Jane (in mid-Devon) has responded to our thoughts on spread of FMD through
the smoke from pyres:

Following on from your discussions with your neighbours:  round here people
are convinced that the pyres are the source, and the reason that it doesn't
get everyone is that generally the smoke rises quite well to start with when
it's really hot, then it gradually sinks as it drifts until it hits the next
bit of high ground.  In the case of the Morchard Bishop pyre this is
certainly very plausible as it drifted over us (thank god for our frost
pocket) but caught the ground again at Meshaw, about about 4 to 5 miles
downwind.  Several cases subsequently appeared about two weeks later, all of
them on the highest ground.  It would be very interesting to know how many
infected premises are high and southwesterly-facing.  There were certainly a
lot of bits flying around in the smoke.  After the pyres at Meshaw and
Witheridge, there was that case at Templeton, also on high ground, and to
the east of the smoke.  I suppose someone somewhere is plotting all this and
analysing it.

One other thing that might interest you: In the post today I received the
usual (top quality, white A4 sized) DEFRA envelope, containing a single
sheet of paper detailing "New Animal Feed Controls". This is largely
irrelevant to me as I am already quite paranoid about what my animals eat,
and it certainly isn't any of the things this letter says I should stop
using after August 1st (items such as "dried plasma and other blood
products, poultry offal meal, feather meal, gelatine" YUK!!) But curiously
enough there are some exceptions to the ban, and if you read the whole list,
there near the end is "catering waste". CATERING WASTE!! I thought this
whole FMD thing was supposed to have started because a pig farmer in
Northumberland fed his pigs on the leftovers from a Chinese restaurant. Am I
the only person to find this more than a little surprising? Hugh commented
that it seemed that one DEFRA hand was completely ignorant of the other hand
's activities - and if you read to the end of the letter it all becomes
crystal clear :- this one comes from the BSE Division !

Nice to feel so confident in our government isn't it?

ENDS


And more on the same "smoke" topic from Matt, also in mid-Devon:


A brief comment about spread of the virus. For my part I am not 100%
convinced that windborne spread has so little to do with onward
transmission. Why? Because if you look at where the confirmed outbreaks
popped up after day 1 in Devon they didn't, in the main, go West to
Cornwall, North to the Coast, South to Dartmoor, but North- East towards
this part of the world. I haven't done an exact geographical plot... but
this is certainly with as opposed to against the prevailing SW (wet) wind.

Again if you take Cumbria and plot the spread of the disease as illustrated
by confirmed cases/dates it does seem to indicate a SW to NE drift and the
plot from 1967 is quite clearly a fanning out in this direction from the
initial outbreak.

Now I'm not arguing at all that airborne spread is neccesarily the means by
which farms became infected, but it seems to me that there is a general
correlation here between prevailing wind direction and geographical spread
of the virus. So how could this be explained? Perhaps virus is being blown
in the wind off a farm and then being picked up by local vehicles, humans
etc who don't then realise they are a security risk because they had'nt been
in direct contact. I don't know, and have not, as I say, yet done an exact
plot so this may all be nonsense, but I still think there is a need to
explain the geographical pattern as it undoubtably exists.... surely if it
was all vehicle movements etc you would expect to have seen a random spread
in all directions, with "corridors" of infection along the main routes that
vehicles etc. take.

ENDS


Our comment:   Thank you both for these contributions - any more would be
welcomed, the more informed debate that goes on, the more likely we are
collectively to arrive at the right conclusions.

#                                                  #
#

A short message from Richard:


Another voice in favour of vaccination:

Prof. Sir William Stewart, interviewed on BBC R4 Today programme
17 July 2001, at approx. 0720.

In the context of an interview about anthrax vaccine, asked if he
thought vaccination against FMD should have been used he said
that personally he did think so, but it wasn't considered.
--

ENDS

#                                             #
#


And this intriguing message from Tony:


On Sunday I was approached by a colleague from North Yorkshire. He owns a
scrapyard and last week one of his drivers had just collected some scrap
girders from a farm where the animals had been culled recently. The farmer
showed his DEFRA compensation cheque to the driver who noticed that at the
bottom of the cheque were the words "BRITISH AGRICULTURE STOCK REDUCTION FUND"! Do you think that this is something to be looked into further?
However, I must emphasise that my colleague didn't actually see the cheque
himself.

ENDS

Our comment:   Definitely one for the conspiracy theorists!  Anyone else
know about this?

