areas, is that he did.
All Nick Brown could offer when difficult questions about the contiguous cull came up at the EU hearing was silence. He did not comment on statistics from Wales showing that, out of 810 farms where animals were slaughtered in the contiguous cull, only 64 actually had foot and mouth disease. Nor did he have anything to say about the fact that out of the 34 contiguously culled farms in the Forest of Dean, none proved positive when tested for the illness.
Those figures tell their own story. Similar statistics were repeated in all the areas affected by foot and mouth disease, the Westcountry included. Many, many farmers still feel bitter about the livestock they lost unnecessarily to a policy that many suspect was driven largely by political expediency.
The alternative to the contiguous cull - vaccination - did occupy Mr Brown at the European hearing. But he put the blame on everyone but the Government for the failure to implement a vaccination policy and claimed there was a shortage of vaccine - despite expert veterinary evidence that five million doses were available for immediate use.
As more details emerge, piecemeal, about the way the Government conducted itself during the foot and mouth crisis, so more questions are raised.
Tony Blair might have thought this was an issue that had gone away. He's wrong. And in the vacuum left by the Government's failure to grant the go-ahead for a full public inquiry, people will go on seeking the truth.
posted March 30 02
MINISTER'S CLAIMS ON FOOT AND MOUTH SPARK ROWA south West MEP has criticised former agriculture minister Nick Brown for the evidence he gave to an EU inquiry.
Western Morning News
Neil Parish Conservative South West MEP said he was shocked at Mr Brown's claim that he handled last year's foot and mouth crisis well.
Mr Parish said: "Mr Brown waxed lyrical over how wonderful his team had been.
"What was startling was his frank admission that the UK Government's policy on vaccination was determined by British supermarkets not on sound scientific judgement.....
March 30 02
Lamb on a plate........ It is still too early, though, to know what the long-term effect of the foot-and-mouth outbreak will be on British sheep farming. Getting answers out of the National Farmers' Union, for example, is nigh impossible, while farmers themselves are currently too caught up with lambing to comment.
However, a growing number of farmers have seen the advantages of direct marketing and establishing a loyal customer base. David Wood is an Exmoor sheep farmer who runs Somerset Farm Direct with his family and sells to some 3,000 customers.
He and his neighbours avoided foot-and-mouth and were able to continue selling lambs by mail order last year. Even better, while customers paid less than they would in a supermarket, everyone involved in Somerset Farm Direct earned more per carcass than if they had sold to supermarkets.
Similar schemes are appearing all over the country. Snowdonia Mountain Lamb in Llandbedr has just begun to offer its highly prized, slow-growing, small (only 13kg as opposed to a typical 18kg carcass weight) Welsh Mountain lambs for sale by mail order. It hopes cooks will once more appreciate the fine taste of these small joints.
Welsh Mountain sheep (different from generic Welsh sheep) were once considered a delicacy. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust has noticed increased interest from commercial sheep farmers who are re-evaluating breeds before replacing flocks after foot-and-mouth.
Just as well, as some breeds, like the Hill Radnor and Whitefaced Woodland, lost a fifth of their pedigree breeding stock. But meat-eaters are increasingly prepared to pay a premium for the luxury of choosing lamb by breed, location and hanging times.
Somerset Farm Direct, Bittescombe Manor, Upton, Wiveliscombe, Taunton, Somerset TA4 2DA (01398 371387 or www.somersetfarmdirect.co.uk) offers prime Exmoor lamb and mutton. Snowdonia Mountain Lamb, Rhiw, Llandbedr LL45 2NT (01341 241469 or www.snowdonialamb.19.co.uk). List of 42 rare breed-accredited butchers from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire CV8 2LG. (024 7669 6551 or www.rbst.org.uk) including: Rare breed-accredited Chesterton Farm Shop, Chesterton Lane, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 6JP (01285 642160).
March 30 02
(warmwell note: we are happy, similarly, to advertise free of charge, for any farmer in Cumbria or any other major fmd affected area who is selling farm produce direct to the public. As, for example,http://www.middlecampscott.co.uk)
Action to meet rising cattle TB threatCarl Yapp Carl.Yapp@Wme.co.uk, TUBERCULOSIS is posing the biggest threat to cattle and farming since the foot-and-mouth crisis. Until a few years ago TB was mainly confined to dairy herds in Monmouthshire, but more recently Powys and the dairying heartlands of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire have become "hotspots".
The Western Mail
Now the Assembly's Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones has stepped in to increase veterinary inspections in the hardest hit areas.
Many farmers blame the increase in the badger population for the rise in cases, as the animals - a protected species - are known to carry the disease. They point to an independent Government investigation, the Krebbs Report, which said there was "compelling evidence" of a link between TB in badgers and the spread of the disease in cattle. .......
In the UK, the risk to human health is low due to childhood vaccination, the introduction of pasteurised milk and routine meat inspection.
Announcing the new measures, Carwyn Jones said, "Steps have already been taken to increase the frequency of testing herds in hotspot areas. "Testing for TB took second place to foot-and-mouth testing and as a result a backlog has built up. "Further measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of bovine TB in Wales.
"Animals from restricted herds can only move, under licence, to slaughter and these restrictions can also be placed on `at risk' herds whose tests are overdue. The results of all TB tests are recorded in Animal Health Offices so that the degree and extent of spread can be closely monitored." ........................
"We know that badgers carry TB. Farmers don't have anything against badgers, but they want healthy badgers on their land. "A the moment DEFRA won't even test badgers for TB." The National Farmers' Union's deputy president in Wales, Dai Davies, said all the evidence pointed to badgers. He said the problem wasn't being taken seriously enough by DEFRA and the Assembly. He warned that ministers might have to take difficult and unpopular decisions which could include a mass cull of badgers. The National Federation of Badger Groups denied claims the animals were a threat to farmers.
