Alan and Rosie's Monday Murmurings July 16
Now that we are no longer barricaded behind padlocked gates, we have been able to meet and talk with several local farmers over recent days, including both owners of the Infected Premises in this parish. It seems incredible not to have spoken to them in person since Easter, but with them on form A restrictions and ourselves in self-imposed isolation, our only conversation has been by telephone and then not in much depth. Now that our flock has been cleared by the test results, the time was right to talk in more detail.
Both farmers described to us the symptoms that had shown in just one cow in each herd. Soreness of feet, drooling, and blistered tongue were clearly seen and neither man was in any doubt of the diagnosis. In both cases, the ministry was called and the sick animal inspected first by a foreign vet, with FMD confirmed by a more senior English colleague on a subsequent visit. There is some confusion over whether test samples were taken for laboratory analysis, but no results appear to have been recorded anyway at MAFF headquarters in Exeter. Certainly no tests were taken from the sheep flock at Churchtown Farm, although at slaughter there were possible visual signs on a small number of animals that the owner examined.
We are not suggesting that FMD was not present on these farms, but we are surprised that there appears to be no laboratory confirmation at all, because it is well known that in some other cases where both farmer and vet have been convinced by clinical signs, the laboratory tests have been unable to confirm that FMD virus is present. This now leaves a slight, nagging doubt that can never be answered. We accept that FMD had probably struck our neighbours farms, but the possibility remains, however small, that it may have been misdiagnosed.
Neither man had any clear idea of how the disease had reached their farms. Churchtown Farm's cattle were housed while the sheep were out grazing; Scotland Farm's cattle had been turned out to graze a boundary field adjacent to Churchtown's sheep. If the sheep flock had FMD, it could have been transmitted to both groups of cattle in theory, though it seems odd that just one individual should show symptoms in both herds at the same time. The sheep flock had been closely examined by ministry vets following a milk tanker "dangerous contact" some weeks previously, and regularly examined by their owner during lambing and routine husbandry tasks, all without any visible signs. More than seven weeks of no animal movements meant that the incubation period for FMD had long since passed, even if these sheep had in some way been exposed at the start of the epidemic, and the serological testing being carried out in Devon has effectively destroyed the myth that the disease was widespread but unseen in the sheep population, with only eight groups showing antibodies out of eleven hundred flocks tested so far.
Other theories raised in our discussions were smoke from funeral pyres in the locality, and movements of vehicles, including milk tankers and feed lorries as both are dairy farms. We think that smoke, or indeed any airborne spread, would surely have infected intervening livestock, the Bridgerule outbreaks lying four miles to the west of the nearest previous Infected Premises. You would reasonably expect a line of spread downwind of these sources, not a long-distance jump against the prevailing wind direction with no other cases inbetween.
No doubt all this will be studied on a national scale by epidemiologists with hindsight, but here in our own parish no investigation has been carried out. Our money is on the milk tanker. It has to be the single biggest risk factor to any dairy enterpise, and the stringent disinfection procedures rely on the continued vigilance of the drivers, week in and week out. It is only human to gradually lower your guard as time passes and the novelty wears thin. If not the tanker, then another careless movement of person, machinery or vehicle may have been to blame. We will never know.
Alan and Rosie,
You may recall that the TVI Dr Bertie Ellis, that did my risk assessment and who had wanted to film here, but was vetoed because, "Not yet on the list for testing"
Well the program is being shown on Mon. 16th 10.35 on BBC Wales entitled "It shouldn't happen to a vet".
Bryn now adds his voice to our comments on banning NZ lamb from the UK. It's worth reading the detail of the USA announcement for the WTO and GATT implications:
This lunatic Labour government is going to kill 3 million lambs to protect a "market".
Excuse me Mr "Slaughter" Blair.........the USA protected its "market" by taking action against NZ and Australia IMPORTS of lamb.......how about you doing the same for the UK.........or are you not in control of that either ?
EPF403 07/08/99 TEXT: U.S. RESTRICTS IMPORTS OF AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND LAMB(New schedule of tariffs, quotas applicable for three years) (1520)
Washington -- The White House announced July 7 that it is imposing penalty tariffs and quotas in order to protect the U.S. lamb meat industry from the threat posed by increased imports from countries such as New Zealand and Australia.
The White House has set a three-year schedule of new tariffs and quotas to go into effect starting July 22, 1999: for the first year, the first 31,851,151 kilograms (kg) of lamb will be subjected to a 9 percent tariff; for the second year, the quota will be raised to 32,708,493 kg of lamb and the tariff reduced to 6 percent; for the third year, the quota will be raised to 33,565,835 kg of lamb and the tariff reduced to 3 percent.