#                                           #
#

We include below recent correspondence with the Forest of Dean to update us
on events there (and thanks for the information, Pat):


Hello Pat,

What do you know (or can you find out) about the item included in last
night's message, as follows:

July 13 ~ received today: "DEFRA want to serve Article 38 on Forest of Dean
to stop anyone restocking before April 2002,
as we can't disinfect forest. Graziers not happy! DEFRA not going to lift
rest of FormD's - despite all clear and all results and report complete,
until this is sorted. Very, very annoying to delay all our hard work at
getting things clear as quick as possible by politics that should have been
sorted before this situation arose -"

Also we received this message:

Dear Alan and Rosie
Just been listening to Farming Today (5.45) and very disturbed to listen to
the ill-informed discussion on vaccination at the end.   Especially
disturbing were the remarks by Diana Organ (Labour) who seemed to think that
vaccination meant all Susceptible British animals in perpetuity!  Can she be
put right, or is she too narrow minded?


Can you and your colleagues please put your MP right on this issue!!!???

Hope you are still OK

Best wishes

Alan

######

Dear Alan,

I was collecting my e-mails an hour ago, when a vehicle turned up outside
my house.  One glance told me it was DEFRA.  (They seem to exude this
unmistakable aura of evil, don't they?)  Anyway, I was given a notice
stating:

(a) no animal susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease shall be moved to or
from your premises through the Forest of Dean except by highway in an
animal transporter

(b) no animal susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease shall be unloaded from
an animal transporter while being moved under (a) above in the Forest of
Dean except at your premises; and

(c) all such steps as may be necessary shall be taken to prevent any animal
susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease from movement or straying from your
premises into the Forest of Dean.

The next page goes on to say:

Evidence of Foot and Mouth Disease was found in sheep in the Forest of
Dean, and as thorough cleansing and disinfection of this large area has
been impossible, there are risks of infection if sheep are re-introduced
too soon.
This Article 38 notice prevents you from turning livestock out in the
Forest of Dean until further notice.
A protocol detailing exactly how stock will be re-introduced is under
discussion between Forest Enterprise and all interested parties (including
the Commoners).
We are aiming to allow re-introduction of stock by the end of the year.

This is dated 14th July, received 17th July.

This suits me fine, personally - my sheep are enclosed and have enough
grazing.  I have common grazing rights but do not use them.  I won't be
reinfected by any other sheep, either, so I'm happy all round.  I am in two
minds about reintroducing roaming sheep - some of them have not been looked
after very well - ignored, actually, until shearing time comes around, or
time to sell the lambs.  You see them limping around or a lamb dead on the
road, although the survivors get pretty road-wise.  On the other hand, it
has been an old tradition, and the Forest is already changing its character
- the sheep kept it open and the grass verges short.

I am still under a "D" notice, but everyone has come back clear on the
blood tests.  Gordon has got an "E" notice, but is the only one as
far as I know.  I also heard a rumour about keeping us on "D" notices until
April next year!  I heard another rumour that the Forest would be opened on
21st.  Watch this space!

Re Diana Organ - this woman has been totally useless, but at least she is
calling for a Public Enquiry.  I didn't hear Farming Today (I am sleeping
much better these days!) but I will send her Ruth Watkins views on
vaccination, not to mention my own.

Also, in their wisdom, MAFF did not blood test the roaming sheep, but just
killed them.  The "evidence" is clinical only, and there was a lot of
footrot round here.  One of mine had it for ages - I couldn't get rid of it
WITH treatment.  Some of the stragglers that missed the cull were tested,
and came back negative.  The remaining 26 holdings here are all negative,
so one wonders how much was ever here at all.  They are keeping very quiet
about the deer - we have a good population of fallow deer.

Best wishes,

Pat

 ENDS

#                                               #
#

From the Farmers Weekly website:


17 July 2001
Union seeks farmers for legal case

By Donald MacPhail

NATIONAL Farmers' Union officials preparing a court case over welfare
compensation payments are seeking farmers who put livestock into the scheme.

The NFU is putting together a legal challenge to cuts in compensation rates
under the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme (LWDS).

It has sent a "letter before action" warning the government of imminent
legal proceedings because time is running very short for an amicable
settlement.

Ministers introduced the LWDS to alleviate overcrowding and other welfare
problems created on holdings in foot-and-mouth restricted areas.

The NFU claims it was promised that payment rates announced on 22 March
would remain for two months, but this was broken when rates were cut on 26
April.

It wants to hear from members who booked onto the scheme prior to 30 April,
before cuts became effective, and were then slaughtered out on or after this
date.

It also wants would also like farmers to come forward whose animals were
booked in from 30 April and were slaughtered between this date and 22 May.

