Bonnie sent us this message from California:
At dinner last night a young --recent grad of UC Berkeley -- biologist let
drop that she was working on a project having to do w creating artificial
antibodies. Ah ha! I thought I'd just quizz her to see what a totally
un-biased, non-involved, science worker thought about the idea of antibodies
in an animal. She said, somewhat to my surprise, that if there are
antibodies, it probably means the animal's fighting off the illness. So
illness must be there. As to whether that animal spreads it or not...well,
she thought a minute, then said it depends on how the disease spreads. She
really didn't know, but it would probably spread around. Again - I didn't
ask her this to find out about the actual scientific knowledge of antibodies
in sheep, but just to find out how an uninvolved, biologist might generally
view such things. I thought, listening to her, it was no wonder DEFRA gets
away with its falsehoods.
Then, she said something which froze my fork in mid-air: "You know, there
are too many cows, really." she said. "Do you know how much methane gas
their farts produce?"
I rest my case.
Our comment: Thanks for this report (pardon) - and for those who missed
it, we repeat (pardon) below some extracts from our daily messages in late
May for the detailed scientific analysis of this phenomenon:
Extract from our mailing of 21st May:
21 May 2001
Flatulence tax threat to NZ farmers
By FWI staff
A FLATULENCE tax on livestock to offset damage to the ozone layer could cost
New Zealand farmers #1.5bn, reports The Daily Telegraph.
The proposal, aimed at complying with Kyoto Protocol guidelines, would tax
farmers between #1 and #17 for each cow and sheep they own.
Gases produced through dung, urine and flatulence contribute to ozone layer
# # #
Alan decided to investigate the scientific phenomena behind this story . . .
. . . . . and located this in the archive of the Daily Telegraph (not
Pirbright this time):
Wind velocity test on flatulent sheep By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
SCIENTISTS have set up instruments downwind of flatulent and burping sheep
to investigate methane gas emissions thought to contribute to global
warming. The study is being conducted in New Zealand, where there are 50
million sheep and 3.7 million humans. Ruminant livestock are responsible for
70 per cent of New Zealand's methane emission, and belching sheep account
for half of that. The nation generates eight times the OECD average of
methane emission per head of human population, said Dr Mark Ulyatt of the
Grasslands Research Centre, Palmerston North. Two Crown research institutes
are monitoring individual sheep to see what affects methane production,
while another two measure methane concentrations in the air. Dr Murray
Judd, one of the air testers, said researchers from New Zealand Pastoral
Agricultural Research found a flat part of the country with consistent wind
directions and had set up a tower downwind of the sheep paddocks, with
instruments to measure wind, temperature and methane concentrations. Dr
Ulyatt said most testing of individual sheep used a sample device over the
noses and mouths of grazing animals. Special respiratory chambers can be
used to test emissions from the other end but the team was not testing
flatulence this time. "I get a lot of flak from this," he added.
Extract from our mailing of 22nd May:
Our report (whoops) on flatulence in New Zealand livestock brought a
response from Michaela:
On flatulence and methane, I can't help remembering a bit of trivia from
university days. Our then bacteriology lecturer said that termites are the
worlds greatest producers of methane (the mind boggles at how that one was
And from Andy:
Thanks for the attachments regarding flatulent sheep it's gratifying to note
that their are scientific studies being conducted in areas that fall
squarely on my humour radar !! I would however suggest that these studies
are broadened to include species such as government ministers, MAFFia
officials and NFU flunkeys who clearly spend the majority of their time
talking through their bottoms and may therefore be significant contributors
to global warming. In view of the New Zealanders approach to taxing such
emissions I presume Gordon Brown will see this as an opportunity to
introduce further stealth taxes on such delights as curries and real ales
Hope the sheep are well and directing their flatulence at suitable
"official" targets !
Friends in Cornwall sent the following contribution:
With regards to the discrimination under the Human Rights Act, I heard Jack
Straw last week on Radio 4 news saying that along with identity cards, there
would have to be several changes made to the Human Rights Act after the
terrorist attack. He said that these changes would be decided by parliament
and not by Judges. Baffled from Cornwall: what democracy was Tony Blair
referring to? Isn't this how the Taliban govern their country?
Re. the new plan over culling 40 million sheep if one is found to have BSE.
This story was first mentioned around the end of last year, while some mad
scientists were injecting BSE into the brains of live sheep and saying that
sheep can get BSE. Why I mention this is because it highlights the
governments previous handling of animal diseases in the past.
The following is just one example of encounters we have had with MAFF over
BSE and TB.
