The last two days have seen many concerned people, including ourselves,
scurrying around for evidence to counter the extraordinary allegations made
by Elliot Morley against farmers that resisted the cull. To re-cap, he said
that it was "established fact" and "a matter of record" that they had caused
increased spread of disease, prolonging the epidemic and increasing the
overall slaughter total. There was "proof" and "evidence" of this, there
was "no argument about it" etc etc.
Of course, we naturally assumed that he was talking the same language that
the rest of us use in our everyday lives. We scoured a number of sources
across Devon and found, as we already suspected, that there was no evidence
of any farm that had resisted the contiguous cull subsequently developing
the disease, let alone spreading it beyond to further premises. As reported
in yesterday's message, this was confirmed by Alayne Addy the solicitor and
Anthony Gibson of the NFU South West region among others.
So the front page of today's Western Morning News carries the headline "A
shameless act of of scapegoating" with a large picture of Morley's face (not
a pretty sight). He is reported as saying that two independent reports had
proved the contiguous cull played a crucial role in containing the spread of
the disease. "We have proof that in other parts of the country neighbouring
premises became infected because the contiguous cull was delayed and farmers
appealed against slaughter - that resulted in more animals being killed than
needed to be. I'm not saying this did happen in Devon, but there is
considerable evidence that it did happen nationally".
Once the flow of steam from our ears had stopped, we reflected that we had
already been in contact with many others all over the affected areas of the
country, only to hear the same message everywhere - no evidence, just as in
Devon. We rang the newspaper and spoke to a journalist about this report,
then re-read it, and the language used started to tell us something. An
idea began to form. We spoke to another journalist on a national daily
paper who had been present at Morley's press conference when he announced
the new Animal Death Bill (he called it the Health bill apparently).
Questioning her about the actual words he used confirmed our suspicions and
the penny dropped into place.
You had all better take a deep breath and r-e-l-a-x for this one.
The scientific evidence that we have all been frantically looking for does
not exist. There isn't any. What Morley was referring to when he spoke of
"undeniable facts", "scientific evidence", "certain proof", "beyond dispute"
and so on was - the predictions made by the computer modellers !!!!!!
Morley's arrogant and damaging allegations are based on nothing more than
that. He is, quite simply, a liar.
What to do about this? Well, now that we know what we are all fighting,
here's what we suggest. You already know that Alan has written an article
detailing the flaws in the Imperial College teams computer modelling work.
Despite three weeks of effort, he has not so far succeeded in persuading a
national newspaper to publish this. The problem, it has been diplomatically
explained, is that he is not a "big name" with a string of scientific
qualifications. Indeed he is not, but he is a) a science graduate; b) a
sheep farmer; and c) someone with personal experience of the culling
holocaust; - so that gives him three more qualifications than Morley for a
On that basis, a national daily has now approached a leading veterinary
epidemiologist in a foreign country, to seek his views on Alan's critique of
the input data and assumptions. These opinions could yet form the basis of
a "news story".
But the attack on the modelling myths cannot afford to wait any longer. We
can't take the risk that nothing comes of all this. So we attach the
article to this message tonight, certainly for you to read, but more
importantly, for you to distribute as widely as possible to MPs, the media
and anyone else of possible influence. It is vital that these modelling
programmes are seen for what they are - nothing more than a desk-bound
biomathematicians idea of what may possibly happen when certain guesses
(sorry, assumptions) are made. There is nothing precise or mystical about
them; and like fire, they make good servants but a dangerous master. What
has gone so tragically wrong here is that predictive techniques are being
completely misused and misunderstood by politicians, to become science that
must be obeyed when it is no such thing.
Please read the article, understand it (we hope), and start using the
ammunition within it to expose Morley's folly.
Lawrence has already written to his MP as follows:
Karen and I are very alarmed at the powers which would be conferred on the
Government by the Animal Health Bill. They seem to be an unwarranted and
unnecessary intrusion by the State into the freedom of the individual. We
urge you to oppose it.
The Government seems to seek to justify the changes to existing legislation
by asserting that resistance by livestock owners and keepers delayed the
killing of livestock and allowed FMD to spread. This assertion is not
supported by evidence. Here in Devon, Allayne Addy - who had far more
experience of these matters than us says:
"I helped over 200 farmers throughout the UK and (apart from the one farmer
who noticed symptoms a few hours after he had rung me for a chat because he
was contiguous - he did not get round to lodging an appeal sadly) NONE of
their healthy livestock subsequently contracted FMD. that is a FACT. in
addition, ALL of 'my' healthy livestock subsequently blood-tested NEGATIVE
to antibodies in MAFF's tests.