March 30 02
MAFF SLATED IN CRISIS PROBEA DAMNING verdict on the way the foot-and-mouth crisis was handled is to be delivered to the Government by the county council.
This is Gloucestershire
After seeking the views of those affected by the outbreak, the council said the Government "must do better" if the disease ever returns.
It wants central Government to provide "far stronger" leadership in tackling any future outbreaks and called for a full, national public inquiry.
The input from the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was described as "very poor, bordering on occasions on the obstructive".....
March 30 02
RSPCA attacks Blair over animal welfareTHE RSPCA is to mount a campaign against the Government and its failure to address key animal welfare issues. The offensive comes amid concern that the planned shake-up in farming has ignored the need to improve farm practices and animal husbandry. The charity is annoyed that it has not been invited to take part in any discussions with ministers about the plans to reform agriculture, even though the Countryside Alliance was represented at Tony Blairs farm seminar at Downing Street last week.
Senior RSPCA officials also accuse the Government of losing its lead on animal welfare within the European Union. More than two years after the EU agreed to phase out battery cages for egg-laying hens by 2013, the Government has made no decision on how the move should be implemented.
The hard line is certain to alarm the Labour Party, which has received a number of cash donations from animal welfare groups including one of more than £1million from the International Fund for Animal Welfare which, with the RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports, organises the anti-hunt lobby. ....
March 30 02
Have no lessons been learnt?Date: 29 March 2002
SIR - Lord Whitty remarked that the Government's ability to deal with any future outbreaks of foot and mouth disease - or any other disease - would be seriously compromised because of the Lords' rejection of the Animal Health Bill.
Perhaps he could explain to me, in view of the foot and mouth experience, why my recent request, as a veterinary surgeon, for a copy of the Rabies Contingency Plan was refused because it is "unavailable" for two reasons: one, that it is being updated, and two, that even if it were finished, it would only be available to ministry staff. Have no lessons been learnt?
From: Helen O'Hare, Thornton Heath, Surrey
March 30 02
Re: Investment in research neededDate: 29 March 2002
SIR - As the Prime Minister discusses Sir Don Curry's report on the future of farming, which recommended an increase in agricultural research, Nick Brown uses "evasion and ambiguity" to obscure the fact that the old ministry (Maff) did not have the highest-quality information on which to base its policies for dealing with foot and mouth disease (Report, Mar 27).
Little wonder that the Government did not have the scientific evidence it needed. Last year, Maff invested £85 million less in scientific research than it did in 1986. A few weeks ago, its replacement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced a "horizon-scanning" scheme to help identify what future research will be needed. But its research budget is rising by a mere four per cent, despite the fact that it is 63 per cent short of the equivalent budgets in 1986.
The last two government spending reviews, while increasing funding to other parts of the public sector, have cut agricultural research. The new review, to be announced in July, must reverse this trend if future ignorance is to be minimised.
From: Peter Cotgreave, The Save British Science Society, London WC1
March 30 02
Pig co-op looks to cut diseaseJeanne Gavin
A PIONEERING health exercise initiated by the Huntly-based co-operative Grampian Pig Producers will attempt to produce a disease eradication blueprint for members within the next few years.
In collaboration with specialist pig vet David Strachan, veterinary investigation officer with SAC at Aberdeen - and with grant aid from both SEERAD and QMS - the co-op has begun a two-year project which involves co-ordinating health audits on a number of units and following through with checks at the processing end.
Useful information is already being gleaned from the exercise and co-op chairman Ian Bartlet told the annual meeting at Oldmeldrum this week that the board was determined to pursue any avenues likely to give members a marketing edge. He said: "This exciting project underlines the benefits of co-operation. Once the information is collated and interpreted, the next stage will be to select two farms and then attempt to eradicate disease from these units." Recent pig health scares in other parts of the UK have prompted most Scottish producers to tighten bio-security still further in recent months, but Strachan told the meeting that the best insurance possible was to operate a closed herd policy.
"Bringing in live pigs is such a big risk, even with good quarantine and isolation procedures in place," he said. "When you factor in semen, vaccines, the wildlife reservoir, transport and machinery and the human element, the risk soars still further.
"Scotland has a much-envied high health status and its protection is vital."
Farmers countrywide have taken to high-pressure power-washing as one of their best defences, but he added that pressure-washing without disinfecting was risky. At high pressure, the risk of aerosol spread of viruses - and therefore spread of disease - is high.
March 30 02
Death Bill thrown Out. "The Government's response to Tuesday's dramatic events in the House of Lords was telling. Not even in their wildest dreaams, had Ministers expected the Animal Health Bill to be thrown out be peers.
As shock turned to anger Lord Whitty was soon claiming that peers were simply taking their revenge on the Government's stance on hunting.
But the vote had nothing to do with hunting. The Minister had clearly failed to understand the strength of puplic opposition to what has been coined the 'ANIMAL DEATH BILL'. It was derailed on Tuesday because the Lords agreed it would be a brutal piece of legislation giving dangerous draconian powers to an already bloodthirsty Government....
March 29 02
Greens slam Government's submission to Foot and Mouth InquiryIn the Government's contribution the most pertinent questions are not being addressed......More important questions remain unanswered in this response than are answered. Considering the suffering and mayhem that was caused it is simply incredible that the Government can say that it did the best they could do under the circumstances. "
Green Party Press
"That burning pyres and closing all footpaths did more damage to the tourist industry than was suffered by the farming industry the Government is luckily willing to admit, and it promises to take a different approach next time. This is welcome. But why the Government started burning cattle at the first place, when under BSE rules cows were only allowed to be incinerated under high temperatures, remains unanswered."