NFU president Ben Gill said: "The welfare scheme has been the only remaining
option for many farmers hemmed in on all sides because of foot and mouth.

"For this shock cut in payment rates to be made after a promise was given
that levels would be fixed for eight weeks was unforgivable."

He said that he had no choice but to represent our members' interests by
taking this action as legal advice suggested that the union had a clear
case.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:
"We have been discussing this issue with the NFU.

"As we feel that legal action is unlikely to make a resolution any quicker
it wouldn't be appropriate to comment any further until we know the legal
position."

Meanwhile, a predicted cut in LWDS payments predicted for last week has been
put on hold, said the DEFRA spokesman.

He denied that this was linked to the threat of legal action, but said
changes would go ahead when appropriate.

"It's clear that this is distorting the market and we want to resolve that
as soon as possible," he said.

Earlier, DEFRA said that there was likely to be reductions to certain,
though not necessarily all rates, to reflect market and seasonal factors.

Pressure has been growing to reduce payments to encourage farmers to take
advantage of relaxed controls on sending stock from infected areas for
slaughter.

Farmers are asked to telephone NFU legal research assistant Derek Walsh on
020 7331 7366 or email him at derek.walsh@nfu.org.uk by 23 July.

ENDS

Our comment:  Is this turning into the first major rift between the cosy
pact of NFU/New Labour?  No surprise that it's over money . . . . . . .



From The Guardian:

Out of the spotlight, foot and mouth rages on

The culls continue as forgotten farmers complain about their cruel treatment

Special report: foot and mouth disease

John Vidal, environment editor and Sally James Gregory
Tuesday July 17, 2001
The Guardian

You think it's all over? Not a bit of it," says Roy Benson on his farm near
Tiverton in Devon. From a window overlooking the valley up which he believes
the disease was carried by the wind, he sees only empty farmyards and
fields.
Benson is officially Case 1737. The ministry vets came a month ago, the
animals were slaughtered after a legal fight and, like farmers on up to
5,000 other premises, he's getting used to life without beasts.

Since just before the election, when the numbers, as predicted by the
scientists, fell to only a handful a day, there have been more than 200
cases - not what was predicted. In the last week there have been 12 in
Cumbria, 17 in Yorkshire and a handful in Powys. They are taking place
quietly, beyond the glare of the media and often without the sympathy of the
public.

"The numbers are around three and five a day in the three hotspots," says
the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It
blames the farmers for the continuation of the disease. "These cases are due
to people and equipment. Being vigilant is the only way it will be
eradicated. Sunshine should kill the virus but it is the movement of people
which spreads it."

Empty fields


Many farmers are furious over this attitude. "That isn't right," says one,
whose farm was struck in the last week but did not want to be identified. "I
haven't been off this farm in weeks and no one brought it to me. How can
those scientists explain that? That's not what they were saying at the
start. Then it was all about wind."

Even in places which the disease has supposedly left, the slaughter of
animals continues. In Devon, there have been just seven confirmed cases
since the election, but there have been eight cases in that time where blood
tests on sheep have found positive antibodies, suggesting the sheep had the
disease at some point. Four of these have been classed as "direct contacts"
and the flocks have been quietly culled.

Only one is regarded as a full outbreak. There are no official figures, said
Maff in Exeter, on how many Devon sheep have been culled in the past month.
But the overall figures are staggering.

Including the slaughter of more than 1.2m animals in the welfare scheme for
animals at risk of not being fed, the total is now more than 4,787,447 with
4,000 more being killed each week. On top of this, there is now the
likelihood that up to 2m lambs born in the past six months around Britain
may have to be killed due to the export ban and the fact that there is no
market for them in Britain.

Privately, Defra admit that the disease could leap easily and start over
again in new areas. Publicly, it is not even talking about the autumn when
the weather conditions are more likely to spread the disease. On the ground
there is growing belief that it is now effectively endemic.

The truckers sitting in their compound at Hatherleigh Market's abattoir in
north Devon, think the disease is far from gone. Brought in from round the
country, their companies are being paid #35 an hour to cart carcasses, and
now lime and ash, to landfill sites. Their contracts have been renewed by
Defra for a further six months.

Peter Boyers, manager of the abattoir knows there is a long way to go, too.
At the height of the epidemic, his firm was working seven days a week
slaughtering animals which could not be fed or looked after. Today the
abattoir is working five days a week just on foot and mouth-related cases.
"Half the animals coming here are in a really bad condition," he said. He
sees welfare problems through the winter because the hay for winter feed has
not been cut.

