Lawrence has kindly sent in a copy of the letter that he has just sent to
the Devon Association of Smallholders, whose officers have remained
implacably opposed to the use of vaccination throughout this epidemic
despite lobbying from concerned members, including ourselves. The points
that Lawrence raise deserve a wider audience and we include it in our
message for this reason:
In the July issue of Update, the Chairman presents a draft of the issues
arising from the foot and mouth crisis which The Executive Committee feels
should be addressed. He invites members to comment. We would like to do
Karen and I have been members of DASH for nine years and have great respect
for the Association. We run a small farm, licensed as 'organic' by the Soil
Association. The farm is the main source of our income and occupies most of
our time and effort. We are best known for our ewes' milk cheeses (featured
on the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme in March) and goats' cheeses. But we also
produce naturally coloured knitting wool, woollen woven blankets and so on.
We try to sell as much of our produce as we can locally; from the farm, the
local pannier markets and farmers' markets. We are farmers, producers of
local speciality foods and aim to be part of what makes Devon an interesting
place to live in and visit (as a tourist).
We suggest that the Chairman and Committee have lost sight of the essential
interests of their members: and they need to reconsider their choice of
'issues identified as requiring serious discussion' and the underlying
assumptions on which so many of them are based, from the viewpoint of the
Firstly, it surely cannot be emphasised too strongly that the primary
requirement is for a full independent enquiry into this outbreak of foot and
mouth disease: to examine its origins, the policies applied to it, the
actions taken by the government and its agents - and their effects. The
Chairman seems to assume that such an inquiry will be held: but none has yet
been promised. It is widely believed that the government will seek to avoid
the shortcomings of its own policies being exposed to criticism and that
only overwhelming pressure of public opinion will obtain a truly independent
inquiry. Logic suggests that this will be so: an independent inquiry is
likely to reveal embarrassing shortcomings in government policy and its
implementation. The government is likely to fight tooth and nail to avoid
this. DASH must raise its voice loud and clear in favour of a full,
independent public inquiry.
Most DASH members that keep animals are interested above all in the welfare
of their animals. Many will have lost healthy animals unnecessarily and
illegally as a result of action by the agents of the Government; or will
have friends who have lost their animals. All will have been horrified by the
bungled killings, piles of rotting corpses left for weeks in the fields, the
bullying of decent livestock keepers, the squandering of years of breeding
and the environmental and social damage which has happened over the last
four and a half months and is still continuing.
Although at the time we write this about three weeks have passed since the
last case in Devon, foot and mouth disease has not yet been eradicated; and
it is not even clear that the incidence of new cases is continuing to
decline despite the continuing slaughter of so many livestock. If it is eventually
eradicated, it is inescapable that however many precautions are taken over
imported food, treatment of pig swill, laboratory procedures and
bioterrorist threats, it will return. The increasing movements of people and goods,
poorly regulated activities of research laboratories and emergence of
sophisticated terrorist and covert groups will ensure this. When it does,
will the DASH Committee be prepared to see a repeat of the slaughter policy?
Does DASH support the continuance of the slaughter policy now? We at Middle
Campscott Farm will not and do not - and we believe the same would go for
the majority of DASH members. This, above all, is the matter arising from the
foot and mouth crisis which is most in need of 'serious discussion' - and
astonishingly the Executive Committee has not included it in their list! We
suggest that the Executive Committee does some urgent homework, consults its
membership and gives this matter the consideration it deserves.
At Middle Campscott Farm, working to Organic Standards, we do not currently
vaccinate our animals and we are very suspicious of the pharmaceutical
companies that wish to sell us vaccinations. Nevertheless we are far more
alarmed by the 'officials' who would wish to kill our animals on the basis
of shaky and tenuous science, illegally, using despicable coercion. We would
far rather see an intelligently targeted vaccination policy used to
eradicate foot and mouth disease than more killing. It is nonsense to suggest as the
Committee seems to in the section on 'livestock exports', that use of
vaccination to control an outbreak of foot and mouth disease means adoption
of 'ongoing vaccination'. Holland controlled the incursion of foot and
mouth disease into their livestock by vaccination and has regained 'disease free
status'. (Their subsequent killing of the vaccinated animals was deplorable
and unnecessary.) We refer the reader to the papers written by Dr Ruth
Watkins in support of her proposal to vaccinate sheep on the Brecon Beacons,
which can be read on the excellent website edited by Mary Critchley,
www.warmwell.com. We append her summary of bullet points relating to
vaccination and invite the Chairman, Committee and members to contemplate
how much of the damage caused during this 'foot and mouth disease crisis' could
have been avoided and how much of the continuing damage can be avoided.