"Why the Government handed control of the strategy to combat the epidemic to computer modelers who had never worked with animal diseases remains a mystery. The first known case of FMD was on 19 February. A month later the Soil Association made a well argued case for abandoning Plan A (mass culling) and resorting to Plan B (ring vaccination). This went ignored. And 3 of the world's experts in Foot and Mouth, Profs. Brown, Sutmoller and Barteling started to make the case for vaccination from March onwards the Government ignored them too. Why?"
In their response the Government refers to resistance from the farmers unions against vaccination......."This is a plain untruth: The National Farmers Union, which represents only a third of farmers, was against vaccination, but all the other farming groups we spoke to were for it. They were not listened to. Why not?"
..... "Because of choosing for the narrow economic interests of some big players in the farming industry the Government has lost all credibility with hundreds if thousands if not millions of people in the affected areas. By slaughtering millions of animals needlessly and sacrificing rural businesses the Government has proven to many people that it is only money that counts in the end. That is a very sad lesson learned indeed."
March 29 02
Government could not get its act together
SIR - Lord Whitty is quoted as saying (report, Mar. 27) that the Government's defeat in the Lords on the Animal Health Bill was caused by the Conservatives' anger over Government policy on hunting, and that the party had in effect bused in large quantities of hereditary peers hardly ever seen in the House.
Both statements are very far from the truth. In speech after speech, noble Lords castigated the Government for bringing in the Bill before the publication of two imminent reports on the subject. Further, I can only see two peers voting against the Government who are not "regulars", Lord Tugendhat and Lord Ryder, neither of them dyed-in-the-wool Countryside Alliancers. The vote was an amalgam of Conservatives, Ulster Unionists, Liberals and crossbenchers together with the Labour rebel Lord Stoddart of Swindon.
The problem was that the Government could not get its act together. Labour had a three-line whip, but could only amass 124 peers for this important vote.
From: Lord Burnham, London SW1
March 29 02
Subject: Organophosphates Recorded: 24/03/02 Broadcast: 27/03/02Synopsis: This first story began in Norfolk back in May 2001 when delivery driver Andy Lincoln handled some beans he was delivering that had broken out of their packaging. As he drove back down to London, Andy's hands began to burn. Andy had not been given any specific information about the dangers of what he was carrying. The seeds were coated in an organophosphate named Dichlofenthion.
Organophosphates (commonly used as pesticides) are a deriviative of the nerve gas developed by the Nazis during the second world war and work by inhibiting the nervous system.
After investigation the Health & Safety Executive confirmed that the particular pesticide on the seeds handled by Andy was not licensed for use in the UK. In this instance, the pesticide, Dichlofenthion, had been added in France before the beans were shipped over.
However, according to the French authorities it had not been licensed for use since 2000. Andy, however, handled seeds in mid-2001 so something wasn't right.
Mark discovered that while only 120 different pesticides are licensed to be used in this country up to 680 pesticide types could get through by being used to coat seeds before entering the UK. The government's food agency, and minister Lord Whitty, demonstrated on the program not only the lack of transparency within the department but also their personal incompetence. These pesticide coatings come in through a loophole in the law and consequently are not tested - therefore no Maximum Residue Level rules can be enforced.
Both Tesco and Sainsburys have stated that at times these pesticide treated seeds can end up being used in foods that are later labelled as "Organic". .....
March 29 02
Squeezing out family farmersBy AKIO OGAWA
The Asahi Shimbun
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government is busy spreading pain far and wide. Victims include the man, woman and child on the street, who are facing, among other problems, hiked fees for national health service, dismantled labor protection rules and reduced child care programs.
In addition, average citizens are bracing for higher premiums for pensions, smaller benefits and more taxes, while the high and mighty await large tax breaks for stock investments and cuts in inheritance taxes.
Yoichi Tashiro, a professor of economics at the graduate school of Yokohama National University, notes that farmers have been missing from the mass media's list of victims of Koizumi's brutal juggernaut.
In his latest book, ``Nihon ni Nogyo wa Iki-nokoreru ka'' (Can agriculture survive in Japan?, Otsuki Shoten, 2,400 yen), Tashiro warns that millions of family farmers, especially those with small and medium-sized holdings, are destined to fade away fast.
Like most other reform programs trumpeted by Koizumi, the professor argues, his farm and rural policies are just an extension or acceleration of those long practiced by the Liberal Democratic Party, big business and the bureaucracy.
The book notes that a new agricultural basic law was enacted in 1999, replacing the 1961 basic law that guaranteed all farmers an existence and equal income, at least on paper.
Under the new basic law, all these guarantees disappeared. Then in 2000, the LDP proposed that the nation's 2.4 million primary farmers be reduced to 400,000 in the future. Farm outlays in national and local budgets would go to those chosen few.
Why 400,000? Tashiro delved into mountains of documents and came across a report prepared in 2000 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries that most city dwellers or family farmers, for that matter, have never heard of.
The report envisages a 2010 agricultural scene of from 330,000 to 370,000 farmers with salaries rivaling those of people in industrial and service sectors, plus 30,000 to 40,000 others in corporate and other enterprises related to agriculture.
Perhaps too late, family farmers now realize the new basic law formally allowed corporations to own farmland and their agents to become members of agricultural cooperatives for the first time since the war.
Under these arrangements, some farm experts and economists feared, big businesses would grab up fields and paddies in urban areas and turn them into apartment houses or office and shopping centers.
But Tashiro presents a worst-case scenario with trading houses, banks and other big businesses controlling most of the selected 400,000 large farms and agricultural cooperatives. .....
March 29 02
Farmers protest at city French marketA joint of prime British beef will be presented by Norfolk farmers to stallholders at the French Market in Norwich tomorrow. Norfolk farmers' leader Tony Williams want to give the French visitors the chance to taste the safest beef in the world - an opportunity denied in their home country.
"We will be presenting a rib of British beef to the French and hope that French shoppers will also soon be able to enjoy the best of British," said Mr Williams. "Our argument is not with the French stallholders but with Norwich City Council for promoting this market at a time when British farmers cannot sell their beef in France," he said.