"It is also worth remembering that I and my farmers did not take up any
challenge in the courts - only after 8 weeks of successful appeals (by way
of written letters and negotiating) did MAFF themselves bring 4 court cases
against farmers in England and Wales (3 were mine and 1 was Burgess
She adds, by way of comment:
"So quite what Elliott Morley was talking about yesterday I don't know....
he had better re-visit his files before he make any further silly and
"I strongly feel that this new animal health (death) bill is wrong and
flawed.... in terms of the contiguous cull it does not consider section 6
of the Human Rights Act (right to fair and independent hearings for all
citizens) and ignores the existing EU FMD Directives (no systematic culling
of anything other than FMD livestock). and hidden in the text is wholescale
culling of scrapie susceptible sheep and something about tagging... all very
The press release of 1st November by the National Foot and Mouth Group makes
it clear that Alayne Addy's experience was widespread. The same press
release and the findings of the Devon Inquiry seem to indicate that the
spread of the disease was in fact assisted by the careless laxes in
biosecurity by Maff/Defra staff, and the delays in killing and disposing of
infected animals which resulted from the killing of millions of healthy
animals on the basis of faulty information.
To pass such legislation now seems not only unjustifiable but to pre-empt,
without any good cause for such haste, the findings of the inquiries set up
by the government.
We note also that the draconian powers to enter private property and
slaughter livestock, apparently on the whim of the Minister, would extend
far beyond FMD and any 'notifiable disease'. The Minister could on the one
hand order the destruction of the commercial livestock on which farms like
ours depend; and on the other, family pets of any species, kept in private
households. What can justify such intrusive powers?
When rabies passes our lax entry controls and arrives here, will startled
cat and dog owners find the men from Defra coming to kill all the dogs and
cats within a 3 km radius of the 'outbreak'? The Bill would appear to allow
them to; and it makes specific reference to the provisions for entry to
The Bill also deals with scrapie in sheep; and includes provisions for
identifying and recording individual sheep in order that the Minister to can
enforce the destruction of all sheep not genetically resistant to scrapie.
The least issue raised by this concerns the practical difficulties of the
identification and recording of individual sheep. I have applied ear tags
with individual numbers to my own sheep for the last 10 years, using the
type of plastic tag currently recommended by DEFRA. I find that it is
common for 20 out of 100 sheep to lose their tags each year. The tags
break, the sheep catch them on hedges, hurdles and feeders - and pull them
out. Reading them, in the field, under normal conditions is hard enough,
with identification numbers consisting only of three figures is hard enough,
and fraught with opportunities for error. [I heard another farmer who keeps
recorded pedigree sheep say at a recent meeting that he is surprised to find
when examining the lambing records, how many of his ewes have apparently
The implications in cost, physical work and paperwork involved in applying a
mandatory recording system to sheep are truly horrifying: as are the implied
ramifications in terms of penalties and so on. I am told by the NFU that
the technology for electronic tagging does not exist: and in view of the
problems I have experienced with a comparatively cheap, simple recording
technique, I anticipate that electronic tagging will suffer plentiful
teething problems - all involving costs well out of scale with the returns
currently available to livestock farmers. These will undoubtedly be costs
which our competitors abroad will not need to carry, and will cause yet more
disadvantage and discouragement to UK based productive enterprise.
More importantly, the sudden enforced destruction of all sheep not proved to
be genetically resistant to scrapie would cause yet more direct damage to
livestock farms [farms which are already suffering from the Government's
failure to protect them against the unfair aspects of European and global
competition and already crippled by the Government's handling of FMD]: and
it would risk losing sheep with other potential genetic benefits;
particularly the 'primative' and traditional breeds.
While offering these disadvantages, the provisions do not seem to be
necessary. There is a voluntary scheme for the eradication of scrapie,
which is taking its course. Scrapie has never been found to damage human
health - and I suspect that, at least here in Devon, scrapie is very rare.
We have never seen a case.