The Committee's understanding of why the government did not introduce a
vaccination policy (mentioned in connection with animal exports) seems ill
informed. Patrick Holden of the Soil Association reported (Organic Farming
Summer 2001, p12) that the Prime Minister "organised a meeting at Chequers
on 12 April with heads of the major supermarkets, the dairy companies, the Food
and Drink Federation, Sir John Krebs (head of the Food Standards Agency) and
government ministers, including Nick Brown, plus key scientific advisers.
He(the Prime Minister) explained his personal wish (to vaccinate), supported
by scientific advisers Professor King and Jim Scudamore, was being thwarted by
farming opposition, who had told him that the food industry would reject
products from vaccinated animals. Blair asked the retailers for their
reaction, which was almost entirely positive." Patrick Holden wrote that
"We left the meeting persuaded that the government would be able to
vaccinate." He ascribed the government's failure to do so to the continuing
opposition of the leaders of the NFU who said that farmers would "man the
barricades and prevent access" and by political calculations relating to
their intended date for the election. DASH members do not share the
interests of the leaders of the NFU. Most Devon members of the NFU do not.
We will not renew our membership of the NFU and are prepared to "man the
barricades and prevent access" to DEFRA slaughter teams. We have applied
formally for permission to vaccinate our own livestock. (Our application is
posted on the warmwell.com website.)
It would have been nonsense to suggest that consumers would object to meat
from vaccinated animals. Meat is imported from countries that vaccinate
against foot and mouth disease: and most animals reared for meat on
conventional farms have received at least one vaccination before they are
slaughtered. (Lambs against clostridial diseases and pasteurella, for
example.) The Food Standards Agency does not require that consumers are
told what vaccinations had been administered to the animals whose meat is sold on
the butcher's slab and consumers are buying meat from vaccinated animals
daily. If the NFU was truly concerned about the possibility of the meat
trade using vaccination as a pretext for manipulating prices, they should
not have lobbied the food industry and consumers to increase nervousness about
vaccination: and it is unaccountable to us that the NFU professed itself so
concerned about the effects of vaccination on prices; but was not equally
concerned by the inevitable effect on prices of the slaughter policy. The
movement restrictions and closure of livestock markets inextricably bound up
with the slaughter policy has allowed exploitation by the large meat plants
and supermarkets. The price paid to farmers has plummeted and two tier
pricing is being imposed on farms subject to Infected Area movement
restrictions. A vaccination policy might even have made this kind of price
manipulation harder to justify.
But to most DASH members, the well-being and protection of their livestock
is of paramount importance. It is plain that a policy of containment by
strategic vaccination would have better achieved this. It would also have
controlled the spread of foot and mouth disease without wholesale slaughter
and destruction, environmental pollution and cost: and it would also have
avoided the need to close the countryside. It would even, unlike the
slaughter of healthy animals on contiguous farms and in 3 km 'firebreak'
zones, have been legal; being specifically enabled by the Animal Health Act.
We at Middle Campscott Farm suggest that the Committee should make it clear
that DASH opposes the slaughter policy now and in future outbreaks of foot
and mouth disease.
Many of the topics picked out by the Chairman and Executive Committee seem
to prejudge the findings of an inquiry. If the Committee wishes to take up
points in advance, perhaps alongside the call for enforcement of the control
of illegal meat imports, we should ask for a proper Freedom of Information
Act that ensures laboratories holding, testing and conducting experiments
with dangerous pathogens, including foot and mouth disease virus, are
obliged to disclose their activities.
Whatever the role of animal trading and movement had in the spread of the
disease, the Committee should be aware of the potential problems for DASH
members which would be caused by a rigid 20 day movement ban. Borrowing a
ram for tupping, taking ewes to a neighbour for shearing, taking the nanny
goat to the billy might freeze all other livestock movements off the holding
for 20 days! This is a matter of practical importance for DASH members
which should be considered. If the Committee has not responded to the
consultation over this matter, perhaps it should do so.
Whether or not foot and mouth disease was caused by bad practice in feeding
swill to pigs, does the Committee really want to prevent DASH members from
collecting stale bread from the local bakery and feeding it to the pig? And
does the Committee have any comment on the ban on using food waste in
compost which might be added to the ban on usage of swill?
Rather than comment in a general way on matters like the 'role of
supermarkets' and 'globalization', we suggest that the Committee should look
to make practical proposals which do, of course relate to these mighty
themes, but which have direct relevance to the interests of DASH members.
These might include the nurturing and facilitating of local production of
all kinds, such as by asking for:
Help with the provision of cheap and accessible training in all kinds of
rural skills and crafts - of the kind offered by DASH. What about asking
for financial support for these - or help with accommodation?
