Monday Medley July 23

 

Dr Richard North has released the prologue for his book 'The Death of
British Agriculture' due out in the autumn (published by Duckworths). It
takes the reader through the FMD crisis from the beginning up to the result
of the election, and is attached to this message.  Written in his usual
combative style, this is a valuable overview of events and well worth
reading. (* NB This has been on the warmwell site for some time. See Front page under History of FMD)

Talking of Dr North, Michaela sent us this summary of his talk last week:

 A fascinating meeting on Thurs19th July in Welshpool Town Hall.. Richard
North stated that the British farmer is being "shafted", that money
available to the EU countries, is being invested by
e.g. France, Ireland and Germany in their agricultural sectors, while the UK
comparatively was investing minutely.  I do not have figures, though they
were quoted, because I was in charge of a roving mike.  He pointed out that
as far as the EU were concerned, there is no reason why vaccination should
not have proceeded, indeed should not proceed immediately and he explained
the difference in legal terms between suppressive and protective
immunisation.  Also, that in terms of the EU definition of regions, parishes
would qualify and so instead of Powys for e.g. if instead Montgomeryshire,
Radnorshire etc. were designated areas, then there is no reason why
movements and indeed exports should not take place (if free of FMD for  3
months since last outbreak).

ENDS


Michaela also responded to my criticism of the view that FMD may be endemic
in the national sheep flock:


Just been talking to Janet Bayley, who asked me to set the record straight.
In the Telegraph , Saturday Pg 15, the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW), states
that they believe that FMD may be endemic in the sheep.  As Janet points out this
does not necessarily mean the length and breadth of the UK, but may apply to
specific regions.  This being the case, there needs to be a contingency plan
other than continuing slaughter.  I agree, although, as I said before, I do
not think it is that widespread either, going on the number of cases that
have been identified as lab positive.  If the UK were not as zealous as they
appear to be (in all matters concerning EU legislation), then quietly
ignoring animals with antibody and ensuring that for at least 9 months no
particular group of sheep came into contact with cattle, then we would solve
our problem as was the case in 1967, when sheep tested positive for
antibody.

ENDS

From The Independent:

Sheep coralled for foot-and-mouth tests
By Paul Peachey
23 July 2001
Internal links

Rising costs bring halt to spending on virus clean-up
The first stage of a foot-and-mouth screening programme on 12,000 sheep was
completed yesterday as scientists tried to discover if the disease had
spread to the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Six thousand sheep, half of the huge free-roaming flock, were rounded up
after fears that the contamination had spread to the higher ground. The
first test results are expected within seven days. The second phase of the
programme will take place next weekend when the remaining 6,000 sheep have
been rounded up.

The tests were decided upon after a series of outbreaks near the villages of
Crickhowell and Libanus, Powys, which took the total number of confirmed
cases in Wales to 106.

The mass screening programme was overseen from a military operations room in
nearby Brecon. A military spokeswoman said the sheep were receiving medical
treatment because seasonal sheep dipping could not be carried out.

ENDS


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We spoke with a friend today who had nothing but praise for the RSPCA, which
organisation had saved her from a horrendous "welfare" situation.  She keeps
pigs on a small scale, four or five sows and a boar, and tried to weather
the FMD storm at first.  But of course the weaners couldn't be sold on, more
litters were born, feed bills rose inexorably.  By the time she gave in and
applied for the welfare cull, things were bad.  MAFF were "absolutely
useless", provided no help whatsoever and kept her waiting with promises but
no action.  In desperation she turned to the RSPCA, who provided feed and
bedding, and finally organised private slaughter and removal of the
carcases, all sympathetically done.
  She didn't know how she could have
coped without them.  She received no payment at all from MAFF, whereas
others in the vicinity had sent off their animals much earlier and been paid
handsomely, more than market value in fact.  Her final comment was "all
those horror stories we've heard about welfare problems - they're all true,
only worse" and to express regret that the RSPCA would not speak out against
the government, because it tries to remain non-political.


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From the Ananova website:


 The Prime Minister has ordered a spending clampdown on disinfecting farms
affected by foot-and-mouth disease.

Tony Blair's call comes amid fears that the total bill may top #800 million.

A memo issued by the co-ordination centre set up to tackle the disease shows
that the PM personally demanded a check on "unacceptable" spending.

It comes after discovering that costs are running as much as 10 times as
high as on affected farms elsewhere in Europe.

The memo said that Mr Blair had vetoed further spending until the financial
implications had been assessed, and said a ceiling on spending for
individual farms could not be ruled out.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Farming and Rural
Affairs said that suspension of disinfection activities was not being
considered.

The spokesman said: "We are not suspending cleaning and disinfection,
because it is a central part of what we are doing.

"But we are seeking good value for money to make it cost-effective and
ensure that contractors are working in a cost-effective way."

The memo, issued on Thursday and obtained by the Daily Telegraph newspaper,
states that the average cost of disinfecting farms in England and Wales is
#104,000 and the estimated cost of the whole programme more than #800
million.

It adds: "The Prime Minister has indicated that six-figure sums per farm are
unacceptable. This is based on information from other European countries,
where the requirements of the directive are being met without incurring
anything like this expenditure."


See this story on the web at
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_357470.html

ENDS

Our comment:   Does anyone else remember that one of the government's early
arguments against vaccination was that it would be "too expensive"???


From the Telegraph:


How the infected farms are cleaned
By Benedict Brogan, Political Correspondent
(Filed: 23/07/2001)


THE clean-up operation which follows a cull is the most complicated part of
the process. It involves disinfecting every surface in the farm to ensure no
trace of the foot and mouth virus remains.