But as the number of cases declines, and the farmers begin to meet again and
talk, sometimes for the first time in months of isolation, the stories
emerge of widespread financial waste, divided communities and the human
toll.

Maff is despised in some Devon and Cumbrian communities, with people bitter
at what they say have been gross insensitivity at times and steamrollering
of people.

Divided communities


Steve Phillips in the village of Knowstone feels raw. With his partner dying
of cancer, and his animals at no risk of being infected, he said Maff began
to bully him to gain entry to his farm. "They knew my situation, they also
knew that my neighbour's test results were negative," he said. "But they
harassed me non-stop. When my partner died I couldn't arrange her funeral
for fear that they would come in and kill our animals. They would give no
assurance that they wouldn't come, even when I was at her funeral. It had to
be delayed for weeks." He has received no apology or explanation.

Gordon Wilmett has not recovered from May, when marksmen botched a cull at a
nearby farm and began taking potshots with rifles at berserk animals which
fled on to his land. But worse was to follow. Maff then insisted his
uninfected sheep had to be slaughtered. The ministry arrived with barely any
warning, backed up by the army and police, said Mr Wilmett.

In another case, the ministry stopped a cull on a farm disputing the
legality of the slaughter, and then left cattle walking around the yard half
full of dead animals for a week. The distress to the elderly farmers was
immense.

"It was sustained cruelty," said Matt Knight who objected to his uninfected
animals being culled. His family was isolated for 42 days and kept on
tenterhooks over whether his cows would be culled. "They knew the animals
were healthy but said they would be coming in, like it or not. Our civil
liberties were being infringed. What is it in the job description of Maff
officers that allows them to treat people so cruelly?"

Maff said: "It is possible people were given little advance notice. Things
moved fast. It wasn't pleasant for anyone. We deny any allegations of
bullying. People were given four hours to lodge an appeal."

ENDS

Our comment:  This article hasn't got all the facts right; for instance,
there are nearly 9,000 farms now without livestock, not 5,000 as stated, and
Mr Willmett's case was more protracted than described here, he actually lost
his cattle as well after winning an interim court action.  But despite this,
it's good to see these issues being put before the public gaze.

#                                         #
#

From the warmwell website:

July 17 ~ BBC Wales' showing of the "It shouldn't happen to a vet- FMD"
programme
last night implied to the public that all is well. The excellent vet shown
evidently knows what he is doing and doomed animals under his supervision
die relatively painlessly. The kennel huntsmen (MAFF refused to use them at
the beginning as they thought it might compromise the anti hunting bill )
are men who can be trusted to kill compassionately.
Not shown were the killers on quad bikes such as those seen at Skipton or
Knowstone. Neither the legality nor the effectiveness of the contiguous cull
were discussed. And sadly, the alternative - vaccination - was not mentioned
at all.

#                                             #
#

From The Times:

TUESDAY JULY 17 2001

Eat up lamb that Continent bans, shoppers told

BY VALERIE ELLIOTT

CONSUMERS are to be asked to eat millions of British lambs which will go to
waste unless the public quickly adopts continental tastes.
Margaret Beckett, the Rural Affairs Secretary, yesterday appealed to the
public to eat lamb in greater quantities in the hope that it may prevent the
waste of up to two million healthy lambs.

If they are not eaten, they will have to buried or burnt. The meat from
smaller lambs under 30lbs, many of them reared on hill farms in Wales, is
usually in keen demand in Greece, Spain and Italy but the European Union has
banned it from those markets as a consequence of the foot-and-mouth disease.

Mrs Beckett told The Times that shoulder of lamb was one of her favourite
dishes.

"Leo (her husband) and I have shoulder of lamb quite often. It's so easy, we
just put it in the oven on a low heat and leave it. We just add a bit of
salt and there is nothing else to do, it is easy and delicious."

"Lighter" lamb is, unfortunately, not what British supermarkets are used to
selling. Apart from the premium priced spring lamb which arrives in the
shops just before Easter, the British taste is for substantially sized
chops, cutlets, shoulders and legs, from mature six-month lambs.

The lighter lambs are less mature, less fattened, and lighter in flavour and
weight. Britons eat them in quantities while on holiday abroad.

A campaign to save British lamb farmers faced with ruin because of the ban
on sales to Europe is to be opened on several fronts, Mrs Beckett said. The
Government will attempt to persuade supermarket chains to plan promotions
for lamb at the end of the summer and through the autumn and winter.

The Meat and Livestock Commission is planning an advertising campaign to
sell lamb products. There are talks across Government to see if the Army,
hospitals and schools can find a use for surplus British lamb.