Professor Ferguson Smith of Cambridge University points out that scrapie and
genetic resistance to scrapie, has nothing to do with resistance to BSE in
sheep. The experiments in which sheep were artificially infected with BSE
showed that the scrapie resistant and non scrapie resistant sheep were able
to be infected. Nothing has shown that sheep have been infected outside the
laboratory - and the relatively short life of most sheep and early slaughter
age of lambs would appear to diminish any real risk of transmissible BSE.
With regard to the fear that symptoms of scrapie might have masked the
incidence of BSE in sheep, research was published in Nature magazine in
August 2000 by researchers at the Institute for Animal Health in Berkshire.
By analysing data describing the historical changes in scrapie incidence,
the group found no evidence for a peak in scrapie before, during or after
the BSE outbreak. They drew the inescapable conclusion that it is "unlikely
that a substantial epidemic of BSE has occurred in the sheep population".
The imminence of a rapid diagnostic test for BSE in sheep has been announced
recently. We have learned to mistrust any statements by 'scientists',
especially when associated with Government policy but the availability of
such a test would seem to remove the need for the haste in eradicating
All of these points emphasise that the powers sought in the Animal Health
Bill would be an excessive and unnecessary intrusion into our freedom. They
have no basis in veterinary science and, we believe, are incompatible with
both the Human Rights Act and with the relevant EU animal health directives.
We urge you to oppose this Bill vigorously in the House.
We fully endorse the views expressed in the press release by the National
Foot and Mouth Group, which can be seen at
http://www.warmwell.com/nfmgnov1.html and the views expressed more widely on
http://www.warmwell.com, which provides an invaluable compendium of
information on these matters.
I went to the Royal Society Inquiry at Rosehill, Carlisle last night. Lots
of our people making good points and getting evasive (non) answers. The
whole thing seemed to be just a commercial for research funding!
No further comment necessary, I feel.
It doesn't seem as if there will be much chance for this Bill to be debated.
Thank you for the summary of the contents.
one point,- I note that the power of slaughter will extend to any animal
thought to spread FMD,- this could include humans!
I am also shocked and horrified with the proposed changes in Animal Health
law. I was hoping that the government would have learnt a lesson and decide
to leave matters to the market, which they often claim to consider supreme.
A farmer I spoke to recently said he expected that it would not be long
before only meat from certified vaccinated animals will be sold.
The government clearly has no intention of leaving farmers to run their own
lives and businesses. The new laws also include compulsory vaccination.
I am confident that the idea of castrating animals with the wrong genotype
is one that no politician would consider extending to his constituents.
Let me finish with some good news for sheep and people like me and many
others who like them. The prion found in the degenerate brains of sheep
(Scrapie) differs in 4% of its 254 bases from the prion found in degenerate
brains of cows (BSE). Because of the advances in analytical chemistry it
will never be possible to claim to find BSE in sheep, unless of course the
sheep brains you are testing are actually from a cow.
We may never know who let it be known that this was happening. However it is
reassuring to know that there is still at least one honourable person
working in the government's animal health laboratories.
The following updates appear in the Foot and Mouth section of
REPORT OF 27 OCTOBER DEMO IN GLOUCESTER (includes 6 pictures)
REPORT FROM 15 OCTOBER CULL IN CUMBRIA (includes 3 pictures)
ANTI-CULL POEMS BY ASTRID GODDARD (with graphics)
FARMER, DR JAMES IRVINE MAKES THE VACCINATION CASE
Look out for a stunning new graphic soon to appear on the Veterinary Oath
Yet more correspondence with Pirbright now. Roger has put his own argument
to Andrew King:
I am replying to the reply by Andrew King of IAH Pirbright to my comments on
You ask where I am 'coming from' on this issue.
I believe that the present FMD outbreak has been badly managed and that this
has happened because of bad scientific advice. This bad advice has mainly
comes from IAH in Pirbright.
Good science (reliable, systematic knowledge) is important to me personally,
to my country and to mankind.
Let me start from where I agree with Andrew.
1. Limited vaccination makes no sense. Either vaccination works and should
replace culling or it does not and should continue to be avoided.
2. Theories about the properties of viruses must be consistent with
Darwins's theory of evolution by selection.
However before considering Darwin's theory of evolution let me remind you of
what my namesake Roger Occam said a long time ago. The principle of Occam's
Razor is that unnecessary concepts should be cut out. My fundamental
objection to the hypothesis of FMDV persistence is that it is not needed.