The work is usually carried out by contractors supervised by government
vets. A case officer appointed by the Department of Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs is responsible for supervising work on about six farms at any
one time.

For an average dairy farm with 100 cows, about 10 workers spend two to three
months spraying all surfaces with high-pressure water hoses. Surfaces are
treated with citric acid or proprietary chemicals.

The work produces hundreds of thousands of gallons of slurry which, until
recently, were removed to be disinfected elsewhere.

A method has been introduced which involves killing the virus on-site using
alkaline chemicals and then spreading the muck on surrounding fields. The
work often involves wading into tanks full of manure.

Until the farm is certified as clean, it cannot bring in new animals. There
are hundreds of farms awaiting a C&D operation and, with every new case, the
backlog will increase.

Experts say that in the early days of the epidemic some clean-up operations
were mishandled. Infected buildings were pulled down and expensive milking
machines scrapped rather than cleaned

ENDS

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This comment comes from Ralph re. yesterday's message:


How right you are, if Blair detects tradition anywhere it must be eliminated
'cept in the courts of law!   Wool the staple commodity of England and Wales
in the Middle Ages is, as you know, commemorated in The Woolsack upon which
our illustrious Lord Chancellor places his noble posterior when in the Upper
House.   I believe it was chosen to perpetually remind our government of the
vital importance of the wool trade.
    Quite recently I suggested to an
aggrieved and unseated peer that he should set fire to the Woolsack whilst
the bugger is sitting on it, so far without result but I live in hope!

ENDS

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This comment came in from Diana:


We drove north from Holsworthy to Alverdiscott on Saturday, via Stibb X and
Torrington. It was, I realise now, the first time either of us had driven in
that direction since FMD arrived in Devon. It was really shocking to realise
there were NO animals to be seen at all, just some 25 miles of empty fields.
We decided to return via Bideford, and were suddenly surprised by a cluster
of fields full of sheep and cattle. It was only a cluster though, and a
similar depressing return journey followed. Interestingly, we did pass
properties with MAFF tape across the gates, so perhaps my theory about the
virus following the main roads was more valid than I suspected?

ENDS


From the Farmers Weekly website:


23 July 2001
Virus cordon around Yorkshire pigs


By Isabel Davies

THE government is introducing new measures in a desperate bid to stop
foot-and-mouth spreading into the national pig herd from North Yorkshire.

Junior agriculture minister Lord Whitty made the announcement as he toured
regional government offices in Leeds and Northallerton on Monday (23 July).

Tough new measures would be introduced to stamp out foot-and-mouth disease
by creating an area of "intensive biosecurity", he said.

"The outbreak in North Yorkshire is of great concern, as it is close to some
very large pig herds and is threatening the disease-free areas south of the
Humber.

It would be serious if foot-and-mouth spread to pigs because the animals
exhale vast quantities of the virus - more so than many other livestock.

Licences will require that vehicles visiting 2700 farms in the North
Yorkshire area are fully cleaned and disinfected before entering and leaving
each premises.

All milk tankers and some grain and feed lorries will be accompanied by
government officials who will check that disinfecting is properly done.

Local authority staff will patrol the areas, checking on farms and vehicles.

The enforcement effort will be backed by a major serological testing
exercise to identify the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in the area.

Richard Ellison, regional director for the National Farmers' Union, said had
some reservations despite understanding the necessity of the measures.

"We are supporting the measures - I don't think we have got any option," he
said. "But we are concerned about the practical implications."

The NFU had not been warned that tougher measures were on the way until last
Friday (20 July), said Mr Ellison.

It was still waiting for answers on a number of points.

The government had promised that cost would not be an issue but was unable
to confirm whether licenses would be needed for harvest vehicles, he said.

ENDS


Our comment:   Well now . . . . .  after months of denying any link between
milk tanker/feed lorry movements and spread of foot and mouth disease, why
is it suddenly thought necessary to licence their movements AND accompany
each vehicle with an official to ensure that disinfection procedures are
followed?
  Many of us "on the ground" have expressed the view for some time
now that these vehicles represent a serious risk, that complete disinfection
on every visit, day in, day out is impossible to maintain, and that it is
too much of a coincidence that so many of the "jumps" we have seen the
disease make are onto dairy farms.  Oh no, said the "experts", as in this
message to us from Stella Beavan, Disease Centre Manager at DEFRA Exeter:

"We would not, I think,  share your view that milk tankers are a major
player in the spread of disease but they do, of course, feature highly in
our list of tracings carried out since they visit so many farms.  I cannot
give you figures at the moment on how many cases, if any, have been
definitely attributed to their involvement.  The standard of C&D of these
vehicles is obviously of concern and is reiterated regularly.  We do however
have to be realistic and accept that it is, regrettably, inevitably the case
that as disease begins to decrease the vigilance applied to the standards of
C&D declines at all levels."

The issue here is far more than just adequate disinfection.  The tankers -
and feed lorries - blow out air from their tanks during loading and this can
potentially be contaminated with virus from the milk of a previous farm.  It
is filtered to prevent this, but having spoken with an experienced
researcher in this field,  we do not believe that such filtering is
effective.  Virus particles are simply too small to be removed on the scale
necessary.

We will be asking what reasons the ministry have for suddenly introducing
the new measures in Yorkshire  -  could it be they have suddenly woken up to
reality?


from Alan & Rosie