October 2006 ~ How FMD crisis was turned into a disaster - Fordyce Maxwell in the Scotsman quotes Toby Tennant
".....Let one fact illustrate the point. The contiguous cull policy was ruthlessly applied in south-west Scotland, and the results were acclaimed by Walker, Ross Finnie and Maxwell as a great success. But of 15 so-called Infected Premises in Wigtownshire, 13 were tested in the laboratory and only two were positive. Yet on 218 farms thousands of healthy animals were culled as a result of these misdiagnoses. Success? Or disaster?The article is very well worth reading, not least for the informed comment of Anne Lambourn, which appears below it.
To anyone with an open mind, these facts speak for themselves. Until influential figures take the trouble to understand what happened, the public will continue to be misinformed, and policy will continue to turn crises into disasters."
"...The tragedy of the wider preemptive killing of 481,000 sheep at Great Orton from an area supposedly "heavily infected" by FMD is underlined by the fact that tests on sheep from 115 farms (5786 sheep) revealed that only one farm had definitely had the disease, with positive tests on only 9 sheep. I understand that these were probably antibody positive results, showing that the sheep had had the disease in the past, but had recovered. The contiguous and 3 km culling resulted in massive overkill of healthy animals elsewhere - Gloucestershire 326 farms culled, 46 tested but ony 13 had the disease. In the Forest of Dean the culling of contiguous farms was prevented after local protest - timely, as the 34 contiguous farms all returned negative tests. The real tragedy is that the flawed science on which the contiguous and preemptive culling are based is enshrined in current legislation and disease control policy. ...."(Read in full)
October 2006 ~ "A consortium of leading scientists is to undertake research to combat animal diseases in Scotland, using a £2.5m Executive contract over the next five years at a "centre of excellence"..."
We continue to be very worried by the fear that an elite clique at the very top of the scientific establishment is at the forefront of disease control in the UK. As we know, following the honours heaped on several of the leading lights of the tragically unnecessary policies of 2001, bad science is no bar to success and status. The Scotsman reports that Professor Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh, director of the new centre, said: "This is the kind of resource that was needed during the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic of 2001 and will be needed again." He seems to forget that the resources needed to combat the disease were indeed available in 2001 but the dissenting veterinary and expert voices urging their use were ignored. As leaders of the two modelling teams, oddly termed "independent" in 2001, Professor Woolhouse and Professor Anderson drove the contiguous culling policy with models that made false assumptions and in which the data was flawed. Supporters of the overkill policy have been anxious to dismiss any criticism of the contiguous cull as "hindsight" - but the inadequacy of the models was known from the start. This website - and the many well informed dissenting voices -can hardly be accused of hindsight when we have been wearily repeating the same dismay for nearly six years.
(See more) Was it hindsight when Dr Kitching, contemptuously termed a "Neanderthal" by the establishment in 2001, said in a Channel 4 interview early in 2001,
"Certainly there's a lot of perfectly healthy animals that are being killed, I think when this outbreak is investigated in the future, we'll get a clear idea of just how many animals were slaughtered unnecessarily."Yet, the same establishment scientists are reaping golden research rewards and the country's animal health policies - for reasons that one can only guess at - are still not making proper use of technologies available in 2001 and which are now the gold standard for disease control.
October 2006 ~ Magnus Linklater - "false statistics, poor modelling, wrong deductions and bad science."
The Times Oct 10 2006 "We are used to politicians suppressing the truth. When scientists do it as well, we are in trouble. Not one of the government's senior advisers, from the Chief Scientist, Sir David King, downwards, has yet dared to confirm in public what most experts in private now accept, that the mass slaughter of farm animals in the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak was not only unnecessary and inhumane, but was based on false statistics, poor modelling, wrong deductions and bad science. ..." Read in full
(It should be noted that the figures in this article should be read in conjunction with those quoted by Anne Lambourn above in both the Times and the Scotsman.)
October 10 2006 ~ " the guidelines for the implementation of such vaccination are still hazy."
