Theresa sent in this item:
We heard this morning in Farming Today that there is a proposal to amend the Animal Health Act 1981. This sounded hopeful until it was continued that the right to refuse entry to test or kill animals would be made illegal. They then said that of 6 contiguous premises that had got a court order to prevent a cull, 4 were later found infected resulting in their slaughter as well as the slaughter of animals on neighbouring farms. Do you know of this case?
Our comment: Did anyone else hear this (we missed it - to early for us!) and does anyone know any details of the case referred to? Please let us know.
# # #
Tom from Ilfracombe sends in these thoughts:
The past weeks
email I have found to be just stuffed full with interesting
articles. From Richard North who explains how our share of compensation
becomes 83% to the article by George Monbiot which deals with the hidden
agenda of Northern Foods and its chairman Lord Haskins. We are certainly
living through interesting times. I remember working for a large American
company and being told that "Its not how things are thats important but how
it's presented." With the help of a large dictionary, I waded through the
attatchment on the new potential recombinant DNA vacine and marvelled at the
ingenuity of it all. Like Lawrence, I would dearly love to know where these
trials were carried out but no doubt, these tests will be defended as being
commercially sensitive and if we find out at all, it will only be many years
in the future. With bits of a virus spliced to corn so as to provoke an
immune response in animals (and getting into the human food chain too when we
are assured by "responsible" people that it wiil not) the possibilities for
out of control reactions in humans and animals are hugely multiplied. Given
what we have seen of incompetance in govt. agencies, this last scenario is
Bert Bruins is definitely on to something when he suggests that our campiagn
against culling has so far failed to provoke an emotional reaction. Lets hope
the demo on the 20th of August changes this. It seems the only thing you now
need to become a Lord in this country is to make a few party donations and be
capable of making one fatuous remark after another. Lord Haskins obviously
was never told or has forgotten that "It is better to keep your mouth shut
and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt".
Michaela responds to Bert Bruins recent message (that the culling is morally wrong) as follows:
Oh Bert, you are so right. It was sincerely hoped that rationality, logic, science must win the day, but all of us that are concerned; housewife, farmer, scientist, secretary, doctor, vet, priest, feel our humanity dimished by what has and is occurring. On Tuesday night, watching a documentary on TV in Oulu in Finland, an African trying to escape hardship via Morocco (but now there is a fence), described how he has existed by begging chichens' feet, that he cooks and eats because he cannot afford the chicken! How gross that we slaughter, burn and bury thousands of tons of wonderful beef, lamb and mutton in a world where a major portion of the populations are without adequate nourishment.
# # #
Andrew King at Pirbright has responded to Alan's latest questions. The correspondence follows:
Another correspondent of mine has asked me to clarify if possible the following points with you. He telephoned me so I will try to express his questions in my own words.
1) His understanding of the testing procedures in the 10 km zones differs from mine. He thinks that any false positives arising from the intitial ELISA test are only screened through the Virus Neutralisation Test if there are six or fewer individual results, irrespective of flock size. More than six are regarded as positive on a statistical basis and slaughtered without the VNT being applied.
2) He also assures me that the ELISA tests being used have not been validated, in the sense that Professor Fred Brown's "farm gate" test machine has not been validated and so could not be used. I presume he means validated by the EU veterinary authorities. His point being of course, if not Brown's machine, why ELISA?
At least it makes a change from carrier animals. Your comments please!
".... any false positives arising from the intitial
ELISA test are only screened through the Virus Neutralisation Test if there
are six or fewer individual results, irrespective of flock size. More than
six are regarded as positive on a statistical basis and slaughtered without
the VNT being applied."
Absolutely no idea! I don't even know if anyone here knows precisely what
the logic behind DEFRA's decision-making is. Maybe Alex Donaldson and Tony
Garland, the two top vets here, but they are so much in the thick of
controversy that they are understandably becoming very reluctant to be drawn
into chatroom-style correspondence with an increasingly disaffected farming
community. Unlike virus testing, the huge serum testing programme is very
much a DEFRA operation, which draws on DEFRA's experience of
sero-surveillance in combatting classical swine fever a year or two back.
Admittedly the test is being carried out, in our case, on research council
soil, and the test was developed and first implemented in this research
institute, but operational decisions are very much down to DEFRA. I don't
see why you can't get an answer to this question from the DEFRA vets in your
area. It must be horrible for them to have to do what they do in such a
hostile environment, and I would have thought they would be keen to justify
their actions in your minds. If I do come across any information on this
topic, I'll let you know.
