warmwell comment on the NAO report Feb 2005 (pdf file here)
"Untested, unvalidated and unproven methods of control" were what led to spiralling costs.Back to warmwell.com website
"Untested, unvalidated and unproven methods of control" were what led to spiralling costs.The National Foot and Mouth Group sends this:
The real reason why the costs of the 2001 FMD outbreak spiralled out of control was not because of over-inflated valuations, and excessive cleansing and disinfection costs - though in some cases both were contributory factors, it was because of the adoption of untested, unvalidated and unproven methods of control. These led to millions of healthy animals being killed and all these animals incurred further compensation costs.
The pre-emptive slaughter policy, which resulted in the contiguous and fire-break culls, meant that literally millions of healthy animals were slaughtered that need never have been culled. All these animals had to be paid for, and, in addition, all the costs of slaughter, transportation and disposal also had to be met.
Never before had pre-emptive slaughter been used to control FMD - and according to the scientific papers that have now emerged - it did not assist in controlling the disease. If anything, the divergence of resources to the mass extermination of healthy animals actually resulted in infected premises not being slaughtered as quickly as they should have been.
We know now how few premises actually had the disease confirmed. For example, in Wigtownshire, only 2 premises were laboratory confirmed as having FMD - but 219 farms were culled.
In Gloucestershire, 326 farms were culled - but only on 13 were FMD confirmed in laboratory testing. The same ratios occurred in many counties across the UK.
At the Great Orton burial pit - where nearly 1/2 a million sheep were slaughtered, yet only 1 farm had FMD identified. Not only did the 1/2 million sheep require compensation being paid to the farmers, but also incurred massive costs in digging the pits, employing slaughters teams, and transporters. And now the site requires on-going expensive maintenance as the unlined pits leach gallons of toxins which in turn require treatment - and will do so for many years to come.
Unless and until this crucial aspect of the 2001 epidemic is fully scrutinised and evaluated neither the NAO or the Public Accounts Select Committee will be able to determine how the costs of 2001 arose, and whether the UK taxpayer has received good value for the expenditure of his £3bn.
How much did the contiguous culls, the firebreak culls and the pre-emptive slaughter actually cost? What was the cost of compensation, of slaughter, of transportation and of disposal of all these animals. And how much has it cost in remedial site work, or costing in ongoing maintenance. We must have answers. It seems as far as the EU is concerned we have not had value for our tax pounds. Surely it is the purpose of the NAO and Public Accounts Select Committee to now address this.
2 - 7 February 2005 ~a less effective strategy because of the ability of the disease to leap outside the vaccinated area" (sic)
NAO report page 24 (warmwell's italics) ""The contiguous cull strategy, whereby animals on neighbouring properties were culled premptively during the height of the 2001 epidemic, is still highly controversial." A study in December 2002 by leading academics who advised the Department during the outbreak17 concluded that, given the widespread and fragmented distribution of disease in 2001, ring vaccination of neighbouring farms would have been a less effective strategy because of the ability of the disease to leap outside the vaccinated area "
"The study also found that for a wider vaccination policy to be effective it must be started as soon as possible, with cooperation from farmers, and be combined with effective culling of both infected premises and dangerous contacts. It should be noted that this is only one conclusion from a research group that advocated the contiguous cull in 2001."
This assertion was countered in 2001. See this informed comment from an academic with field experience - who was, we notice, one of the technical advisers to the present NAO report.
He wrote, ".... In reality, if virus infection is a risk in the area, ALL animals on a farm would be advised to be vaccinated. Only ridiculous disease control strategists would advise vaccinating only a few animals on the farm (as occur in the experiments such as Terpstra's), or mixing vaccinates and non-vaccinates when there is infection in the immediate area.... In contrast in a non-vaccinated farm the enormous virus output from diseased -or incubating animals -in forms that lead to contamination of people, fodder, vehicles, milk tankers, vets and other persons inspecting the animals - is extremely likely to lead to spread ..In practice, the enormous contamination produced by infected non-vaccinates can easily move off farm, inadvertently by people or before knowing it, by aerosols. ." Read in full
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ Today's National Audit Office report erroneously suggests that contiguous premises will be slaughtered if a new outbreak got "out of control". How can they have got it so wrong?
The NAO report suggests that if the veterinary and epidemiological evidence directs contiguous slaughter OR if "efforts to control the outbreak are ineffective" then mass slaughter will happen again. This is wrong. There is no "OR" about it.
Even if the disease were to get out of control, veterinary and epidemiological appraisals WILL take place.
Further, the report suggests that vaccination is still surrounded by uncertainties - "the decision to vaccinate would have to be taken in the face of many uncertainties".
This website is close to despair. How can things be so wrongly suggested to the press? So many of what were uncertainties are resolved.
- The Food Standards Agency has asserted that the products of vaccinated animals have no health implications for humans.
- Food retailers have confirmed that they would not be seeking to differentiate between meat and milk from vaccinated and unvaccinated animals.
- Internationally recognised laboratory tests able to differentiate animals that have been vaccinated from those that have been exposed to the virus. Such tests are available commercially. All that is needed is the political will to declare them "validated" - a woolly term at best. (See also below)
Only Sir David King has put the cat among the pigeons by his curiously uninformed assertions (see below)
The decision not to vaccinate has been laid at the feet of farmers - as in the NAO report - but in the 2001 outbreak the NFU assertion that farmers opposed vaccination was contradicted by many farmers themselves. In April 2001, a survey taken by MP David Maclean in his affected constituency of Cumbria showed 140 commercial farmers wanted vaccination against 19 that did not. "Commercial producers for - particularly those closest to approaching F&M"
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ Today's NAO report looks at the progress made by the Government in implementing changes recommended following the 2001 epidemic.
