Risk Solutions.The Risk Solutions Cost Benefit Analysis of Foot and Mouth Disease Controls, finally reported in 2005, looked at a range of possible scenarios rather than an evaluation of the actual 2001 pre-emptive ' firebreak', '3km', 'contiguous' and 'slaughter on suspicion' culls.
What FMD expertise there was within Risk Solutions has yet to be identified and one wonders how (indeed, if) they validated and interrogated the FMD data. Their CBA failed to investigate the costs incurred as a result of pre-emptive slaughter. In fact, FMD costs are likely to continue for more than a decade, not least because of the poor construction of some of the burial pits and the sheer numbers of animals buried in such sites as Great Orton. An accurate analysis of 2001 from experts is, even after six years, still needed.
22 - 28 May 2005 ~ FMD Cost Benefit Analysis finally appears
and the results are available from our technical page (pdf).(pdf files take some minutes to load if you have a slow connection. Do not click twice.) Anyone hoping for crispness and clarity may be disappointed. There are 120 pages of dense writing and many recommendations for "further work".The report does not propose any single strategy for dealing with a future outbreak. Risk Solutions Consultancy were awarded the contract for the project which was continually to be monitored and evaluated by a Project Board. (a glance at which will reveal some familiar names) It was to take into account the possibilities of outbreaks of different size and with different predominating livestock, various different levels of virulence, and examine a variety of different disease control options, available resources and so on. Here is one extract where key parameters for the economic attarctiveness (sic) of a cattle vaccination strategy are placed in a table. (In January 2004, James Irvine at Land Care org.uk also had some trenchant remarks to make about the CBA, wondering why DEFRA had not already done one, and including the comment, "The cost of this contract, awarded we are assured after the process of competitive tendering, was not declared in the DEFRA press release. Is it really an appropriate use of public money?" It may be remembered that Private Eye's Muckspreader had rather a cheaper suggestion, involving the back of an envelope
".....All Mr Bradshaw need do is call for the cuttings on what happened in 2001, when his officials opted for their favourite method of coping with all animal diseases (i.e. to kill as many animals as possible), get out an envelope and write down the following figures. "Animals killed in 2001: say 9 million. Cost to economy of government's FMD policy: say £9 billion. Cost of slaughter policy per animal, £1000". On the other side of the envelope, he should write down "emergency vaccination: cost per animal 50p". He should then get out his calculator and write "cost saved per animal by using vaccination:£999.50". Finally, he should write "Finding of cost benefit analysis carried out by Mr.Bradshaw: that vaccination would be the cheaper of the two options", announce it to the House of Commons, and he could throw himself back on the front-bench, flushed and pink-cheeked with pride, to universal cries of "Bradshaw for PM"...."
28 May - June 4 2005 ~ "The study does not identify a single scenario in which a contiguous cull would produce the best results."
The WMN reports on Risk Solutions' Cost Benefit Analysis (see below)
"....even a "much more limited, less intensive" version of the contiguous cull that was used in 2001 would "increase the number of animals killed overall and, when you feed that into the economics, often produce more cost".Anthony Gibson, South West director of the National Farmers' Union, welcomed the new report's findings.
"This is a good piece of work, which provides some clear advice. If you have a small outbreak you should snuff it out as quickly as possible using conventional slaughter of infected animals and direct contacts. If it is a bigger outbreak then you should also vaccinate," he said. "The contiguous cull comes out of it as the option that involves the greatest number of animals slaughtered and the greatest expense without being particularly effective. The study does not identify a single scenario in which a contiguous cull would produce the best results" It is interesting that some "Senior Defra officials" are still clinging to the notion that the contiguous cull has not been wholly discredited. Read in full
August 15 - 22 2005 ~"....Vaccination ..... its implications are now seen as practical ones..."
Defra's new page: "Stakeholder Engagement on FMD Control Strategies" has links to more detail and an Action Plan for meat treatments and processing. That "there should be no price differentials at the point of sale for products from vaccinated and non-vaccinated animals as the differences will not be identified..." is at last clearly and unequivocably acknowledged. Yet more modelling work on "a range of disease scenarios" has been commissioned from Risk Solutions, based on the FMD Cost Benefit Analysis. Read in full What seems so sad about all this is that what is being done now was just as possible before 2001. The arguments against vaccination that convinced many in the meat and retail industry were misguided or worse. But at least proper and practical preparations for this aspect of planning are now underway, as is an attempt to communicate the options more clearly. There are some at DEFRA who really are to be congratulated for this. So are some stakeholders, whose grasp of the realities and whose determined, gradual moving of mountains have begun to make a difference. It is a small but not insignificant step.
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