"...the ELISA tests being used have not been
validated, in the sense that Professor Fred Brown's "farm gate" test machine
has not been validated and so could not be used. I presume he means
validated by the EU veterinary authorities. His point being of course, if
not Brown's machine, why ELISA?"
Both ELISAs (one for antibodies, the other for virus) are published and the
S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) for each test is accredited by the
relevant international veterinary organisation (the OIE) as fit for the
purpose. In a sense therefore they are 'valid' for bodies that rely on the
OIE for official advice: the EU, FAO, WTO, etc. When the epidemic struck I
did hear that MAFF were concerned that our S.O.P. for the antibody test
omitted a requirement for reagents to be stamped with "use by" dates, and
for this reason (maybe others, too) the test could not be officially
validated. We were worried at the start that the validation issue might hold
up the national serum survey, but as we had a 20,000-tests-per-week team
ready and eagre to get going, and as date-stamping is hardly a problem at
the rate we are getting through reagents, it was agreed that the priority
for the country was to begin the serum survey using the test as it was,
albeit with MAFF quality assurance officers overseeing the testing work.
Whether the test is still not validated I don't know, but if I hear I'll let
As for 'Professor Fred Brown's "farm gate" test machine', the only Plum
Island machine I know about is a #50,000 device for instant PCR tests. It
detects virus, not antibodies, and so could not replace our ELISA antibody
test; nor does it have much to do with Fred (I am told the toy was developed
as a defense against, not FMDV, but bio-terrorism and biological warfare).
We have one of the machines on site here and it is being put through its
paces at DEFRA's request to see how its performance compares with normal PCR
tests, and whether it might have advantages over existing virus tests, e.g.
for identifying carriers.
You may be referring to some other test machine I don't know about. I did
hear that experimental 'pen-side' tests for anti-FMDV antibodies were being
appraised [we, ourselves, developed a simple 'dip-stick' test, but that was
for virus], and early on it was hoped that one of these tests might be
accredited and used during this epidemic, so avoiding the need to transport
blood samples across the country for testing. What a boon that would be!
DEFRA would surely give their eye teeth to be able to do antibody tests on
the spot. Farmers could do it themselves. It MIGHT even enable a complete
change of policy towards FMDV in sheep. But I have heard nothing since,
which is odd because my original source was an impeccable one. Therefore, I
assume that the reason that the topic of pen-side tests has gone very quiet
(the DEFRA people here know nothing about them) is either because DEFRA have
found that no test works well enough, or because of practical obstacles to
large-scale deployment at short notice. Alternatively, the silence could due
to ministerial inertia, although I doubt that. The Chief Scientist Group at
DEFRA, which is separate from the guys running field operations, have been
far from inert, actively investigating what knowledge can be gained from
this epidemic, and what things need to be developed to help control it. So
my guess is that there ain't no farm-gate/pen-side test for FMDV antibody
that is ready and able to do the job.
Why not? You may ask. WHY wasn't the country better prepared, with validated
pen-side tests ready and waiting to be deployed quickly and widely? The
technical problems can not be insuperable. We SHOULD have been better
prepared, and doubtless will be next time, if there ever is a 'next time'.
But we - I don't just mean the UK, but the entire developed world - simply
did not have the necessary tests ready. To understand why, you should
appreciate that until this fateful February 2001, FMDV research was not sexy
with governments and there was no commercial basis for investing in a
commodity that would be put on a shelf and hopefully never used. Actually
some of the current difficulties of the mega-serum survey WERE foreseen by
epidemiologists at Pirbright BEFORE disaster struck, and were raised with
MAFF. And what happened? Well! It comes down to priorities. Do you spend
taxpayers' money on Campylobacter, or on TB, or BSE, or do you spend it on
contingencies for a disease that hasn't been seen in this country, or even
in nearby Europe, for twenty years? I am not going to criticise MAFF; the
cuts that they made in FMDV research funding over the past few years have
actually been smaller than those imposed by governments in America and
Our comment: Our "correspondent" raising these questions is a practising vet. We rather expected this reaction from Andrew - it's important to realise that Pirbright is distinctly seperate from DEFRA and is not actually making the policy decisions on blood testing protocols, it is simply supplying the laboratory capability to meet DEFRA's requirements. We will pursue these points with DEFRA, but don't hold your breath for the answers.
# # #
Bryn has sent this timely reminder:
Many of you will have noted the contents of this report, but it may be worth bringing it to your attention again so that the press may be given excerpts of it as below, to emphasise the present government failed to implement vaccination when it had a clear duty to do so.
