This report comes from The
Amelia Hill and Nick Paton Walsh
Sunday July 22, 2001
The foot and mouth epidemic that paralysed the British countryside, cost the
economy #10 billion, and could cause the slaughter of up to six million
animals is primed to reignite, thanks to the Government's catastrophic
mismanagement, according to the RSPCA.
Rates of infection could return to epidemic levels this autumn as the
disease spreads like wildfire through the country, said Christopher
Laurence, head of the RSPCA's foot and mouth strategy group.
Failure by the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
to carry out sufficient blood-testing of the nine million ewes that roam
freely on British hillsides will make it inevitable that sheep carrying the
virus will mingle undetected with healthy animals when flocks are brought
down to the farms in September, claimed Laurence.
'The lack of routine checks and confused methodology, poor routine and
controversial interpretation of test results gives us little confidence that
there is anything stopping the disease spreading like wildfire come the
autumn,' said Laurence.
'We could be back at square one within a matter of weeks of the sheep being
brought down, which would leave us with no choice but to start culling and
restriction all over again.'
By the end of this month, 100,000 sheep a week will be being tested for foot
and mouth and by the autumn, Defra claims, levels will have risen to 140,000
per week. Laurence concedes these are suitable levels but says the
Government has endangered the recovery process by failing to reach this
standard three months ago.
'The Government is so desperate not to do what they call scaremongering, and
we call facing the facts, that they have not moved anything like quickly
enough to stop it happening all over again,' he said. 'They have failed to
learn from any lessons from the past year and there seems to be no impetus
at all on their part to prevent this disaster reoccurring.'
Baroness Byford, Conservative spokesman on rural affairs, also condemned the
Government. 'The RSPCA is quite right to raise this: if the Government
doesn't handle this problem quickly, we could see a resurgence of the
disease in no time at all.'
Richard Sibley, president of the independent British Cattle Veterinary
Association, has lobbied the Government since March to step up the rate of
blood tests. 'This is something we're all desperately worried about,' he
said. 'We need to test 1.3 million sheep in the next six weeks but even if
tests go ahead at full capacity from now on, it will take 14 weeks to get
all the tests completed.'
Professor Joe Brownlie, a pathologist at the Royal Veterinary College in
London and an independent adviser to the Government, offered to set up a
laboratory to carry out the tests four months ago. 'We were told Defra had
it all in hand,' he said. 'We could have had the labs up and running in less
than two weeks. It's hard to justify how it's taken another four months to
establish what we offered to create all that time ago.'
Defra, however, claims that the 0.16 per cent infection rate identified in
the 300,000 blood tests completed on sheep grazing in areas within a
three-mile radius of farms where outbreaks have taken place proves that
there is little cause for alarm.
'These sort of warnings are totally irresponsible: on the evidence we have
so far, we're quite confident that there's quite a low level of unidentified
infection, although I'm not saying there's no infection at all,' said Elliot
Morley, animal health Minister. 'Of course, there's a risk when the sheep
come down from the uplands but we're doing our best to quantify that risk.'
But David McDowell, an RSPCA foot and mouth adviser to the Government,
estimates the true figure of sheep carriers could be closer to 10 per cent.
'The epidemic could be up to previous levels within two weeks of the sheep
being brought down,' he said.
Our comment: We can hardly believe what we have just read - and we can
hardly believe that we are, just for once, going to support DEFRA against
its critics! Elliot Morley is, in our view, correct to condemn these dire
warnings as totally irresponsible. Just to refresh your memories, here are
the facts as posted on the warmwell website:
Received July 12 2001 - Results of serological testing to lift Protection
"I have come by some information about the results of the serological
testing to lift Protection Zones.
At the point of reporting 5640 flocks had been tested.
Of these 29 had one or more 'non-negative' results with the primary
screening ELISA test.
Of these 29, 17 had a single animal with a positive ELISA result and 16 of
these 17 were found to be negative when re-sampled and re-tested.
The remaining 13 flocks had positive results which were confirmed on further
serological testing, suggesting that FMD infection had been present in the
These 13 flocks were culled - and testing at slaughter for the presence of
virus confirmed current FMD infection in one flock in Devon.
Serosurveillance of surrounding flocks showed no evidence of past
So of five and half thousand sheep flocks tested, live virus was found in
only one. Twelve more flocks showed antibodies, indicating past infection -
but these represent no threat of re-infection to other livestock. We
calculate that one flock out of 5640 equates to 0.00018% of those tested.