An article entitled "Supermodels - Mathematical modelling of infectious diseases " in the current newsletter of Wellcome Science ( also online at www.wellcome.ac.uk) suggests that the existing data from 2001 has at last been gathered into a useful form. Extract:
"...The data set is a list of every livestock farm in the UK..... a thorough account of which farms were hit by the disease and when. "We know reported cases to the nearest day, which is incredibly accurate compared to almost any other infection on record," says Dr Matt Keeling of the Biological Sciences Department and Mathematics Institute at the University of Warwick.That the guidelines for the implementation of vaccination are still "hazy" seems, after so long, quite extraordinary.
Simulations support 'ring vaccination' of farms neighbouring an affected site...
. ...findings have profound implications for how we might go about confronting another FMD crisis. In 2003, an EU directive recommended that during the early stages of a future FMD epidemic, arrangements should be made for emergency vaccination ...... But the guidelines for the implementation of such vaccination are still hazy. .."
October 10 2006 ~ More on mathematical modelling exercises
As far as we understand, Prof. John Wilesmith led the modelling exercise in September (see query below) - although information is regrettably sparse and we are hoping to hear more. In a similar exercise carried out in 2002, (See FMD Modelling Workshop 23 May 2002 Summary Report ) the suave academic presentations given seemed to have little connection with the mass killings ushered in by the modellers. However, DEFRA's Sam Mansley did make the following blunt observations in 2002:
It would be comforting to be able to feel that such recommendations from four years ago as "greater communication between everyone involved" and "more understandable and transparent models" have now been taken on board.
- ".....the models contained incomplete data and lacked veterinary input.
- It was indicated that greater communication between everyone involved in controlling an outbreak (e.g. vets in the field, modellers etc.) is required in the future.
- transparent easily understandable models should be developed
- improved core and field data are also required. ..."
October 7 2006 ~ DEFRA FMD "Modelling Exercise" notice on the DEFRA website is dated 20 September 2006
"FMD Modelling Exercise: Defra is holding an FMD Modelling Exercise (15 - 22 September), using the scenario of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Great Britain. The aim is to test the capabilities of the current range of FMD models as well as to improve communications with external modellers and understanding of the models, their capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. Leading independent modellers and scientific advisors will be participating with key Defra strategic and policy making groups in a table-top exercise with some "real-time" components."This is interesting - but one wonders how many interested stakeholders were made aware of the exercise in advance or were able to take part in any way. Is any reader able to tell us which "leading independent modellers and scientific advisors" were advising?
Oct 3 ~ Professor Donaldson "...I am very familiar with the claims made by Roger Breese (sic) and Fred Brown for the rapid diagnostic method for FMD..."
The tone of Professor Donaldson's riposte on ProMed mail betrays a certain irritation. More
It may be useful, for those interested in the UK's failure to use available technology in 2001, to read an extract from the EFRA committee meeting on April 25th 2001 in which we see both David King and Alex Donaldson attempting to answer David Curry's question: "....If this machine is as accurate as Professor Brown told me, he said it is 99 per cent accurate, could it not have saved this huge, vast, expensive cull of mainly healthy animals?"
Although we feel that Professor Donaldson's recollection of the situation may not accord with that of others, we do know that many are in Professor Donaldson's debt for his attempts to change the culling policy and for his published research on the airborne spread of the 2001 strain of the virus - a paper that not only helped to win the court case for Rosemary Upton but also appeared to discourage MAFF/DEFRA from threatening other stricken farmers with court cases. With scientists of such expertise and decency trying to advise the government, how could the UK have got it all so disastrously wrong? It is highly unlikely that any of those of us who had the privilege of meeting Fred Brown would doubt his sincerity, humanity or scientific rigour, while the effect of Roger Breeze's participation in the recent Manchester Conference was described with great appreciation in the Western Morning News "Hearing someone of that calibre talk, you quickly realise that your own government has its head firmly in the sand, ostrich-mode."
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