Mr Williams, chairman of Norfolk National Farmers' Union, will be joined by other livestock producers on the Walk from about 10am.
They will be handing out recipe leaflets and promoting the "little red tractor" scheme, which recognises quality food produced to the British Farm Standard. "We want to remind people that France is continuing with its illegal ban on British beef," said Mr Williams......
March 29 02
Ministers seek ways to salvage livestock bill after Lords blow
By CATHY NEWMAN
New laws to deal with animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth have been delayed if not lost after a surprise defeat in the Lords.
Ministers are looking for a way of salvaging parts of the animal health bill after the Lords backed a motion to delay the detailed committee stage of the legislation until after two independent inquiries into foot-and-mouth have reported. However, the government is not optimistic about saving the legislation, and it fears the bill may have to be reintroduced in the next parliamentary session. Lord Whitty, the animal health minister, accused cross-bench and Tory peers of punishing the government over plans to introduce a ban on fox-hunting.
The Countryside Alliance lobby group yesterday warned the government of a "summer of discontent" in protest at the ban. In a letter to its 100,000 members, Richard Burge, its chief executive, said there was a "level of anger which must be brought to the government's attention". A "massive" protest march on London is now likely, the group said.
The procedural motion by cross-bench peer Lord Moran to delay the animal health bill was backed by Tories, Liberal Democrats and cross- benchers in the Lords. Such a motion - which is very rarely used - cannot be overturned by the Commons.
Lord Whitty said the situation was "almost unique". Some experts said the last time a similar motion was used was in the 1800s.
However, the Conservative Lord Peel said disillusionment among Labour peers was to blame, as the government could "only muster 124 votes". The Lords voted by 130 to 124 to delay the bill. "A lot of people are telling me it is because the Labour backbenchers are furious with the way the government is handling the fox-hunting issue," he said.
The bill, which would have given the government powers to enter farms and slaughter livestock, would have become law by July. But inquiries into the lessons and scientific implications of last year's outbreak will not be complete until the end of the summer.
The Conservatives speculated last night that the government might seek to salvage the bill by persuading the independent inquiries to release early interim reports. Ministers could also pass an emergency bill in 24 hours if foot-and-mouth broke out again. The government wants extra powers to slaughter animals to prevent its rapid spread.
posted March 29 02
GM protest farmer vows to maintain protestsA farmer jailed for refusing to name GM crop protesters says he would go back to jail for his beliefs.
Organic farmer Donnie MacLeod was jailed for 21 days after he refused to name anti-GM crop protesters who trampled an oilseed rape crop in a field used for trials. He was speaking hours after his release from Porterfield Prison in Inverness.
The chairman of Highlands and Islands Organic Association insisted he would go back to jail if that was necessary. He said: "I would go back again because I think it's an important issue that is vital to individual farming in the Highlands - the health of our people and the environment just can't be squandered.
"I would love not having to go back again - being in prison is not easy, it's not fun and one of the worst aspects of the whole thing is the fact that you are locked up and your freedom has been taken away. "I can say I was there, and I stood up and was counted, which is important to me."
He added: "I do feel I have a responsibility to continue the struggle to stop these GM crops from contaminating the Highlands." Mr MacLeod, is a leading distributor of organic products.
March 29 02
Rural offenceARE there no lengths to which Tony Blair won't go in his ongoing campaign to humiliate Britain's rural communities?
For the PM has stubbornly refused to support a book of children's poems published to raise money for farmers ruined by foot and mouth disease.
The book, Life Extinguished, is a collection of 300 poems by Yorkshire schoolchildren about last year's epidemic. Mr Blair was asked to buy and endorse the book along with other luminaries, such as the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Westminster.
The Duke and the Prince supported the enterprise, but 10 Downing Street returned the book, stapling the following (dis)missive to its cover: "Mr Blair only supports cases where he has some close personal involvement."
Cookbooks? Yeah. Farming? I don't think so.
March 29 02
BROWN IN THE DOCK OVER F&M'Selective amnesia' claim at Brussels probe into outbreak
Western Morning News
Lords Reject Animal Health Bill . The first British Minister to face public grilling over the foot and mouth crisis was last night accused of failing to give an accurate account of the Governments handling of the outbreak
Nick Brown who was sacked as Agricultural Minister before the crisis was brought under control last year appeared before a special EU inquiry in Brussels to be quizzed by MEP's.
But one of his interrogators - Somerset Farmer and West country MEP Neil Parish - attacked the minister's version of events. He said "Mr Brown has selective amnesia".
And the bad day for the Government on foot and mouth worsened after a vote last night in the House of Lords which threw New Labour's Animal Health Bill into jeopardy.
Junior environment minister Lord Whitty said the vote would wreck the Government's attempts to legislate on culling powers in the current parliamentary session. As Mr Brown - now minister of State for Work - was quizzed by MEP's at yesterday's hearing, he insisted that the Government had acted swiftly and in line with European Union requirements in tackling the outbreak.
But Allayne Addy a campaigning Devon solicitor who helped many South West farmers oppose the contiguous cull, rejected Mr Brown's version of events instead describing the Government as being "swamped in a crisis with inadequate resources and a policy that changed by the hour."
She told the inquiry:" There was a huge confusion over who was doing what. Utter chaos reigned, with, in some cases, clean-up teams arriving before the culls had taken place. There was a lack of respect, sympathy and consideration for farmers and their livestock".
Mr Parish said last night "Mr Brown waxed lyrical about how wonderful his team had been, but sat in stunned silence after Mrs Addy's evidence".