These are the facts, and they provide no basis whatsoever for scaremongering
predictions of the disease "spreading like wildfire" in the autumn, by which
time the low-level virus in any "carrier" sheep will have naturally declined
to zero anyway. On present information, the risk of infection when sheep
are brought down from the hills to winter quarters is virtually zero.
See also the information below from Michaela, whom we asked to confirm
something we'd read about saliva of "carrier" sheep containing antibodies to
neutralise any low-level live virus in the throat:
Checked out the saliva and antibody story.
Roit Mastoff and Male, (1996), Immunology 4th Ed., Times Mirror
International Publishers Spain,
All I had to do was consult the book.
IgA is detected in seramucous secretions i.e. saliva, milk,
tracheobronchial and genitourinary secretions. IgA becomes focused at
mucosal surfaces where it prevents reinfection.
(Antibodies or Ab are the old fashioned name for immunoglobulins Ig), of
which there are 5 classes. IgG is the major Ig making up about 70-75% of
the total immunoglobulin pool. IgM accounts for about 10% and is the
predominant 'early' antibody seen in response to infectious organisms. Ig
has the ability to be both specific and general in its response to
infection. They have epitopes which recognise and bind specific antigen
e.g. FMDV and the mechanism for testing is as follows:
Immunonassay or elisa
FMDV (Ag) is incubated on a plastic plate, and small quantities are absorbed
into the plastic. Free Ag is washed away. Test Ab is added which is labelled
and will bind to the Ag. Again washing takes place and the unbound parts
are washed away. In elisa, a chromogen is added, which produces a coloured
effect making detection of Ab that much easier optically.
I have done these tests myself while at university and the outcome is
dependent on the skill of the individual carrying them out!
You can see that if the sample contains no specific FMDV antibodies it
cannot bind to the prepared plate and it will all be washed away and the
result is negative.
Our further questions: Can you say how significant IgA is? Does it
"neutralise" any low-level live virus residues in the throat? Do the Elisa
tests check for just one class of Ig?
IgA is the antibody that is predominantly found in mucous type secretions as
stated and yes it will tend to 'bind'/'lock/ neutralise virus in the nose,
mouth and throat. IgA will be present later than IgG or IgM, both of which
circulate in the bloodstream. So when animal is infected the background
levels increase. The rapidity of the response is dependent upon prior
exposure (to any infections). This is the reason why mature healthy animals
and humans are less likely to become ill than the young the stressed and the
old. The young are immunologically defined as 'immature', the old as
incompetent, the stressed as 'depressed'. When exposed to any acute
infection, up shoot IgM Ab first. This is how, apart from taking a temp,
checking to see whether the animal is listless, depressed off its food and
so on, that it is acutely ill! A blood sample is taken and yes it is
possible to determine the various immunoglobulins by individual particular
characteristics dependent upon electrophoresis
( Ab/Ig are proteins, and proteins display specific characteristics when
probed by an electrical current. They tend to move a characteristic
distance from the stimulus!).
If you were looking at a graph for a rise in Ab following an acute
infection, first up goes IgM, followed by IgG, but both have binding sites
that would 'recognise' specific infection and as I explained in the last
email, when subjected to elisa and the specific Ab (FMD) or Ag (FMDV) that
is being tested for is labelled, it is then possible to determine
definitively that the animal either has the virus or the Ab, but we are
talking 2 different elisa tests. One for virus, one for Ab. method is the
same, prep different.
Our comment: Thanks for that explanation, Michaela, it takes a bit of
understanding but the bottom line is this - antibody present in the saliva
neutralises live virus in a "carriers" throat and prevents infection being
passed on to other animals. We presume this is the reason why "carrier"
animals represent no threat in practical terms to other livestock, and why
all laboratory attempts to demonstrate that cross-infection can occur have
We just thought you would like to know this - from the BBC website:
Assembly officials have begun moving the cremated remains of thousands of
cattle carcases from a mid Wales mountain range.
The 20,000 tonnes of ash will be taken from the Epynt range near Sennybridge
to a landfill site in England over the course of eight weeks in an operation
involving 30 lorries each day.
The controversial funeral pyre used in the village was so big, it has taken
two months for the ash and other materials to cool down, and it will take
another two months just to get rid of the remains.
Sealed containers will carry the ashes
But local residents, who hit out at the choice of site used for the
disposals near the military range, are not happy - they met over the weekend
to discuss the transportation and say they will keep a close eye on the
The assembly has ordered the removal, which will see the ashes being loaded
into sealed containers and driven to the landfill.