The facts it is used to explain can be explained with existing concepts.
Andrew says there is risk of applying evidence from experiments to control
policy in the field.
I believe the opposite. Ignoring experimental evidence has and always will
lead to poor control policies in the field.
The Avis web-site written by Pirbright gives examples of FMD in cattle in
Africa after movement to market. I am married to the daughter of an African
farmer. I lived in Africa for 10 years. When the farmers get to market they
go for a drink with the other farmers, from farms where there may be FMD.
Virus can then be spread in their breath, from their clothes and hair.
Later they go to see their animals. They get close to them and they pass the
virus to them. There is no need for the mysterious carrier state
The Evolution of Viruses
Andrew says that FMDV persistence is a theoretical risk. By this he means
that the existence of persistence of FMDV infectivity is consistent with
evolution by selection. I disagree.
Viruses evolve to avoid neutralisation by anti-bodies. They either go where
the anti-bodies cannot go (they hide) or they change their surface so the
anti-bodies cannot combine with them (disguise).
It is not true that lots of viruses establish persistent infections. The
impression that many viruses persist is a result of the multi-billion
HIV-AIDS industries. The Philips report into BSE uses HIV as its model for a
typical virus. HIV is said to persist and cause disease for many years in
the presence of anti-bodies. We all get the common cold virus and know the
opposite is true. Anti-bodies lead to quick recovery from disease.
Persistence and intermittent outbreak is the evolutionary strategy of only
one group of viruses, the herpes viruses. They are an important group
affecting many different types of organism. The mechanism involved is clear.
They spend part of their life cycle in cells of the nervous system where
anti-bodies do not go. Herpes viruses are complex. They are at the extreme
end of the ranges of sizes of viruses. They are 40 times as big as FMDV.
They 320 000 base pairs, FMDV has 8 000.
All other virus groups evolve by changing so that they are not recognised
and neutralised immediately. They gain time to reproduce and spread.
The FMD carrier state is harmless because it is the normal and final stage
of removal of the virus from anti-body restricted parts of the throat. The
virus continues to reproduce in small amounts but cannot be and is not
transmitted out of the organism under normal circumstances. Scraping the
throat with metal cup on a long stick and then injecting this into pigs
never happens naturally.
It is the FMD carrier hypothesis that is sophisticated and wishful thinking.
Government pays Pirbright to produce arguments to support its policies that
are political in origin. That is advocacy not science.
I call upon IAH Pirbright to spend some of the money provide by taxpayers
like me to test and possibly disprove competing theories such as mine.
Instead of continuing to do unproductive research to support a hypothesis
approved by your government paymasters but based on circumstantial evidence
and no mechanism.
Unfortunately, Andrew has chosen not to address these points seriously:
Re Clague: Sorry! It's been hectic recently and I didn't get the impression
that Mr Clague was interested in a reasoned discourse. In fact, I didn't
follow a lot of his message at all. I did paste into my growing collection
of "examples" of human-borne transmission a chunk of his text where he
proposes, if I understand it correctly, that FMDV hops between animals at
markets, not directly, but via their owners talking head to head at the bar.
I wondered if he also reckoned that when one farmer catches the common cold
virus from his drinking companion, transmission is not human head-to-head,
but via the animals congregated at the market.
From the Warmwell website:
Nov 2 ~ "... the Prime Minister has tried to bypass Parliament. Over foot
and mouth, Mr Brown insisted it was a waste of time to come to Westminster
to tell MPs how the battle was going. Mr Blair still doesn't trust his MPs
to have a proper debate or vote on the war,"
writes Alice Thomson in this morning's Telegraph. In a thoughtful article
pointing out the similarities between Tony Blair's wars against FMD and
against "terrorism" she goes on, "He is not interested in farmers, whom he
dislikes as forces of conservatism, but he is fascinated by the Muslim world
and is constantly flicking through the Koran....... ... Both times Mr Blair
has used extreme methods to try to eradicate the scourge. In the case of
foot and mouth, cows ended up being slaughtered after eating blackberries.
Anything that limped was put on the death list; farms 10 miles from an
outbreak were purged. Yet the Government refused to contemplate vaccination,
which should have been part of its armoury..." .