Best wishessee you Monday. Bryn and Carol
Strategy for Emergency Vaccination against Foot and Mouth Disease
The rationale for using emergency vaccination for foot and mouth disease is:
1. Fear that after the introduction of FMDV into a free region, it may spread out of
control; In particular, outbreaks in areas containing high densities of susceptible animals and inadequate resources of manpower or rendering plants for the slaughter and disposal of animals or outbreaks involving a predicted risk of airborne virus spread beyond the protection zone;
2. Availability of high potency vaccines.
It has been demonstrated (Salt et al., 1994 and 1996) that a high level of immunity can be induced by potent vaccines within a few days in both cattle and pigs. These experimental data were confirmed on several occasions under field conditions.
3. Availability of new tests that will differentiate between infected and vaccinated animals
The availability of these tests allows the vaccine to be used in a similar fashion to a marker vaccine.
4. Responding to public opposition to the implementation of total stamping out and the demand for an alternative approach or the impossibility of carcass disposal because of concerns about water (carcass burial) or urban air pollution by smoke of carcass burning.
5. The successful implementation of emergency vaccination will limit the number of animals experiencing the symptoms and poor welfare associated with FMD infection.
The objectives of emergency vaccination are:
1. to create a zone of vaccination outside the protection zone to protect animals against airborne infection ('protective' emergency vaccination); 'protective' emergency vaccination is vaccination carried out on holdings in order to create an immune zone and protect the animals within the area being vaccinated against airborne infection from the infected area;
2. to reduce the quantity of virus spread within the suspected infected area (='dampening down' emergency vaccination) 'dampening down' emergency vaccination is vaccination which should be used
only in conjunction with a pre-emptive slaughter policy in a known foot and mouth disease infected area where it is considered that there is an urgent need to reduce the amount of virus circulating and the risk of spread beyond the area. This may be indicated as a measure to assist pre-emptive slaughter particularly in
the following circumstances: a high density of animals (especially pigs); an overwhelming of the capacity to kill and dispose of carcasses within a short time period, poor infrastructure, inadequate manpower or delayed stamping out. In the event that this emergency vaccination is applied, stamping out procedures
should continue and be applied to the animals, irrespective of the implementation of vaccination.
3. to assist the completion of stamping out and disposal of carcasses and materials from infected premises by minimising virus transmission while this is taking place;
4. to reduce the severity of 'direct' economic losses. It should be noted, however, that during the 14 days following the vaccination of cattle and 7 days following the vaccination of pigs, virus transmission can occur from those species to susceptible animals in contact with them (Donaldson and Kitching 1989; Salt
et al. 1998). It is emphasised, however, that with effective surveillance, rapid reporting of suspected cases, rapid diagnosis and the implementation of control measures without delay, foot and mouth disease can be controlled and virus eradicated before outbreaks develop into epidemics. On the other hand, should the circumstances be appropriate for the implementation of emergency vaccination then the decision to do so must be made quickly.
Farmers whose herds/flocks are vaccinated and who suffer losses as a result of the restrictions placed on them should be fully compensated. If not, they are unlikely to co-operate with an emergency vaccination programme.
4 If a policy of emergency vaccination is implemented the trade restrictions imposed on the vaccinated area (region) and/or country will be in place for longer than if stamping out only, is used. Therefore emergency vaccination will result in an increase of 'indirect' costs. For countries with a large export trade in animals and animal products this economic consequence will be the strongest argument against the implementation of emergency vaccination
5. Criteria and factors affecting the decision to implement
The rapid and objective assessment of the determining parameters is crucial to the decision to commence a vaccination programme. If an analysis of parameters gives a result which supports a programme of protective emergency vaccination then the programme must be implemented without delay. It is emphasised that if decision-making and the required actions are delayed and as a consequence the initiative is lost and the disease becomes widespread, then the only remaining option may be a programme of either regional or national vaccination.
Several computer assisted models have been developed (De Jong and Diekmann 1992; Sanson 1995; Mackay 1997; Haydon and Woolhouse 1997; Donaldson et al. 1999), some of which are useful for strategic purposes e.g. operational planning, allocation of resources, whereas others are suitable for use in an epidemic e.g. to predict airborne spread of virus. These models are useful tools to assist in decision making and planning but for further development require the input of more data to refine their parameters and assumptions. It is essential that the necessary data (e.g. farm locations, stocking density) be collected and kept up to date in advance of an outbreak. It is recommended that simulation models be further developed and used by Veterinary Services and experts to test the effects of variations in the quantitative elements referred to in Table 1. A list of criteria for or against the decision to implement a 'protective'
emergency vaccination is presented in Table 1. When considering a decision to use emergency vaccination, these criteria should be assessed on a case by case basis.
