Back in Feb 2002, Cumbria County Council Leader Rex Toft announced that Cumbria was to have its own FMD Inquiry and said:
" We need to draw a line under the past and give communities a chance to hold decision makers to account, challenging their part in the crisis."
"Although our Inquiry will not have statutory powers of compulsion, it will morally compel those who made decisions to account for them. It will not be a witch-hunt, but will be a major attempt by this Council to learn everything that needs to be learnt."
THE CUMBRIA FMD REPORT
Nick Green, Cumbria, 8th September 2002
- “Confusion, Disorder and Delay” were the words of Inquiry Leader Prof. Phil Thomas and were mirrored by Cumbria's press to announce the arrival of The Cumbria FMD Inquiry report. They could have equally been used to describe at least parts of this report.
- County Council Leader Rex Toft, having heard the Cumbria FMD Inquiry leader Professor Phil Thomas announce the findings of his committee, states that the £95,000 cost of the inquiry represents “good value for money” and was “money well spent”. No limit had been set on the amount that could have been spent apparently. Penrith & Borders MP David Maclean said “It was the most authoritative report I have seen – it does Cumbria justice at long last.” Mr Toft went on to say he was “not sure” if the council would continue to press for a full government inquiry. “The real test will be whether Government takes on board the lessons of this inquiry and also those in Devon and Northumberland. I think if they do that, there will be no need for a further inquiry.” He added. Toft, having said as a precursor to this inquiry that Cumbrians needed to have accountability, failed to advise them how they were to achieve this, as not one statement within the report shows any personal shortcomings at all. How, therefore, can we hold anyone accountable? Does he wish to retract his earlier statements? Do Cumbrians have no right to obtain accountability? Is it just, that having made so many catastrophic and monumental errors, those responsible should skulk off and in some cases be promoted?
- On the face of it, I appear to be out of step with what some people feel about this report. However on the ground there is a rising dissatisfaction with what is perceived to be a weak, watered down report where political correctness rules over honesty and truth.
- I became a little concerned when I asked members of the Inquiry if Beckett had replied to the questions Prof. Thomas had directed to the DEFRA supremo. “Yes, no, well maybe, not sure, will get back to you.” They didn't. In the report Prof. Thomas states that DEFRA were very helpful in answering his questions, but worryingly does not state if the team received full replies to their questions. I also appended further questions to the inquiry team that I asked them to present to DEFRA. But notably, these were ignored. Did the British Government ever admit who ordered the illegal 3km cull? Apparently Blair “couldn’t remember.”
- As time wore on and the findings of the Inquiry team were further delayed, “Due to the amount of evidence obtained.” and latterly a “shift of emphasis to the human suffering.” I became increasingly sceptical. Why the shift of emphasis? Of course the human suffering must be recorded and reported in depth, but what was sadly missed was THE CAUSE OF THIS HUMAN SUFFERING! This simply was the incompetent FMD control policy implemented by the British Government and its leader Blair and by the lamentable MAFF/DEFRA.
- 20% of those under surveillance are showing signs of PTS and other mental problems. Here, we know damn well the extent of the human suffering. What we need to have reported once and for all is EXACTLY WHO was responsible for this travesty!
- Prof. Thomas has, within the report, tactfully strayed from any personal accountability. Why? Why was the name of the MAFF person who sent threatening letters to farmers removed from the report? For the record it was Nikki Ellis, MAFF Carlisle. Why did Prof. Thomas not FULLY debate the very questionable legal aspects of the 3km/Firebreak culls? I know he had all the evidence. Why did Prof. Thomas NOT record the details found in the leaked Memo from Page Street to Elliot Morley? No more damning evidence was needed. This one documented irrefutably proved how devious and incompetent Government Ministers were. But Prof. Thomas failed to use this evidence. Why? Why did Prof. Thomas not mention the National Police Report, again leaked to me along with the further evidence I had obtained from the Police firearms teams? Their harrowing story of trying to track down a badly injured bull for hours, leaning on the dead bodies of recently culled sheep etc. etc. Thomas states in reference to poor animal welfare “ that most of the cases referred to could not be confirmed independently”. That is simply not true.
