We rang DEFRA today to enquire about progress of our re-stocked neighbour,
now that 28 days has elapsed since the new animals arrived on-site. The vet
in charge confirmed that there have been no problems and that their
paperwork would be signed off tomorrow. So that's another hurdle cleared
for us, meaning our sheep can return from the furthest reaches of our
smallholding to enjoy some fresh grass. The vet also said that the south
west has now passed 600 cleaned and disinfected farms, of which around 250
have re-stocked so far without any reported problems. They seem very
confident that it's all - you've guessed it - under control!
Betty forwarded this news item - it's not about FMD but there are familiar
themes to it:
Brussels tells Britain: grow more GM food
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
07 October 2001
Brussels is mounting a campaign to increase vastly the amount of GM crops
foods grown and eaten in Britain and throughout Europe, The Independent on
Sunday can reveal.
The European Commission is calling a meeting next week of the 15 EU
governments to persuade them to lift a three-year moratorium on approving
Documents seen by this newspaper show the EC wants them almost to double
the amount of approved GM foods and more than treble the number of permitted
GM crops even before a recently agreed directive has been put into force.
Friends of the Earth warned yesterday that the plan, if adopted, would lead
"widespread commercial growing" of the crops and "flood" supermarkets with
foods. There would be huge resistance from public opinion, which brought
the standstill in the first place.
The background documents for the meeting, which will be held on 16 October,
laments the moratorium, which, it says, has resulted in no new GM products
approved since October 1998 and compares Europe unfavourably with the US
where the crops and foods are ubiquitous.
Jointly prepared by the EC's environment and health directorates, they say
standstill has "clear and serious implications for European industry,
research and related sectors, and creates legal uncertainties and public
It adds: "In the US and Canada around 50 GMOs [genetically modified
have been approved for use in food, whereas in the European Union, food
products derived from only 13 GMOs are permitted to be placed on the
The documents acknowledge that the moratorium was introduced because
governments insisted that "a more stringent and transparent regulatory
framework" should be put in place before any new products were approved. A
directive containing the new framework was approved in March, but has not
been put into force in national laws. The commission adopted rules for
and tracing GM crops and foods in July, but these have not even yet been
by the European Parliament or agreed by EU governments.
But the commission is so keen to press ahead with approvals that it suggests
they should now be done on the basis of "voluntary commitments" from GM
even before any of this comes into effect.
Adrian Bebb, GM food campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: "The EU is
to rush ahead - under pressure from the United States and the GM industry -
disregarding concerns about public health and the environment. The
agreements that it is proposing with industry are likely to be worthless,
and, in any
case, the public will resist having these products forced upon them.
While this message, also forwarded by Betty, refers to the proposal that
Dutch vets strike rather than slaughter in future:
Yesterday 6/10, I attended the FMD-topic of annual meeting of the Royal
Dutch Veterinary Association.
The motion for the proposal to call for a general veterinary strike in case
of a new outbreak requiring destruction etc. was dropped. Instead Dutch
vet. practitioners are now formulating a motion to be accepted in which
Government is "requested' to have E.U regulations modified in such a way
that at least emergency vaccinations will be allowed and that vaccinated
animals will not be destroyed but be made available for local consumption.
A meeting in which several interested parties will be represented is going
to be held in Brussels on 12 and 13 December
Jane sent this announcement:
It is with great regret that I have to tell you that the planned 'BIG March'
due to take place on October 20th, is cancelled.
From Speakers Corner in Hyde Park to Downing Street, many people were
attending from all over the Country to protest at the Government's handling
of the FMD crisis and to call for a Public inquiry and Vaccination program.
Marching to Downing Street they were to deliver many petitions signed by
thousands, to the Prime Minister.
In view of the high state of alert, instigated by concern over the
possibility of increased terrorist action, in London and major cities in the
U.K. the organisers have decided to cancel the 'Big March' in the interests
of public safety.
The petitions will still be delivered to the Prime Minister a little later
and the arrangements to do this will be announced in the near future.
For the inconvenience the cancallation will cause, please accept apologies
and understand that no alternative was possible in the circumstances.
Jane Barribal - Farmtalking.com
Diana comments on the recent BBC TV programme:
Anthony Gibson's comments were of note though -
that we should have vaccinated if it had crossed our minds to do so (or
words to that effect). I was on the phone to the vet as soon as it hit
Devon, pleading for my sheep to be vaccinated. I'm sure I wasn't the only
one. So how come no-one in the NFU thought of it? Sounds like yet more spin
Betty sent this information on the subject of AI for sheep:
AI in sheep does work, Edinburgh Genetics specialise in it. Purchasers of
expensive commercial rams use it as a form of insurance. America imported
semen of 4 Shetland rams 3 years ago. And before FMD kicked in I wanted to
import semen, but no chance this year. You need is a vet who knows what he's
The semen can directly be placed in the uterus (100% result) or the normal
(result 60-90%) depending on the skill of the inseminator.
