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.

 

Bonnie

 

 

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

damage.

 

# # #

#

 

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.

 

ENDS

 

 

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

computed)

 

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 !

 

ENDS

 

****************************************

 

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

TB ....

 

 

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

BUSTING)"

 

 

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,

particularly in

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

prevent it.

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.

 

ENDS

 

 

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

than

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

NewsWales

 

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

 

ENDS

 

 

Blair criticised for blocking clearer GM labelling

News Wales

 

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

commissioner.

Oct 5

 

ENDS

 

 

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!"

 

ENDS

 

***************************************

 

 

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