He added" Mr Brown has selective amnesia because his evidence was just not credible"......(more)
posted March 27 02
Candid scientist suspended 5 days He criticized response to anthrax threatDennis Bueckert
The Star.com (Canada)
OTTAWA - Shiv Chopra, a Health Canada scientist with a long history of speaking his mind when he disagrees with his bosses, is in trouble again.
Chopra has been suspended for five days for criticizing the department's plans to stockpile millions of doses of antibiotics in case of a bioterrorist attack in Canada.
In several media interviews in October, Chopra said the fear of biological agents such as anthrax was greatly exaggerated, and there was no need to amass medicines.
"Stockpiling of antibiotics only looks good for the minister of health to say, `We are prepared,'" Chopra said in one interview at the time. "I think it's just media hype and unnecessarily scaring people."
Other microbiologists expressed similar views at the time, although not in such categorical terms.
Diane Kirkpatrick, director general of Health Canada's veterinary drugs directorate, where Chopra works as a drug evaluator, informed him of the suspension in a letter obtained yesterday by the Canadian Press. ....
March 27 02
No Mad-Cow-Risk in Beef Muscle, Says French ReportPARIS, Mar 27, 2002 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The French food safety agency AFSSA reported Wednesday that people will not catch the human form of mad cow disease from eating beef muscle tissue. Tests carried on muscle of animals infected with prion proteins -- agent of the bovine spongiform encephelopathy (BSE) -- produced negative results, said AFSSA in its report, arguing against American professor and Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner who suggested last week that infectious prion proteins could accumulate and spread in the hind muscles of lab mice. The AFSSA said it has conducted tests on various animals including cow, mice and goats, each species with samples of different phases of the mad cow disease. The discovery proved that BSE agents only develop in brain tissue, the spinal cord, tonsils and other kinds of offal, said the French food safety watchdog.
Meat and Poultry online
For fears of catching the human form of mad cow disease, the EU has banned the bovine parts from human consumption since the 1990s. But beef muscle is always on the table.
If proved true, the American professor's discovery would have a huge impact on the European Union's livestock industry.
March 27 02
Re: Defra needs no more powerDate: 28 March 2002
SIR - The report (Mar. 27) of Nick Brown's performance in Brussels together with the report of the meeting at 10 Downing Street called ostensibly to discuss the recommendations of the Commission on Food and Farming bring a chill to all those who are concerned with the future of farming and the countryside in these islands.
It is difficult to decide whether the mind-set of this present Government reflects ignorance, incompetence, indifference or straightforward ill will. Perhaps a cocktail of all four?
Once more, we all have cause to be grateful for the existence of an Upper House where, despite pressure, Lord Moran and his supporters, with sound good sense, blocked the Animal Health Bill at least until the two independent inquiries into the foot and mouth epidemic make available their findings.
On the information at present available and on the experience of the shambles of last summer, the idea of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs having even greater powers to enter premises and slaughter animals at will scarcely bears thinking about.
In more than 50 years of involvement in and of service to the countryside, I cannot remember a situation where there have been so many "engagements" about, and so little enlightened administration of, our food, our farming and our countryside. There is little wonder that livestock keepers and farming folk are demoralised.
From: George Jackson, Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, Shipston on Stour, Warwicks
MacManus warns Sinn Féin will rebuff harsh EU farm rulesSinn Fiin has vowed to fight EU legislation under which they say tens of thousand of small farmers face being driven from their landholdings over the next few years.
Sligo-Leitrim general election candidate, Councillor Sean MacManus said the Nitrates Directive was one of a number of Commission measures "which could cripple the country's agricultural industry."
Councillor MacManus said "It borders on lunacy that the Minister for the Environment, Noel Dempsey, is ploughing ahead with plans to designate the entire country a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone when at most only a few areas, none of them in the north-west or west, are assessed to be nitrate vulnerable.
"Evidently the minister isn't in the least bothered that scientifically the whole process, which it's feared could accelerate rather than control pollution of waters, is seen as a complete sham and that the plans are being everything short of publicly mocked by leading experts in the fields of agriculture, envi
Environmental welfare and legislation.
"Access to grants for what almost certainly will be massively costly farm upgrades necessary to comply with the regulations are being denied to a whole host of small farm families while all that the remainder appear set to qualify for is so relatively small in amount as to be an outright laughing stock.
"The minister has also insisted that compensatory payments for reduced stocking levels to which the legislation will require farmers to submit will not be granted by his department.
"Taken with the number of other equally draconian regulations, including EU water and waste directives, which the minister, supported reportedly by the minister for agriculture, Joe Walsh, is tearing at the leash to implement, the longer term impact on the agricultural
"This is also destined to have sweeping implications for the economic condition of numerous towns and villages where the rural hinterland is the lifeblood of their trading operations." ....
March 28 02
B&Bs hit hard by foot-and-mouth, says new guideThe latest edition of a tourist guide says the foot-and-mouth outbreak has decimated the bed-and-breakfast business. So many B&Bs have gone out of business that the latest Good Bed and Breakfast Guide has 270 fewer entries. B&Bs in rural areas and small villages were the hardest hit by last year's outbreak. .....
March 28 02
Australia produces cloned dairy calvesSYDNEY (Reuters) - Scientists have created Australia's first cloned and genetically modified (GM) calves, putting the major dairy exporter on the path to becoming a commercial producer of GM milk.
The United States, Europe and New Zealand are already cloning and genetically modifying cattle as scientists push toward revolutionising the world dairy market.
"It's a pretty exciting step forward for us," Ian Lewis, co-ordinator for the project, told Reuters on Wednesday. The team that produced the four GM cloned female calves, each with an additional fifth gene for milk protein production, was also responsible for Australia's first cloned cows and bull The main aim is to produce more nutritious dairy products, and the births put Australia's A$3 billion a year dairy export industry on an equal footing with other countries moving toward eventual commercial production of GM dairy products, Lewis said.