Results in America: They surveyed 5 groups, a total of 45 lambs were born.
Semen is for sale, but it takes a lot of administration and money. It's the
only way to
get new bloodlines from first class rams who are still working in the UK.
In Holland we want to form a group of breeders and import together. That way
can share the costs.
The semen bank of the RBST should also include embryos as well, to my
knowledge you need male and female to secure a future.
It would cost a lot more, but was there ever a time when it could have been
From the Ananova website :
'Random shots' slaughterman escapes prosecution
A slaughterman allegedly caught on film taking random shots at sheep will
not be prosecuted.
The man was ordered to cull the animals during the foot-and-mouth crisis.
The RSPCA says it is frustrated at being unable to bring a prosecution.
The 32-year-old from Abergavenny was filmed in Monmouthshire firing at the
stray sheep in an open field and allegedly chasing a wounded animal to
finish it off.
RSPCA chief veterinary officer Chris Laurence says the case was dropped
following legal advice that the slaughterman is unlikely to be convicted
because he was operating in difficult circumstances.
"We are extremely frustrated by this situation. We have done everything we
can, but the RSPCA can only act within the law," he said.
"What we now want to see are guidelines issued under the Foot and Mouth
Order which clearly define the way culling operations are planned and
"In particular we would like to see a suitably-experienced vet on-hand to
advise and supervise in all cases."
The charity says it had obtained expert evidence showing that a ewe had
suffered after being shot from a distance of about 20 yards.
The man's attempts to kill the animals in the village of Gilwern in April
brought widespread condemnation after a retired couple filmed the episode
from their loft.
Our comment: We think that Bryn may have something to say about this -
but in the meantime, we should all consider why it is that an act of cruelty
for which any one of us would most certainly have been prosecuted, is now to
go unpunished, simply because the "marksman" was employed by a local
government authority. Justice? Welfare? Compassion? Not when it's
government dirty work, apparently.
Freedom bid cow destroyed Oct 8 2001
By Bryn Littleton, The Journal
A Northumberland farmer whose pedigree Aberdeen Angus heifer gave Defra
slaughtermen the slip five weeks ago was devastated to learn it was still to
be killed despite its five weeks of freedom.
A neighbouring farmer who took the animal into his farm after it turned up
on Friday now faces losing his cattle and sheep if the heifer is found to be
infected with foot-and-mouth.
The heifer, which was killed yesterday, disappeared into woodland as the
rest of John Rutherford's 40-strong herd was culled on August 30.
After weeks of sightings, the heifer was found in a country lane between
Allendale and Whitfield in Northumberland on Friday.
Mr Rutherford who owns Old Town Farm near Whitfield, called Defra officials
after being told it had been let into a field of cows unaffected by
Mr Rutherford, who lives with wife Margaret and son Christopher, said: "We
kept hearing rumours of a heifer being heard in the woods late at night.
"We were told on Friday an Aberdeen Angus had been found wandering on a road
and called Defra. They said it had been so long since the infection we could
bring her home but we were later told the vets had said the animal had to be
"I wish I had never even heard it was still alive."
None of Mr Rutherford's 40 heifers, which were kept on pasture land at
Thornley Gate near Allendale, had been infected but were deemed a risk after
a neighbouring farm was hit by the virus.
"The day they came to kill the heifers was terrible," Mr Rutherford said.
"We heard they were chasing the animals all over the place and on to the
road before shooting them with rifles."
After being found the heifer was let on to land owned by Thomas Myers of
Flolar Farm, Allendale.
He agreed to allow the animal to stay until movement restrictions were
lifted, only to be told by Defra vets the animal still had to be
slaughtered, as would his 50 cattle and 80 sheep if any infection was
"If this heifer tests positive then I will lose my animals.
"They told me it is unlikely, but I will just have to wait and see."
A Defra spokesman said yesterday: Defra understands the farmer's situation
but once an animal has been listed for slaughter for dangerous contact then
it remains listed."
Our comment: This sordid episode reveals once again the intractable
stupidity of "the policy" and of the people employed to promote it (by us,
remember, they are public servants). Everyone knows that a heifer showing
no symptoms after five weeks is in the clear. To slaughter her anyway is no
more than a paperwork-clearing exercise of mindless brutality. But what
else does anyone now expect of DEFRA?