Demystification of the 'health regulations' which control the production of
local foods, especially dairy products and meat, sausages, etc.: and public
policies to require the official inspectors who apply these regulations to
facilitate rather than discourage.
The Committee asks for support for small local abattoirs which provide
facilities for 'private kills'. But the small abattoirs were not, as the
Committee suggests, closed as a result of 'overzealous introduction of EU
regulations by Government bodies'. They were in fact rendered uneconomic by
the system of inspection charges devised by our own Ministry of Agriculture.
It was our own Ministry which devised a system which favoured large meat
plants over the small local abattoir, not the EU. Again and again in the
past, our Ministry of Agriculture has introduced procedures and charging
systems calculated to damage the small local producer and favour the
supermarket and global corporation. Comparison of UK practice with that in
any other European Country, whether over the support given to Organic
Farming or the preservation of traditional practices in cheesemaking shows this.
The most dramatic and recent example has been in the handling of foot and mouth
disease. The policy chosen by our Minister has caused closure of the
countryside, imposition of movement controls, destruction of millions of
animals: and has consequently closed local food production businesses,
farmers markets, farm shops and practically every other small scale rural
activity; to the benefit of the supermarkets and multinational traders. We
need formal adoption of a requirement to consider the effect of policy and
the 'small print' of policy on local production and local variety of choice.
Support for local markets, like the pannier markets and farmers' markets.
Providing sites and maintaining buildings, providing the necessary insurance
painlessly and helping with parking for traders' vehicles, for example.
Systems of inspection which enable small scale producers like the DASH
members to become licensed as 'organic'. Current arrangements with lowest
inspection charges set in the region of #400-#500 per year make it
hopelessly uneconomic for a small producer to become licensed.
Provision of temperature controlled courier services. The way that food
safety regulations are being interpreted are closing down almost every
courier service for mail order foods and small consignments of perishable
Provision of inexpensive or free stands for small scale producers at the
local agricultural shows like the Devon County Show, North Devon Show, etc.
Encouragement and support for those who wish to keep local breeds of animal
or grow local varieties of plants (and protection against the loss of
varieties of plant and animal as a result of requirements for
'certification' or the predatory patenting of genetic material; breed bloodlines, seed
Perhaps, if the Committee wished to be astonishingly radical, it should
study the benefits that the French Government provides for its farmers and call
for something similar for DASH members. Some of these were described in
'Farmers Weekly' July 6-July 12. Apart from the astonishing levels of financial and
training assistance to young - and even not so young farmers, I believe
that they even require supermarkets to display the farmgate price alongside the
Lawrence and Karen Wright
Middle Campscott Farm
Our blood-testing comment in "Whoops" drew this response from Richard:
Not everything is always what it seems. The blood-testing employed by DEFRA
(ex-MAFF) is notoriously unreliable and samples are prone to degradation if
they are not taken properly or delayed on their way to the lab. This may
explain some of the negatives reported when flocks have been identified with
FMD lesions. Further, the test lacks a certain sensitivity and therefore
will not show low levels of antibody. Animals which have been exposed to
the disease months previously but which have recovered may not show up positive.
In the round, it is good news that infection (or exposure to infection) is
not being picked up, but it is never a good idea to be taken in by
PS... what is this "additonal"? Is it some kind of music?
Our comment: PS - Whoops again!
Anne in Cumbria sent us this report:
MY 1,400 SHEEP NEED NOT HAVE BEEN SLAUGHTERED FARMER Ron Wilson saw his
sheep slaughtered because of foot and mouth - only to find out later that
the animals were disease-free. He was devastated after hearing the news that
eight of his prized Swaledale sheep had tested positive.
But four days after his flock of 1,400 sheep had been culled on his two
farms near Greenhead, Mr Wilson was told extensive blood tests had come back
The discovery was made when Government vets carried out blood testing on
animals on Mr Wilson's two farms as part of the first step towards "rolling
back" the edges of the infected area, which currently covers Cumbria, the
Borders and the edge of Lancashire and Northumberland.
It had been six weeks since the last outbreak in the area and farmers feared
their stock could be at risk.
There have been incidents in Cumbria, Wales and North Yorkshire where the
disease has been dormant for weeks before breaking out again.
Only eight sheep had tested positive at Mr Wilson's High and Low Tipalt
Farms, but it meant that further blood, gut and saliva tests had to be
carried out on these animals.
He said: "They were separated from the rest and the vets spent the best part
of a day doing tests. They came back the next day and said the whole flock
would be slaughtered.
"I was totally bewildered, and put up a fight, but they wore me down by
saying it could spread to neighbouring farms and I gave in. Four days later
I was told the results were negative. I just cried and cried and now I feel
Mr Wilson had no reason to suspect that his stock could have foot and mouth,
although he had feared for his farm when Cawfields Farm, only two miles
away, was confirmed with the disease in March.