Holly the Holstein and her sisters Molly, Lolly and Jolly, were born in January and February as a result of collaborative research by the Monash Institute of Reproduction and Development, the Victorian Institute of Animal Science and artificial insemination firm Genetics Australia. .......
Lewis said commercial production of GM drinking milk in Australia was still seven to 10 years away, although production of modified milk containing genetically-produced human medicines and vaccines could be as close as five years away.
The same cloning and gene-inserting technology could be used to produce medicines and vaccines at a fraction of the cost of current pharmaceutical production, Lewis said. GM milk could be produced containing medicines to help combat the bleeding disease haemophilia, cystic fibrosis which causes breathing disorders, components for use with blood transfusions, and many other medicines, he said.
Anti-GM activists oppose the project.
"They're showing the successes to the public but they don't show all of the failures," Arnold Ward of GeneEthics Network told Reuters. "Its an awful waste of animal life... It obviously wasn't meant to be done by nature itself."
Peers attacked on animal healthMINISTERS have condemned the House of Lords after it blocked the Animal Health Bill giving them extra powers to deal with another foot-and-mouth outbreak.
Peers defeated the government by 130 votes to 124 when they backed an amendment not to proceed with the Bill late on Tuesday (26 March). They said it would be better to wait until the government's inquiries into the foot-and-mouth outbreak have been published later this year.
Lord Moran, who tabled the amendment, told the House that his main concern was to get the legislation right. "Almost everybody agrees that the Bill as it stands is not what we want," he said. "I am sure that, to be right, the legislation needs to be based on the inquiries that the government set up. I believe that it is very much in the government's interests to do that."
The Bill would have given the government power to force farmers to comply with orders to cull livestock. The government claims that appeals by farmers against the culling of animals helped the disease spread during last year's epidemic. Animal welfare minister Elliot Morley said: "It's a thoughtless act; this bill dealt with a wide range of issues surrounding animal disease, including the national scrapie plan agreed by the industry."
Food and farming minister Lord Whitty said the vote had "more to do with the rejection of hunting with hounds" than the merits of the Animal Health Bill. "The attendance of 52 hereditary peers, Conservatives and cross-benchers who dont normally vote showed that was true."
The government's ability to deal with any future outbreak of foot-and-mouth would be seriously compromised by the House of Lords' decision, said Lord Whitty.
"The House of Lords has failed to recognise that we need these powers over the coming months if foot-and-mouth or any other disease arises in the UK," he said.
Lord Whitty acknowledged that the Lords' verdict had stopped the bill in its tracks. He said: We cannot produce a new [animal health] bill in this session of Parliament."
March 27 02
Farmers need delivery, not talkFordyce Maxwell in The Scotsman March 27 2002
IT'S ALMOST a year since the Prime Minister held his first farming "summit" at Number 10. That was about how foot-and-mouth was being dealt with and he told farmers he was right behind them - without adding in which direction he was heading. Most farmers believe that since then the Prime Minister has not backed soothing words with useful action. Sideshows such as fox hunting have not helped, or the general belief that Margaret Beckett and Lord Whitty were shunted unwillingly into their jobs in the new Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
In at least one summit meeting last year, Jim Walker, NFU Scotland president, told the Prime Minister face to face where he was going wrong and what needed to be done.
Walker was not at Downing Street yesterday to repeat the dose because the meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister, was based mainly on the recommendations of the recent Curry report on sustainable farming for England and Wales. .......Curry said he would not be satisfied until all the recommendations in his group's report had been acted on.
"One recommendation is dependent on another and we cannot re-focus the industry unless the report is adopted in total," he said. "In discussions with DEFRA, I have been working on a list of recommendations which I believe could be adopted very quickly and the vast majority of recommendations on my list have been endorsed today."
March 27 02
Blair meets farmers at Downing Street summitTony Blair was today meeting farmers' representatives at 10 Downing Street to discuss the way forward for the industry in the wake of last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic. Read a Q&A on the summit The Prime Minister and Margaret Beckett, the Rural Affairs Secretary, were discussing the recommendations of the Policy Commission into the Future of Farming and Food with NFU representatives and the report's author Sir Donald Curry. (Curry) Report in full No decisions on future farming policy were thought likely to be announced following today's meeting, which was being dubbed a "food summit". ..........
Mrs Beckett said she had agreement from Gordon Brown that Defra had to pursue the issues and get the reform, but she refused to discuss details of her department's bid for this summer's spending round.
"The Prime Minister is hosting it (the summit) because he's taking a great interest in how we take this forward, but it will be people who are participating in how we get these reforms ... people on the ground."
Mrs Beckett said it was natural that people would want a timetable and money, but said the first thing from the summit would be some "practical examples" of how to move the industry forward.
Anthony Gibson, southwest regional director for the National Farmers' Union, said farmers were looking for a timetable for implementation of the recommendations, as well as a "clear commitment from the Government, starting from the very top with the Prime Minister". He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We don't want it messed around with, the report. If it's going to be implemented, it must be implemented as a whole." Farmers as well as the Government also had to make a commitment on the Curry Report' recommendations, he said, adding: "We are prepared to give the commitment, to take up the challenge, but we want to hear that the Government is as well."
Liberal Democrat rural affairs spokesman Malcolm Bruce, speaking ahead of the summit, said: "The Government's commitment to a future for farming will be judged on its actions, not words or intentions. "In 2000, Downing Street held a farming summit to look at ways of tackling the problems facing the farming community. Two years on, we're back where we started with yet another summit. "The Government must offer real help to our farming community, rather than tinkering round the edges. "This means providing the necessary financial support to implement the Curry Report recommendations, including better marketing, training, business advice and entrance and exit packages. "If the Government fails to get a grip on those issues, the Curry Report runs the risk of being a dead letter."