From the Telegraph:
Three out of 10 farmers 'ready to leave industry'
By Richard Savill
THREE out of 10 farmers are likely to leave the industry following the foot
and mouth epidemic, an independent inquiry into the outbreak in Devon was
David Hill, the chairman of the National Farmers' Union Devon branch, gave a
warning of the exodus after highlighting Government errors that he said had
exacerbated the crisis.
He attacked the "disastrous" contiguous cull policy dreamt up by
"mathematicians and statisticians", and the Government's failure to stop
animal movements immediately after the first case was discovered.
He also criticised the Government's initial reluctance to bring in the Army
to organise the slaughter of livestock, and the disposal of carcasses, and
he highlighted the poor communication from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Giving evidence on the opening day of the public inquiry at Exeter, Mr Hill
said he was concerned about the lack of speed at which farms were now
An NFU survey in the early days of the epidemic found that more than 90 per
cent of farmers would restock at the earliest opportunity, he said. "That is
not happening. If we did the survey today that figure would be down to about
70 per cent."
He told the five-day inquiry: "Maff was playing catch-up from day one. We
believe there was a total panic." The inquiry, chaired by Prof Ian Mercer
and set up by Devon county council, is separate from the Government's three
Mr Hill told the inquiry that the Government's delay between announcing the
first case and stopping all animal movements meant hundreds of thousands of
sheep were moved, spreading the disease across the country. The NFU also
recommended that the contiguous cull should be abandoned.
Mr Hill said: "The people who dreamt up the contiguous cull were
mathematicians and statisticians who produced a computer model. It led to
the unnecessary killing of a huge number of animals and caused extreme
The inquiry also heard evidence from residents and people in the tourist
Tests on 140 sheep slaughtered after a suspected foot and mouth outbreak at
Battle near Brecon have proved negative. There were no new cases reported
Our comment: Hang on a minute, what was that David Hill said - "The NFU
also recommended that the contiguous cull should be abandoned." For eight
long months, while millions of animals were being slaughtered and thousands
of farmers traumatised, the NFU have steadfastly refused to make that
statement. Sure, Anthony Gibson said it, and David Hill said it, as their
personal opinions, but we have kept checking throughout and it has never
been official NFU policy to oppose the contiguous cull. So it sticks in our
throat to hear such hypocrisy at the Inquiry, now that it's too late to make
Also from the Telegraph:
County to find truth about foot and mouth
By Richard Savill and Paul Stokes
ONE of the counties worst affected by the foot and mouth epidemic will begin
its own independent public inquiry today.
While the outbreak, which first struck nine months ago, no longer makes
daily headlines, and the disinfectant pads and warning signs have been
cautiously removed in some areas, the effects of months of misery are still
evident in Devon.
The county was the second worst hit by the epidemic. There was silence in
the empty fields and cattle sheds around the village of Chulmleigh
Philip Bown, a farmer, said: "We must find a way of ensuring that this
country is never again put through a trauma like this." He is one of 350
people who have made submissions for the inquiry that opens in Exeter.
Gazing at a large ash tree in his paddock, a favourite congregating place
for his cattle before they were slaughtered in May, he hoped that the
inquiry would "establish the truth".
Mr Bown, 67, a farmer all his working life, is the author of the book A Farm
Boy, which tells of the hardships and joys he has experienced. His wife,
Patricia, 66, is co-chairman of the Devon branch of the Women's Food and
The fields surrounding their home, Collacott Farm, in a wide valley between
Dartmoor and Exmoor, were once filled with sheep, beef cattle, and dairy
Now the view from their bedroom window is desolate, without an animal in
sight. The couple have decided to retire early, and will not be re-stocking.
Mrs Brown said: "Lessons have to be learned. So many stupid decisions have
been made. They didn't jump on it at the beginning."
The Bowns hope the inquiry will address the key issue of vaccination. They
believe it should be used rather than slaughter.
They also believe that the Environment Agency should have allowed immediate
disposal of carcasses, either by farm burial or rendering.
Mr Bown said: "Because they weren't burying the animals immediately they
allowed the infection to spread. They were slaughtering them faster than
they could cope with.
In some cases, it was nearly three weeks before dead animals were moved.
When there was a wind they found bits of carcass two miles from the pyres."
Mrs Bown also criticised the "over-eagerness" of slaughtermen, who were paid
on a per head basis, and the inefficiency of the cleaning contractors.