8. Conclusion and recommendations
In conclusion, the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare having reviewed the scientific and technological progress made in the field of FMD diagnosis and vaccine production considers that emergency vaccination can be a useful tool in the control of FMD outbreaks with a risk or tendency towards uncontrolled spread.
The National Contingency Plans should consider the possibility of emergency vaccination and provide an estimate of all logistical requirements such as the number of vaccination teams required in different areas, in order to complete the task as rapidly as possible.
This report of the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare is
substantially based on the work of a working group of the Committee.
The working group was chaired by Prof. G. Panina.
The members of the group were as follows;
Prof. G. Panina, Dr. R. Ahl, Dr. M. Amadori, Dr. S. Barteling, Dr. K. De Clercq, Dr. A.I. Donaldson, Dr. P. Have, Dr. S. Marangon.
# # #
From the Farmers Weekly website:
17 August 2001
3000 expected at inquiry protest
By Donald MacPhail
CAMPAIGNERS for a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis estimate that more than 3000 supporters will march on Downing Street on Monday (20 August).
Producers are livid at the government's decision to hold three independent investigations into the virus rather than a full public inquiry.
They will descend on London under the banner "FMD Alliance" in a march organised by the Farmers For Action group.
Speaking to FWi on Friday (17 August), FFA chairman David Handley said that he was delighted with the support which has been pledged.
"Preparations are going very well and today alone support has come in from as far afield as Cornwall, Dumfries and Galloway, said Wales," he said.
"We estimated that if we got 2-3000 protesters in the capital on a working day that would be a good turnout. But we think we may well exceed that now."
Mr Handley said demonstrators would include farmers and their families who have been affected by the crisis and members of the general public.
"We will tell the government that we need a full and public inquiry. If people need to be brought to account then they must be brought to account.
"Some people say that there shouldn't be a witch-hunt, but tell that to the farmer who has lost all his stock or the widow who has lost her husband."
Marchers will assemble at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, between noon and 1pm and from there will march direct to the Prime Minister's residence.
They included the "Heart of Devon" group started by TV celebrity Noel Edmunds, and other groups modelled on it from Cumbria, Yorkshire and Essex.
Anyone of like mind is welcome and anyone with petitions are invited to bring them and present them to number 10 Downing Street, said Mr Handley.
17 August 2001
Currys farm commission under fire
By Isabel Davies
THE government's commission into the future of farming is under fire after claims that it involves too many people from single-issue pressure groups.
The government has named seven out of nine people who will work with farmer and former Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Sir Don Curry.
They include representatives from the RSPB, National Trust, National Consumer Council, Unilever and Sainsbury's - but only two other farmers.
Tenant Farmers' Association chairman Reg Haydon, said: "I am amazed at the proportion coming from single-issue pressure groups."
He added: "It does not appear that there was much advanced thought used in deciding the make up of the commission."
Small and Family Farms Alliance chairman Michael Hart, said the commission would fail to address the real issues facing producers.
"There are no average British family farmers on this team."
But National Farmers' Union deputy director general Ian Gardiner said it was inevitable that the commission had a broad sweep.
"The question is whether they can gel and make it work."
National Consumer Council chairman Deirdre Hutton said she was happy with the group, but voiced reservations that Sir Don would head the committee.
"The commission is both timely and welcome, but we would have preferred its chairman to be independent from the food and farming industries," she said.
Sir Don acknowledged that there were "advantages and disadvantages" to his appointment, but said at least he understood the issues involved in agriculture.
The committee includes Sainbury's chief executive Sir Peter Davis, Ian Ferguson of Unilever, and Deirdre Hutton from the National Consumer Council.
Conservation issues in relation to farming will be high on the agenda of Fiona Reynolds of the National Trust, and Graham Wynne of the RSPB.
The two farmers on the committee are Soil Association chairman Helen Browning and Lincolnshire cereal and vegetable grower Mark Tinsley.
The commission into farming's future was announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett on Thursday, 9 August.
It is one of three inquiries arising out of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
The other two are an investigation into at the lessons to be learned from the disease and a scientific review into contagious livestock diseases.
17 August 2001
Haskins farm #500,000 in red
By FWi staff
THE man charged with making farming profitable in the wake of foot-and-mouth is running a #500,000 overdraft on his family farm, reports the Daily Mail.
Lord Haskins, who was appointed as the government's rural recovery co-ordinator, has already outraged farmers by accusing them of relying on state aid.
Then on Thursday (16 August) the Daily Express revealed that his family's 900-acre East Yorkshire farm gets #60,000 a year in subsidy.
The Mail says that this latest revelation will add to concerns whether he is the right man to solve the crisis in British agriculture.