Shadow agriculture spokesman Peter Ainsworth said: "Farmers are facing the worst crisis in their industry in living memory and all the Government is able to offer is talk. "Mrs Beckett even told the Today programme that she and Mr Blair would not be talking about what should be done over the next few months, or even the next two or three years _ she said they would be talking about 'what we can do in the next 50 years'. "This sets a new record. We have had five-year, 10-year, even 20-year plans for health and transport but now farmers look set to be offered a 50-year plan. "Given the average age of farmers, this means that most of them can look forward to seeing some action from the Government when they reach 110."
March 27 02
Listen to Mrs BeckettMARGARET BECKETT appears not to have the slightest interest in farming. This is unfortunate for everyone in the industry, since she is the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Yesterday, she called a meeting at Number 10, chaired by the Prime Minister (who does not seem much interested in the subject either), to discuss the report of Sir Don Curry's Policy Commission, The Future of Food and Farming.
Sir Don's was the most wide-ranging of three reports commissioned by the Government to draw lessons from last year's foot and mouth epidemic. It was generally welcomed by farmers when it was published in January, after five months of consultation.
Yesterday's gathering had been advertised as a "summit meeting", which was to bring together all interested parties to thrash out the way ahead for British farming after the crisis. It is a measure of the Government's interest in the matter that only a single morning was set aside for it.
Far from acting on Sir Don's findings, or even discussing them properly (there was no time for that), Mrs Beckett confined herself to announcing a pre-prepared list of initiatives. This reads like a parody of a New Labour policy announcement, of the sort that might have been dreamt up by Private Eye. It includes the promise of "an intensive period of engagement by the Government with key stakeholders". There is to be a "series of consultations to help focus discussion on the key issues" (hadn't Sir Don just spent five months on that?) A "group of key organisations" is to be set up, "to steer development of the strategy". (What strategy? farmers may ask.)
On and on Mrs Beckett went, blathering about "benchmarking" and the "spread of good practice". An "action plan" was to be launched over illegal meat imports (how the Government loves action plans, and how it hates action). There was to be an "industry-led initiative" to promote co-operation among primary producers, a "pilot network" of demonstration farms to "disseminate best practice" and another "action plan" on organic food. "We are urgently taking forward work in a number of areas," intoned Mrs Beckett, "and today we have set in train a process for working with stakeholders to develop practical ways of putting into practice the policy commission's ideas."
Is this what the farming industry, traumatised by foot and mouth, has been waiting for all these months - for a vague promise to take forward work that will set a process in train?
The most important finding of Sir Don's report was that European subsidies to producers, paid under the Common Agricultural Policy, should be diverted into environmental and rural development schemes. But the Government had not a word to say about that yesterday, except to hint that it would get round to thinking about it in the autumn. The truth is that until we get a Government that is genuinely concerned about farming, country people can expect nothing from Whitehall but abstract nouns.
March 27 02
MEPs told of fears on foot-and-mouthBy A Correspondent
NICK BROWN, the former Agriculture Minister, yesterday told Euro MPs investigating last year's foot-and-mouth outbreak that the Government abandoned plans to vaccinate cattle because it feared that supermarkets would reject vaccinated meat and milk. The decision cost the lives of millions of animals and prolonged the epidemic, even though there is no danger to health from vaccinated livestock.
Mr Brown, giving evidence to the European Parliament's "temporary committee" on foot-and-mouth disease, added that fears were heightened after slaughtermen mistook blisters on their hands caused by their guns for symptoms of the human form of the disease. Mr Brown was accused by Caroline Lucas, the committee's vice-president, of turning "evasion and ambiguity into a new art form" as he dodged difficult questions.
About forty MEPs will visit farms and markets in Scotland, Northumbria and Cumbria next month.
March 27 02
Peers thwart new cattle cull powersBy George Jones, Charles Clover and Andrew Sparrow
GOVERNMENT legislation giving ministers greater powers to cull cattle in the event of another foot and mouth outbreak was blocked in the House of Lords last night.
Peers voted by 130 to 124 to delay detailed consideration of the Animal Health Bill until the completion of two independent inquiries into last year's outbreak. The surprise decision is likely to prevent the Bill becoming law in the current session of Parliament.
The narrow defeat is the latest embarrassment for the Government after a series of setbacks over Railtrack and public sector job losses and growing Labour backbench dissent over support for possible American military action against Iraq.
The timing was particularly awkward as it came hours after Tony Blair had chaired a seminar at Downing Street on the future of farming.
Lord Whitty, the junior environment minister, blamed the defeat on annoyance in the Lords at last week's announcement that the Government would push through a Bill potentially banning hunting. He said: "There was a very high attendance of backbench Conservative and cross-bench hereditary peers, most of whom hardly ever vote."
The defeat was inflicted by Lord Moran, 77, a crossbencher, and one of the 92 remaining elected hereditary peers in the Lords. His procedural motion cannot be overturned by the Commons. The Bill had already cleared the Commons, and the Government could seek to get around the delay by reintroducing the legislation in either House.
The Bill, which was introduced in response to the foot and mouth epidemic, would have made it easier for officials to slaughter animals if they thought that it would stop the spread of disease. It would give inspectors the power to enter a farm under warrant, without giving notice, if they wanted to destroy animals. Farmers would not be able to appeal until after the slaughter had taken place. Refusing to assist an inspector would be made a criminal offence.
Lord Moran said: "This is a very bad Bill. It is very important that if we have legislation, then that legislation should be right. It has got to be based on the results of the inquiries that the Government itself set up."
Lord Whitty told peers the motion would wreck the Government's attempts to legislate on culling powers in the current parliamentary session. He accused Lord Moran and his supporters of wishing to deprive the Government of emergency powers to deal with another foot and mouth outbreak pending the results of the independent inquiries. The interim powers could be "absolutely crucial" for the health of the agricultural industry and possibly "crucial for public health and human health as well".
