Regular readers of these messages will know that Rosie and I have no TV, as a matter of choice. So we invited our 18 year old son Martin to accompany us last night on our visit to a friend's house for the Channel 4 TV programme on foot and mouth. He snorted "It'll be crap". When we pressed him for further expansion, he said "The personalities will be interesting for you to see, but the rest will be crap and you won't learn anything you don't know already".
We smiled at the time - but today we admit that he was remarkably accurate in his assessment!
Here's what others thought of the programme:
Dear Alan & Rosie,
I've just been watching Dispatches on Channel 4. Excuse me while I let off a little steam.....
Well, was it me or did this tell only a fraction of the story? Where was the proper evaluation of vaccination? Where was the comparison with what most other countries do? Where was the condemnation of the discredited contiguous cull? Why on earth was Ben Gill made out to be bravely representing us all? Where the hell were the anti-cull protesters, the anti-pyre brigade etc etc
The graphics were good, the music was appropriately ominous, but the real story wasn't there was it?
Hope you enjoyed your evening out - I'm looking forward to your comments tomorrow.
Good to hear about the Knight's blood test - fingers & toes crossed that yours will be the same.
And this from Diana:
Well, there's no need for comment on the Channel 4 program, because you've seen it. The atmospheric music and beating drums did somewhat distract, but what can you expect from Channel 4? It was interesting how Scudamore didn't realise the 24hr policy wasn't being implemented, and how the Prince of Wales was the moving force behind the vaccination policy - I didn't know that. Otherwise we got the same old "good scientist takes over from bad vet" theory.
Our comment: We are intrigued by what the programme left out, such as the disastrous 3 day delay between banning exports and banning animal movements, the contributions of Donaldson and Kitching from Pirbright (scarcely touched upon), and that three epidemiological modelling teams commissioned by MAFF (not even mentioned) were discarded in favour of Anderson's crew following a "chance meeting" in a pub!
It was interesting for us TV-less souls to put faces to some of the players that we hadn't seen on-screen before. We were surprised, for example, to learn that Ben Gill does not have horns and looks almost human - he's certainly a good actor! But apart from that, we agree with the above correspondents and can only conclude, once again, that we are not missing anything without TV.
The really sad thing is that millions of people have watched this stuff and most have believed it.
# # # Peter kindly made enquiries about the lifting of restrictions locally as follows:
Hello all, Reading Alans "Monday Modulation" yesterday got me quite worried... I quote
"As I told Rosie, the rumours are that one person, not from Bridgerule, > is resisting the blood tests in this area. That should set the cat among the pigeons"
Last week when we got our blood test "all clear" I asked MAFF when the restrictions would be lifted, at that time they told me that apart from a few sluggardly famers everyone in the area had been tested and we ,should everyone else be all clear,could expect to see the beginning of the process of lifting restrictions by the end of the following week So I decided to get an update from MAFF or DEFRA or whatever they call themselves now!
Duty vet officer MAFF Exeter,
" About the blood testing I can confirm there is nobody who is obstructing our access. We have completed all of the blood testing in that area, there are small outstanding queries we have to resolve which should be resolved this week...in relation to stock numbers and so on, but hopefully will be readily sorted this week and we will be able to think about lifting your restrictions at the end of the week."
The duty vet was referring to the whole of the Holsworthy "cluster" so with any luck we will soon be getting our "E" notices. I hope that puts any other "worried farmers" minds at ease.
On the subject of blood testing, Jackie expressed concern some days ago about the risk posed by ministry vets and has received this message of comfort:
----- Original Message -----
Sent: 03 July 2001 15:44
Subject: Re: 'Clean' vets - DEFRA blood tests.
> In response to your E mail, I can confirm that A. Carlaw & C. Hutchings ,who carried out protection zone statistical bleeding of your stock had not been on any premises where disease was suspected for over 72 hrs. This is the required time to be considered ' clean'. In fact these 2 people had been on blood sampling duties for much longer than that, which means that they would have been visiting a similar status of farm as yourselves. They of course carry out a rigorous cleansing & disinfection routine between each farm visit so as to ensure they would be extremely unlikely to transfer infection should they unknowingly come into contact with stock incubating disease. We will notify you of the results as soon as they are available and hope that they will be clear. > Yours > L Farrant > T/DVM Allocations >
As we await our own blood test results (any day now) we finally managed to locate and speak with Alayne Addy, the solicitor who has defended so many threatened farms here in the south-west. So that nothing is left to chance, we need a strategy in place to cope with the worst possible scenario of two or more "positive to virus" results. Alayne's advice can be summarised thus:
Arrange for your own vet to take blood samples before results are expected - or learn how to do it yourself. This is because a form A restriction will be issued that prevents anyone entering the farm without a licence - and they won't give the vet a licence. So it's safest to have the blood samples already stored in your fridge.
On hearing bad news, obtain "farm-gate" blood test kits from pre-arranged source and test your own samples.
Meanwhile, insist on a full copy of the official test results (not a summary) to gain time.
If your test kits show negative results, start negotiations through your solicitor over the next step i.e. re-test, court injunction etc.
If your test kits show positives . . . we didn't look beyond this point!
Alayne was quick to re-assure us that of 150 or so of her clients who have resisted the contiguous cull, only one has gone down with clinical signs of FMD and that the same day as she took on the case (so it already had the disease). The rest have stayed clear and as the blood testing results come through, these have all registered negative so far. In other words, a damning indictment of the contiguous cull policy, since without intervention, all these healthy animals would have been slaughtered for no purpose. She made the point that these results have been negative to antibodies, proving that the animals had not even been "exposed to infection" as the law requires to justify slaughter.