Lord Haskins, chairman of Northern Foods, is personally worth several million pounds and does not profit from the farm, which is run by his son Paul.
The mixed farm includes cereals, sheep and cattle, but is increasingly moving into potatoes and peas which do not attract subsidies.
"For better or for worse, I understand farming," he said.
In its editorial, the Mail says the nothing beats the "two-faced effrontery" of New Labour's attitude towards farmers.
It asks: "Having alleged that dodgy farmers have been responsible for spreading foot-and-mouth, who does it put in charge of its rural recovery programme?"
"That's right, a 'dodgy' New Labour farmer."
Meanwhile, the EU Commission to give the UK #225 million as a first instalment in compensation for the foot-and-mouth crisis.
The Netherlands is to get #25m, while France and Ireland will each receive #2m to compensate for smaller outbreaks.
More money is set to follow as the commission assesses the cost to farmers in the UK, Netherlands, France and the Republic of Ireland.
The EU has to pick up 60% of the cost of an epidemic where whole herds have had to be destroyed.
It has another #400m available which can be released once officials have completed their inspection of farm sites in member states.
From the warmwell website:
Tests for foot-and-mouth on sheep in some outlying areas of the Brecon Beacons have come back negative, the Welsh Assembly said today. Officials haves been testing sheep on the outer edges of the Beacons to discover how far the disease has spread. A contiguous cull has been introduced to stem the spread of the disease in the area, which has resulted in the slaughter of around 18,000 animals. Originally the Assembly decided not to carry out a contiguous cull on the hillsides because the sheep were hefted. But it reversed the decision in an effort to combat the spread of the disease in the Beacons area, where there have been 18 cases of foot-and-mouth. (warmwell note:once again, we must point out that the journalists are giving the impression that active virus has been found among the hefted flocks. This is not the case. These tests were for immunity to the disease and although only antibodies could be found, nearly 18000 sheep have been killed in order to protect the so-called 'FMD free status "without vaccination"'.) Aug 17
From The Scotsman:
Senior officials at the Department for the Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (DEFRA), formerly the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and
Food, have told The Scotsman that punitive cutbacks imposed by Gordon Brown
were responsible for the department's inability to control the epidemic in its
DEFRA sources claim that two of the three inquiries announced by the government last week will vindicate their department by confirming it was forced to operate on the most limited of resources.
The officials also believe the inquiries will raise doubts about the judgment of Professor David King, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser, who was primarily responsible for the controversial decision to insist on the 48-hour contiguous cull.
within DEFRA are hoping the Anderson and Follett investigations will examine
the consequences of
Mr Brown's 1998 comprehensive spending review which saw the departmental budget cut by #160 million over the next three years.
They claim the reduced budget was responsible for MAFF, as it then was, cutting its research budget by #13 million, closing six of its nine regional offices and forcing the department to cut its #1 million-plus funding of postgraduate research.
Insiders claim the investment in research which has fallen by 30 per cent since 1986 could have been vital in helping detect and eliminate the foot-and-mouth virus, and claim the budget cuts were the main reason why MAFF was forced to tackle the crisis with an insufficient number of veterinary staff.
At the time, Nick Brown, the then Secretary of State, described the shortage of vets as "probably the single largest problem". as MAFF sought to cut to 24 hours the time between the first report of a case and the slaughter of infected livestock.
But officials at DEFRA claim responsibility for the inadequate number of vets must lie with the Treasury and point out that in 2001 the department had only 220 field vets in its state veterinary service, compared to 417 in 1967.
One senior civil servant said the low number of vets went to the heart of the department's difficulties. "And who is to blame for the shortage? The Treasury," he said. MAFF's director of disposal operations, Michael Tas, recently admitted the department had "no contingency plans for the size and speed of this outbreak" and that a new method of confirming foot-and-mouth within two to three hours, pioneered in America, had not been considered here "because MAFF did not have the time or the scientists to look at it properly".
The Department also hopes the inquiries will examine the decision by Prof King to insist on a 24-hour cull of infected farms and a 48-hour "contiguous cull" of all neighbouring farms.
DEFRA officials are also unhappy Prof King's decision to overrule departmental advice by insisting that the 1967 epidemic was used as the model for handling the 2001 crisis.
"There is a crucial difference between the two epidemics. In 1967 it affected swine, meaning the outbreak was very different in its nature. In 2001 pigs have not been affected," said a MAFF insider.
He argues that if Prof King had used a the model suggested originally by the department then the number of animals culled could have been dramatically reduced.
Our comment: Well it certainly makes a change for DEFRA to be criticising Professor King in general and the contiguous cull in particular . . . . but why haven't they said it before?
all for tonight
from Alan & Rosie