Lord Whitty later made clear that he would not accept a Tory call for a full public inquiry into the outbreak, warning that such an inquiry could take years.
Peter Ainsworth, Tory agriculture spokesman, said ministers had consistently underestimated the strength of opposition to the "illiberal" Bill.
March 27 02
Brown blames foot and mouth slaughtermenBy Robert Uhlig, Farming Correspondent, in Brussels
NICK BROWN, the former agriculture minister, yesterday blamed foot and mouth slaughtermen for forcing the Government to abandon plans to vaccinate cattle in Cumbria at the end of March, a change in policy that would have saved the lives of millions of animals and might have brought the epidemic under control earlier. Speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament in Brussels, he said the Government was forced to rethink plans to vaccinate in Cumbria, the county worst hit by the crisis, because slaughtermen had mistaken blisters caused by their guns for symptoms of "the human form of foot and mouth".
The appearance in Brussels of Mr Brown - accompanied by Jim Scudamore, the Government's chief veterinary officer - was the first time a minister or senior official had faced examination by an independent public inquiry.
However, Mr Brown's avoidance of several questions was described by the vice-president of the committee as turning "evasion and ambiguity into a new art form" and was condemned as "shameful"...... Vaccination was under consideration for cattle in Cumbria by the United Kingdom Government at the end of March" but "civilian slaughtermen were reporting that they believed they had human foot and mouth disease because they had blisters on their hands," he said. "We now know they had blisters on their hands through the use of percussive tools, either the handheld guns or the air-cylinder guns that were being used for the slaughter programme.
"We know that now but it wasn't known then so, for a fortnight, our press were full of human cases. It would have been quite difficult to explain that foot and mouth disease does not have any real effects on humans at the same time as the press was full of these so-called human cases. "These cases turned out to be false alarms. There weren't any cases but one has to take the situation as it was then."
These reports led the Government to fear that supermarkets would reject vaccinated meat and milk, even though there is no danger to health and they have sold imported vaccinated meat and dairy products for decades, Mr Brown said. "It was made very clear that the product from vaccinates, although perfectly safe to eat, would be regarded as inferior by the big retailers and therefore not stocked and therefore the vaccinated animals would have their commercial value reduced."
But among several questions Mr Brown did not answer was the issue of whether farmers had been told of a European Directive that provided compensation for any losses incurred because of vaccination.
When the question was repeated after the meeting, he again avoided giving an answer, saying instead that "farmers would never have accepted it".
In a clear sign that the National Farmers' Union was driving policy on vaccination, Mr Brown told the meeting that vaccination "would have made relationships with the farming community very difficult".
Another consideration was that "there was not enough vaccine for all the animals", Mr Brown said. But Keith Sumption, senior lecturer in international health at Edinburgh University, said there were five million doses in the EU vaccine bank. He told the meeting that if blanket vaccination had been used, "following typical epidemiology patterns after vaccination, the last case would have taken place around one month after vaccination began".
Dr Sumption also scotched claims by the former Ministry of Agriculture that there were no reliable farmyard tests for foot and mouth. He showed the inquiry committee a £6 device akin to a pregnancy test kit that took 10 minutes to show whether an animal was carrying foot and mouth antibodies.
He said two types of instant "pen side" test kit existed, both of which were successfully used by Devon farmers to oppose contiguous culling but had not been officially verified because the OIE, the official body in Paris, cannot verify commercially developed tests.
Mr Sumption said: "The problem is not with developing a test but with setting up an independent, respected organisation to verify tests."
He also said that the current 12-month restriction on meat exports following vaccination "cannot be justified by current science" and told the EU that "at a stroke we could end all financial penalties of using vaccination".
Mr Brown conceded that a vaccination strategy needed to be developed for any future outbreaks. "The only answer is prevention," he said. "[Culling] is a terrible thing for farmers to have to go through. It's a very, very difficult thing for public officials to have to administer.
"The surrounding climate, the public attitudes, don't make it easier. It is sensible to find out if we can get a vaccination strategy to work."
Mr Brown did not comment on statistics showing that, out of 810 farms in Wales where animals were slaughtered under the contiguous cull, only 61 proved positive in blood tests and, of 34 contiguous culled farms in the Forest of Dean, none proved positive.
The former Agriculture Minister, demoted after the general election, again risked the wrath of farmers by blaming them for increasing the spread of the disease when they resisted the culling of healthy livestock.
But Alyne Adie, an agricultural lawyer who helped more than 200 farmers oppose the culling of their animals, told the EU that "all those 200 farmers are still clear of foot and mouth. They did not catch it and they did not contribute to its spread".
In response to the many questions that Mr Brown left unanswered, Caroline Lucas, vice-president of the committee of inquiry, said he "turned evasion and ambiguity into a new art form as he ducked and dodged difficult questions".
She went on: "It is shameful that we are no nearer to understanding why the response to foot and mouth was allowed to close the countryside, downgrade vaccination in favour of indiscriminate slaughter of healthy animals, and cripple our economy.
"It is scandalous that the Government preferred a policy of indiscriminate and illegal slaughter to a policy of testing and vaccination."
March 27 02
France plans blitz on scrapieBy Philip Clarke, Europe editor
FRANCE has launched a major new programme to eliminate scrapie from the national sheep flock.
Susceptible animals will be slaughtered out, slaughtering and breeding will be from resistant lines. The French agriculture minister Francois Patriat also announced a tightening of the country's specified risk material controls. As from 1 July, 2002 SRMs will have to be removed and destroyed from all sheep over six months old, compared with the 12-month "norm" under EU legislation.
Mr Patriat said he would be pressing for this to apply for all EU member states, but for now France would press on with the measure unilaterally.
France is also preparing to improve the traceability of sheep with a system similar to the EU's cattle passport system, in advance of impending legislation from Brussels.
March 27 02
News Archive back to April 28th 2001