The Government has asked permission from the European Union to offer cash
payments to meat traders to hold lamb in cold storage. This would allow
traders to bid for cash to buy the meat and keep it frozen for up to seven
months. The traders would release the meat onto the market gradually to
prevent a glut in the shops.

Ministers are also studying the possibility of holding video or Internet
auctions of lamb for foreign buyers. These buyers would find storage for the
meat in Britain until the markets for export are reopened.

The Government is looking urgently to see if there is any mechanism
available to pay farmers for the destruction of their lambs on welfare
grounds. One Whitehall source said: "We have to deal with the welfare
problem and we cannot allow lambs to starve through the winter."

The National Farmers' Union is in talks with the New Zealand lamb
authorities in an attempt to divert lamb destined for Britain to other
European states while the UK export ban is in place.

Richard Haddock, of Farmers for Action, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:
"The big problem is that we have worked very hard over the last ten years to
build up export trade. We have done what the Government asked and gone out
to where the market is for this - France, Italy, Holland and places like
that - and made a very good trade and brought in money for the Treasury.

"Unless we can persuade the major retailers to buy a lot more British lamb
and the British public to support us, I honestly don't think we can eat this
amount of lamb in this country."

Mr Haddock said that farmers' leaders had spoken to the authorities in New
Zealand - a major provider of lamb for the UK market - to ask for a
reduction in lamb imports to help Britain through the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Patrick Holden, of the organic farming group the Soil Association, said that
the root cause of the problem was the European Union's common agriculture
policy, which encouraged overproduction. "The subsidies which have
encouraged farmers to overstock with sheep have led to this massive
 surplus," he said.

ENDS

Our comment:   What a mixed bag of ill-informed comment!  Just look back at
some of this rubbish:  "light lambs are less mature . . . .  lighter in
flavour" - in fact these lambs are the same age or older than
intensively-raised lowland lamb, and the flavour is more pronounced, we
should know, we eat lots of them.  The British are simply used to eating
what the supermarket buyer has dictated to them all these years, they are
denied choice, but when given that choice, we have found that many customers
actually request light lambs, they prefer the taste and smaller joints. 

 

And as for Richard Haddock "I honestly don't think we can eat this amount of
lamb in this country" - what country does he live in then?  Here in the UK,
we consume almost exactly the amount of lamb that our farmers produce each
year, the only trouble is that we export one third of it and then buy in the
shortfall from NZ (the figures are on the DEFRA website).  But we can, and
do, eat "this amount of lamb" every single year.  Patrick Holden is another
surprise for us, referring to "this massive surplus" which, as we have just
said, does not exist, there is no surplus, nothing to export, there is no
over-production, we just need to stop importing from the far side of the
world.

Sorry to keep going on about this, but can't we just stick to the facts?

#                                              #
#


From BBC Wales website:

A new case of foot-and-mouth has been confirmed in Crickhowell as a cull of
thousands of animals continues.
Ministry vets have been called into the area try to contain the latest
outbreak.

Up to 3,000 sheep have now been brought down from the Sugar Loaf mountain
where its thought the outbreak may have started.

The action was sparked by the emergency of a cluster of the disease in the
previously uncontaminated area of in mid Wales, which has brought the total
number throughout the country to 102.

The fifth case has been confirmed among cattle on a farm at Tyn-y-fro in
Llangenny.

Animals on 14 farms around the infected ones are also being slaughtered to
try to stop the disease from spreading.

Farming leaders have said they are worried that the disease now threatens a
large area of open grazing land.

Welsh Assembly Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones said: "The thinking at
the moment is that the infection has come from sheep from the Sugar Loaf
mountain.

"They've come down for shearing at Crickhowell. When they're sheared their
stress levels increase and as a result they shed more virus which has found
its way into cattle which is easier to spot."

ENDS

Our comment:   (Take a deep breath) so it's the sheep that have "shed more
virus" under stress, is it, indeed to goodness?  We don't see much
scientific evidence for the oft-repeated claim that FMD is widespread
amongst the national sheep flock. 

 

Blood testing has turned up a mere handful of animals with antibodies (note antibodies, NOT virus) from anywhere in the UK.  Here in Devon, results have been returned from more than 1100 flocks tested so far.  The chances of a "carrier" sheep actually producing enough virus to infect another animal are extremely small and hypothetical - it has yet to be demonstrated in scientific experiments.


So what evidence does Carwyn Jones have for his "thinking" - an unfortunate
choice of word in the circumstances, we suggest?

That's enough from our soapbox for one day.

from Alan & Rosie