Interesting to see how media have interpreted NAO press release How many will have looked at the report itself (pdf file here, opens in new window)
" Britain is still not prepared for any new foot and mouth epidemic, four years after the disaster that led to a cull of 6million animals and postponement of the last general election, the National Audit Office reveals today. While auditors agree that progress has been made to reduce the chances of a repeat disaster, a promised new government computer system to tackle exotic diseases is not in place, and even more illegal meat fed to animals - said to have been the reason for the outbreak - is being smuggled into the country.BBC
...... The report says the ministry now has one of the best contingency plans for dealing with foot and mouth, but fears it will not work smoothly because co-ordination between Whitehall and local government and farmers has not been properly organised. It warns that the dispute which bedevilled the last outbreak, whether to vaccinate or cull animals, would arise again because no decision on how to handle this had been made.
Public accounts committee chairman Edward Leigh... said the department was "dragging its heels". .... Defra had been "dreadfully slow" in paying some of its bills dating from the foot and mouth crisis. ...... "Four years after the outbreak, Defra is yet to begin its planned review of some of its contractors' costs, and £40m of invoices remain unpaid," Mr Leigh said.
Mr Leigh also pointed out that the introduction of an IT system to help control future outbreaks had been delayed. ..... National Audit Office chief Sir John Bourn said ... Defra had paid 97% of the £1.3bn submitted by contractors since 2001, "but has not agreed a final settlement with 57 contractors pending the results of its investigations".
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ Confusion continues. Ignorance reigns.
On the whole, journalists are baulking at a proper overview of the 61 pages of the NAO report.
Papers seem to be choosing either to focus on over-compensation as in 'Your £1.4bn up in smoke' Newcastle Journal:
"Taxpayers were made to foot a multi-billion pound bill for the foot- and-mouth crisis because the Government over-compensated farmers by up to three times the value of their livestock, it is revealed today..."and/or stories such as Probe continues on FMD invoices in which icNorthWales (later to refer to "continuous culling") dutifully echoes Defra's complaints of irregularities
"Defra remains hopeful of clawing back a further £17m"Not mentioned in any paper we have seen is the JDM Accord case in January last year when DEFRA was ordered to pay £5 million outstanding. DEFRA has spent at least £20 million investigating about 12,000 cases, but, as the National Audit Office reported earlier in the year, allegations of fraud had been made in only 18. Of the 6 out of the 18 that looked as though they might have committed fraud, none was charged - but in the process four or more DEFRA officials were charged with fraud.
Taking a Department's word is perhaps less stressful and more career-enhancing than following one's instinct for detecting spin, and demanding answers.
As for DEFRA's ability to communicate clearly its current thinking on vaccination; when even the Chief Scientist is wrong about this, can it be wondered at that so many farmers and journalists remain in ignorance?
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ More than 500 people involved in Hornbeam - but " the value of the Departmentís exercise (Hornbeam) could have been increased by including a simulation at farm level"
NAO report page 21 "A major exercise, Exercise Hornbeam, was held in June 2004 which involved a Minister, senior officials, many staff from the Departmentís headquarters and five animal health divisional offices across Britain, as well as other public bodies and stakeholders - altogether more than 500 people. A wide range of industry bodies were invited to attend as observers and their observations sought. Our consultees commented that the value of the Departmentís exercise could have been increased by including a simulation at farm level, for example to test telecommunications in a remote area..."
See also warmwell page on Hornbeam
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ some £37 million has been spent by the Department in moving some 150,000 tonnes of ash from 200 farm burial sites
full NAO report (pdf) "Monitoring of mass burial pits will continue for at least 10 years" .... " Since 2001 some £37 million has been spent by the Department in moving some 150,000 tonnes of ash from 200 farm burial sites where risk assessments have indicated a potential risk to surface water or groundwater.... "
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ FPB says the NAO report is flawed ".. as it accepts Defra's findings uncritically."
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) says in its press release that the National Audit Office report fails properly to scrutinise the Government's mishandling of the aftermath of the foot and mouth affair and "is flawed as it accepts Defra's findings uncritically."
"Defra's behaviour towards contractors, to which it still owes £40m, is deplorable,' said the FPB's Chief Executive Nick Goulding. "It has owed this cash for more than three years and its refusal to pay is seriously hurting and undermining small businesses, some of whom have gone bust. The NAO report has failed to properly raise this issue. Instead, it has taken Defra's figures at face value and failed to critically examine them. Contractors worked in good faith for the Government during a time of national crisis. Defra's continued failure to pay needs to be properly highlighted in public."Mr Goulding said he is dismayed that the NAO failed to consult with the Small Business Service and Better Payment Practice Group (BPPG) when compiling its report. Read their press release in full
2 - 7 February 2005 ~ "When we criticised Defra for paying too much, we didnít mean it to stop paying any of its remaining contractors.."
NAO Chairman's Statement ".. I am alarmed that the Department has been dragging its heels in setting up a scheme to share future costs with industry. Defra has also been dreadfully slow in paying all its bills. Four years after the outbreak, Defra is yet to begin its planned review of some of its contractorsí costs, and £40 million of invoices remain unpaid. When we criticised Defra for paying too much, we didnít mean it to stop paying any of its remaining contractors.
And the introduction of an IT system to help control future outbreaks has been delayed. This is not an area where we can afford such a lackadaisical approach. Being better prepared will also help avoid the need for the mass funeral pyres which provided enduring and unsettling images of the 2001 outbreak. "
See warmwell page on the FPB campaign
17 Keeling, M. J., M. E. J. Woolhouse, R. M. May, G. Davies, and B. T. Grenfell, 2003: Modelling vaccination strategies against foot-and-mouth disease. Nature, 421, 136-142.