Above-quota imports will be subjected to tariffs of 40 percent in the first year, 32 percent in the second year, and 24 percent in the third year.
Imports of lamb meat from New Zealand and Australia are the primary targets of the new schedule. The White House announcement specifically excludes lamb imports from Canada, Mexico, Israel, beneficiary countries under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, beneficiary countries under the Andean Trade Preference Act, and other developing countries that have accounted for a minor share of lamb meat imports to the U.S.
The President has taken this action under section 203 of the Trade Act of 1974. The Trade Act of 1974, enacted by the U.S. Congress in late 1974 and signed into law on January 3, 1975, granted the President broad authority to protect American industry and workers against unfair or injurious import competition; and to provide "adjustment assistance" to industries, workers and communities injured or threatened by increased imports.
Criteria for import relief, found under sections 201-204 of the act, are based on those in article XIX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), as further defined in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Safeguards. Article XIX of the GATT is sometimes referred to as the "escape clause" because it permits a country to "escape" temporarily from its obligations under the GATT (and WTO) with respect to a particular product when increased imports of that product are causing or are threatening to cause serious injury to domestic producers. Section 201 provides the legal framework under U.S. law for the President to invoke U.S. rights under article XIX.
Sections 201-204 of the act do not require a finding of an unfair trade practice, as do U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty laws. However, the injury test under sections 201-204 is considered to be more difficult than those of the unfair trade statutes. Sections 201-204 require the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to investigate whether an article is being imported into the United States in such increased quantities, absolute or relative to domestic production, as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or threat thereof, to a domestic industry. The President has discretion to follow the USITC's recommendation on relief, which cannot exceed a total period of eight years, including extensions. Relief normally takes the form of temporary import restrictions (tariffs, quotas, or tariff-rate quotas) or trade adjustment assistance. During the relief period, USITC will continue to advise the President on the effects of reducing, modifying or terminating the relief actions.
Our comment: As we keep saying - there is no problem! And there is most certainly no need to waste 3 million of our own lambs.
From the Yorkshire Post:
Vets' fury at farms crisis 'failure'
Yorkshire vets in the frontline of the battle against foot and mouth last night launched a blistering attack on DEFRA over the way it has handled the crisis.
They accused the Government department formed last month out of the ashes of the old Ministry of Agriculture of lack of communication, confusion and an abject failure to co-ordinate a strategy to stem the disease.
And they claimed it had kept them in the dark about key developments in the crisis, allowing the rumour mill to work overtime so ratcheting up psychological and emotional pressure on farmers already traumatised by the impact of the disease.
Representatives of 26 veterinary practices across North Yorkshire have spoken out after months of frustration over the failure of the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and its predecessor, to deal effectively with the emergency.
They warned that the rural economy was in freefall and there was a danger that many farms might not only be unable to produce anything this year, but also next.
The vets raised their concerns during a 30-minute meeting with Opposition leader and Richmond MP William Hague in Northallerton.
The vets' spokesman Paul Roger, a partner in a Richmond practice, told the Yorkshire Post: "We are getting conflicting advice from DEFRA. This agency has changed nothing except its headed notepaper. It's interpreting directives in different ways -- sometimes you even get different answers to the same question from people working in the same office.
"In the Settle-Clitheroe area, we have further agricultural movement reductions while at the same time DEFRA is calling for open access to the countryside. It gives disparate messages to the public and farmers, saying on the one hand 'we're in a desperate situation' and on the other 'you can walk where you like.'
"It's incredibly dangerous to open footpaths when we don't know where the next outbreak is going to occur. There's a lack of co-ordination, communication, interpretation and implementation of an effective strategy."
His comments came as it was confirmed rights of way in the Horton-in-Ribblesdale area are being opened from next Friday, lifting restrictions on the Three Peaks walk.
Mr Roger added: "The level of available information has been really poor since the start of this outbreak. We supplied DEFRA with our e-mail addresses so we could be kept updated, but we have had absolutely nothing by that route so far."
He complained that parts of DEFRA's foot and mouth website had been difficult or impossible to access, causing uncertainty among vets over where infected premises and suspected outbreaks were.
"We are very conscious of bio-security but it's very difficult to plan your route around an area where you are unsure what is going on.