None of his land was contiguous to Cawfields, his sheep were housed as soon
as he heard about the case and they had been housed throughout the lambing
The animals had been tested in separate groups, with one out of a set of 14
and seven out of a group of 194 showing positive. Most of the rest of his
stock had previously tested negative and only 15 per cent had not been
tested at all.
Mr Wilson said: "This was a huge blow to us. We believed this year we had
the strongest, healthiest set of lambs ever. We also had no problems of
ill-health in our sheep during the lambing season and vets who have checked
our animals previously said they appeared to be in perfect condition."
A Defra spokesman said their policy is to re-test when blood tests taken
during the "roll-back" come back positive.
"If you have one sheep in a group that has tested positive we re-test and,
if it still remains positive, we take out that one sheep only. If you have
two sheep in a group that test positive we would slaughter all that
particular group. We would not take out all the animals, but would continue
to monitor them over a period of time."
Mr Wilson said: "So why did they take all my animals? Only the eight showed
up with antibodies. They didn't have the virus. All my Blue-faced Leicester
sheep were negative. My wife, Frances, and I are gutted."
The Wilsons' two farms have been served with an 'A' notice and will be
disinfected, but have been told they are a Contiguous Dangerous Contact.
"This is a new one to me. None of my fields was near an infected case. It's
made me very angry indeed," said Mr Wilson.
Tests carried out on animals on farms in the Longtown area have so far
Defra say they have tested between 500 and 700 samples from farms that have
not had animals culled and those farms who gave up animals in the voluntary
Our comment: Assuming this report is accurate (and newspapers are not
always!) Anne was puzzled by the apparent disregard for blood testing policy
on slaughter, our response was as follows:
This blood testing lark is totally confusing for us ordinary folk, here's
my understanding of it. The samples taken are tested first by the ELISA
test, then any "positives" or "maybes" are further tested using the Virus
Neutralisation Test (VNT). This all happens at the lab before any results
come back. So any positive result has already been confirmed by VNT. The
policy is that one positive means the group is re-tested all over again from
fresh samples, this time traceable to individual animals, and if still one
positive comes back, that one animal is slaughtered but not the rest of the
group. Remember we are talking positive for antibodies only at this stage.
However, if two or more positives are returned from the first round of
testing, the group will be slaughtered, and further testing is carried out
to detect whether live virus is present. If it is not, no further action is
taken and other groups of animals on the holding are monitored. If live
virus is shown to be present, the whole farm will be slaughtered out and
declared an Infected Premises, with further contiguous culling likely.
So, in your Carlisle case, they should under the current policy have
slaughtered just the one out of 14, plus the entire group of 194, but not
the rest of his stock unless there was live virus found in subsequent tests
(and the report suggests that these were negative).
From the warmwell website:
July 18th ~ Tony Blair has ruled out a public inquiry into the
In his final Commons question time as Tory leader, William Hague pressed Mr
Blair to hold a public inquiry into the outbreak. But Mr Blair said he did
not accept it had to be a "public tribunal inquiry" and insisted eradicating
the disease remained the "number one priority"...
And from the BBC Devon website:
Tony Blair appears to have ruled out a full public inquiry into the foot and
mouth crisis. The Prime Minister told the Commons there would be an
investigation into the outbreak once the disease had been eliminated. But he
indicated that it was unlikely to be held in public.
The outgoing Conservative leader William Hague, in his last appearance in
the Commons before standing down, said the inquiry had to be in public.
Mr Hague said: "You have said you accept the need for a proper inquiry into
the foot-and-mouth disaster. "Do you agree a proper inquiry must be a public
inquiry?" he asked to Tory cheers.
Mr Blair replied: "I don't agree that it has to be a public tribunal inquiry
for the reasons given by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, which
said it was sensible in order to produce an inquiry quicker, that we would
have a different type of inquiry. "We will have that inquiry and we will
publish the results of that inquiry. "But we have said also, in line again
with what the Royal College has said, that it is better to have the inquiry
after we have eradicated the disease, which must remain our number one
Our comment: In the face of almost universal demand for a full public
inquiry from his electorate, Tony Blair has once again demonstrated that we
do not, in fact, live in a democracy but an elected dictatorship. Our
dictionary defines democracy as "government by the people; government by
majority vote". We have felt all along that he will refuse to hold a public
inquiry for the simple reason that he stands to lose the most from it;
having declared himself in charge as the crisis unfolded, he is ultimately
responsible for what has happened. He will do everything possible to avoid
this. But maybe we are just cynical . . . . . .
Rosie has steam coming our of her ears and says he had better not come to
Devon for his holidays.
from Alan & Rosie