She developed this theme further in the light of recent case law, especially Grunty the pig, which has now established clearly that to successfully obtain an injunction for slaughter, MAFF/DEFRA need two things:
1. Proof of disease on the Infected Premises i.e. by laboratory tests, not just clinical diagnosis
2. Proof of exposure to infection i.e. by blood tests in the abscence of clinical signs (unless stock on adjacent premises have been literally in such close contact as nose to nose through a wire fence)
All we can add is that these developments have come tragically too late in the day - had these precedents been established at the beginning of the contiguous cull, so many more farms and livestock could have been saved.
Finally, we asked Alayne about the legal obligation to submit to the blood testing regime - could livestock owners refuse to co-operate? She replied that this was not absolutely clear because of the variance between UK and EU law, but her advice was that those on form D's within a 3 km radius of Infected Premises probably were legally obliged to allow blood testing of their stock, and that those beyond 3 km would find it in their best interest to agree also, whether or not the law was clear on this. She felt that the authorities would make life very difficult with movement restrictions etc. for any farm that had not been cleared by their test programme. If we understood her correctly, MAFF/DEFRA are relying on EU law to require widespread blood testing because there is no provision for it under UK law, whereas of course for the extended culling policies they argue the reverse, that UK law overwrites EU rules! So there may be mileage in this if someone is determined not to co-operate (are you there Lawrence?)
Anyone wanting details of blood test kits can find these on the websites such as warmwell, cullmaff etc. # # #
Another rumour seeking confirmation:
I have heard a rumour of a second strain of FMD from sources in DEFRA. Does anyone have any information?
Kind regards, Peter Mundy [PMundy@SoilAssociation.org] # # #
More bad news:
The villagers of Hexworthy (Dunnabridge outbreak) are calling for a full public enquiry over the government's handling of foot & mouth. The interviewer asked why the promise of a "full" enqiry was not enough for them - didn't they trust the government? The answer given was several sentences long, but basically said "no".
Meanwhile this morning's TV had a very worrying report about the Greyface Dartmoor. Apparently 80% have been lost to FMD, and a further 15% are under threat from contiguous culls. The RBST have declared the breed to be the one at "greatest risk" of extinction. The Greyface was already a Category 4 risk, that is with less than 1500 breeding ewes. It has now topped the Category 1 "critical" list. Other breeds have also been badly affected, including the Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs. (The above percentages are from the RBST.) All for now - Diana.
# # #
Lisa from the Heart of Devon rang today to remind us of the meeting for farmers tomorrow at the Clinton Hall, Merton near Hatherleigh at 10am. Heart of Devon are hoping for a good turn out as all the media will be covering this event. The objective of the meeting is"to provide farmers with a cost-effectiveway of getting their voice heard and to seek additional compensation for the consequential losses they have suffered as a result of the impact of FMD on their businesses including farmers on restrictions under "D" notices."
# # #
This report comesfrom the Telegraph ;
Scientists clash over how to deal with infected animals By Roger Highfield Science Editor (Filed: 02/07/2001)
TWO groups of scientists, epidemiologists and vets, have criticised each other for their handling of the foot and mouth epidemic.
Vets, who questioned whether so many animals had to be killed, suggested vaccination was a better way to control the epidemic and poured scorn on computer models used by the epidemiologists.
"Unproven computer predictions" were driving government policy, according to one letter signed by 40 vets that talked of "a savage attack on what livestock remains".
Among the vets who advised the Government was Dr Paul Kitching, now with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Saskatchewan. He likened the computer models to "a bad X-ray where you see breaks and cancers that are not really there".
He said of the Government's scientific advisory group: "There were certainly more modellers than veterinarians. It's a dangerous precedent to take a situation out of the hands of the people whose job it is to control the disease and put it into the hands of people who have got limited experience."
The veterinary community has been accused of being territorial by the science journal Nature. The latest issue says: "Veterinary scientists, both practitioners and researchers, seem resentful of the leading role played by epidemiologists.
"The suspicion is that the complaints are motivated by a desire not to let scientific `outsiders' take credit for delivering generally sound advice."
# # # Lastly, some good news from Wales (and some not so good!)
By Robert Davies, Wales Correspondent
PRELIMINARY results of blood tests for foot-and-mouth in 800 sheep grazing common land in the Brecon Beacons are negative.
Carwyn Jones, Wales's rural affairs minister, reported what he called "encouraging first indications" in a meeting with farming leaders on Wednesday (4 July). Farmers' Union of Wales president Bob Parry said afterwards: "Hopefully this suggests that we may have caught the disease just in time."
Mr Jones was told that farmers grazing 40,000 sheep on commons in south Powys were living on a knife-edge, and agreed to release results as soon as possible. The leaders were told that veterinary investigators had failed to trace the source of recent cluster of five confirmed cases at Libanus south of Brecon. But it appeared that the disease could have been present - but undetected - in the area for several weeks.
The meeting agreed that if foot-and-mouth was found on common land, stock should be culled, rather than vaccinated as some graziers proposed.
"There are too many negatives for vaccination to be on the agenda," said National Farmers' Union Cymru-Wales president Hugh Richards.
ENDS # # #
From Rosie & Alan