- Very worrying, was Prof. Thomas’s slightly irrational approach to believing every thing that MAFF/DEFRA say is correct. His persistent and slightly irritating acceptance that Burnside Farm was the index case and his further acceptance without question of the spread of the disease from “the source” do NOT stand up to close scrutiny. MAFF/DEFRA's explanation of the start of the FMD outbreak is completely out of step with the DUTCH version. Why should we believe MAFF?
- Prof. Thomas laboriously sticks with the MAFF version of the spread of FMD. FMD positive sheep DID arrive in France 5-19 February according to the Dutch Government. An analysis of all the facts completely blows away the explanation made by CVO Scudamore. More fundamentally, how did Burnside farm cause the airborne spread of the virus to Prestwick farm near Ponteland? This farm is NE of Burnside. The winds during this period were…………North Easterly.
- Why did Prof. Thomas not note that synthetic FMD vaccination trials were being conducted in the North of England just prior to the FMD outbreak? Any schoolboy analyst would have recorded that there have been many mistakes made when conducting vaccine trials and at least one recorded FMD outbreak caused by inappropriate security during vaccine trials. These vaccine trials may not have caused the 2001 outbreak. But, you can be sure that this source is more likely to have been the culprit than the events at Bobby Waugh’s farm. Burnside was NOT the index case. We may never know where the outbreak started, but I do know it wasn’t Burnside and so do the Dutch. It is worth noting that the Dutch employed ring vaccination and had averted a national disaster quickly and efficiently. In stark contrast to the British Government. Who would you believe?
- Further odd statements in the report that are increasingly appearing in local press without any apparent analysis, is the rather clouded view that Scotland handled their crisis better and quicker. On the face of it this is true. Statistics don’t lie. But, when you consider that the emphasis of this report was changed to reflect the concerns of human suffering, why were these facts seemingly overlooked when referring to Dumfries & Galloway. The disease was brought under control more quickly in that area. But at what cost? FACT, 13.05 farms were culled out per Infected Premise. FACT, farmers & rural dwellers were bullied and tormented by MAFF personnel. FACT, elderly people were thrown to the floor in their own houses by MAFF employees. FACT, at least one Scottish vet appeared to enjoy bullying farmers and took great delight in enforcing this horrendous & illegal policy. Prof. Thomas goes on to state that it appears that where there was pre-emptive culling there appeared to be a notably speedier result when bringing the disease under control. Not everywhere! Cornwall was a notable exception. Out of 17 contiguous farms to an I/P, only 4 were culled and indeed on one farm, and after a firm stand was taken by the farmer, hundreds of pigs were left alive by Truro DVM Jan Kelly. When she was asked why, she retorted “ The farmer was being difficult.” Did FMD spring up again? NO!However, the disease was brought under control quickly in Scotland. So, does this fact justify this nasty, illegal bullying approach? Some may say so. Closer analysis will record simply that if you kill all the animals in a given area there are no more hosts for the virus and the disease will simply die out. True. But, I say again at what human cost? Are we not more capable, in the 21st century of implementing a far more scientific approach to disease control? Scotland may portray certain smugness in relation to how good their approach was to FMD control in 2001. An illegal approach may be a better description!What should have been conducted, and what is required under EC law, is the isolation and surveillance of at risk stock. The obvious use of ring vaccination, implemented by the Dutch, should also of been used as further insurance.There are many more shortcomings and inaccuracies contained within this report I am afraid. But, not all of the report is inaccurate and indeed some is quite hard hitting. However, as in the Andersen & Royal Society reports, the criticism goes only so far. Just far enough to silence the masses.Good value at £95,000? Possibly, but who for? The most authoritative report seen? No doubt, but just look at the competition.
“It does Cumbria justice at long last!”
Sadly it does not!