Last autumn we had a call from our local vet, who told us that he had been
contacted by Animal Health in
Truro and told that because a neighbour had TB in his herd, we had to have
an emergency TB test. We were naturally very concerned. TB is spread by
cows touching each other ie over fences, so we phoned MAFF at Truro and asked
which of our neighbours had TB so that we could move our five cows away from
the boundary as a precaution - only to be told that this was confidential
information! We decided to phone all
our neighbours and ask if they had TB. To cut a long story short, we
eventually discoved that a famer who is half a mile away and not contiguous
had a reactor to TB about 8 months previously, the heifer had been retested
6 weeks later and had been clear. The MAFF vet told him that if the heifer
reacted to the second test he would be under a movement order. It doesn't
take much to guess what his reaction to this was: to immediately send off
to market all his autumn stores....so if his heifer had been infected with
Have enclosed an article I got this morning from the NFU Journal in case you
haven't seen it. October 2001 Issue 108. "MYTH OF THE MONTH (MYTH
The question of vaccination has waxed and waned since the first cases of
foot and mouth were
recorded in late February. And as the tail of the epidemic has stubbornly
continued - the voices calling for vaccination have grown bolder.
The NFU has supported the Government's strategy for tackling the disease and
remains unconvinced that vaccination is the panacea that many perceive it to
be. These reservations are complex, and open to misinterpretation, but are
based on three key factors: scientific doubts, concerns over the commercial
acceptability of vaccinated product, and the future trading prospects of the
UK livestock industry.
The scientific assessment remams key to this argument -would vaccination
have protected UK livestock, or would it have created more problems
than it solved?
Back in April the Chief Scientists Group suggested that the strategic and
selective use of vaccine in FMD-affected parts of Cumbria and Devon could be
an additional control measure. In response to this the NFU held a series of
intensive technical meetings with scientists and government -
posing a number of questions. Many of these received ambivalent responses,
regard to virus viability in animals following vaccination.
Crucially vaccination protects against clinical foot and mouth, but not
against infection - so vaccinated animals can still spread disease.
Vaccination may not work if the animal is exposed to infection shortly after
vaccination and before immunity has developed.
Also ruminants that have been exposed to the virus can become persistently
infected, sometimes known as 'carrier' animals - and although vaccination
may reduce the likelihood of an animal becoming a carrier, it will not
The commercial acceptability of vaccinated meat is also a moot
point. Although the Food Standards Agency confirmed that vaccination has no
implications for food safety, vaccinated animals may still harbour virus,
meaning that meat and products from vaccinates must be treated before
entering the food chain. For up to 30 days after vaccination, meat must be
heat treated, and after 30 days must be de-boned and matured to allow the pH
to fall below six - and kill the virus. Concerns remain that a two-tier
market could have developed if meat from vaccinated animals was
distinguished from that of non-vaccinated animals.
The future trading status of the UK is jeopardised by foot and mouth.
Currently there is no internationally accredited serological test that can
be used on a large scale to distinguish between infected (including
'carrier') animals and vaccinated animals- So vaccination would seriously
complicate any programme of serology designed to help lift restrictions.
The outbreak in the
Netherlands has been held out, in some quarters, as the correct approach -
where a policy of vaccination was employed -and the disease defeated in a
relatively short time. Unfortunately the UK and Dutch outbreaks bear little
comparison. The Dutch had the time and opportunity to prepare for a far more
localised outbreak. Strategic vaccination was therefore sanctioned, and was
applied principally because the Dutch authorties could not slaughter and
render carcasses quickly enough. And in the event their policy was arguably
harsher than the UK's. The area to be vaccinated had to be drawn far more
widely than would be the case for the cull policy alone
- in order to allow for the time taken to complete vaccination, and for
immunity to develop while the virus was spreading. Although the Dutch
Government was given EU permission to undertake 'protective' vaccination
('vaccinate to live') in fact all susceptible animals in the vaccination
area were subsequently culled so the Netherlands could regain FMD-free
status. Paradoxically vaccination led to more animals being killed than
would have been the case if an immediate cull had been exercised. Many other
farming organisations and vets shared these reservations, but the NFU's high
profile has led to the perception that the NFU is speaking alone. This is
far from the truth. In these circumstances the NFU cautioned against a "leap
into the dark" The Government's Chief Scientist has recently reaffirmed his
doubts over vaccination as part of a strategy to control the current FMD
epidemic. The NFU has always argued that such decisions must be taken on the
basis of scientific advice and the long-term repercussions of such a move.
But vaccmation has never been ruled out - if it had been clear that it was a
better solution, it would have been employed, and the NFU would have backed
it to the hilt - but this was not at all clear, and the doubts remain.
Special Feature by Martin Stanhope.
Our comment: "Myth of the month" seems to us a most appropriate title for
the above fairy-tale. It is no wonder that many farmers remain confused
about vaccination when their own union is still churning out such
misinformation. Any reasonably well-informed observer could refute this
distorted NFU view of vaccination that is a complete travesty of the facts.
Here's just a sample selection:
"Crucially vaccination protects against clinical foot and mouth, but not
against infection - so vaccinated animals can still spread disease."