The assembly has also written to every house and farm for miles around
assuring residents the effort will not be hazardous to their health.
The controversial Epynt site was used to burn up to 40,000 culled animals at
the height of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Several residents from Epynt and Trecastle had claimed the dumping of
carcasses at the army range had made them ill.
Burials at the site were halted by Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones in
April amid fears fluids had leaked into the local ecosystem.
The Environment Agency confirmed that contamination from livestock carcases
was found near the burial pit, but burning remained for a time.
Locals said the burial of up to 180,000 carcasses on Mynydd Eppynt would
lead to pollution of rivers and watercourses, and claimed the area would
become an "ecological time bomb"
And for FOPRA members (Fans of Professor Roy Anderson) here's another item
from the same source. Anderson of course is now based at Imperial College .
. . . . .
One of Britain's leading research institutions has been fined #25,000 after
exposing staff to a "deadly" virus.
Imperial College was also ordered to pay more than #21,000 costs at London's
Blackfriars Crown Court.
Workers at the institution were dangerously exposed to infection from a
hybrid virus for which there was "no known vaccine or treatment", the court
The court's decision comes just over a year after the college was fined
#20,000 for a safety breach involving HIV virus research. In 1998 it was
also fined #4,500 for exposing a worker to an "animal allergen".
Hepatitis C causes severe infection and is frequently fatal ... whereas
dengue fever can cause severe but rarely dangerous infection
The college's "seriously flawed" approach to health and safety matters in
this latest case raised a distinct possibility that Hepatitis C and dengue
fever could be released into the open.
Prosecutor Keith Morton said an experiment cabinet was wrongly used and
ventilation procedures were inadequate.
Mr Morton also said there was no protection equipment available and no
proper system of waste disposal in place at the St Mary's Hospital campus in
Kensington, south west London, where the research was being carried out.
"They have shown a disregard for basic measures to ensure and monitor
safety, as a consequence of which their employees were exposed to a very
real risk of infection," he told the court.
"This was aggravated by the fact that safety advice from the Health and
Safety Executive was ignored."
The court was told the breaches occurred against a backdrop of growing
concern within the college about general safety standards at the campus.
"The prosecution say that while this was important work, that can be no
excuse for the failures which were revealed," Mr Morton said.
"Hepatitis C causes severe infection and is frequently fatal, but is
difficult to catch, whereas dengue fever can cause severe but rarely
dangerous infection, but is severely infectious.
A very senior research professor working at the college, having been given
the clearest possible guidelines, had simply not observed them
However, a hybrid virus was unpredictable.
"In particular its tropism, the target tissue in which it would reproduce,
was unpredictable and there was no vaccine or treatment available."
Dominic Grieve, defending, said Imperial College "apologises and very much
regrets" what had happened.
He told the court Professor John Monjardino, who was in charge, had been a
"distinguished" member of the faculty, although he was now nearing
retirement and no longer allowed to conduct research work.
Mr Grieve told the court: "At a safety level the college simply never knew
that the professor had started this work. We have had no explanation from
him why he did start it.
"By oversight, or whatever cause, a very senior research professor working
at the college, having been given the clearest possible guidelines, had
simply not observed them."
Our comment: Seems like it's not only Roy Anderson's efforts at Imperial
College that are "seriously flawed" - thank goodness he's only working with
"virtual" foot and mouth virus!
Date: July 22, 2001
Contact: Mary Napper 01939 233834 or 01938 580319 Mobile 0788 169 4414
A meeting is taking place in Welshpool, Powys, convening a TRUTH AND
REPARATIONS COMMISSION ON FOOT AND MOUTH to inquire into all aspects of the
Foot and Mouth Disaster which has been affecting the UK since February 2001.
Further outbreaks continue and there is no sign of a real cessation to the
disease. Newspaper reports recently announced that over 2 million animals
may have died needlessly due to faulty mathematical modelling underlying the
current 3 km contiguous slaughter zone policy.
The Commission, which will function as a non-statutory public citizens'
inquiry, will receive testimony on the record, from all interested parties.