With such a majority in the Commons and such docile NewLab MPs, No 10 seems
to feel that proper debate is a time wasting irritation. As far as the
ludicrously named "Animal Health" bill that is being rushed through, the
only hope for sanity and common sense, for Human Rights, and for the
survival of the battered family farms of Britain rests in the House of
Lords. And the peers are peering most suspiciously at the small print of
this bill. Thank the Lords.
Fighting the farmers
From the Yorkshire Post Nov 1
THE Government has proved notoriously reluctant to allow its handling of the
foot-and-mouth crisis to be subjected to independent, public scrutiny. Even
so, this has not prevented Ministers from admitting that an investigation is
necessary, albeit one on their terms. So why, having initiated its own
inquiry, is the Government pre-empting its findings by rushing ahead with a
new Bill aimed at preventing the spread of farm infections? After all, with
no cases of foot-and-mouth for a month, it might have been thought that the
opportunity had now arrived for a period of calm reflection rather than an
unseemly rush into ill-thought-out legislation.
Farmers, however, will have their own suspicions as to why Ministers are so
keen to get the Animal Health (Amendment) Bill on to the Statute Book. With
its provision for Government vets to destroy a farmer's animals regardless
of his objections, the Bill will be seen as one more indication of the
intention of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to
marginalise farmers' concerns and treat them as if they themselves were part
of the problem. Indeed, with Animal Health Minister Elliott Morley speaking
yesterday of farmers being principally responsible for the spread of
foot-and-mouth, without offering the slightest evidence, farmers could be
forgiven for thinking that the Government is seeking any excuse for a
crackdown on an industry which it believes has given it nothing but trouble.
In refusing to allow farmers the opportunity to challenge such crucial
decisions, the Government is setting itself up as the sole arbiter of how to
fight agricultural diseases. Yet the record of Defra and its predecessor,
Maff, is hardly one of infallibility. In fact, according to the
foot-and-mouth inquiry ordered by Devon County Council, the Government's
handling of the crisis was "lamentable", with Maff's performance an object
lesson in incompetence and insensitivity. Ministers, incidentally, showed
their contempt for this public investigation by refusing to participate in
The Government that claims to know best in all matters of veterinary science
is the same one, it should be remembered, that spent the past four years
testing the brains of cows when it thought it was examining sheep. If this
error had not been spotted, it is possible that Defra would have ord-ered
the cull of the the entire national sheep flock. With a track record of
failure on such a mammoth scale, it defies belief that Ministers are now
giving themselves sweeping new powers that will allow them to have the last
word on matters of animal health.
Scrapie plan threatens rare breeds
By Alistair Driver
SOME of Britain's rarest sheep breeds could be wiped out by proposals to
cull or castrate sheep believed to be susceptible to scrapie. Ministers face
growing calls to protect certain rare breeds following the publication of
the Animal Health Bill. The bill would give the government powers to
slaughter, castrate or sterilise sheep which do not have scrapie-resistant
genes. The aim is to force farmers to help eradicate the BSE-type disease.
But the National Sheep Association claims unique genes that could bring
benefits will be lost if all susceptible sheep are culled. The Rare Breeds
Survival Trust said rare breeds of sheep, which include Shetlands, Soays and
Castlemilk Moorits, are generally not resistant. The trust is helping to
organise a special government-funded genotyping programme for rare breeds to
gauge the extent of the problem. Jeremy Roberts, chairman of the Castlemilk
Moorit Breed Society, said: "If the scheme is made compulsory our breed will
disappear." The sheep should be exempted because there are so few of them
they are insignificant in terms of disease transmission. Countryside
minister Elliot Morley said he would offer some hope to breeds. "There is
going to be some flexibility. We will take into account the need to protect
rare specialist breeds." (warmwell note: it's not like the Farmers Weekly to
miss the point like this. The bill is illogical and an affront to civil
liberties - and its powers go way beyond what is implied in this article.
There is no suggestion that cattle should be castrated or culled if they are
not resistant to BSE. Scrapie in sheep is not harmful to humans. Scrapie
cannot be proved to have any link with BSE - which in turn cannot be proved
to cause CJD - yet the bill is hoping to ride on the current whipped up
fears about all thse things. All associations that care about sheepfarming,
or about the rights of the owners of all animals - including pets - to
protect them, should be up in arms about this malevolent bill - not feebly
begging for exemptions. )
from Alan & Rosie