Devon county council has decided to hold the inquiry, which is expected to
last five days, in public. It will be chaired by Prof Ian Mercer, 68, who
has lived in Devon since 1959, and was secretary general of the Association
of National Park Authorities until his retirement earlier this year.
Prof Mercer promised to examine whether vaccination might have contained the
disease more quickly than slaughter. He will make recommendations to the
Government's three investigations into the crisis.
The inquiry will be shown live on the internet and the hearings can be
accessed via the council's website.
From the warmwell site - Private Eye:
Even Newer Muckspreader 25 September
Ever more curious becomes the story of the science leg of the three
'pseudo-inquiries' set up by the Beloved Leader to help cover up the
unprecedented shambles he has made of the FMD catastrophe (still ongoing).
This is the one handed over to the Royal Society, chaired by Sir Brian
Follett , Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), to look into future handling of
animal disease epidemics. Operative word there of course is 'future',
because the last thing the Beloved Leader wants is anyone looking too
closely into the handling of one past epidemic in particular, i.e. FMD 2001.
This is because the biggest cock-up of all was giving control of the crisis
to Professor Roy Anderson's famous computer, which led to the killing of
some 3 million healthy animals under the 'contiguous cull', with the result
that five months later the killing is still going on, while the disease has
Even the man responsible for appointing Prof Anderson FRS as mastermind of
the government's FMD strategy, the Chief Scientist Prof.David King FRS, is
said now to be having private second thoughts about whether this was
entirely wise. Neither of them of course, King the 'surface chemist' or
Anderson the computer modeller, had any veterinary experience. But King was
beguiled by the way Anderson's skills were talked up by their mutual friend
Sir John Krebs FRS, head of the Food Standards Agency. And it was Krebs who
organised Anderson's hotline to all the Maffia data, enabling Anderson's
computer to make such a convincing case that it would run the FMD crisis a
great deal more efficiently than Nick Brown's Maffia (admittedly not all
that difficult). So, if one of the first things any independent inquiry into
the handling of the FMD crisis would want to investigate was the shambles
perpetrated by one leading FRS at the instigation of two others, who better
to enquire into it all than the RS itself, under the benign gaze of yet
another FRS, Sir Brian Follett? But Sir Brian's qualifications to carry out
a fearlessly independent investigation do not stop there. If Prof.Anderson's
patron, Prof.King, was appointed as Chief Scientist on the advice of his
predecessor Prof. Sir Robert May, currently president of the RS, it turns
out that May and Anderson were also old friends and colleagues, having
co-authored two books together. Sir Robert is RS professor at the Oxford
zoology department, where he was Anderson's boss, and where their other old
friend Prof. Krebs still works. And guess who is another visiting professor
at the Oxford zoology department but the very man who, as pure chance would
have it, has now been entrusted with the RS's fearless investigation, Sir
Even here the wondrous chain of coincidences does not cease. Because we can
now see who is to assist Sir Brian in his fearless task, as members of his
15-strong committee. One is Dr Angela Maclean, who just happens to work at
the Oxford zoology department. Another is Professor Patrick Bateson FRS, a
colleague of Anderson, King, Follett and Krebs as the RS's biological
secretary; and yet another Ms Suzi Leather, who just happens to be a close
colleague of Prof.Krebs as his 'deputy chair' at the Foods Standards Agency.
Perhaps the one thing on which Ladbroke's would be unwise to lay any odds at
all in these uncertain times is the possibility that Sir Brian's committee
might come up with any criticism of the part played in cocking up the FMD
epidemic by Profs. Anderson and King. FRS, of course.
Our comment: Just in case you might think that we are prejudiced . . . .
Mary at warmwell has kindly supplied to us the latest "scientific" paper
from Anderson and Co., as published in Nature magazine, so we are working
through it now to undertake an independent and unbiased review of their
latest computer modelling exploits. First impressions are that it does not
stand up to close scrutiny - but we will keep you posted.
Tonight's "joke" comes from Lawrence:
My neighbour has asked me if he can hire my bull to serve his heiffers. I
am not very keen, but thought I should at least find out what arrangements I
would need to make.
I explained the situation to a patient lady on the DEFRA Devon helpline,
telling her that the two farms are adjacent and we have a gate we could walk
the bull through, directly from my farm to my neighbour's. She told me I
would need to get a licence from Trading Standards, she didn't think we
would be required to blood test any of the stock - but there was one thing:
I would be required to put down a disinfected straw mat for the bull to walk
over on his way through the gate.
Sometimes I think I am losing my grip on reality.
From Alan & Rosie