"Very often the only way we can find out is from the farmers themselves but it's embarrassing, and unfeeling on the part of DEFRA, for us to have to get this information from our clients who are under an incredible amount of psychological and emotional pressure already. Because of this poor communication, the rumour mill works overtime. We have no way of suppressing rumours or explaining what's going on because we don't know."
He urged the Government to pump money into rural areas which were facing the threat of an even worse crisis next year.
Autumn livestock sales, where many farmers gained the bulk of their income, would be hit by the crisis and if breeding stocks were lost farmers face another blank year in 2002.
"We are in crash mode as far as the rural economy goes. All sectors of the local economy are being affected. We need support now because there will be a time when banks call time as people's overdrafts go up in leaps and bounds."
But a DEFRA spokesman said: "We have done our best under difficult circumstances with this unprecedented nationwide foot and mouth crisis to keep vets' practices up to speed and made sure people are contactable. If the vets wish to contact DEFRA direct we would be more than happy to discuss their concerns."
Another case was confirmed and 251 cattle slaughtered at Nether Silton, near Thirsk, over the weekend, bringing the total in Yorkshire to 120.
ENDS From the Ontego Times (New Zealand):
Disease-free animals put to death needlesslyBRITAIN'S struggle since February to contain the foot-and-mouth livestock disease provoked rage in the countryside over the cull of healthy animals considered to be at risk of infection.
Almost 3.5 million animals have been culled under different policies, two of the most controversial being the slaughter of animals on farms neighbouring those with the disease and of all livestock in a 3km zone around infected premises.
Some scientists advising the government said such policies had failed to curtail the spread of the disease and instead caused unnecessary hardship for the rural community.
"The key success measure in controlling foot-and-mouth disease is bravery in leadership. You have to say ruthlessly that animals have to die. But I think in hindsight there has been overkill," the president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, Dick Sibley, said.
Mr Sibley, who now sits on the government's scientific advisory group, said the computer models used to develop the extended culling policy were based on faulty data.
"The extended cull was based on a mathematical model and our problem was that the data may have been inaccurate.
"The data weren't correct from the field because they were collected under duress and with a lot of difficulty," he said.
"The model was created using data that were generated mostly from Cumbria [in northwest England] because at that time Cumbria was the major part of the outbreak.
It reflected the way the disease was being propagated in one small region and then generated a policy to be mapped on to the country.
"We did not know if the other outbreaks were following the same pattern," he said. Mr Sibley said the agriculture ministry failed to employ the new policy of slaughtering at neighbouring farms, the so-called contiguous cull, in Cumbria, but the disease died down there.
Other places, like Devon in southern England, were still getting cases when the contiguous cull was in place, he said.
Scientists say the ministry overplayed the risk of airborne spread of the highly infectious disease, and adopted strategies in a knee-jerk fashion. Some policies may have helped spread the disease, which has cost the food, agriculture and tourism industries billions of pounds.
Neil Ferguson, of London's Imperial College School of Medicine, who advised the government to adopt the contiguous cull, agreed that models used to support this extended slaughter programme might have been short of reality.
"All models are simplifications and there is a real dearth of critical experimental epidemiological data to put in lots more detail," he said, adding that he urged an earlier start to the contiguous cull.
Mr Ferguson, whose models shaped government policy, said other culls should not have been adopted and only led to the unnecessary slaughter of healthy animals.
"My personal view is that the 3km zone and local sheep culls had some effect but were not particularly efficient policies," he said.
"They could have had the same effect more efficiently by concentrating on the contiguous cull and slaughtering fewer animals. I would say that a lot of that culling was not recommended at the committee on which I sat."
Mr Ferguson said the ministry should have concentrated on killing animals on infected farms more quickly and taking out neighbouring premises, which would have saved more than half of the total number of animals slaughtered.
The government might now be encouraging outbreaks of the disease by relaxing strict animal movement restrictions to appease the farming community.
"You cannot afford to relax and that is what is happening. People are getting complacent," Mr Sibley said.
"There is a sting in the tail."
From the Farmers Weekly Website:16 July 2001
Welsh step up cull in new clusterBy Robert Davies, Wales correspondent
THE Welsh Assembly has announced that 5000 livestock are to be slaughtered in a bid to eradicate a new cluster of foot-and-mouth disease.
This comes after four cases of the virus were confirmed in a previously clean area at Crickhowell, on the border between Powys and Monmouthshire.
Now two thousand animals are being slaughtered on the affected farms and neighbouring holdings.
Another 3000 will be culled on nearby Sugar Loaf Common, where animals graze on unfenced common land.