There is no scientifically-documented case anywhere in the world of a
vaccinate transferring disease to another animal
"Paradoxically (in Holland) vaccination led to more animals being killed
would have been the case if an immediate cull had been exercised."
This extraordinary statement ignores the facts that 1) slaughter was already
failing to contain the spread of disease when vaccination was authorised;
2) rapid slaughter of such a large number of animals in the required barrier
zone was physically impossible; 3) had vaccination not been used, much
wider spread of disease and the associated mass slaughter was an inevitable
consequence. The facts are irrefutable - in Holland, vaccination worked
exactly as predicted.
"The NFU has always argued that such decisions must be taken on the
basis of scientific advice"
Ah yes, but which scientific advice? That of the very few veterinary
scientists in the world with specialist expertise in FMD; or that of the
UK government's chosen scientific advisers such as Profs. King or Anderson,
none of whom fall into the first category and so are unqualified to advise
anyone? The NFU has always argued from a position of blind prejudice, it's
as simple as that.
From the Warmwell website:
DEFRA slammed for shambolic changes to foot and mouth rules
Last minute Government changes in foot and mouth autumn movement regulations
have been labelled a "shambles" by Powys County Council. The Council has
slammed the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for a
complete U-turn in regulations for autumn sheep movement licences within
hours of the system coming into force. Under original instructions issued to
Powys for the licence system which only went live on Monday (October 1),
blood testing was only required for animals in an 'At Risk' area within
10kilometres of previously infected premises. But, in a complete U-turn the
authority has been told that all licence applications in North Powys for
sheep movements will require blood testing regardless of whether or not they
are within 10km of infected premises
Chief Executive Jacky Tonge said: "The sudden change, without consultation
or proper notification will cause absolute chaos. Our licensing centre is
already under huge pressure because of the new autumn movement regulations,
but the latest changes will make matters even worse. "The authority has
already written to hundreds of farmers applying for movement licences giving
information based on Government guidelines which were only issued on Monday.
Now because of the DEFRA U-turn we will be forced to write again telling
farmers that everything has changed. I have every sympathy with the farmers
receiving this conflicting advice. "The introduction of blood testing for
animals in the At Risk area will lead to considerable delays in licences
being issued. Without blood tests licences can be issued within 2/3 days but
with tests that process can take up to a month. "Farmers in the north of the
county will understandably feel very frustrated by the latest DEFRA changes.
We will be writing to the National Assembly and DEFRA to express our concern
at the way the sudden changes have been introduced."
posted Oct 5
Blair criticised for blocking clearer GM labelling
Welsh MEP Jill Evans has accused Tony Blair of betraying the public's
interests by rejecting EU plans to introduce stricter labelling rules for
the sale of genetically modified foods. The leader of Plaid Cymru in the
European Parliament has criticised the Prime Minister for ordering his
officials to block moves by the European Commission which would require all
foods, cooking oils and animal feeds to state whether or not they contain
traces of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Currently only foods known
to contain more than 1% GM ingredients require labelling.
Ms Evans, who is a member of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment
and Public Health, said. "In refusing to support more thorough labelling
Tony Blair is effectively denying the public a right to choose whether or
not to buy food produced from GMOs. Without the new labelling rules people
in the UK will not be able to make an informed choice. "This is a clear
betrayal of the public's interests and does nothing to restore consumer
confidence in food safety."
It is understood that the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
backed the proposals but was overruled by Downing Street and the Department
of Trade and Industry. The Government now faces a direct clash with
Brussels, which is determined to defend the proposals drafted by David
Byrne, the consumer safety commissioner, and Franz Fischler, the agriculture
Oct 5 ~ A reaction to the Close-Up programme on BBC2 in the West Country:
Adrian writes: I think it was very good and gave a balanced view. Most
interesting was the fact that when the prime minister invited the farmers
unions (notably Ben Gill was NOT invited), the food industry and pro
vaccination people like the Soil Association to announce the governments
plans to introduce a vaccination policy, the government claim it was the
farmers themselves that rejected the idea having already been prejudiced by
earlier false information. What they think might have happened if they had
been forced was not mentioned. The program visited Argentina, Namibia and
Holland. The conclusion was that the EU want a change in policy, Holland
have said they want to vaccinate without slaughter and even UK want to
change. Several advocates of vaccination have suggested that it should be
tried even at this late stage so that a true field test can be made. It
doesn't look like it will happen. A summit meeting of EU members in
November/ December should show a change in policy. We will still have to
wait before any of us can say "Better late than never!"
At a meeting this week with six commercial-scale Devon sheep farmers,
keeping up to 1700 ewes each, the conversation naturally turned to foot and
mouth at one point. We cautiously sought their opinion of the leadership
they had received from the NFU hierarchy, and Ben Gill in particular,
throughout the epidemic. The immediate reaction was a collective snort of
derision before one man blurted out "He's an a###hole" which seemed to meet
the approval of the others present.
Just thought you'd like to know that!
from Alan & Rosie