We therefore invite anyone who:
* has strong views on the foot and mouth crisis
* feels the government has adopted the wrong policy in dealing with it
* feels that human rights, animal rights or civil liberty issues have been
* feels that MAFF (now DEFRA) has acted with undue incompetence or duplicity
* feels the devastating effects on the UK economy of current policy need
accounting for and reparations
* has information which can assist the development of the work of the
* feels they have a factual grievance against any individual government
official or agency
* feels the veterinary profession have failed in their duty to uphold high
ethical and intellectual standards in the medical treatment of diseased
* feels the scientific case for current policy has not been argued
conclusively or accurately
* feels there are genuine and workable alternative policies
* who has any other information regarding this whole scenario
* or who feels the government has been doing an excellent job and the
current policy is absolutely the right policy and they have evidence to
submit why this is the case
To submit evidence please attend in person or write in for tabling at the
opening TRUTH AND REPARATIONS COMMISSION which will be held on Saturday 4
August 2001 at the Council Chamber, Welshpool Town Hall, Broad Street,
Powys, from 2-6pm.
We also invite expert witnesses from all relevant professions to come
forward and submit evidence regarding the way this policy has been arrived
at and then implemented to attend the first session. Journalists who have
been covering the story and who wish to attend either as witnesses giving
evidence or to cover the meeting are welcome. The working of the Commission
will be impartial and seek to arrive at an open and accurate picture of what
has happened. All gathered testimony will be submitted (with permission) if
and when the UK government finally initiates a full official public inquiry,
which it has recently stated it will do "once the disease has been
Our view is that this is not soon enough, since the evidence indicates that
current policy alone will be unable to eradicate the disease, and meanwhile
the tourist industry throughout the land and the rural economies in
particular are suffering devastating blows, from which many sectors will
find it difficult to recover. For this reason we are taking the initiative
to launch a Commission at this stage rather than waiting for the government
to act. Your help and assistance in this matter would be deeply appreciated.
Please circulate this announcement widely to all those likely to be
The Commission will be chaired by Dr. Thomas Clough Daffern, an
international educator and philosopher who has a wide experience in this
field, having organised and co-chaired over 30 meetings in the House of
Lords from 1993-2000 on "Ethics and Public Policy" and more recently has
initiated and chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Stonehenge
which has held over 17 public meetings in Wiltshire involving the police,
English Heritage and members of the public, inquiring into all aspects
surrounding the conflicts at Stonehenge in the 1980's and beyond, and which
has helped see the successful resolution of that conflict.
The Commission is a new initiative in view of the fact that petitions and
meetings have so far failed to be taken seriously by those in a position to
review and change policy. We feel the time has come to initiate a formal
citizens public inquiry in the form of a truth and Reparations Commission.
All persons critical and/or sympathetic to the current policy and concerned
with its implications are invited to send in evidence either in person or by
post beforehand. The whole point of the Commission is to try to arrive at
the actual truth concerning this outbreak concerning: origin, remedies,
consequences. We will be reviewing the scientific facts, the political and
interdepartmental confusions, the economic consequences.
A further flyer giving more details is enclosed as an attachment. Please
circulate this information as widely as possible among your own contacts and
in your own immediate area.
All who wish to help us arrive at the actual facts of this disease and its
consequences and implications are urged to either attend, or communicate
Thomas Daffern and Mary Napper,
Bert has sent in this message:
I have a few comments on Chris Booker's article:
"Sheep eat men" is also a 16th century saying: the specialisation that
happened in the late Middle Ages, with England becoming the raw material
producer of wool for Flanders' textile industry, and later inviting Flemish
weavers to settle in England to set up our own industry, was not without
severe repercussions on the social fabric. The above saying arose because
the unbalanced growth of sheep raising led to the enclosures, the
disappearance of hundreds of (tenanted) villages and widespread homelessness
and unemployment. It is a good example of profit for some leading to mass
misery for others,
I also feel that Britain's uplands are not sacrosanct, and are while being
grazed not necessarily the most diverse habitat imaginable (to say the
least) nor the most productive use of the land. In the copy of the letter to
Margaret Beckett that I sent you I proposed more fibre, fuel crops and wood
being produced in Britain. Some uplands may be good for that (but often
soils need regenerating). That doesn't mean though that we don't need sheep
and sheepfarmers: as you pointed out we import as much lamb from New Zealand
as we export to Europe. One of the problems apparently is that a year's
worth of NZ lamb is already frozen and in the country..... How absurd this
whole worldwide food trade is!
That reminds me that Anthony Gibson was quoted today in the E&E saying FMD
was for farmers "yet another body blow in a string of disasters not of their
own making." Excuse me, is this the NFU that has opposed vaccination all
this time, and (nationally) I think still supports the contiguous cull???
Not of his own making? Or have I missed a clear and outspoken rift between
Anthony Gibson and the national NFU?
A roadside placard seen by a friend as she drove past the Ash Moor burial
site near Meeth (try it with a Devon accent):
NOW WE'VE GOT BECKETT
from Alan & Rosie