"This new cluster at Crickhowell is an absolute hammer-blow," said John Roberts, executive officer for the Brecon and Radnor branch of the Farmers' Union of Wales.
"Every farmer in the area is desperately worried about the way the disease is jumping to new locations."
The FUW is demanding an investigation into how the virus reached the farms to see if there is any link with sheep returning from common grazings for shearing.
Confirmation of the cases trapped thousands of sheep gathered from the Sugar Loaf and Llangynidir commons on their home farms.
Grass is in short supply on many of these units and farmers have been forced to turn stock into fields closed off for making hay.
Commoners have been stunned by the apparent discovery of virus antibodies in the blood of a ewe being tested on the Brecon Beacons, where some 40,000 sheep graze open land.
The 168 sheep in the sample group have been slaughtered as a precaution, and the positive result is being rechecked.
Both Welsh farming unions continue to insist that vaccination is not the best way to defeat the disease; a view shared by Franz Fischler, the EU's Farm Commissioner.
In Brussels at the weekend he warned that vaccination would lead to considerable further delays in the reopening of the UK's export market.
Over the weekend, fears grew that two million British lambs could be culled within weeks because disease restrictions mean they cannot be exported.
These light lambs are popular in Italy and France but not Britain, and farmers believe they will be unable to find a domestic market for them.
Since Saturday (14 July) evening six new cases of foot-and-mouth have been confirmed, three each in Powys and Cumbria. The UK total now stands at 1853.
PRESS RELEASE SOUTH WEST GREEN PARTY
Green Party calls for full public inquiry on FMD:
The South West Green Party has renewed its call for a full public inquiry into the handling of the foot and mouth crisis. Having supported farmers and smallholders who resisted the cull of their animals throughout the crisis, the party has written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret Beckett, to call for an independent inquiry, and a change of policy over foot and mouth.
Bert Bruins, of the party's Agriculture Policy Group said: "Experience in recent months in the Netherlands has shown that vaccination will help in stopping FMD in its tracks sooner than a massive cull. Also the fact that strong, organically raised stock is much less likely to get infected is completely ignored by the ministry's "slash and burn" policies. The sooner we see a change to more sensible, compassionate policies the better."
Please find below a copy of the GPSW's letter to Margaret Beckett.
July 15, 2001
Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
Re. The continuing culling policy with regards to Foot and Mouth Disease, stresses caused in farming and tourism industry and shame brought upon the U K
Dear Mrs. Beckett,
The Green Party has since the start of the FMD outbreak in February been vocal in expressing its opposition to the policy chosen by MAFF to try and eradicate the disease. We have been dismayed by the consequences for animal welfare, farming communities and tourism of the continuing culling policy and especially the contiguous cull. Our spokesperson Dr Richard Lawson (firstname.lastname@example.org) has frequently communicated both to MAFF and directly to the Prime Minister our wish to see followed more humane, scientific and effective policies. Despite the widespread misery in effected areas and the alienation that MAFF's policies have precipitated amongst particularly the rural population, we have still not seen a change to more measured responses to this illness. Many people must have wondered in recent months whether FMD is a virus that effects government officials more than it does animals.
Not only has the government managed to lose nearly all authority with hundreds of thousands of citizens, it has also broken its own laws many times over. Accounts of illegal entry onto farms, misinformation, bullying and illegal culls are numerous. Vets ignored their Hippocratic oaths to not kill healthy animals and scientific and moral advice from many quarters has been ignored.
The South West Green Party was the first to take the matter to MAFF's door at its Regional Headquarters near Exeter on May 19th, after farmers and smallholders had been singled out one by one by MAFF officials, and had felt demoralised, angry and confused by MAFF (and also NFU) misinformation and threats. Here in Devon, the mayhem has often been as big as that in a war zone.
The undersigned, representing members of the Green Party in the South West, cannot understand that MAFF and its successor DEFRA will not admit fault and change to the lesser impact approach of vaccination in the short run, and a very different approach to animal disease treatment in the future.
We strongly support the call for a full parliamentary inquiry to rebuild confidence in the government, which has been so badly damaged by the foot and mouth policies.
We are saddened that it appears that Europe, which hasn't had the bad fortune of being submitted to the UK's approach to FMD, will change course sooner than the UK, even though our country has so much more reason to do so. In our eyes it is a sign of wisdom, not weakness, to be able to admit mistakes and change course.
Bert Bruins (email@example.com)
For the South West Green Party
From Alan & Rosie