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The Scottish Farmer, Aug.25st, 2007

Vaccination "catastrophe" warning

Gordon Brown was "within a hair's breadth" of ordering vaccinations to prevent the further spread of foot and mouth disease in England-and if he had, it would have meant economic catastrophe for the livestock sector.

According to English vet, Stephen Lomax, the government was poised to begin vaccination if there had been just one more confirmed case.

"If that had happened, the damage to the livestock industry would have been immense," said Mr. Lomax, who is technical advisor to the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers.

"With the outbreak apparently controlled, people are consigning all this to the past-but I don't want to do that till we have highlighted the weakness of vaccination policy." According to Mr. Lomax, Favoured vaccination over a repeat of 2001's culling-"he wants to be seen saving lives, not shovelling carcases"-but the policy took no account of the long-term implications for UK farmers.

"The instant the first dose of vaccine was administered, the whole of the UK would have been plunged into a six month live export standstill," said Mr. Lomax.

"A catastrophic freefall in the lamb price would have followed, because live exports are vital to underpin the market."

"On the home market, there would inevitably have been a massive devaluation of vaccinated animals. The slaughter sector is already heavily regulated, and they wouldn't be keen to involve themselves with trying to segregate vaccinated carcases.

"What worries me is that the Government was prepared to trigger all this without any thought to the economic effects on livestock producers." said mr. Lomax. "There needs to be compensation put in place before vaccination is presented as a politically-acceptable panacea again."

National Sheep Association adviser, John Thorley, agreed with Mr. Lomax's warnings, noting that, back in 2001, the best brains in the lead had dismissed vaccination of sheep as a "non-starter."

"Vaccination is a very iffy affair with sheep - a very substantial number of sheep simply will not take to the vaccine at all, and there will also be a number where it would simply mask the clinical signs but leaves them as carriers," said Mr. Thorley.

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Your View (Scottish Farmer, 15.09.2007)

Sir, I read with interest your recent article headed "Vaccination catastrophe warning", in which you quote an English vet, Stephen Lomax, who is technical adviser to the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers and NSA adviser, John Thorley, both of whom believe that the Prime Minister favoured vaccination, which they agree, would have been a disaster.

Mr. Lomax says that the government would have begun vaccinating if there had been just one more confirmed case and he says that, had that happened, "the damage to the livestock industry would have been immense".

Unfortunately, this is true. A six-month export ban would have been imposed following vaccination, and that this would have caused lamb prices to fall.

The real disaster is that, six years after the 2001 epidemic, this needless rule is still in place, as is the equally obsolete requirement that all vaccinated pork and lamb sold on the domestic market must be preheated, deboned, stamped with a cross and separated from other meat.

Modern science, which Defra seems so reluctant to understand and accept, has made these rules obsolete.

Modern vaccines no longer mask the presence of the disease. They carry markers, which enable today's new diagnostics tests, which are fast, cheap and accurate to differentiate between antibodies induced by vaccines, and those induced by the disease itself.

Therefore it's no longer necessary to impose an extra three month export ban on vaccinated animals for fear that they might act as carriers of the disease, or discriminate against vaccinated meat on the domestic market. The disaster of 2001 must never be allowed to happen again, and, thanks to modern veterinary science, it need not. The next battle is to ensure outdated rules, with harsh economic penalties, are abandoned.

This is what leaders of the livestock industry should fight for now, so vaccination can be used without causing economic hardship to farmers and rural communities.

The recent outbreak was a wake up call, which shows the urgent need to modernize the regulations, which control trade post-vaccination. A new and up-to-date contingency plan is an urgent necessity.

Toby Tennant

Newcastleton

Roxburghshire

 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

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